From The Annals of Presidential Style
Do The Clothes Make The Mascot?

by Phil Rockstroh

August 2, 2004   


(Swans - August 2, 2004)  Is authentic human experience even possible in an environment constructed of the flimsy artifices of corporate marketing "values" and its concomitant twenty-four-hour-a-day saturation of advertisements? Who are we -- when our identities are formed upon the basis of a compendium of commercialized clichés -- when our deepest yearnings for freedom have been subverted into shallow cravings -- when the flowing, subterranean waters of our dreams have been dammed-up, tapped, bottled, loaded with sugar and caffeine, then sold back to us in the form of the empty intoxication delivered by soft drink deliriums, the carbonated soma of our consumerist dystopia?

Similar commercial machinations also dominate the political process in the United States: Our political discourse has become tantamount to the selling of soda, soap and SUVs.

George W. Bush was initially sold as a box of detergent (though he's dumb as a box of rocks) -- a cleansing, Christian soap... needed to wash and scour the stain of Satanic jism left on the fabric of American life by the sinful Bill Clinton. Bush was a former drunk, who had "cleaned-up," and was now ready to lead America to a whiter-than-white future -- plus... provide round-the-clock protection from the offensive odors emitted by the body politic.

But, after the eleventh of September, 2001, Bush was marketed as an SUV. The biggest, most powerful (therefore the -- it was believed -- safest) vehicle traveling the perilous roadways of a hostile world... "It's O.K. kids...daddy's at the wheel...just sit in the backseat and watch your DVDs... You're safe and protected...anybody or anything stupid enough to get in our way will be crushed beneath us...challenge us and you'll join the smoking wreckage and pulverized road-kill in our wake."

But after rising gas prices and a series of deadly rollovers on the roadways of Iraq -- the SUV presidency of George W. Bush is sputtering...its DVD is playing Fahrenheit 9/11...and its passengers look carsick.

The marketing of bland John Kerry is much like the marketing of bran fiber cereal. Sure, it is supposed to be good for you; for, the colon of the body politic is clogged with the putrefying, fecal matter of the Bush administration's high-fat diet of lies -- the result of its high protein, Atkins diet of carnivorous aggression. But will consumers accept a steady diet of taste-free Kerry bran flakes? Of course not: If consumers bought products that were good for them, they wouldn't be, well, consumers. Hence: a refined sugar coating of centrist pandering must be added to the Kerry product... Then, it's necessary to (secretly) add the artificial preservatives of special interest money -- and violà -- we have Kerry Presidential Flakes: The Breakfast of Body Count Champions.

The marketing of Nader is a bit more problematic -- make that impossible. How does one mass market a pair of vintage, nineteen-seventies Earth Shoes? Sure, they are sensible...and they subliminally communicate the frivolity of a shallow obsession with footwear. But, for consumers -- where's the glamour -- the leather-scented promise of sex -- or the shit-kicker's primal fantasy of blown blood and steel-toed thunder? Ralph, you got nothing.

The entire election cycle has become an exercise in product marketing...and the marketing of products is based upon the promulgation of fantasies -- fantasies that are used to hide the truth of the situation... One of the many dirty, little secrets of the black magician's art of advertising is: the product being sold isn't, in all likelihood, what it's being sold as -- and the buyer, in all likelihood, doesn't need the damn thing to begin with...

So what is the fantasy being sold to us in the case of the coming election of November 2004? It's quite simply this: the illusion that the matrix of real power still resides in the office of the President of the United States. In reality, it has become apparent: The president has become little more than a corporate mascot...like Ronald McDonald, or Colonel Sanders, or the Tidy Bowl Man.

