February 9, 2009

Obama's insipid emails are annoying Leon Wieseltier.

I was going to do a blog post a week or so ago titled Barack Obama is spamming me — you could sing it to this tune — but it was clear enough on the face of the email that a simple click would unsubscribe me from his email list, and since something stopped me from clicking, I could see I'd be lying if I posted that. But Wieseltier has his column bitching about the email:
"As we begin the work of remaking America," the president wrote to me, "we must draw on the common hopes that brought us together this week." And: "I'm counting on you to keep the spirit of unity and service alive." And: "We face many challenges. But we face them as one nation." And: "Our journey is just beginning." And: "Thank you for all you do." It is all perfectly platitudinous, a Hallmark homily, but not in Obama's universe. Does the renovation of the civic sense really require such a return to literalness? I do not look to the White House for irony, but the extent to which the Obama bliss is premised upon such undisabused belief vexes me.
Bliss premised upon undisabused belief vexes Wieseltier. Indeed! He's no platitudipus. Can you imagine someone running for President and saying he was "vexed" let alone saying he was vexed by "undisabused belief"? I mock Wieseltier even as I thoroughly agree that the Obama's aphorisms are hollow and inane.

Wieseltier ends his column — confession: I skipped the middle — by disapproving of a President's using an email list:
Scholars have documented the inexorable effect...
... the vexingly exorable effect...
... of the Internet in creating "communities of interest," and the Obama machine wishes to portray the nation itself as a community of interest; but this returns us once again to that mythical unity. What is more likely happening is that Obama's community of interest is depicting itself as America's community of interest. Communities of interest are formations of exclusiveness enabled by technologies of inclusiveness.
Communities of interest are formations of exclusiveness enabled by technologies of inclusiveness. It trips off the tongue!
So it was odd to get that email from my president. I voted for him, and I gave him a few dollars, but I do not revolve in his vast magical orbit.
Yo, Leon, you can unsubscribe from the list.
The personal touch had a distinctly de-personalizing effect, the way Amazon does when it teaches me about my tastes. The Obama machine may be excited to be connected to me...
Isn't it freaky when you're having an encounter with a machine and the machine gets excited?
... but I am not excited to be connected to it. I am not connected to it. The jazziness of the means aside...
Jazziness? When was email last jazzy? In 1999? 1989?
... this was junk mail.
And thus, Leon Wieseltier reveals that he is the last man on earth to perceive that email can be "junk mail" — or — in the jazzy slang of the day, here's a word for you — spam. The kids call it spam. And the kids who started calling it spam are now in their 40s.


MadisonMan said...

Yo, Leon, you can unsubscribe from the list.

But then the President wouldn't be talking to him directly! I'm sure that Leon would then think he (Leon) wasn't quite as cool.

SteveR said...

"Kids" don't email, its not cool at all. Email is what their parents do, which by definition is not cool.

kjbe said...

I get these same emails, but long ago stopped reading them (too lazy to unsubcribe). Yes, they're spam and I recognize them as that - it's not rocket science

Ann Althouse said...

"Kids" don't email...

Which is why they're in their 40s now.

Bissage said...

Mr. Wieseltier would be the Andy Rooney of the New York Review of Books set.

Nice work if you can get it.

Meade said...


Ooo, ooo... fisk me next!

MadisonMan said...

SteveR : exactly. They message. 800+ a month, if my daughter is any indication.

All thumbs used to be pejorative.

ricpic said...

Trying to figure out what undisabused means is like trying to put socks on an octupus.

traditionalguy said...

The day of the great awakening approaches. The exalted one with a Kenyan father is still only speaking to the lowest community denominator. How on earth did the snobby elites ever expect anything more? Fidel Castro was once their hero, and he is still as full of one note us v. them speeches as Chavez and Obama. When will we ever learn that their Communist ideas are dull and insipid fantacies of power to the people which means to one dull Person with no competition allowed.

kjbe said...

yes, ripic, both seem like a waste of time and effort. is 'socks on an octopus', a double-negative?

John Althouse Cohen said...

Bliss premised upon undisabused belief vexes Wieseltier.

For a second I mistakenly thought this was a pangram. You could get pretty close to one if you threw in some "jazziness."

ricpic said...

Putting socks on an octupus might be doing a favor to the octupus but by the time you managed the feat you'd be severely bitten and covered in octupus effluvia; so, no, putting socks on an octupus would be a single, not a double negative -- I think.

I apologize for the above. But you asked.

KCFleming said...

In which Leon Wieseltier discovers that, despite his $10 words and gig with the-media-that-enthroned-Obama, he is merely one of the proles, and not among the nomenklatura.

He has believed himself above the mere masses, and yet he is merely one of them, despite having washed and gone to j-school and done everything he was supposed to do.

I don't think "annoyed" even begins to describe his discovery.

tim maguire said...

