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Oct. 7 2009 - 3:30 pm | 166 views | 2 recommendations | 78 comments

The Anti-Cult of Personality

What I suspect is that the president is probably a clinical narcissist. This is not necessarily a bad condition if one maintains for oneself what the psychiatrists call an “optimal margin of illusion,” that is, the margin of hope that allows you to work. But what if his narcissism blinds him to the issues and problems in the world and the inveterate foes of the nation that are not susceptible to his charms?

Marty Peretz, via Rio, 1 — Chicago, 0. The Politics Of Narcissism And General McChrystal | The New Republic.

The American empire may be in decline, but I’m beginning to think we’re still at the forefront of technological innovation in some areas. Not only did we invent lots of great new financial products that almost destroyed the universe, but we seem to have developed a new social phenomenon as well — the anti-cult of personality.

The old-style, Soviet-perfected, Living Color-referenced Cult of Personality was a kind of irrational hero-worship in which the Great Leader would be credited with everything from the invention of the threshing machine to big band jazz to low crime and high fertility rates. He never served in battle, but he was a military hero whose medals clinked during parades. The essence of the Cult of Personality was its knee-jerk irrationality and its pervasiveness.

There was absolutely no reason to think Joe Stalin would know anything about poetry or literature, or agriculture or history, and no rational reason why people would want him to be an expert on these things, but millions of people loved the idea that he was an authority even there. You had to be out of your freaking mind to want to think of Stalin as the world’s greatest poet, but there were such people. Lots of them.

It’s sort of the same, only in reverse, with all of this anti-Obama stuff. There are plenty of rational reasons to disapprove of the Obama administration. There are plenty of curious policy decisions in his history already and he has already drawn plenty of real ideological lines in the sand that people looking to whine about something could whine about, if they so chose.

But instead of that, the opponents of Barack Obama seem determined to make a villain out of him almost solely on the basis of his completely innocent and irrelevant behaviors. Instead of bitching at him for things like giving away billions of dollars via his Public-Private Investment Program — a natural rallying cry for conservatives, you would think — they’re constantly getting on his balls about stuff that has no relevance to anything at all, much less the conservative-liberal divide. It’s almost as though the haters have an emotional attachment to the notion of Obama as being guilty of and responsible for everything, from bad weather to the lack of good movies outside of District 9 to the flattening out of Brandon Webb’s sinker.

This Peretz piece in the New Republic is one of the weirdest examples I’ve seen yet. Peretz blithely recounts the episode in which Obama traveled to Copenhagen to pimp Chicago’s Olympic bid, recounts the humiliating decision by the IOC to stiff Chicago first of all, then jumps in a bizarre non sequitur to the above conclusion that Obama must be a “clinical narcissist,” I guess for going to Copenhagen at all.

Then he finishes with this passage, which is weird even by the already sky-high weirdness standards of our leading pundits:

Chicago will survive its disappointments and Obama will, as well. It is the other stage sets on which the president struts–like he strutted in Cairo and at the United Nations–that concern me.

I know that the president believes himself a good man. My nervy query to him is: “Does he believe America to be a good country?”

I’ve been reading the piece over and over again and I can’t figure out that last line. Is Peretz trying to say that Obama’s decision to go to Copenhagen to press for America to win an Olympic bid means he doesn’t believe America is a good country? At best, what you get from going over Peretz’s reasoning is that Obama’s people should have done a better job of divining ahead of time that the IOC planned on snubbing them. How does he jump from there to Obama not believing America is a good country?

The Peretz piece is just a high-end version of the bizarre anti-Obama propaganda that has been circulating on the internet ever since his campaign began, consumed in mass quantities by people who apparently are incapable of even clicking through to a link. I had one person send me a link to an Infowars.com piece by Kurt Nimmo warning that Obama was going to institute mandatory national servitude. The relevant section:

Obama’s vision of the American dream, however, will not consist of Americans freely choosing to volunteer to work in their communities and neighborhoods. It will be a requirement. “Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by developing a plan to require 50 hours of community service in middle school and high school and 100 hours of community service in college every year.” (Emphasis added.)

This is the first time I’ve ever seen someone write “emphasis added” and mean it in a literal sense — they literally added the emphasized passage. This section was preceded by a link to the actual text of the Obama-Biden President-Elect website., and that text, for those who can read English, reads as follows:

Obama and Biden will call on citizens of all ages to serve. They’ll set a goal that all middle school and high school students engage in 50 hours of community service a year, and develop a plan for all college students who engage in 100 hours of community service to receive a fully-refundable tax credit of $4,000 for their education. Obama and Biden will encourage retiring Americans to serve by improving programs available for individuals over age 55, while at the same time promoting youth programs such as Youth Build and Head Start… The Obama-Biden administration’s volunteer initiatives are still taking shape, but take a moment now to let us know that you’re interested, and we’ll keep you posted on all the latest developments.

The really weird part about this stuff, and similar Alex Jonesian non-controversies like the birth-certificate issue, is — what kind of person worries about stuff like this? Are there people out there who really believe that this milquetoast Democratic Party bureaucrat is going to turn Head Start into the Komsomol? And let’s just say Obama was born in Africa. He wasn’t, but let’s just say. Who gives a fuck? Are there not enough real problems out there for people to worry about?

It seems to me that the determination of the Obama haters to worry about irrelevancies and nonsense, and not his real policies, is evidence that they find something soothing in this villain-fantasy. Clearly, for one thing, the fantasy does not involve worrying about or even thinking about real problems. It allows people to transfer real anxiety and fear and anger over real problems into this fictional arena where the only thing to worry about is the presidency of this evil black Wizard of Oz-like figure who lies about his birthplace and has secret plans to institute a clearly-will-never-happen program of national servitude.If you’re in that place mentally, you might as well be playing Dungeons and Dragons. There’s no way thoughts like this can ever feel completely real, which maybe is the idea.

