by Carey Wedler
One of the most distinct traits of the Obama empire is the power of his celebrity personality and the implications it has on the public’s view of his policy and actions. He is not only idolized as all other presidents have been–he is endorsed by the celebrities that rule the consumerist minds of America. With such fawning support from his party, his supporters, and his celebrity endorsers, Barack Obama gets away with committing the same war crimes as George Bush. However, his own carefully crafted presidential persona and the modern phenomenon of celebrity culture enables him to expand the American empire further than anyone suspects.
The public that supports Barack Obama is able to stomach his gross violations of non-aggression and human decency because of powerful, presidential celebrity. His wars, torture, spying, and drone bombing are forgotten because he is a personality president. Just as Theodoore Roosvelt, FDR, and JFK before him, the current president invites prestige and interest–even if his campaign, speeches, and public appearances are calculated down to the pin on his lapel. Obama came to office singing the praises of hope and change, branding himself as a fresh, rational leader following the folly and crime of George W. Bush. He is the first black president, echoing the calls for “equality” that public school educations scream Lincoln, FDR, and other grandiose presidents once espoused (as taught by public school text books). Barack Obama’s cult of personality represents “the future,” one idealized by his PR team. In the modern era, however, the power of presidential lore and celebrity has reached new heights and priorities.
The president and his family have joined the ranks of gossip and awe that the world’s most beloved celebrities enjoy. Obama’s wife and daughters are discussed in tabloids and celebrity gossip for their designer fashion, and while Jackie O. was as well, the level of celebrity worship had not reached the heights of the new millennium: Michele’s new bangs were the biggest event of the 2013 inauguration. On that note, it was A-list, world-class celebrities who performed at the president’s 2009 and 2013 coronations, from Katy Perry to Alicia Keys to Beyonce and her husband Jay-Z. They performed during his campaigns as well, lending their star power to the biggest celebrity in the world, lending him popularity and acceptance in media. They tweeted in support of the candidate and posted pictures to their Facebooks confirming his capability to “lead” the free world. Obama, after all, is best friends with George Clooney, the duke of Hollywood and hot topic of the tabloids.
But what does the power of modern celebrity–of both politicans and entertainers– have to do with an empire that appears to sow peace while in fact dropping drone bombs? The two prove to be closely interrelated as the expansion of the Obama empire comes to light. This is best explained by the March 2012 phenomenon of “Kony.” A documentary film maker showcased the crimes of Joseph Kony, leader of the Royal Liberation Army in Uganda and rebel against the established government. In the documentary “Invisible Children,” viewers are told that Kony enlisted and forced child soldiers to fight for his “cause.” He committed rape and murder of innocents, thereby necessitating more fortunate citizens of the world to take action and stop the killing (naturally, that “action” meant on the part of governments). The video went viral on Youtube, reaching 96 million views, even if it failed to reach the likes of Katy Perry and Justin Bieber music videos. It was such a moral cause that celebrities preached to their Twitter followers about the need for “action.” In a matter of days, the news of their support made headlines in national newspapers covering the topic. Huffington Post reported that Oprah, Rihanna, Justin Bieber and George Clooney himself spread the word. ABC News dilligently reported on Angelina Jolie’s desire to have Kony arrested.
Both celebrity and the Obama public persona helped mold public acceptance of a military incursion into Africa. Oprah built a school for poor Africans, George Clooney campaigned against the genocide in Sudan for years, and Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt go shopping for children in select African nations. They are all fervent Obama supporters. Africa, for good reason–amplified by celebrity publicity stunts– is a pitied continent, and no one could be better to help it than a descendant of Africa itself: Obama, leader of the allegedly free world. As it happened, Obama had already sent 100 troops to Uganda to help locate Kony, but the media had hardly reported it. After Kony, citizens expected Obama to do more than maintain the troops he had already sent. The twitter-bombed the president himself to demand he “do something” about Kony. They echoed the calls for arrest by the celebrities who had helped the video go viral as the news media reported the phenomenon. Obama, too, is a celebrity hero to Africa, his blackness providing credit to his drive to aid the continent, his rhetoric and speeches convincing people that their celebrities idols were correct to support him. In the distinct, celebrity-fused Obama presidency and empire where star and president alike call for government education, healthcare, and violent intervention, it is not difficult to convince the public that a policy is just.
In April of 2012, the follow-up documentary to “Invisible Children,” featuring the specifics of Kony and his alleged empire received only 2.5 million views, a fraction of the first. The social media sphere quickly forgot the great cause they sought to help and expected celebrities to publicize. The PR frenzy dissipated, but the sentiment for US involvement remained. Of course, the fact overlooked by most supporters, of course, was that Kony is believed to be in the Congo, not Uganda, that oil was recently discovered in the country, and that the corrupt government of Uganda is happy to comply with Western business to get dibs on said oil. No one ever asked who Kony was fighting against, and few questioned the deployment of troops to African nations in search of the single villain. It’s only a handful of troops–not full scale war, they argued, and while Obama must make “difficult decisions,” his intent is always construed as kind.
It is this delusion of good will and justice propagated by the Obama empire is one that paves the way for future incursions in Africa. Obama has continued the exact same policies of war and intervention in the Middle East as Bush, expanding to Pakistan and Yemen, but is not content with his dominion. Even prior to Kony, he had intervened with the UN in Libya in October of 2011, all in the name of “protecting” the Libyan people and spreading democracy. He used his glowing rhetoric and “anti-war” reputation to justify his actions, saying he was going after Al-Qaeda when he bombed Somalia just a few months earlier. As to be expected, Obama has intervened much further in Africa since his decisions to send troops to Uganda (nevermind that Kony was believed to be in the Congo) in 2011.” He sent more in late 2012 following Kony, in response to “public demand.” In the time since Uganda, Libya and Somalia, Obama has deployed troops to Chad to “defend American diplomats from ‘rebels.”. Most recently, Obama has committed 50 million dollars to the French war in Mali, simultaneously eager to build drone bases in the country to join other secret bases throughout East Africa. In fact, in 2013, the army plans to deploy “training” and “equipping” units to thirty five African nations, all in the name of fighting terrorism and helping the African people. Global domination must have nothing to do with it.
How could a man who plays basketball with NBA players, who has Justin Bieber visit the White House, and who has humanitarians for Africa as his celebrity supporters possibly have ulterior motives for beginning to militarize Africa for United States empire? George Clooney loves Africa and he loves Obama. If it were Bush, some say, Libya would have been a full scale war, not just relentless bombs dropped on countless innocent civilians. We should appreciate Obama’s discretion, his supporters argue. Uganda would have gotten thousands of troops [and liberals would be protesting oil interests] had it been Bush or Romney. After all, Obama uses drone bombs, which are “more precise,” and he only kills “enemy combatants.” He is a benevolent celebrity, the most famous in the world, and his transgressions are diluted with the power of his personality and rhetoric (not to mention incompetent and complicit journalism on the matter)in both politics and popular culture. The power of celebrity and presidential personality–both of which Obama has mastered–help make Barack Obama’s expanding empire the most deceptive and effective in years.
All the while, Obama waived a requirement that Yemen and Libya ban child soldiers in order to receive US military aid, thereby personally funding corrupt governments who commit egregious crimes. Everyone has forgotten about Kony and his child army, for they are more interested in Michele Obama’s bangs and the president’s sugary speeches.