In film theory there is something called the Kuleshov Effect, referring to a famous experiment in film editing from the 1920s. An actor's blank face was intercut with shots of a child, a bowl of soup, and a coffin. Although the shot of the face was identical in each instance, audiences inferred different emotions (tenderness, hunger, grief) based on context.
Another film anecdote: Alfred Hitchcock routinely asked his actors to show as little emotion as possible, to keep a blank face and let the audience read emotion into it.
Barack Obama has just such a blank face, into which the electorate is reading their own desires.
Pundits, commentators, analysts, media reports and the blogosphere continually refer with anticipation to the new "liberal," "progressive," "New Deal" coming to America. This very article in The Nation, "Obama's New Deal" is one more example.
Yet, at no time during his long primary or general campaign did Obama say he wanted a new New Deal. In fact, he famously stated early on that "the Republican Party has been the party of ideas." And today's New York Times, in writing about Obama's 60 Minutes interview, says that Obama "rejected the idea of a so-called 'new New Deal' for America: "Mr. Obama acknowledged the parallels between the current economic crisis and the problems of the Great Depression, but said that he supported solutions that are 'true to our times.' "
He further detailed that what was "true to our times" was "a free market system...that has worked for us, that [it] creates innovation and risk taking, I think that's a principle that we've got to hold to."
How does this not play into the Republican talking point that the New Deal was socialism, and stifled innovation and risk taking? My understanding is that the New Deal era from the 1940s through the 1960s was the greatest sustained period of prosperity and economic expansion in American history. That everyone benefited. That, in fact, FDR had "saved capitalism from itself."
Naomi Klein has pointed out (perhaps in your own pages) that Obama spent many years at the University of Chicago--the epicenter of unfetttered free market economics which Naomi Klein calls "disaster capitalism." Milton Friedman's son essentially endorsed Obama in this election. Obama has called himself a "free market guy."
We're heading for a major let-down if we don't start closely listening to Obama's words, and stop projecting our own desires and ideas onto his blank face.
Nov 16 2008 - 11:16pm