Maybe if you spend enough time dwelling on these imagined terrors, like the creation of Obama-friendly “civilian security squads” (the Obama-Stasi!), you might eventually forget for a few minutes that you owe $89,000 in credit card debt. Is that what’s going on here?

Or maybe this is over-thinking all of this, and maybe Marty Peretz is just getting old and losing it. Either way, it’s weird stuff. Even by American standards.


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  1. collapse expand

    Well, these people did just finish pretending the Bush administration was a good thing. That could take a while to recalibrate, no?

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    “And let’s just say Obama was born in Africa. He wasn’t, but let’s just say. Who gives a fuck? Are there not enough real problems out there for people to worry about?”

    I believe Obama was born in Hawaii and qualifies as a natural born citizen as described by the constitution and therefor is qualified to be President. Other then being teleported back in time to his birth, I can’t think of any evidence that would convince me otherwise.

    The law is important as is the constitution and if you start saying we have more important things to worry about then following the law you are advocating the same thing as the people who say its O.K. to violate our civil rights to protect us from future terrorist threats.

    The birthers aren’t actually arguing about the law, they are trying to vilify the president because they don’t see him as a valid human being and they are trying to use these technicalities as logic wedges to debase him and infuriate people.

    I would welcome a real debate on the natural born citizen clause as a great many children of US Military service members are born overseas and are unduly prohibited from being president because of their parents service.

    Regardless, I enjoy your articles and hope you keep up the good work.

  3. collapse expand

    The “Anti-Cult of Personality” = the “Politics of Demagoguery.”

    H.L. Mencken: a demagogue is “one who will preach doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.”

    This is all advance work for the 2012 election. The GOP is praying for another “terrrist spectacular,” which will enable them to run a semi-retired US Air Force General for President.

    By that time, 15% of the US will be living in FoxNews-sponsored “Obama-villes.” They’ll use Acorn-inspired tactics to get the unemployed registered to vote in swing states, which is why they had to get Acorn out of the way in the first place.

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    Thank you Matt. This stuff is beyond weird. I think it is clear signs of insanity.

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    I think Peretz mainly just wanted to talk about Obama “strutting.” As a middle-aged white guy in the Midwest, I can be fairly oblivious to matters of race, but it’s becoming reasonably clear to me that when conservative pundits say “ego,” what they mean is “uppity.”

    • collapse expand

      Obama can’t help his strutting any more than McCain could help his shuffle.

      Now that W! There was a Walker! I always thought that was why they called him “Walker”. Because the only time we’d see or hear from him, he was just walking across that lawn. Walking up to the plane, waving. It was his one true talent!

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  6. collapse expand

    It’s all an attempt to delegitimize Obama in the eyes of the public because he’s not a Republican (who, according to them, are the only legitimate people to govern).

    Recall that Robert Bork used to quote the DSM chapter and verse to “prove” that Clinton was a sociopath.

    If anything, the closest we’ve gotten to that Soviet model is the younger Bush, whose propensity to dress up for the troops–and the cameras–was only equalled by the media-enabled hagiography that was a daily occurrence for eight straight fuckin’ years. Remember the excitement when news was leaked that J. Alfred Prufrock “Lump in the Bed” Bush wrote poetry to his wife? Remember the seemingly neverending reports of the public intellectual “I read three Shakespeares and a Camus” Bush having reading contests with Karl Rove? The folksy photo-ops of Rancher Bush endlessly cutting brush? The repetitive stories of George “On Fire On Wheels” Bush always out-cycling people twenty years his junior, and the dreary recountings of his resting heart rate (fer chrissakes, the guy puts Mao swimming the Yalu River to shame in the Everyman category).

    Not to mention the sixty fucking million pictures of Bush with halos of light around his head, or of him praying with his hands so tightly clasped that one expected them to sprout stigmata any second, and his eyelids so tightly closed that they must have cramped.

    And the press just went swimmingly along promoting that particular cult of personality without a trace of introspection about what they were doing. And, Republicans never said one silly, stupid, demeaning thing about him. They even let him slink off into obscurity after he’d fucked things up so badly that a lot of them were going to lose their lifetime sinecures because of him.

    I’m the last one to say that running for President–and winning–doesn’t encourage a certain amount of narcissism–hell, one has to crazy to a certain degree to even run for the job. But, I’m all for a certain amount of perspective and proportion that the conservatives never apply equally, and never to their own. They’re in the business of ruining the reputations of their opponents and that’s what this Marty Peretz bullshit is all about.

    • collapse expand

      I think you’re on the right track. I’ll go slightly further, though. The GOP is really skilled at character assassination, with or without ANYthing to back it up. With no substance, they and their ilk tend to paraphrase rhetoric that came from the left against their man or woman and shoot it out against the favorite politico on the left. You’d think everyone would see through this, but no, there’s so much concurring that it’s sickening.

      Ex: many on the left felt that Rove, Bush and Co. were creating an increasingly fascist society with the increasing corporatism that included manipulation of the media (Rupert Murdoch and FOX News as the poster children for this). Now we can read what a fascist Obama is, complete with Hitler mustache during the all important demonstration against the latest socialist policies. It’s soooo true, isn’t it, Sparky? (sorry; haven’t had a This Modern World fix in awhile)

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  7. collapse expand

    Mr. Taibbi,

    In 1973 the House Judiciary Committee held impeachment hearings for Richard Nixon. There were several articles of impeachment. All of the articles were voted on except one. The single article that was not moved forward to the House floor was the charge that Richard Nixon had illegally invaded Cambodia without a declaration of war by congress. If you think about it, that is probably the most serious of the articles in terms its implications for the constitution and the nation yet it was the only one that did not get out of the committee.

