War and Media Symposium


Steven Shaviro
“I Got Soul But I’m Not A Soldier”: War, Terrorism, Media, and Subjectivity in Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales

Selmin Kara
Reassembling Iraq: Iraq in Fragments and the Acoustics of Occupation

Corey Creekmur
The Sound of the “War on Terror”

Rikke Shubart
What Enemy? “Us” and “Them” in Letters From Iwo Jima

Richard Grusin
Premediation and War

Robert Burgoyne
Memory, History, and the Uncanny in the War Film

MAR 18, 2008
1:00 – 4:00 pm
Room 10302
5057 Woodward
Detroit, Michigan
Department of English, Wayne State University

Hype (written before the Ohio/Texas primaries)

There seems to be this weird disconnect in the media picture of the election campaign. On the one hand, Obama seems already to have been enshrined by the media as the Democratic nominee. All the reporting stresses how he is surging, how enthusiastic his supporters are, how overwhemling his support is, etc. All the reporting on Clinton implies that her campaign is floundering, that she has lost direction, that her candidacy is all over, etc.

And yet, on the other hand: the polls in both Ohio and Texas show a very close race, not a blowout for Obama at all. These primaries could still go either way. I suppose this means Obama is surging relative to two months ago, when he was way behind in both states. But still, a close race in two large states, with Obama only holding a slight edge in already-chosen delegates, does not translate into a juggernaut for Obama and ignoble oblivion for Clinton. If Obama wins Texas and Ohio on Tuesday, then, yes, he is clearly in command and will be the nominee. But if Clinton takes one of these states, or even both — which is very much within the bounds of plausibility — will the media then start to hype Clinton’s “comeback”, and present Obama’s campaign as suddenly deflated (as they did after New Hampshire)?

What stinks here is how the media create drama, by falsely turning slight differences into grandiose all-or-nothing situations. This will ultimately exacerbate those slight distinctions, stoke the fires of bitterness, and as a result undermine the Democratic campaign in the fall no matter which is the nominee.

This ties in also to the overall worry I have about Obama. Considering how charismatic he is, and how much enthusiasm he arouses in his followers, why is it that (contrary to the media picture) he is not in fact leading by a blowout? Since Hillary has absolutely no appeal whatsoever to anybody aside from Gloria Steinem and a few old-line party hacks, how is it that her campaign is still (for the moment at the least, and despite the negative media hype) viable? It can only be by default — that people support her not for any positive reasons, but simply because they reject Obama: either because they are racist, or because they hate young people, or because they are afraid of “change” (however vague) and find politics-as-usual reassuring, or simply because they haven’t bought into the Obama hype machine (which is, unavoidably, creating its own backlash, via the snarky comments popping up recently about how it is like a cult, etc.).

So what worries me is that there are such definite limits to how far Obamamania can go. I am immune to it, but I support him anyway. On the other hand, nearly everyone I know (immediate family excepted) has been infected by the Obama meme to some extent at least. But my friends and acquaintances are hardly a representative sample of American voters. I strongly suspect that Obamamania doesn’t extend far enough: that all those affluent suburban white people who moved to the ‘burbs to get away from black people, and voted for Bush twice, will never accept Obama; that most of the so-called “Reagan Democrats” will end up supporting the “patriotism” (warmongering) of McCain over Obama’s mantra of “change”; that among white people, it is only the bourgie liberals and the Oprah-loving soccer moms who will vote for Obama, while the vast majority of white people in the “heartland” will reject him. (While white Obama supporters congratulate themselves on being “beyond race,” lots of other white voters will reject Obama on grounds of “inexperience” or “naivete,” all the while swearing that of course their voting against him has nothing to do with his being black). Obama’s current lead in the polls against McCain is meaningless so long before the general election.

By the way, if Clinton thinks that the media favor Obama over her, she ain’t seen nothing yet — just wait until the media’s dramatization and amplification of Republican slanders against either Obama or Clinton overwhelms everything else in the fall. By election day, the only issues having any presence will be the ’08 version of swiftboating. The campaign will turn into either a desperate attempt by Clinton to convince voters that she is not a lesbian, or a desperate attempt by Obama to convince voters that he is not a Muslim.

In other words, we are probably doomed to another four years of nightmare, with President McCain sending more and more troops abroad, and appointing judges to the Supreme Court who will repeal Roe v. Wade. My hunch at this point is that, come Election Day, it won’t even be close. (Of course, I admit that I have always held to Jerry Lewis’ maxim: “expect the worst, and then you will never be disappointed.”)