Yesterday, dissent was cool. Dissent was popular. Dissent was patriotic. Why? Because those dissenting were unified by their opposition to President George W. Bush.
Dissenters had their usual outlets: the gatherings of unwashed protesters; the bumper stickers ushering in the “End of an Error”; their columns in the New York Times. But they also had new ways to band together and rise up against their perceived oppressors: status messages on Facebook; financially failing radio networks; text messages and Twitter streams and blogs and micropayments from foreign donors.
In the Bush era, each dissenter was a lone voice crying out in the wilderness – just like everyone else they knew.
As of noon today, dissent is no longer cool or popular. Anyone standing in opposition to our new President draws funny looks and worried whispers. Anyone not on the Obandwagon must secretly be a crank or a fascist or a racist or a rich person… irretrievably broken in some fundamental way.
If you’re not basking the glow of Hope and Change, you’re suspect.
Obviously, dissent is most important when it’s unpopular – when the tide of public opinion threatens to squelch the most important kind of diversity our nation has at its disposal: diversity of view. But it’s not just the seamless, sheer, smooth-wall popularity of our new President that makes him so dangerous to critical thought. It’s that he’s so damned good at what he does.
If Marvel Comics had written Obama as a superhero – doesn’t seem that preposterous, now, does it? – his power would be the reality distortion field that neutralizes any critial thought cast his way. Throughout the campaign, Obama has wielded his own personal communication skills much in the way Ronald Reagan did when he catapulted the conservative movement into power in 1980. But Obama’s powers aren’t limited to his own person. He has gathered to himself some of the slickest, sharpest propaganda talent ever assembled to run a nation.
Doubt it? Take just one example: change.gov. Obama flows effortlessly from campaign to transition to administration, without losing any momentum on his seduction of the American people. Even the name woos us – “It’s change!” – standing for both the transition and the theme of his campaign. (“I’m the President you won’t have to hate.”)
Don’t think for a minute that Obama lacks big plans. His knife-fighting political advisor Rahm Emmanuel has committed not to fix the problems currently facing our country, but to use those problems as a catapult to transform America in ways Americans would not otherwise tolerate. Rahm calls this “the opportunities of crisis.” Americans should call it a red flag.
Obama has assembled an administration of the smoothest, most ambitious operatives ever assembled to run a nation. His team has big plans – some disclosed, some not – to work deep changes in America. We won’t be able to rely on the media to check those ambitions. Obama’s roots in the muck of Chicago machine politics are still largely unknown, thanks in large part to the reluctance of the media to fully investigate actual instances of known corruption when it was so much easier to spend time in Alaska rooting through the family history of other nominees.
So with the mainstream media taking a dive, who’s left? No one but us ordinary citizens. Whatever the Obama administration has in store for us, the job falls to us to make sure that he acts in the genuine best interests of the nation. Because if we don’t, no one else – no one else – will.