    People understand that nobody gets really excited about actual policy or constitutional issues. Politicians rarely get in real trouble for them either. What president ever lost their job for invading a country that should not have been or allowing a major American city to be destroyed through inaction and corruption?

    What gets politicians into real trouble and people really riled up are the strange, small things – like say bugging the campaign headquarters of your political opponent, or getting a blow job from an intern, or soliciting sex with a man in an airport bathroom. Those are the political knock out blow, not policy disputes.

    So when you hear these ridiculous claims from people, they are just swinging for the gates. They are going for broke. They know that they cannot destroy the Obama Administration with debates out regulating flash trading, they have to hit him with something that will put him on the mat for a ten count.

    The people advancing these claims are not stupid, they know that their claims are not facts, they are weapons. The intent of those putting forward these claims is not to illuminate the truth but to destroy a president. When you strike at the king you must kill him, and only these sorts of claims can do it.

  8. collapse expand

    I wonder if this anti-cult of personality phenomenon (which is a good name for it), is truly sincere. Do they really believe that Obama can rightfully be blamed for virtually everything? Or are they consciously exaggerating their criticisms because they feel that the ends justify the means?

    If it’s the former, then we are dealing will a full-blown clinical neurosis. Forget Peretz’s faux diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder in Obama. Let’s look at the case for GOP having Oppositional Defiant Disorder–a diagnosis for children–which is:

    A pattern of negativistic, hostile, and defiant behavior lasting at least 6 months, during which four (or more) of the following are present:

    (Note: Consider a criterion met only if the behavior occurs more frequently than is typically observed in individuals of comparable age and developmental level.)

    often loses temper
    often argues with adults
    often actively defies or refuses to comply with adults’ requests or rules
    often deliberately annoys people
    often blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
    is often touchy or easily annoyed by others
    is often angry and resentful
    is often spiteful or vindictive

    I’ll let you make your own diagnosis.

  9. collapse expand

    I hate to pick nits, but it’s Living Colour – Sorry, I’m a fan of yours and, theirs.

    As to the right’s obsession with the irrelevant, what else do they have? It really doesn’t make sense to attack him from their perspective on policy grounds – they have no ground on which to stand because he really isn’t that far from them on most things. To REALLY attack his policies, they’d have to be over here with us, to the left of the President. I doubt that appeals to them much.

  10. collapse expand

    I remember reading an article about how after the election, millions of American wives and girlfriends had sex with their partners while imagining they were with Obama. Here in Far White East Texas, I’m pretty sure I could convince a lot of people that Obama’s popularity is energized by collective, Satanic sex magic.

  11. collapse expand

    Matt, I love you. That being said, I disagree with you. Why? Because, frankly, Obama IS a narcissist. It’s all about him. And that Copenhagen debacle was a prime example – but not because he was arrogant enough to think he could merely show up and everything could go his way. It was narcissist in that it was a self-serving thing to do versus a nation-serving thing to do. Look – we are descending into a depression that will surpass the Great Depression. Our Federal Reserve is pumping billions of taxpayer dollars into fraudulent banks who are then reaming the taxpayer even further with amped up credit card fees and fines. We are having soldiers die in Afghanistan which should be decided one way or the other. We are having a lunatic leader of a slave state called North Korea exploding his nuclear bombs; we are having another lunatic in charge of an even bigger slave state building his SECOND nuclear reactor. And what does the President do?

    He gallivants off to Copenhagen because it will benefit his ego and his political debt to his old Chicago pols. And as he gets on the plane, he brags ‘l’etat c’est moi’ of ending his second term as President by opening the games in Chicago in 2016.

    Forget the arrogance and address the real problem. Did strutting in Copenhagen help any of those soldiers in Afghanistan? Did any of it address the horror of the banks draining our funds by the billions every day? Did any of it address the growing crisis that China’s recent default of debt for credit derivatives? No. The only thing it addressed was Obama’s ego, his narcissism. The classic definition of a narcissist is that he doesn’t make the dull, painful, hard decisions that will help others – but only easy superficial decisions that will help him.

    We’re in a crisis. We need a leader. Someone who puts US first and not himself. And I didn’t see anyone but himself strutting the stage in Copenhagen.

    • collapse expand


      You hit the nail on the head here. I voted for him and was simply stupid, forgetting first principles.

      All politicians are the same. Regardless of party, they exist to exist and with VERY rare exceptions take no chances to affect real change. It’s all about re-election, and that’s where the real hubris sets in.


      In response to another comment. See in context »
    • collapse expand


      Obama stuck his neck out politically by going to Copenhagen. He and his staff knew Chicago was a long-shot, and that if the Olympics went to another city that his critics would jump all over him for being “weak” because he could not reel in this prize.

      This is not narcissistic behavior.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  12. collapse expand

    “a natural rallying cry for conservatives, you would think — they’re”

    Well that should be a signal that maybe these people aren’t really conservatives any more than a Neo-Con who deregulates and spends Trillions while cutting taxes and putting it all on the debt tab is conservative.

    Semantics matter, and distorting a good concept by applying it to bad examples is no help. True conservatives are the biggest threat to the elite power structure. I’m sure banksters smile every time they hear you or Bushco or anyone else referring to these religious zealots and birther loons as conservative.

    Lumping these irrational people in with those who base their thought from generations of sound economic principal and history is dangerous.

  13. collapse expand

    Narcissist is the trendy insult today. Your werewolf friend Grayson was just called a narcissist by a Republican senator and he said, and I swear, “but I just might be the lunatic you’re looking for.”

  14. collapse expand

    The Right is fueled by collective pathology of hate and paranoia. It’s so nonsensical and removed from reality as to defy belief. It certainly seems to defy analysis.

    It’s just there.

    It’s like gravity, expect more stubborn and pervasive.

