How Oprah’s Speech and the Reaction to it Perfectly Reflects Our Hollow Public Consciousness

by Scott Creighton

UPDATE: Guardian, 2015 wrote “Oprah Winfrey: one of the world’s best neoliberal capitalist thinkers

“Oprah is appealing because her stories hide the role of political, economic and social structures in our lives. They make the American dream seem attainable…

The way Oprah tells us to get through it all and realize our dreams is always to adapt ourselves to the changing world, not to change the world we live in. We demand little or nothing from the system, from the collective apparatus of powerful people and institutions. We only make demands of ourselves.

We are the perfect, depoliticized, complacent neoliberal subjects.”

Ultimately Oprah’s message is the core message of the Randians and the neoliberals alike and that is… if the systems is flawed, and it is, then it is up to YOU to change YOU so you can thrive within in… and if you don’t, if you can’t, then it’s YOUR FAULT. We don’t need anymore leaders who subscribe to the belief that the 1%ers are the 1%ers because they DESERVE to be there. Do you understand how she is like a faith healer rolling into town “healing” some cancer-ridden woman who finds out she still has cancer the next day? The “cure”, she is told, ONLY WORKS IF YOUR FAITH IS STRONG ENOUGH… so the sick woman dies believing SHE FAILED HERSELF… dies without knowing it never had anything to do with her.

That is what Oprah is and it has made her fabulously wealthy being essentially a snake oil salesman for the neoliberal class.

And that is why you should laugh in the face of anyone who thinks she SHOULD be our next president.

Oprah Winfrey is a successful performer. But she is an actress and nothing more. At least, she is nothing more in the public sphere. To the people she is a blank slate upon which anyone’s preconceived notions can be projected. It simply doesn’t matter if the private version of Oprah, the Business Oprah, looks anything like the public one.

A successful actor once said that doing the absolute least during a performance is the best possible approach to acting because it allows the audience to see whatever they want to see in the character you create. Its a sort of audience conformation bias, if you will.

When a performer makes strong choices during his performance he naturally will alienate members of the audience who see the character or the moment differently and therefore the reviews of the work will suffer… as will the “brand” of the actor.

Some performers hold a mirror to society so they can feel better about themselves as they see fit. Others paint portraits of what they see and they SHOW the audience the truer nature of the world around them and those performers are rarely in vogue.

Politicians today are much like that successful actor. That is what the profession has evolved into in America.

Caleb Maupin talks about this in a recent video. Rightly he says “a lot of our politicians have been actors… and the problem with actors is they can be anyone. You give them a script and they can be anyone. Today they can be the villain, tomorrow the hero… but real statecraft, real political leadership is not like being an actor

Why is it that all of our recent agents of “CHANGE” disappoint us? Because, they are actors, not statesmen. Actors upon which we project our own images.

“The Obama campaign is heavy on symbolism, and long on vague catch phrases like “new leadership,” “new ideas,” “a politics of hope,” and “let’s dream America again” calculated to appeal to millions of disaffected Americans without actually meaning much of anything. Corporate media actively bill Obama as “the candidate of hope,” and anointed representative of the “Joshua generation.” There are good reasons campaign placards at Obama rallies say “change we can believe in” instead of “stop the war — vote Obama” or “repeal NAFTA – Barack in ’08.” The first set of messages are hopeful and vague. The second are popular demands among the voters Obama needs against which his past, present and future performance may be checked. When the comparison is made, the results are dismaying to many who want to support Barack Obama.” Bruce Dixon, BAR, Dec. 12, 2007

Vague, out of focus reflections offered and accepted (and in most cases… preferred) instead of sharp, crisp policy statements of action to wit a real statesman would assign his concrete administrative direction over the course of his term in office.

They learned their lesson with “read my lips…” didn’t they?

Today politicians offer hopey changy platitudes without providing the hard lines of substance or detail for those will ultimately cause the audience to drift out of their state of suspended disbelief once they are forgotten or otherwise reneged on by the politician.

Take for example “the wall” and look at how it’s transforming into a nebulous rift of “rivers” and “mountains” and “monitoring systems” right before our eyes. Trump’s supporters are incensed like they are about his other betrayal of another specific promise he made on illegal immigration.

Trump was an actor more than he was a business man so he should have known better but he wasn’t a trained politician and to that end he made a foundational mistake with his campaign.

Now he is viewed as a liar by many of his former voters. This is the trap that trained and coached political figures seek to avoid.

The recent speech given by Oprah Winfrey at the Golden Globes ceremony is being hailed as her political coming out party by many on the left and the right. It has been called a “call to action“, a “masterstroke” and a “night of defiance” by many wishing to see what they wanted to see in her performance.

