Music: Mansun: Kleptomania (2004)
My oh my, what whiteness has wrought.
Just in case you’ve been living under a rock: yesterday Obama held a press conference in which he “publicly divorced” himself from Reverend Jeremiah Wright or, as one reporter put it, in which he “threw Wright under the bus.” I recognize my blog has not been a hospitable place for those of you who disagree with my reading of this pickle. I understand, for example, that the MSM believe that people in “rural North Carolina” are not smart enough to understand that the equation, Obama = Wright, is a false one. I understand that many reporters believe that Obama “is facing the biggest crisis of his 16-month campaign” because of Wright’s remarks. I very much understand the rhetorical and political necessities of a campaign in postmodernity. I get it, I promise.
What I don’t get, however, is what it is that Wright said the day before yesterday that qualifies as “outrageous.” According to Obama:
At a certain point, if what somebody says contradicts what you believe so fundamentally, and then he questions whether or not you believe it in front of the National Press Club, then that’s enough . . . . That’s a show of disrespect to me. It is also, I think, an insult to what we’ve been trying to do in this campaign.
A fair series of statements if Wright said something offensive, but: what exactly did Wright say that merited such a rigorous and angry repudiation? What did Wright argue that merits such outrage? I listened to the speeches, I read the transcripts. I also believe I have some grasp on my government’s atrocities (Indian removal, slavery, Japanese internment, Jim Crow, etc.).
I urge everyone to watch the reports and read the papers closely for the next week: only one story that I have encountered thus far specifies what exactly Wright said that is worthy of outrage. Obama did say that one remark he vehemently disagreed with was the (presumed) suggestion that the U.S. government is “involved in AIDS” to target the African American population: “But when he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS … there are no excuses. They offend me. They rightly offend all Americans and they should be denounced.” I cannot find, however, a place where Wright made such a proposition on Moyers’ show, at the National Press Club, or at his talk with the NAACP.
One is tempted to misquote Queen Gertrude here, but I’ll avoid that complication for a plain observation: Obama is, first, objecting to the affective tradition of black vernacular (he described Wright’s talking as a “performance” and “spectacle,” two very important key terms). If he does get the nomination, expect there to be pressure for him to denounce hip-hop wholesale too. He is objecting to a radical emotiveness, in a sense, no so much meaning or something said in the semiotic order; his “outrage” is aimed at the fun and intentionally fanatical flight up and down the paradigmatic axis, the associative and poetic, the lyrical. Surely I’m not the only one who smells the irony of Obama’s condemnation.
Second, Obama is outraged that the Rev. Wright spoke at all. It would seem so too are the pundits in the MSM. The message is very clearly, “why didn’t this guy just shut-up and go away?” The suggestion that Wright—who has done nothing wrong or said nothing that is in point of fact offensive—must shut-up is outrageous to me.
Three more observations: publicity is its own beast, although strangely, we feed it routinely. Those who would muffle Wright are the same who court the megaphone. Publicity is fed, but it cannot be controlled. I must think about this more, but Clinton’s chief strategist and fuck-up Penn comes to mind . . . .
Second: Obama’s political desperation yesterday and his crumbling beneath the pressure has me changing my mind. I found his over-the-top outrage at Wright (ok, let me clarify: I found the MSM reporting his outrage over-the-top and something like an amplification; fuck Tim Russert who said this was the most remarkable break-up in “fourty years of Presidential politics”) detestable, insincere. Frankly: I am not for Clinton or Obama anymore. I’m firmly anti-McCain, and this shall remain my position on the democratic nomination.
Third: Wright for President! Who’s with me?