    The mind wanders blissfully to Watergate, when Barry Goldwater, the Lion of Conservatism, went to Richard Nixon and told him the gig was up: Resign or you’ll be impeached, and I’ll vote to impeach you. I cannot imagine Mitch McConnell or John Boehner conceiving of a sin that would enable them to defy another Republican. Can you? And I certainly can’t imagine the Right Wing Media Cabal ever doing so. They are through the looking glass.

    The GOP is politburo-like in its slavish devotion to the party. The GOP, from top to bottom, cares more about the party than about the country. And its talking-point-guardians keep them all in obedient formation with obsessive indoctrination.

    Unfortunately, the Dems are not a far sight better.

  15. collapse expand

    Obama’s a soshalist.
    Obama’s gonna kill yer grandma.
    Obama will make yer kids stay in school and get one edumacation.
    He must be an alien who lived in Kenya when dropped off the rocket ship because he has no birth certificate.
    Orly Taitz is a Nobel prize winner.

    You can make up all kinds of crazy shit and by god, people in America will believe it. Cause they read it on the Internetz. Or on Faux Newz. It’s hilarious what the American public will believe.

    On the other hand, I’m really worried that Obama kicking the lobbyists out of the Temple is going to get him killed! That’s serious.

  16. collapse expand

    Carolyn, give me a friggin’ break. If I were the president and my city, Boston, was up for Olympic consideration, I would travel to Denmark to lobby for it to get the bid if I thought it would help. Regardless of who I owe favors to, it would awesome if my hometown got the Olympics.

    As for your remarks about Afghanistan, Obama actually met with Gen. McChrystal in Copenhagen, and like Obama, the general had an opportunity to lobby in person for a 40,000 soldier increase.

    You also say, “We’re in a crisis. We need a leader. Someone who puts US first and not himself.”

    You talk as if you’ve never seen an American president in action. Every president we’ve had for at least the last fifty years has been in the bag. So if you want to criticize Obama for not being more forceful with health care reform, or not using his political capital earlier this year to pass legislation regulating Wall St, or his decision to reappoint Bernanke to chair the Fed, that’s totally legitimate and fine by me. But please, let’s cut this BS about the Copenhagen thing. It’s completely stupid. The issue is completely void of any substance, and takes away from the real shortcomings of this president that NO ONE is talking about.

  17. collapse expand

    EVERYONE is a “narcissist” in someone’s eyes, and EVERYONE is a “sociopath” too. These are utterly meaningless terms, which is why they are used all the time to describe one’s opponents.

    So. Just boil it down: “Nothing but a bunch of sociopathic narcissists, the lot of them.”

    There. That’s settles it once and for all.

    And it makes about as much sense and fretting oneself into a stupor over birth certificates, lay lines and the Face On Mars.

  18. collapse expand

    It’d be excellent if we had a sane, coherent, and intelligent opposition party there to critique the actions of the Obama administration (that sort of falls to the likes of congressional progressive caucus folks and maybe ron paul, it seems), but instead we have these folks. It has a two-fold effect:

    1) It makes the opposition look crazy

    2) It makes Obama look very good in comparison. The administration probably doesn’t want intelligent critics to its plans anyway.

    Either way, we lose out.

    • collapse expand

      I agree, it’s becoming all about extremes now, and that could help the Obama administration not be held accountable. After all, Obama seems to be only looking good against Bush, which is I guess all he has to do. What more can we ask for, he’s BUsh light and a seemingly responsible centrist and we have to take it. I believe that the only reason Taibbi can’t seem to criticize Obama directly is that he sees that it would only feed the ridiculous wingnuts. I’ve been waiting, as a big Taibbi supporter, for him to criticize Obama directly and now that he actually comes out in a roundabout defense I understand that there’s no progressive point in attacking Obama from the left and giving any more ammo to the automatic haters who threw logical arguments out the window when Obama got elected.
      Taibbi picked a weird time and place to stick his neck out for Obama, Nobody gave a rats ass about that stupid Marty Peretz thing in TNR, I read it last week and it was just irrelevant. Taibbi picked a non-issue to defend Obama, and I’d like to think he did it very purposefully. It’s a hard place for someone who wants change when the 2000 status quo would suffice.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        >believe that the only reason Taibbi can’t seem to criticize Obama directly is that he sees that it would only feed the ridiculous wingnuts.

        How long have you been reading Matt’s stuff? He’s laid direct criticism at Obama’s feet. In this blog, read back – start in September, though; this month’s been wrapped up in other criticisms.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
    • collapse expand

      I agree completely. The Right is completely brainwashed. The only people making principled, coherent arguments against Obama are the libertarians. (Disclaimer: I am a libertarian). The Right, contrary to all evidence, believes that Obama is soft on terror. Apparently a section of society will always believe the rhetoric from 2002-03. We are the best country ever, we can’t let the terrorists win, we are the world’s moral police, and those terrorists hate us for our freedoms. It couldn’t be that they hate us for our foreign policy the past hundred years!
      Meanwhile, the media is providing cover for the administration by focusing on *gasp* the outrageous thing Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh said last night, or what Sarah Palin had for dinner last night. No mention of the bombs falling in Pakistan or Afghanistan. No mention of the Patriot Act renewal, or FISA renewals. No mention of the corporate bailouts and the new political spoils system referred to as “stimulus.”
      Rachel Maddow has even taken to saying things to the effect that some GOP Senators are treasonous for telling other countries that the US Gov’t. lies in its statistics. Shocking, right!

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  19. collapse expand

    Matt I’m assuming you read Glenn Greenwald

  20. collapse expand

    Yeah, one of my Libertarian friends sent me that phony passage about the Obama Youth stuff. To his credit, he also sent out an apology upon its immediate debunking, but even that was couched in a backhanded critique, something about how Hitler comparisons don’t get taken seriously. Wrong lesson drawn there, my friend.