And make no mistake, it was a performance.

Oprah’s speech was full of hot-button talking points tossed out there to garner support from pretty much every voting demographic her writers could think of. She spouted platitudes designed to make her accessible to all sorts of voters and she even sucked up to the press who feel particularly demonized because their complicity, their dishonesty and their malice has been exposed in recent months like never before.

“I’d like to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, because we all know that the press is under siege these days.

But we also know that it is the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice. To tyrants and victims and secrets and lies. I want to say that I value the press more than ever before…” Oprah Winfrey

Winfrey delivered this speech in front of Hollywood’s elites and though she was sure to promote the “Me Too” movement of women who have come forward to make public their stories of abuse in the film industry, she also made sure to placate those in attendance who have kept their mouths shut so they could move up the ladder of success.

“So I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault, because they — like my mother — had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They’re the women whose names we’ll never know.” Oprah Winfrey

In Hollywood and in Big Business and in Washington specifically… that’s a powerful demographic of women (and men) whom Oprah clearly didn’t wish to leave out of that nice haze of suspension of disbelief she was generating with her “empowering” speech.

One might think a champion of the movement might use that platform to compel those who remain silent to come forward and tell their stories so their abusers aren’t free to continue the abuse (which certainly will continue)

But no. Instead she allows them to map upon her a justification and a validation of their decision to remain silent while others suffer and will suffer in the future because… as Oprah put it… they still have “dreams to pursue”

Wouldn’t want to paint harsh lines on that self portrait they see reflected back at them, now would we?

It is a duplicitous message which renders moot her promise to all the young girls in the world:

So I want all the girls watching here and now to know that a new day is on the horizon!

But Oprah’s duplicitous nature isn’t really up for debate, now is it?

Image result for oprah kissing harvey weinstein

Oprah’s speech was filled with the kind of self-satisfying, self-aggrandizing  moral authority that the left is in desperate need of today. After running the most corrupt candidate in the history of our presidential elections and seeing her lose to a toad of a reality TV star, America’s left needs to “BELIEVE” in itself again. Unfortunately, it’s a hollow 2 dimensional performance they have latched onto rather than a leader with a clearly defined moral center.

Years ago Bruce Dixon wrote about the “Oprah Effect” in terms of the candidacy of Barack Obama and it couldn’t be more relevant than it is today.

“After years of dishing out celebrity gossip and advice on relationships, decorating, cuisine, fashion and what books to read, Oprah fits nicely into the corporate PR juggernaut behind the Obama campaign. Winfrey didn’t become a billionaire by speaking truth to power. She is a master marketer whose skill is assembling and influencing vast audiences on behalf of her corporate sponsors. She knows how to stick to a script, or if need be how to write one. Oprah skillfully employs fake controversies such as Obama’s alleged “lack of experience” to draw attention away from questions of real import, like her candidate’s serial equivocations on war, peace, health care and NAFTA. She helps create the illusion of difference between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama when the two are, on almost every issue closer than Siamese twins.” Bruce Dixon, BAR, Dec. 12, 2007

Back then Oprah helped sell a product. Product Obama. Which won Advertising Age’s marketer of the year for 2008 beating out Apple and Zappos while it also won the presidential election.

That’s what Oprah is good at. Selling products. Selling products like “A Million Little Pieces” which was a collection of lies cobbled together in a book that she promoted and profited from until it came out it was nothing more than fiction passed off as reality.

She sold the country on the neoliberal charter school, for-profit scam, model of education until it was widely known that these “schools” were all about turning a profit from public education while depriving inner-city students of their rights to a solid education. She partnered with Bill Gates, Walmart and Mark Zuckerberg on that one.

And never forget… in 2002 Oprah helped market the illegal Iraq war propaganda to her “liberal” base and went so far as to silence an audience member who dared question the warmonger guests Oprah had on  by telling her “We aren’t trying to propagandize you. We are just trying to tell you what is”

It’s decisions like these that allowed someone like Oprah to grow and thrive in the business of American neoliberalism while those like Phil Donahue who opposed it were punished and blacklisted.

Image result for george w bush kissing oprah

In 2008 Janice Peck wrote “The Age of Oprah, Cultural Icon For the Neoliberal Era” in which she explored the rise of the talk-show host in relation to the rise of neoliberalism in America.

