Thursday, December 08, 2005

Condaleeza's "Rock Star Image"

Joel Brinkley had a silly piece in the New York Times on Monday, entitled "The Man Behind the Secretary of State's Rock Star Image." (I'm commenting on this a little late, because I've been away at the American Anthropological Association Annual Meetings in Washington, DC.)

Silly on a number of accounts. First, because: what "rock star" has to spend all his/her time attempting to explain away torture, secret prisons and extraordinary renditions as s/he travels around the globe?? The worst that a "rock star" might be called account for might be, what, sexist or homophobic lyrics? Second, silly because Brinkley seems to agree with "the diplomats, politicians and journalists of the world, [who believe that] there is no argument that [Condi] has ascended to rock star status." Who are these foolish diplomats and pols and journalists? Brinkley gives us no evidence that this benighted circle includes any other than US pols and journalists. When Forbes magazine put Condi at the top of its list of the 100 most powerful women in the world, the New York Post's headline read, "Condi Rules the World!" Brinkley somehow doesn't understand that the statement, "Condi Rules!" means something very different than, say, "Missy Elliott Rules!" Celebrity showbiz and politics have been getting more and more intertwined in the US for years but this doesn't guarantee that when Condi is greeted by Olympics gymnast Nadia Comaneci on her visit to Romania, the images of Abu Ghraib are automatically obliterated and forgotten. Plus, when did the New York Post become a rock star maker?

A close reading of Brinkley's article leads one to suspect that it is mostly Condi's staff and especially the man in charge of Condi's image-making, Jim Wilkinson, who believe this rockstar nonsense. (Another case, I think, of a Times reporter getting so "embedded" in his sources that he can't see the obvious.) The staff seems quite convinced that their efforts at image-making, such as having Condi greeted by Japanese-American sumo star Konishiki on her arrival in Japan, are brilliant strategy successes that help her "connect with the ordinary citizens of the countries she visits." Maybe her staff is compensating for the fact that no other foreign policy strategy seems to be working?

Given that all the news about Condi's trip to Europe that has come out this week since Brinkley's report is about how she is dealing with the question of torture and renditions--how rockstar could she be?

I'll leave the last word to a real rockstar: Mick Jagger. Mick is a multimillionaire and is in his mid-sixties and we don't really expect much of him anymore, but he is much more clued-in than Brinkley and all those pols and diplomats and journalists. From the Rolling Stones' recent song, "Sweet Neocon," off the album A Bigger Bang:

You parade around in costume, expecting to be believed
But as the body bags stack up, we believe we’ve been deceived

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