    The phony issues/psychology 101 attack on Obama baffles me, but I think much of it is born of narcissism – not Obama’s, but his critics’. Everybody wants to be the first to properly analyze him, which is perhaps the inevitable end of our Facebooked, hyper-personalized (yet clearly not genuinely personal) politics. One wonders, of course, where these people were for the last eight years…was Bush just not enough of a challenge for these Dr. Melfi wanna-bes?

  21. collapse expand

    The man wrote an article titled “Irving Kristol Will Be Missed”. I rest my case. It’s difficult to discuss Peretz’s state of mind on anything without discussing his particular obsession (which is pretty obvious to anyone scanning his blog ‘The Spine’), but his John Bolton-like disdain for the international community and his growing irritation at Obama since the Cairo speech is probably the culprit here. Hell, it’s not like he’s hiding it. The last quarter of this blog post about The President and The Olympics, which you were smart to avoid, is about Egypt and Israel and Tehran. Peretz shares the monomaniacal problems of the tea bagger and birther types you allude to, but his is a different motivation.

  22. collapse expand

    Never trust a guy who hides his brith certificate…..what more needs be said

  23. collapse expand

    Okay, somebody talk me down. Here’s what I think. The congress is largely filled with marginally inspired drones and a some seasoned whores. While the claim that the left and the right are the same is an exaggeration, it is true to the extent that both parties are manipulated to achieve corporate goals with crumbs of liberal issues tossed in to feign authenticity.

    Barack Obama was accepted by the corporations that allow Presidential candidates because he’s ideologically supple enough to be used. He’s been a fantastic failure as far as achieving Democrat/Liberal goals, not to mention proving to the right that he can look the other way while Democrats are ordered around by Glenn Beck.

    It’s a fantastic farce.

  24. collapse expand

    It’s absurd what they do but the tactics of the Right are pretty much irrelevant because what they do is 100% effective… and isn’t that all that matters?

    I don’t like what they do one bit but you have to admit no one else in this country is nearly as good at it. And they’re probably better at it than anyone else in the world.

    No amount of reason or logic or pleas of “country first” will turn them into noble patriots. They’re like a relentless plague that I call The Ignorance Movement and we’re going to be at their mercy for a long time unless we can turn around our educational system really fast.

  25. collapse expand

    “Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by developing a plan to require 50 hours of community service in middle school and high school and 100 hours of community service in college every year.”

    Who gives a fuck? Matt, YOU’RE the economics maven these days. Isn’t it obvious?

    The compulsory servitude plan is obviously a FRONT to develop a revenue stream for BLACK REPARATIONS! Dontcha SEE?

    That’s a front-burner issue, because if there’s one thing we corporate chattel have come to learn, it’s that every dollar counts.

  26. collapse expand

    for a debunking of George Will’s contribution to the “Obama narcissist” nonsense, see
    Language Log: Fact-checking George F. Will, one more time


  27. collapse expand

    I really enjoy most of your stuff, Matt, but this one compelled me to register and comment.

    You are quite correct. There are an extreme number of vastly more important issues to be dealing with. I take issue with your path to that point.

    Not sure what your Nimmo article is dated (or if it even was in the form you received it) since there is no link, but here’s another from Infowars (Paul Joseph Watson) on 11/10/2008 detailing the wording change from change.gov:


    Also, here is an article from Nimmo that mentions the change:


    “Last week, Obama’s Office of the President-Elect website announced it would implement a plan designed to “require” citizens to work in community service programs, including senior citizens. In response to criticism of this plan, primarily on the web and blogosphere, the text on the site was reworded and the word “require” was removed.”

    And now, nearly 1 year later, you follow the link and oboy, look at those wackos that can’t even do a blockquote correctly and are adding shit just cuz they hate Obama! (This would be an interesting beginning to a discussion on the ease with which things can be/are memory-holed on the ‘tubes and the ramifications, but alas, there is not the time or space.)

    I point it our for one reason. The Infowars people you’re attempting to castigate are not “Obama-haters” and should not be lumped in with such. AJ and crew excoriated GW and his policies/programs with the exact same amount of fervor. As someone who has listened to AJ for approx. 3 years now, I can tell you that, while he is a ‘birther’(for the record, I’m not), the issue is not his baby (it belongs to Phil Berg and WorldNutDaily), and that he has stated time and time again that, for the most part, it’s a ridiculous side-show to take focus away from the economics/wars/continual loss of liberty.

    Why am I taking the time to write all of this in their defense? Because he’s one of the very few people out there who stating time and time again that it’s not about Obama (which is basically what I took from your piece here). The men we call president (and most of the other “repesentatives”) are little more than sock puppets for the M/I-Banking Complex that Truman, among many others, warned about.

    Of course, I guess that makes me crazy too. Mock away.

    And in regard to the issue of whether or not this supposed Civilian National Security force and any “compulsory” or “required” duties that may spring from such a thing, only time will tell, as it does with all things. However, I don’t think it’s completely ridiculous to imagine such a thing is indeed possible, especially keeping in mind the doctrine of Incrementalism our rulers are so well-versed in. The space from here to there isn’t all large, especially as the economy continues its collapse and we transition more fully into the continual War/Security/Prison economy.

    Here’s Rahm’s C-span interview if you haven’t seen it:


    Start ~5 min mark and watch through 8 or so to here the “required” remarks.

  28. collapse expand

    Although I did enjoy the analogy, who the fuck is Kurt Nimmo? Don’t give these clown shoes any attention.

  29. collapse expand

    Ironically, it is the very intensity of the anti-Obama cult that suggests the clearest indication that there a frightening number in the US that yearn for that dreaded code-word, a “strong leader”. God forbid, you ever get that version (Obama’s brains & Dubya’s values).