Unless you asked to subscribe, then yes, Obama is spamming you. Just because you can, with a small investment of time and effort, stop him from spamming you does not change that fact--because you shouldn't have unsubscribe if you never subscribed in the first place.

Ron said...

Meade -- a pre-lunch fisking from Althouse, that'll cost ya!

Where the hell is Obama's Twitter feed? Can't we get the State of the Union Address, er, Tweet in 140 character chunks?

Coolidge would've done it; in his day it would be jazzy!

Question of the day: Which will be easier to revive, the word jazzy, or...jazz?

traditionalguy said...

Wieseltier just is not up to date on the Unicorn's style of governance. Our Great Unicorn is too innocent to see a need for him to distinguish among the Great Ideas of the Upper East side, and instead continues his rhythmic digital stroking of the mesmerized masses. Now, on the count of three, awaken, and kill the enemies of the Unicorn.

Joe said...

Weiseltier seems like a perfectly find moron who doesn't realize that the emails are campaign ads. I wonder how he responded to those letters from that nice gentleman in Nigeria.

JAL said...

Yeah -- all that everyone says above.

But think about it.

In being "cutting edge" and mobilizing "his" (!) "community," the President of the United States of America has authorized the use of spam messages to his army of righteousness.


TRundgren said...

gayest thread evah!

brendanav said...

I love Madison. A fun town and some good restaurants. But the Madison bunch is competenly in the pocket of "Mr Spam" and represents the childishness of academia. That nad the fact that they have their mouths fixed rapaciously on the public teat like remoras. It pisses me off how these children expose their self-serving credulity and then try to validate their blood sucking with idiotic hankie waving.

What I remember best about Madison is how I taught my students how to throw Heinekin bottles from a darkened hotel room over the heads of the U rowing team passing under the balcony in the pre-dawn darkness. Mass confusion results. Should one fear a monster, or head for shore to grab "bassing" gear for a possible record large-mouth?
I love Madison, it's a great town, its just that it's infected with the academic class, and this string is no exception.

BTW: I just signed up for this blogger pasword garbage, but I assure you that I am completely contemptuous of anyone who creates a pathway to the commentors on any issue on any blog. If somebody gets out of line there are plenty of ways to block them without this crap. Anybody who assists in this sucks. What cowards academic people are.

I'm Full of Soup said...

I am still on Hillary!'s email list. I like getting annoying emails.

Ashok said...

I think Wieseltier is trying for an elevated tone precisely because of the middle of his post:

The network is the controlling metaphor of our age, but the wisdom of John McClane keeps nagging at me: "It's not a system, it's a country." Some months ago I listened with amazement to a hotshot Israeli think-tanker explain that the medieval Jewish community was the first world wide web, and that therefore we could not understand it until the world wide web was invented. It was the dumbest thing I heard last year. I raise these doubts because of the email that I received from President Barack Obama. For one of his innovations in American politics has been the zealous adoption of the ideology of the network. To be sure, there were practical reasons: email and YouTube are cheaper than direct mail, and of course cooler--but direct mail is all they are.

I mean, I think you're right, he hits the point of self-parody fast. He could have been more direct and said "look, I feel Obama's e-mails are an extension of his Presidential rhetoric, and because of the use of the Internet his campaign made, it is some of the more significant rhetoric he has, and the opportunity is being wasted."

But I don't want to lose sight of the idea that maybe politics has to have some sense of dignity, and that it can't be be reduced to dignified sounding marketing. I'm not sure about this - the concept of "enlightened self-interest" goes a long way in stripping lots of things of "dignity" once and for all.

Anonymous said...


Doesn't that just mean "abused?"

Joe said...

Doesn't that just mean "abused?"

Yes, it doesn't not.

Michael said...

I feel his pain. In the past presidents confined this hogwash to their weekly radio address, which no one has ever listened to (since FDR died, anyway) or even knows where it's broadcast (Voice of America? Radio Caroline?) But now the president is in your inbox, where it's much harder to have no idea where to find it.

KCFleming said...

Dear Sir/Madam,
I am PRESIDENT Barack Obama. I have the courage to Crave indulgence for
this important BUSINESS believing that YOU WILL NEVER let me down
either now or in the future.



The first phase of the transfer will be $900 US BILLION DOLLARS as advised by our insider in the FEDERAL RESERVE BANK. If you are interested, please reply immediately through my personal email SENDING THE FOLLOWING details:

(1) Your Full Name/Address
(2) Your PRIVATE

Please observe the utmost CONFIDENTIALITY, and be rest assured that this transaction would be most PROFITABLE for both of us because I shall REQUIRE YOUR ASSISTANCE to invest some of my share in your COUNTRY. I look forward to your earliest reply.

Pres. Obama.

Meade said...


SukieTawdry said...

"As we begin the work of remaking America..."

Of the many (many, many...many, many, many) reasons I voted against Dear Leader, this was perhaps first on the list. The idea that America needs "remaking," or "transforming" as he so often put it, is repugnant to me in the extreme.