I let him run on, this papier-mache Mephistopheles, and it seemed to me that if I tried I could poke my forefinger through him, and would find nothing inside but a little loose dirt, maybe.
-Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
Quentin Tarantino is a great postmodern filmmaker. He makes movies about movies. The artistic disagreement between Oliver Stone and Tarantino over Natural Born Killers was that Stone was trying to make a moral statement, however flawed the delivery, while Tarantino wanted to write a movie.
One of the friendly disagreements I have had with friends on the right is over the nature of Barack Obama’s ideology. While I don’t doubt that Obama has some educational background in economic / cultural Marxism, at his core I think he’s nothing more than an empty suit. His presidency is about being President. Peggy Noonan writes,
I think part of the reason [Obama] wasn’t careful [about Obamacare] is because he sort of lives in words. That’s been his whole professional life—books, speeches. Say something and it magically exists as something said, and if it’s been said and publicized it must be real. He never had to push a lever, see the machine not respond, puzzle it out and fix it. It’s all been pretty abstract for him, not concrete.
That’s true to a point, but I’d like to take it a step further: Barack Obama’s presidency is an image. Having no experience actually running things and a bare legislative record, Obama mistook acting like the president for actually being the president. Like presidents before him, he makes speeches, he plays golf and he goes on vacations. He’s a Democrat, so he signed a sweeping healthcare-related law (that was drafted by other people) like Democrats before him tried to do and spent a ton of taxpayer money to benefit unions and welfare recipients. It’s the Cliff Notes version of the Executive Branch.
The problem is that the act is now enough for someone to be hired for the biggest job in the country, and people like Peggy Noonan fell for it five years ago. People still cling to the hope that the “papier mache Mephistopheles” is more than some hip facade.
The pop cultural is the political, as some weird postmodern media critic might say.
(Lots of commentary at Memeorandum.)