The Men Who Would Be King

For all his persuasiveness, incompetence is Satan's principle problem. The devil always sets out to construct heaven and winds up with hell because he uses the wrong principles.  Castro, Kim, Stalin, Chavez, Mao -- who all would have ruled the universe if they could have, yet finished up ruling trash heaps -- probably were surprised at the turn of events. Yet why should it be surprising? Mordor in The Lord of the Rings was the shabbiest place on Middle Earth just as Pandemonium, Milton's capital of hell in Paradise Lost, is the most frightful place in the universe because these turkeys were going about it the wrong way and were too proud to admit error.

Clueless yet self-righteous would describe Ben Rhodes to a T.  Samuels in his article has a moment of clarity when he understands that he isn't anywhere real. "Having recently spent time working in Hollywood, I realize during our conversations that the role Rhodes plays in the White House bears less resemblance to any specific character on Beltway-insider TV shows like 'The West Wing' or 'House of Cards' than it does to the people who create those shows. And like most TV writers, Rhodes clearly prefers to imagine himself in the company of novelists."

President Obama is not like a fictional president, he is a fictional president. When Obama described himself as a blank screen on which anyone was free to project his fantasies, the public should have listened. What makes the present absurd situation possible is that a critical mass of voters have agreed to go along with the make-believe. Bonhoeffer in his prison letters says what he means by "stupid" is the passivity born of a feeling of learned helplessness akin to an audience passively watching a play.

Upon closer observation, it becomes apparent that every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or a religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity. … under the overwhelming impact of rising power, humans are deprived of their inner independence and, more or less consciously, give up establishing an autonomous position toward the emerging circumstances.

To him the German people had become an audience watching a madman on stage. Ben Franklin had the idea before Bonhoeffer, when he observed that a functioning republic required thinking voters but tyranny needs only groupies.  Society is stupid in the same way, stuck on celebrity, stuck on being groupies for Hillary, Bernie, Donald, Obama and Kim Kardashian.

The graphic artist Shepard Fairey understood the fundamentally bogus nature of Obama when he crafted his best-selling poster, "Hope."  We are passive.  We sit around and hope.

Fiction Fiction

It's all illusion; the trouble is the public doesn't mind.  True malice, Bonhoeffer argued, requires a kind of sanity; the conscious rejection of an external standard against which they are in rebellion. What is truly frightening about the Obama inner circle is there's not even that.  In a now forgotten interview with Cathleen Falsani on the subject of his religious beliefs, Obama defined sin as the state of being in disagreement with himself:

Do you believe in sin?


Falsani: What is sin?

 Being out of alignment with my values.

That's all there is and it's terrifying. People that came close enough to the Nazis and Communists found that they were worse than evil. They were nothing.  Bonhoeffer anticipated Hannah Arendt's discovery of the banality of evil when he observed that true stupidity -- real emptiness -- is the most destructive condition of all.  You are dealing with people who will pull the wings off a butterfly without even realizing they are hurting something.

In conversation with [the stupid man] one virtually feels that one is not dealing not at all with him as a person, but with slogans, catchwords and the like that have taken possession of him. ... Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also become capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil. This is where the danger of diabolical misuse lurks, for it is this that can once and for all destroy human beings.