either can the prospect be taken seriously of one billionaire (Oprah Winfrey) challenging another (Donald Trump) for the White House in 2020 and, with it, the keys to the kingdom of despair that is America.
John Wight has written for newspapers and websites across the world, including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal. He is also a regular commentator on RT and BBC Radio. John is currently working on a book exploring the role of the West in the Arab Spring. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnWight1
Oprah Winfrey is contemplating running for president in 2020 on the back of her speech at the Golden Globes. With this news, the trivialization of politics in the land of the free is complete.
It proves that the US is now a country in which reality has been rejected, and the appearance of reality embraced. Rather than democracy, the appearance of democracy predominates; instead of freedom, its people enjoy the appearance of freedom; rather than justice, the appearance of justice; while instead of concrete solidarity with victims of injustice, lip service is the norm.
I’m sorry, but a group of obscenely rich people agreeing to dress in black (designer black, that is) at a Hollywood awards ceremony in protest at a culture of sexual abuse and exploitation cannot be taken seriously within an industry that is the very embodiment of abuse and exploitation. Neither can the prospect be taken seriously of one billionaire (Oprah Winfrey) challenging another (Donald Trump) for the White House in 2020 and, with it, the keys to the kingdom of despair that is America.
To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, “Anybody can become president of the United States. It merely requires a complete ignorance of politics and a billion dollars.”
Perhaps the most damning element of this regression in US political culture is that the worsening social and economic plight of a growing segment of the population is such that, in seeking an escape, the importance of Hollywood and the celebrity culture it feeds has been inflated to the point where serious politics has been subordinated to it.
In a very real sense, Hollywood distracts the American people while Washington extracts more and more of its wealth and rights in conjunction with Wall Street and the corporations that really call the shots. In other words, as long as the cultural junk food that Hollywood delivers on a perennial basis continues to feed the insatiable appetite for escape from an ever more brutal and grim reality, the rich and the corporations will continue to make like bandits when it comes to garnering more and more of the nation’s wealth.
Viewed from this perspective, the prospect of Oprah Winfrey - the nation’s favorite entertainment mogul - entering the White House marks another signpost on the country’s descent into dystopia. Being popular and rich beyond imagination are not coterminous with the qualities required to lead the most powerful nation on the planet at any time, never mind at a time when the challenges it faces at home and abroad are of such magnitude.
“Every act of submissive worship is an act of alienation and idolatry,” the German philosopher Erich Fromm reminds us, going on to make the point that “the ‘loving’ person in this type of submissive relationship projects all his or her love, strength, thought, into this other person, and experiences the loved person as a superior being, finding satisfaction in complete submission and worship.”
This is not to demonize Oprah Winfrey per se, but the culture of celebrity worship, of which she is herself a victim in that she is forced to live an unnatural life (a veritable exhibit in the zoo that is celebrity) is redolent of Brecht’s admonition, “Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes.”
This obsession with celebrity has not only played a major part in dumbing down the political culture and corroding social cohesion in the United States, it has done so throughout the West. Consider the fanfare that greeted the recent announcement of Britain’s Prince Harry to Hollywood actress Meghan Markle.
With nary a dissenting voice to be found, the mainstream media in the UK proceeded to lose its collective mind in dissecting, analyzing, and reporting on every possible angle of the announcement, whipping up such a media frenzy you could not but marvel at the hypocrisy of attacking the cult of personality when it comes to North Korea, while embracing it in their own country when it comes to their obsequious worship of the monarchy.
Oprah Winfrey, along with a select group of other Hollywood celebrities, is the closest thing to royalty in the US. Is she really the savior that liberals are proclaiming though? Is she any more qualified than the incumbent, Donald Trump, currently under siege by a liberal establishment whose rage at the failure of Hillary Clinton to be elected instead has and continues to be of inordinate intensity?
At a time when Hollywood has never been more exposed as the repository of sexual abuse and exploitation, the pictures that have emerged of Oprah cozying up to disgraced movie mogul, Harvey Weinstein, are not so much evidence of hypocrisy as confirmation that nothing is ever what it seems in Tinsel Town. Of course, Oprah and others may well have been unaware of Weinstein’s propensity for abusing young women desperate to be in his movies, but they cannot claim to be unaware of the dynamic of desperation and submission that is the norm in a society in which extremes of poverty and despair exist side by side with the extremes of wealth and luxury they themselves enjoy.
The findings of a recent UN report on the extent of poverty in the United States makes chilling reading, illustrating the scope of the social crisis the country is facing. Compiled by Philip Alston, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, we learn that in 2017 “more than one in every eight Americans were living in poverty (40 million, equal to 12.7 percent of the population). And almost half of those (18.5 million) were living in deep poverty, with reported family income below one-half of the poverty threshold.”
Mr Alston’s report (and I urge people to take the time to read it in its entirety) is so damning that it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the United States is hurtling at warp speed towards the abyss of complete social breakdown.
In a nation in which so many are suffering so grievously as a consequence of inhumane levels of inequality and greed on the part of the rich, the idea that the solution could ever be a billionaire entertainment mogul, no matter how well intentioned, is so grotesque it is beyond redemption.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.