Thursday, October 30, 2008

Obamamania a Symptom?

There is something odd -- and dare I say novel -- in American politics about the crowds that have been greeting Barack Obama on his campaign trail. Hitherto, crowds have not been a prominent feature of American politics. We associate them with the temper of Third World societies. We think of places like Argentina and Egypt and Iran, of multitudes brought together by their zeal for a Peron or a Nasser or a Khomeini. In these kinds of societies, the crowd comes forth to affirm its faith in a redeemer: a man who would set the world right...As the late Nobel laureate Elias Canetti observes in his great book, "Crowds and Power" (first published in 1960), the crowd is based on an illusion of equality....Obama and the Politics of Crowds, Fouad Ajami, Wall Street Journal, October 30, 2008

A bitter listing of crowd-oriented politics includes not only Third World dictators like Robert Mugabe, but Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Juan and Eva Peron, and Napoleon Bonaparte, whose primary legacies were, or still are, ruins. Crowds, the basis of mob rule, not of democracy, are the most fearsome collective on Earth. They make a school of sharks look pacific.


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