A belated Happy New Year, y'all! Now let's get right down to business.
The world is gabbing about Oprah Winfrey's instantly famous Golden Globes speech, an admittedly moving but at times histrionic bit of oratory that had much of the black-clad audience of narcissistic, self-important celebs in tears, and resulted in far more buzz than a sane country should be comfortable with about a Big O presidential run in 2020. And I have just one question: Has the elevation of an outrageously unqualified billionaire reality-show host to the most powerful position in the world really lowered the bar that much?
Now, in the plus column, Oprah has been pretty consistently liberal/progressive on social issues, and she's literate (and actually loves reading and encourages others to do it), and she has truly done some good in the world. So... totally not like Trump. But Oprah is also a billionaire celebrity and serial hawker (often of questionable people and concepts), and she has no political experience and no "qualifications" other than the ability to work a crowd. So... totally like Trump, though granted, Oprah probably is wealthier than Trump and actually earned her wealth. No silver spoon story for her, in other words.
But still. My initial objection to Oprah-as-president -- and central to this blog's normal beat -- concerns the way she has enabled Scamworld luminaries over the years, particularly those associated with the loathsome New-Wage moviemercial, The Secret. One such luminary/Secret star was convicted killer James Arthur Ray. To my knowledge, Oprah never apologized for her part in elevating him to far, far greater heights of fame than he deserved.
I've mentioned the Oprah/Scamworld connection before on this Whirled, such as in this May 2014 post. In that 2014 post I linked to a powerful blog post from Jean Brown Allison, the sister of Death Ray victim Kirby Brown. Jean has indicated that she will have a lot to say about an Oprah presidential run, and I will happily provide links when she does.
My blogging colleague Salty Droid, now a practicing lawyer fighting Scamworld, has also written about the cozy relationship between Oprah and Scamworld. (Here's a link to more Oprah-tagged posts on Salty's blog. And by the way, Salty just announced that he intends to continue blogging, but in a more serious manner.)
And I can't overlook the contributions of the author and journalist who inspired me to begin blogging in the first place, Steve Salerno at SHAMblog. Over the years, particularly since the initial release of The Secret in 2006, Steve has written plenty about the Oprah effect.
In a comment to my Facebook post about an Oprah candidacy, my friend Kathryn wrote that she would not support Oprah as a presidential candidate even though that Golden Globes speech was inspiring. Kathryn added:
For too long she has promoted a new age, positive-wishful thinking prosperity paradigm, rather than naming the structural injustices that are undermining the working and middle classes. Her O magazine, unless it has changed in the last several years, peddled that paradigm with gauzy "live your best life" self help articles that promote products and experts that will presumably help one reach this best life. Personally, I can't forgive her for promoting the likes of Rhonda Byrne and Elizabeth Gilbert as gurus. Also, I don't think people should be elected based on celebrity. I want to support people who have experience and passion for public service and public policy.
Well said, Kathryn.
Of course Death Ray and The Secret are far from Oprah's only promotional sins, as noted in this Slate piece (which does also mention The Secret, but not Death Ray specifically).
Then there is what could be viewed as a bit of hypocrisy, on Oprah's part, regarding the whole #MeToo/Time's Up thing. For there's no doubt that Oprah was pals with one of the villains at the center of #MeToo: film director Harvey Weinstein. The right-wing media have been on fire with this. Here's The Daily Caller.
Now, don't get me wrong here. Contrary to what some of the wingnut memes are insinuating, I don't for a moment believe that Oprah was overtly conspiring to lure young women, such as Brit actress and La Toya Jackson lookalike Kadian Noble, into Harvey's lair. But Oprah did hobnob with Weinstein, and even though she initially expressed shock and dismay at the allegations against her buddy, I think she still has a lot of 'splainin' to do. Her soaring rhetoric at the Golden Globes does not exonerate her.
(At this point I should probably interject that as a woman and a nearly-lifelong feminist I generally support the #MeToo/Time's Up movement, despite my snark at the beginning of this post. The conversations resulting from this movement are long overdue, even if they don't result in any measurable change over time (obviously it's too early to call). However, I do have several concerns. I'm concerned that in their eagerness to honor the stories of countless named and un-named victims of sexual harassment and assault, nuance is lost. Promoters of the movement sometimes verge on vilification of all things male. And apparently men who were at worst guilty of social awkwardness or poor judgment are being caught up in the net with true predators and victimizers. All of this does nothing but give strength to the inevitable backlash, providing ammo to the most loathsome misogynists and men's rights activists. But that's probably worth its own blog post.)
The Oprah/Harvey connection is potentially damning enough, but let's not forget Oprah's history of friendship with Donald John Trump, who, in 1999, suggested that he'd pick her as his running mate if he were ever to run for president. As recently as 2015, he defended that choice. Following O's famous Golden Globes oratory, The Hill posted some past Trumptweets praising Oprah to the moon and back. And after the 2016 election Oprah made some statements that could charitably be described as desperately over-optimistic, but that in retrospect, one year into the reign of the Mad King, are idiotic. (To many of us, of course, these statements sounded idiotic when she first made them.) Notwithstanding her very public support of Hillary Clinton, O said she was "encouraged" by Trump's "willingness" to work with the transition team. She also said that she could sense by his body language during his acceptance speech that perhaps he'd been "humbled" by the experience of having been elected. (In fairness, she did say in passing that she could be wrong. Ya think?)
As I noted in a recent Facebook conversation regarding Oprah and Weinstein, she is either a lousy judge of character, or she just doesn't give a damn.
The Big O and The Big Oaf may or may not still be buds, but I do believe that Oprah Winfrey's nomination as the Democratic presidential candidate would, as many have suggested, be a gift to Trump and his supporters and enablers. So come on, America. I know Trump is unpresidentedly and unprecedentedly awful, and homophobic theocrat Pence is just as awful, and so are most of the likely-at-this-point Republican contenders.
But Oprah? Let's just not, okay?
Related on this Whirled -- March 2016: The Devil at the crossroads of politix and Scamworld (in particular, the part about Neil Postman and his 1985 book, Amusing Ourselves to Death)
Not to overstate the case, but... here's more about the Oprah effect:
- Another one from Slate: Oprah Winfrey Helped Create Our American Fantasyland
- From VOX: Oprah's long history with junk science
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