    But Barack’s determination to remain smack-bang in the middle of the political road, just where he can be hit by every imaginable obstacle, makes him feel more and more each day a modern Quixote. Hardly the stuff of authoritarian nightmares. But not a source of great progressive hope either.

  30. collapse expand

    I think most of it gets down to two things:

    1. people not being able to accept a black man in charge.

    2. fast food politics where people only get their news and views from yahoos like Limbaugh.

    If they were true conservatives or focused on the issues, they would site policy. Instead, they focus on things like Chicago “losing” the Olympics. Chicago never had the Olympics to lose, Rio was always the front runner due to global economic shifts and, oh by the way, it’s the president’s fucking job to go and advocate for his country–he would have been negligent in NOT going. No one points to Bush not going to push for New York when it “lost” the Olympics to London. The population and the media can’t find the time to be concerned with WMD, bill or rights or the rest, but it can obsess over these non-stories?

  31. collapse expand

    Next up, Peretz will say his diagnosis of the president is proven by his passing healthcare reform.

  32. collapse expand


    Life has become full of weirdness. The reality is that the new boss IS the same as the old boss, except that his fashion sense is different.

    We expect continually (hope?)things will be better or different. But the historical trajectory of this country simply follows that of other formerly great nations who became seduced by their own hubris, fame and fortune.

    We’ve become a product of the medium, which has massaged us into following.

    It’s hard to swallow the fact that people get the leaders they deserve, but it’s becoming painfully clear that’s a truth. Could it be otherwise after our collective will and committment has been fractured by generation(s?) of political swine.

    Keep raging against the dying of the light! Maybe the other monkees will begin washing their yams…


  33. collapse expand

    Like the reference to Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality”, great band and song. I saw one reasonable comment that alluded to debating issues with regard to policy instead of bullshit non-sequitur attacks. So many others are frankly hypocritical. No doubt Beck, Limbaugh, and others including Maher are at times counter-productive, self glorifying rabble rousers. Generalizing all members in a political party with a unified evil hidden agenda seems a bit naive. I like Obama and will support him because he is my president, a good man, and a patriot. Sometimes when you steer the ship toward the middle, you get pelted with rocks and garbage from the left and the right.

  34. collapse expand

    Matt, you’re being way too rational. People who read and listen to this crap are LOOKING for a scapegoat to blame their discontent and total confusion on. It doesn’t have to make “sense” because they’re not thinking, they’re groping. It’s purely emotional. The more names they can call him the more they can feel angry and strong (USA! USA! HANDS OFF MY HEALTHCARE!) instead of weak and screwed, which is what they (we) really are.

    What’s been eye-opening for me is the number in high places of cynics who stoke and lead the scapegoating and fear mongering. They know exactly what they’re doing but are willing to erode what’s left of this democracy for their own personal interests. We have no real statesmen anymore to keep the ship on an even keel in rough times. So it’s a brave new world. And your generation’s up at bat. I think you (in particular) and others like you are doing yeoman’s work. I read your articles and columns all the time and have learned plenty. Thanks for that.

  35. collapse expand

    While I was driving from Charlottesvile to Richmond in Virginia back in April I had the radio on, no idea what the station was but there was some sort of religious (evangelical) official harping on and on about how a vote for Obama was like handing Barrack your personal permission to have the choice of your next car, future health care, your next house and anything else you might care to want, to be determined by presidential edict, as though the President was going to find time to personally intervene in every decision you are ever going to make.

    It struck me then that the low quality of this ‘commentators’ rhetoric was tantamount to saying, ‘actually there is not much wrong in this neck of the woods but I am going to have a go at my President anyway’.

    I guess cheap shots come easy in the land of the free and the brave.

  36. collapse expand

    I’ve known Marty Peretz since he was a dickhead at Harvard forty years ago.
    He’s still the same dickhead.
    Just older.
    And worse.

  37. collapse expand

    Okay. Here’s a crazy conspiracy theory. The teabaggers, birthers et. al. were actually STARTED and FUNDED by Obama himself or people close to the president. Here’s the logic. Let’s fan the flames of Obama-hatered, (which has been there since the election, and is real) but the whitehouse says, “let’s FAN those flames, let’s make them the LEGIT viewpoint of the right and the republican party, and eventually the GOP will look so crazy no one will want to be a part of it.

    Crazy? Anyone noticed how GOP politicians are starting to distance themselves from the birther crowd all of the sudden? After months of tacit approval and even support for them? The gig is up. Their onto Obama’s plan.

    Crazy? I hope so. I’d rather Obama be the middle of the road politician he is than this sneaky planner I’m describing.

  38. collapse expand

    Given today’s award, I’m wondering how they’ll couch the narcissism characterization.

  39. collapse expand

    I agree that America has fallen into fantasyland. Check out this conversation about Alex Jones and his dark fantasies.


  40. collapse expand

    Hey, did you catch that Mary Robinson is a “nice frigid anti-Semite”? Bet you never knew that! Bet you never suspected you’d ever see those three adjectives together!

    Marty Peretz, you lovable nut!

    BTW, I too have suspected that Obama may be a clinical narcissist. But since that is just about a job requirement for becoming President of the United States, why should anyone be shocked? What I want to know is: How many TNR pundits are clinical narcissists? Hey, Marty! Maybe you can hire back Stephen Glass to “report” on your latest insight!

  41. collapse expand

    Matt – WSJ just wrote about you!


