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Mar 31, 2016

The crowd craves Trump’s obscene speech to spite Obama’s syrupy bullshit

A value-neutral language, such as that spoken by Obama, sounds to many as it very often is: a form of bloodless concealment.

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US President Barack Obama with Cuban President Raul Castro

You’ve really got to hand it to Fidel. The 89-year-old former Cuban president is not giving his twilight years to the easy glow of Murder Mystery TV, such as I fully intend to. Rather, he is raging against the dying of the light of Marxist-Leninism, and this week delivered the US President an illuminating memo. In red.

The event-management of Obama’s tour to Cuba had proceeded, more or less, unhindered. Press used the word “historic” a lot to describe these moments of baby-soft, photo-friendly diplomacy. Not even reproach by Republican nominee John Kasich could stop the happy westward flow of images portraying the US President at a Havana baseball game. It seemed everyone agreed that The Cubans Are Just Like Us and that Obama exuded democratic warmth sufficient to thaw those differences of 50 cold years.

Then, Fidel Castro snapped his patrol cap and let loose with a J’accuse! in the party paper, Gramma. And some in the West actually listened.

In Havana, Obama had said that the two nations had come “as friends and as neighbours and as family, together”. In his correspondence, Castro the elder said that such “syrupy” American fare put all Cubans “at risk of a heart attack”. He also said some stuff about how we were all just dialectical breakbeats in the great extended mix of history and, to bear out his point, returned to the events of 1961 and then to the time of the conquistadors. The message being, more or less, that communists prefer the unvarnished lessons of history, whereas liberals like to sugar-coat it before they make you swallow it.

Like any Leninist, this guy is in the habit of writing things down. So this is hardly the first time Castro has burst into print with his opinions on bourgeois hypocrisy. It is one of the few times, however, that his distaste for what he calls “the empire” has received close attention outside Cuba, and, honestly, not all of the Western coverage dismisses him as a silly old man.

There’s not much patience for communism these days. But there is, it seems, a hunger for forthright speech. While there has been scant focus on Castro’s undiminished belief in revolution, there was a good deal of patience yesterday for his charge that Obama was a deceptively sweet talker.

While it’s true that in the Australia of the present, many citizens prefer a sugary speech — Labor frontbencher Jason Clare was one of very many curiously relieved that the new Prime Minister’s talk no longer reeked of onion — there are those other contemporary Westerners who could do without the nice breath.

In fact, in the US, there are millions clearly desperate for obscenity. While Donald Trump’s policies may remain un-costed or unexamined by any adviser in receipt of half a clue, his speech, like Castro’s, comes to some as an invigorating blast of foul air.

For some who endure political debate, it’s not so much what you say but the degree of artlessness with which you can say it. If your vulgarity is sufficiently vulgar so as to show liberalism’s insincerity, there are plenty who will listen to you, even if you have nothing to say.

Hardly anyone listens to a communist in the present era. Very few are listening to the substance of Trump’s quixotic plans to build walls and “ban” all Muslims. What they’re listening for is only the vulgarity. Politics, many rationally suppose, is a vulgar business. And they’d rather this great vulgarity no longer be dusted with sugar.

There is good reason to suspect that all this syrup will stop the heart of democracy. A value-neutral language, such as that spoken by Obama, sounds to many as it very often is: a form of bloodless concealment. The death of civilians is “collateral damage”. An enemy has become a “state of concern”. Torture is now an “interrogation technique” and war on Libya was sliced-and-diced by the US Department of State to be less a war than it was a “kinetic military action” — although Hilary was momentarily averse to euphemism, boasting of Gaddafi’s end, “We came. We saw. He died.

In an era where obscene actions are largely described in the moderate and rational language such as Obama spoke in Cuba, it’s no small wonder that there are those who crave obscene speech.

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7 comments

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7 thoughts on “The crowd craves Trump’s obscene speech to spite Obama’s syrupy bullshit

  1. James O'Neill

    Wonderful as always Helen. Without going anywhere as far as wanting Trump’s ignorant vulgarities, it is certainly always a pleasure to listen to someone prepared to tell the truth. Obama is a classic illustration. Behind the rhetoric is a seven year history of enough war crimes to keep a modern day Nuremberg occupied for many a year. Along with the debasement of language, we have also lost the notion of accountability. Behind each of your examples, “collateral damage” “enhanced interrogation” etc etc there is actually a crime. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the msm to say so, let alone out current crop of politicians.

  2. danger_monkey

    You’re better off reading Guy Rundle, if your interest is in understanding the appeal of Trump.

  3. Helen Razer

    I’d say one is better off reading beyond the headline to see that this was not particularly an article about Trump’s appeal. But, I am also a great fan of Rundle and believe that his coverage of the US election is of a quality without rival. Which is why I would never trouble myself to write about it.

  4. Mark out West

    @O’Neil
    Helen sees thing through the prism of the right, while yes she calls out those tortures but gracefully lays it in the lap of the likes of Clinton who extrapolated the behavior of Bush & Co.
    There is no shortage of RW nut jobs who call every minor incident (just look at the invasion debate) to polarise debate around the marginalized.
    While Big business is destroying middle America those toothless RW nut jobs that would rather buy guns then protect their children (Sandyhook) and wrap themselves in their flag only capable of seeing the simplified Pauline Hansen answer to their predicament.
    But to call out the likes of Pox News would be cause Helens head to explode.

  5. Helen Razer

    LOL @Mark out West

  6. klewso

    Trump’s bread and circuses – an ill-bred clown.
    The scary thing is his articulation appeals to so many Americans?

  7. AR

    Far be it for me to defend MzRaz (she’s well able to do that)but I am surprised by normally rational posters who think this article was about Drumpf.
    Unusually this piece was also lucid, succinct (fewer than 725 words – a record for for Prolix Verbosity personified)and made an excellent point about the emptiness of modern political language which has taken McLuhan’s name in vain to make the massage the message.

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