Former soap and nuclear missile salesmen Ronald Reagan set the standard: He was successfully sold as a kind of grandfatherly Marlboro Man...while Bill Clinton was a rock-a-billy cool Joe Camel. At this point, hapless George W. Bush, as was the case with his geeky, hyperthyroid father before him, must be beginning to cause his corporate creators to drastically up the dosages of their respective SSRI prescriptions -- because -- while they intended to market Bush II as the heir apparent of cowboy Ron Reagan -- it's becoming increasingly clear he couldn't handle the responsibilities of the San Diego Chicken.

What hope remains for us, here, in this age where commercialized illusions have usurped the verities of the human mind, heart, and imagination, where spendthrift lies that bring financial profits travel widely and in high style -- while penurious truths languish in obscurity, where media-savvy frauds are feted with praise -- while what remains of the genuine voice of humanity is droned-out by an endless bacchanal of bullshit?

So how might we resist it all...the surrender to cynicism...the infantile snit of nihilism...the cuddled erotic fantasy of EndTime/Rapture religionism? Though, of course, all those things can be marketed as well: How else could one explain Humvee sales, the apocalyptic death cult of Pat Robertson's 700 Club, the Fox NewsSpeak Network, the overweight and obesity rates of Americans reaching the mid-sixties in percentile points and rising, any media coverage given to Jenna and Barbara Bush, the enduring appeal of Branson, Missouri, the perpetually angry white men of the so called "red states" and the inexplicable self-satisfied, sold-out liberalism of the so called "blue states," the continued career of Dennis Miller, the very existence of Tom Delay, the fact that Robert Novak can still show his face in public -- much less be regarded as a pundit, the American culture's endless thanotropic swooning over bombing campaigns, and its secret revelry in sadistic eroticism revealed by the Abu Ghraib prison photos?

Let's drop any pretense about the matter: Most Americans don't want reality -- they want salable fantasy. Therefore, let's form a focus group to reveal how we might expedite the selling of a new concept in presidential image-making.

That concept being: The President of the United State should be replaced with a corporate mascot -- or, at very least, the president must be required to wear the costume of a corporate mascot during office hours and while performing official duties.

Key demographic groups must be consulted to find what sort of mascot might hold the greatest appeal to greatest number of consumer/citizens. For example, clown costumes, i.e. Ronald McDonald are too damn obvious -- and creepy besides... In a similar vein, Colonel Sanders, dressed in his white plantation master suit, might cause offense in certain quarters -- but, at least, it would convey a certain honesty regarding the realities of post-liberal economics, which are: it cannot function without being reliant upon de facto slavery.

Perhaps, a Maytag Repair Man/Mr. Good Wrench prototype might prove useful; whereby, the president is costumed in the outfit of a working stiff; he could be given the title of -- "the Halliburton Handy Man." In this way, we can always be reminded of who his true employer is.

The trappings and accouterments of the presidency can be played with as well. The possibilities are endless: For example, Air Force One could be structurally altered to become a flying Oscar Meyer Wienermobile... Furthermore, the POTUS would be required to don a weenie costume while in flight. In addition, appropriate costuming can be utilized to fit all occasions: as in -- a jackass costume for press conferences and the State of the Unions address; a chicken-hawk costume -- for declaring war (plus: those members of Congress -- who have never seen a shot fired in anger -- must be dressed in similar costumes when voting for a declaration of war); a weasel costume must be worn after breaking campaign promises; and the president must be clad in the outfit of a trained, organ-grinder's monkey when entertaining lobbyists and raising campaign cash.

But mainly the mascot's costume should be used to send out an honest message regarding the amount of true power afforded to the President of the United States, during this age of corporatist rule. And that message is: Don't ever forget who is calling the tunes. Hint: don't be distracted by the silly fellow dressed in the monkey suit collecting the cash... Find out who hired the organ grinder.

But, at this point, is there anyone who still doesn't realize who calls the shots in the empire -- the corporate mascot or his corporate masters? Is there anyone over the age of five who believes that Cap'n Crunch commands the ship of state?

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US Elections & Democracy on Swans

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Phil Rockstroh on Swans (with bio).

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Published August 2, 2004
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