    “The kinder jokes refer to the legendary investment firm as “Government Sachs,” because of its connections to former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson (once a Goldman CEO) and other alumni who, as Washington officials, had hands in last year’s financial crisis rescue operations. More rudely, a writer in Rolling Stone magazine likened Goldman to a “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”

    Poor Matt, you’re now the person they dare not speak the name of — you’re just “a writer” who is “rude”. But don’t sob into your pillow, hon. They may sneer at your vampire squid sucking money – but this WSJ writer sucks ass. Seriously. If this article is anything to go by, I can just see the “the cherubic and youthful” Blankfein walking down the sidewalks of New York with this thunking noise behind him because Holman Jenkins’ lips are permanently vacuumed to Blankfein’s butt.

    Oh, man, hold your nose as you read this thing. Blankfein is ‘more bemused than hurt’ by your rude article; in fact, he’s ’serene’ because of Goldman’s ‘disciplined risk taking’, “it plays a vital social role in matching those who have capital with those who need it; that its partners frequently retire young to devote themselves to philanthropy or public service.” As for your naughty charge that Goldman may be influencing government by having so many of its people in public office, Blankfein says that we should instead be thankful that so many Goldman alumnae have done the selfless and noble thing by putting their ‘pursuit of personal wealth aside and go(ing) into public service”.

    But my favorite is this one – “the Treasury secretary (Paulson) FORCED the nation’s nine biggest banks and investment banks to accept infusions of government capital.” (Yup, just flung Goldman to the ground kicking and screaming and shoved those billions straight down its blood funnel. Poor dear.)

  42. collapse expand

    A close to perfect description in every detail — and different from the Left’s perception (my own included) of the last three R presidents only in the intensity and number of respective fantasies. Of course more of our “fantasies” turned out to be real. Still, it’s a bipartisan affliction.

  43. collapse expand

    As a longtime Dungeons & Dragons player, I resent the needless slur against me and my friends in your 3rd-to-last paragraph. I know plenty of D&D players with enough grasp on reality to see through this insanity / inanity. There are actually quite a number of us who don’t play in steam tunnels and have sufficient grasp on reality to be able to spot a nonsensical fantasy, having created several ourselves. (It doesn’t take much grasp on reality to spot the fantasies in this case.)

    By the way, a lawyer for the Vampire Squid is holding on Line #4 for you.

    I am reminded of two things: Back around 2003 or so, you went undercover at a re-elect Bush office, and you wrote something like: “These people will believe anything you feed them, just so long as you leave them a demon to wrestle with in their dreams.” That phrase has always stuck with me because it really cuts to the chase. All the conservatives I know measure their self-worth by how fiercely they are fighting supposed ‘enemies’… (As opposed to their own positive, constructive achievements)… and when the supply of enemies starts to run thin, they seem to pick out the nearest person they don’t like, and label him or her as the next Mortal Threat to Civilization. After all, there’s only so much you can say about Al-Qaida, comparatively a very small and secretive group, without actually taking the bother to visit the Middle East and do first-hand research, which is expensive and inconvenient. Much easier and more fun to pick on your next-door neighbor who dresses funny or has funny-colored skin, and accuse him of subverting the country. You can do that from your armchair without bothering to stand up.

    I am also reminded of a quote I read on the website iTulip — probably they stole it from some other famous writer, but so far I haven’t figured out whom.

    “When the people lose faith, they do not then believe in nothing. They believe in _anything_.”

    These are people who no longer have faith that their cherished values and mores are going to survive into the future, and now at some subconscious level they are also realizing that their wealth and middle-class status is a lie — and even that pleasant illusion is being taken from them. So, polemically, they just lash out at anything they can see, since they know they can never even touch the real forces behind their decline.

    • collapse expand

      Thomas, thank you for those two incredible quotes. I love the first one (thank you very much, Matt):

      “These people will believe anything you feed them, just so long as you leave them a demon to wrestle with in their dreams.”

      That’s an awesome quote. The irony of it, however, is that this is exactly how I define Leftists. (How about that, huh?) Because, man, they are desperate for their demons. I found out how desperate when I read about Sally Kohn (Senior Campaign Strategist of the Center for Community Change) who just drooled buckets over Ahmadinejad as he spoke at the UN. Man, she tingled up her whole damned body for him. The stunning thing was that she started her drooling ode by stating cheerfully that she knew he would kill her because she was a Jewess and a lesbian. But – gosh – that didn’t matter! Why? Because Ahmadinejad hated Bush. Yep, whack her head off as a Semite and a gay, it didn’t matter. All she cared about was going to her grave wrestling deliriously with the demon of Bush hatred.

      This is why when I read your phrase, Thomas – “All the conservatives I know measure their self-worth by how fiercely they are fighting supposed ‘enemies’…” I couldn’t help but see the drooling Sally Kohn. She totally measures her self-worth by how fiercely she fights the enemy called Bush – even if it means replacing Bush with a worse enemy who will butcher her because she is a Jewess and gay. Unbelievable that a dream would be worth that price.

      And that leaves me with your final quote (which I again thank you for): “When the people lose faith, they do not then believe in nothing. They believe in anything.” Well, Thomas, I have to be honest. To me, that is THE classic definition of the atheist Left (and Ms. Kohn, of course). Funny, huh?

      I do agree with you on one thing, however. You describe the conservatives as “people who no longer have faith that their cherished values and mores are going to survive into the future…” Well, damn, you are so right, we ARE afraid, we are very afraid. But I disagree with you that it is because we have realized that our “wealth and middle-class status is a lie..” Sorry, hon, but we don’t. In our opinion, the only liars are the ones trying to take it away from us. And we’re fighting them tooth and nail.

      It is a strange battle. But as I tell my fellow conservatives as we gird for 2016 – “Welcome to the fight. This time I know our side will win.”

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        People, I meant 2012 — NOT 2016. I swear, it wasn’t Freudian, just sloppy. My bad.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        The interesting thing about the fear for the loss of values and cultural mores, is that it is only a threat for people who don’t, well, believe in evolution (pardon the double entendre)…

        Not to get all Godwin here, but the example of Germany pre- and post- World Wars is illustrative.