“my goal in writing this book is to understand why and how Oprah Winfrey has become an icon for millions, and what that says about the times in which we live. In the process of tracing the history of her ascent from mere talk show host to cultural icon, and situating that journey in relation to the rise and triumph of neoliberalism, I hope also to contribute some knowledge to the vexed subject of “class in America” Janice Peck, 2008

Oprah is a blank page waiting for us to inscribe upon it our own obituary. How do we want to be remembered? How do we want to see ourselves in relation to the world and it’s history? She, like Obama before her, has no moral center, only the illusion of one. That, coupled with her natural talent and charisma, make her a powerful marketer of ideas.

But it doesn’t make her a good politician. And there is a difference.

It’s hard for us to know that these days. We are told we are nothing more than brands ourselves. We market ourselves and promote ourselves and gauge our successes and our failures like shareholders in a corporation.

Today the unDemocratic Party of America is reeling from last year’s epic tragedy and seeks to find a champion to set right the mistakes of the past. It doesn’t matter that our new hero is just a different flavor of villain. It doesn’t matter that she is, like he is, simply playing a role we desperately want to see.

And it doesn’t matter that deep down inside, we all, even her most adamant cheerleaders, already know what I write to be true.

If neoliberalism has taught us anything it’s that, it doesn’t matter what it is. It never matters what it is. The only thing that matters is what it can be made to look like. Just give us a face and we’ll fill in the blanks, detail the lines and overlay whatever image we wish to suit our own needs.

Feeling good about where we are going, even if only for a moment and even if we all know it’s a lie, is always more satisfying than being forced to see what we’ve become. That is the attraction of an Oprah candidacy. The promise of another 8 years of living in a state of suspended disbelief.

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15 Responses

  1. Don’t forget she also pushed “The Secret” a book whose premise was that poor people were poor because they subconsciously wanted to be.

  2. Someone should pay you for prose like this!

  3. I never liked Opra…… in her beginning, like Springer, she made a show out of other people’s sorrow…. made money from it…. seemed rude and distasteful to me…. used people….
    she still does…. from what I hear…. wouldn’t watch her if they paid me.

    • lndeed, Jan10, she had her own afternoon sleazefest.

    • Yeah, I’ve never liked her either. Totally agree about using people. That’s how she drew people in (mostly women, I would think). People like gossip. People like to have their heart strings pulled, and although I have not knowingly seen more than a couple of minutes of her, that’s what I got from her program.

      And two other things. One is: to get where she is, she must be utterly ruthless. You don’t get to be a billionaire without stepping on a few toes, and being a ruthlessly savvy operator (outside of being Trump, of course). The other is that she would not have got to the position she is in now without someone letting her do it. A black woman in a position where she is? … probably toeing the line in a whole number of ways.

      And, funnily enough, talking to my significant other about this a couple of days ago, I was told that she is a lovely, giving human being!!! And I thought, yeah right! All billionaires are lovely, aren’t they? People can be so gullible. We didn’t talk about it for long after that!

      Oprah for President. Well it must be celebrity president time now. Who next? Tom Cruise? Kim Kardashian. Yeah gods … we are truly doomed (and I’m not even American!! Just feeling more American nowadays … very strange …).


      Harvey P.

      ps oh no … Ellen DeGeneres … just came to me. But she would be the second lesbian president after Oprah, wouldn’t she? God save us!!! And I’ve got nothing against lesbians, it’s bland, horrible people like DeGeneres, I can’t stand … argggh etc.

      • LOL
        can’t stand ‘Ellen’ either… guess we’ll have to move to Canada. 🙂

      • “…to get where she is, she must be utterly ruthless. You don’t get to be a billionaire without stepping on a few toes, and being a ruthlessly savvy operator…”

        I believe that is absolutely true.

        “Well it must be celebrity president time now. Who next?”

        I thought that I had seen Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson being promoted as a candidate? Egads indeed.

        I call Trump a cartoon, and I think that’s what I’ll call any celebrity candidate.

  4. “The promise of another 8 years of living in a state of suspended disbelief.” Brilliant.

  5. Brother … Bravisimo!

  6. Spot on brother. Spot on.

  7. “Ultimately Oprah’s message is the core message of the Randians and the neoliberals alike and that is… if the systems is flawed, and it is, then it is up to YOU to change YOU so you can thrive within in… and if you don’t, if you can’t, then it’s YOUR FAULT.”

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is why we aren’t marching in the streets unless a public figure, a 1%er says it’s okay.

    Really good.

  8. Eyes are bad, Scott, even with these glasses, so I can’t read long but I did read the update.

    Could’nt agree more.

    Going to work on my laugh-in-the-face style in front of a mirror till I get it just right. Don’t want any mistake, case I get a chance to use it.

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