Michelle Obama, Netflix, and a gullible American audience

Selling Michelle Obama is never devoid of the political pageantry readily exploitable by a presidential aspirant - but is she one? Op-ed

Meir Jolovitz ,

מישל אובמה
מישל אובמה
צילום: רויטרס

“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”
― Soren Kierkegaard

“The fools. But just because they are fools does not mean they are not a threat.”
― Kendare Blake

Netflix premiered one of its signature accomplishments this past week: It is Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” – the story of the development of a woman who is universally seen as the most popular woman in America. So popular, we are told by insiders, that she is the subject of some ongoing back-room discussions by prominent Democratic political power-brokers – those who watch uneasily as the designated Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, virtually implodes every time he opens his mouth.

The 89-minute documentary – the orchestrated product of the very subject of this chronicle of Michelle’s role in the coronation of the Obamas – is incredibly transparent in every facet of its production. And yet, beyond the fabrications and distortions that are endemic throughout, it is the self-absorbed, boastful and self-centered story of the Obama rise to fame. It is an autobiographical revisionist account of its own version of the personalities who are still writing their own history in the way they want it to be told. Well, that is understandable; after all, Stalin did the same thing. As did the Kennedys.

What is discernibly obvious, but lost to those not willing to see, is the reaction of the American audience that actually buys into this deception, one which is fraught with disingenuous rubbish. The more perceptive eye will look beyond Michelle telling her own story in her own way, enhanced by the camera lens of Hollywood.

The real story is the one no one seems to have noticed: It is the audience that the Obamas continue to play to, and have exploited so brilliantly. The obvious question begs to be asked: Are the Obamas that smart, or have they simply manipulated those who are not? Mark Twain answered that question over a century ago: “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”

Fifteen minutes into “Becoming”, we see that Michelle Obama succeeds in convincing the lemmings watching this documentary that she is smarter than they are. As the cameras follow her from one
In “Becoming” - Michelle Obama authored a book that engendered a documentary that has now raised her to a level of veneration that Stalin or Kennedy would have gladly settled for.
interview to another on a 34-stop tour – questioned by sycophantic celebrity friends like Oprah Winfrey and conducted before audiences that have paid handsomely to sit and adulate – interspersed with the requisite stops to sign copies of her book for groupies who can say they "almost touched her", Michelle takes notice of her conquests.

She is very carefully no longer the Michelle LaVaughn Robinson who, during her college days at Princeton, had expressed an unapologetic hatred for Whites. The same Michelle Obama who confided with us publicly in February 2008 that it was the first time she was ever proud of being an American. The same presidential candidate’s wife who was kept completely out of the public’s eye for so many weeks for fear that she might confess as much, again.

Americans, however, have long had a very short memory. And, in “Becoming” – Michelle Obama authored a book that engendered a documentary that has now raised her to a level of veneration that Stalin or Kennedy would have gladly settled for.

Because of the audience. The easily fooled audience that can never be convinced that they have been fooled.

Well, there are actually two audiences here, and we ought to fear both.

The first is the one we see in this documentary serving as the backdrop to many of Michelle Obama’s on-screen appearances. Look closely, and carefully. Look at their faces. Their reaction to the haughty person who bemoans the fact that the trajectory of her own talented destiny was temporarily derailed by the birth of two children. The audience, both Black and White, share a reverent adoration of the former First Lady, such that it brings to mind the obsequious hero-worship that was captured decades ago by German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl with her propaganda masterpiece portraying the Nazi’s “Triumph of the Will.” Go back, and look at that German audience.

The other is the Netflix audience – the one envious of the figure on screen, those who were there in person. When all is said and done, Netflix’s viewing audience will be counted in the many millions.

Michelle Obama is not unaware of the success of her finely orchestrated ascent of the celebrity mountain as a genuine American hero. It is the closest thing since Kennedy’s “Camelot” – created then to be a legendary parallel to the mythical one belonging to King Arthur. Or perhaps, to the unbridled hysteria of her own husband’s mass rally in Chicago on the evening of his election victory. It’s her turn now, she reminds us. Maybe she ought to get a Nobel Peace Prize herself for, well, something yet to be determined.

But there is more. Selling Michelle Obama is, cleverly, never devoid of the type of political pageantry that can readily be exploited by a presidential aspirant – if the masses should so demand (wink, wink). And the masses – liberal and Democrats alike, and not an insignificant portion of the still-independent – are indeed there. Hillary Clinton salivates in envy.

Still, greed and common sense might prevail. In February 2017, in a joint deal worth an estimated $65 million to publish their memoirs, Barack and Michelle Obama cashed in. “Becoming” – the book, was released last November and became an immediate best-seller. The former president’s own memoir, reportedly due for release this year, is sure to enhance his own legendary status. Factor as well the mega-millions that are being made with their contract with Netflix – for some imaginary contribution as “consultants” – and you can well understand why risking a political campaign, even for the post of the most powerful position in the world, would not be worth the roll of the dice. After all – if you watched the Michelle on Netflix, you’ll agree that she is already more popular than any president can ever be.

It comes down to this. With an audience as naive and unsophisticated as the one she has already conquered, and with the presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden displaying a cognitive acumen that diminishes by the day, why not pursue that gullible vote and bring a second Obama into the White House, and an end to the Trump era? After all, useful idiots get to vote too.

A reasonable answer: She dares not, because it is easier to fool people when you write your own script. As a presidential candidate challenging the unpredictable Donald Trump, you might not always be able to do that. Just ask Hillary.

Meir Jolovitz is a past national executive director of the Zionist Organization of America, and formerly associated with the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies.




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