        19th-century Germany was a nation that, broadly speaking, was rationalist and realist; strongly Christian (Protestant) in spiritual matters; Capitalist and economically industrious; with an intense drive towards developing and mastering modern science.

        Then some dude started talking about how “international elites want to emasculate us as a superpower” (funny, I heard Rush use that phrase on his radio show just last Friday), and how “traitors” inside the country were “stabbing the real citizens in the back” (dolschtoss). The Apocalypse that guy was predicting, more or less came to pass. Germany lost. The country went through a rough patch, for, oh, the better part of the century.

        But today, 21st-century Germany is still, broadly speaking, rationalist and realist; basically a Christian/Protestant nation in spiritual matters; it’s again Europe’s Capitalist and industrious economic powerhouse; due to its intense drive towards developing and mastering modern science.

        Their culture and values didn’t die, they simply evolved. The German culture still has a multitude of connections to its historic past. They merely lost the aggression, the paranoia and hate (or had it bombed out of them).

        I’m quite confident something similar will happen to America. If we don’t disintegrate into some kind of third-world banana republic torn by civil war, along the way. In 50 years, Americans will still be strongly Individualist, Freedom-loving, and Capitalist. They’re part of our culture and are not going away. But we will somehow be all those things while simultaneously having:
        * universal health care, and socialized aid for certain basics such as education and housing;
        * a strong respect for the environment and a consciousness of how we impact it in our everyday lives;
        * a multi-racial and multi-ethnic culture.
        …because if we don’t, the citizens and government will be bankrupt, the quality of life will be in the crapper, and we’ll be so wracked with division and strife that historians will say the USA actually ended during the 21st century even if it keeps the name.

        Evolve or die, that’s basically what life is like. Good luck with that whole thing about sitting athwart of History and yelling “Stop”.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
  44. collapse expand

    I think you can drive yourself nuts trying to find actual logic or deep structure to the frothing coming from the current insanely right wing fringe in the US. It’s all based on Rovian tactics: attack your enemy’s strengths, or whatever it is you can find to attack.

    If Barack Obama were less charismatic, then they would never have developed the “narcissism!” thing and they’d be attacking something else. If he stays at home they’d call him isolationist. If he travels they’ll call him not focused enough domestically. They were viciously happy about the world “turning him down” for the Olympics, then days later livid that the world recognized his work with a big award.

    It’s throwing mud and seeing what will stick, it’s just a little more thought-out than that phrase implies, though not by much.

    People like Marty Peretz are the second-tier middle-brows who find themselves soaking up whatever inane attack people like Rove or whoever is the current equivalent dream up, like some impressionable joiner who suddenly finds himself having deep thoughts about whatever it is he heard the ranting lunatic charismatic speaker just say last night, “You know, it occurs to me that narcissism really IS the issue here” (or blacks having some character flaw or gays being evil or you name it) and then penning some idiotic piece like the one he did here.

    Obama is being hit with the narcissism thing because he’s personally popular. Were he more retiring, they’d be attacking that and blowing it up into a cartoon in some other way.

    It’s sort of like the mistake the Democrats keep making with the Republicans in Congress, not recognizing to a sufficient degree that they’re just going to oppose anything that the Democrats or Obama propose, and trying instead to puzzle out just what it is they’re objecting to.

    Nothing. They’re not objecting, they’re opposing on principle, the principle of opposing anything you want. The right is making all this shit up to throw at Obama because they want something to throw, move the bucket and hand them something else, and they’d throw that. And then fools like Peretz would suddenly find deeply compelling logic in what’s in the bucket.

  45. collapse expand

    When hasn’t Marty Peretz been a douchebag? Strangely, Obama is a narcissist for trying to win the Olympics for the US, but Bush wasn’t a narcissist when he declared himself “The Decider” and said his job would be easier if he could be a dictator.

  46. collapse expand

    I remember this one time, when Marty Peretz wrote an article about John Kerry’s “arrogance” and employed the French term “de haut en bas” as a descriptor of Kerry’s manner. And I remember sending Marty Peretz an email on that occasion, in which I asked…”de haut en bas…doesn’t that literally translate into English as ‘I’m so smug I’m in love with the smell of my own farts’ and doesn’t it exclusively refer to the person who employs the phrase itself?”

    He never wrote back to me – what a stuck-up dude. He’s a fine one to be pointing at anyone else and calling them a narcissist.

  47. collapse expand

    Racism has transformed itself to a complete rant full of distortions,lies, and irrational fear, that, this type of political dialogue seems acceptable. Our President is very cool about this way of talking,say, accusing him of instituting a healthcare socialistic plan: like,”Yeah, We true American should pay more money for our incomplete Heathcare, continue to have insurance companies be in control of how and who will receive healthcare; and this “option plan” does not have a “death panel”, but insurance companies will drop you once you are very sick, and in the meantime you will lose your job ( funny, insurance companies want only clients who work in companies who can afford their preimiums but not to cover everyone and single-pay). But our President is trying to institute socialism into our economy. I wonder if a white President would receive the same treatment. I really feel for our President, give him a chance and let work out the many issues we have and listen how we will do it,c’mon now, let’s get the show on the road. Way back when I was a kid in a Bronx grade school and everyone was white, jewish,italian,or irish if you call me a “commie” I would kick your ass until you cried home to mommy and everyone would follow you and humilate you and slap you daily for being such a stupid ass until you learned better; it took about a year to straigthen you out.I want to the same towards some lobbyist and some republicans. How is that for fear? Let the President do his job–Please.

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    About Me

    I'm a political reporter for Rolling Stone magazine, a sports columnist for Men's Journal, and I also write books for a Random House imprint called Spiegel and Grau.

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