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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Barack Obama's Biggest Challenge

Barack Obama has inherited more than an economy in free fall; he’s been left with a nation that most closely resembles a germaphobe huddled in the corner of a clean room, Kleenex boxes on his feet, eyes darting back and forth between the window and the air vent. The difference between this frightened fellow and the state of the American population however, is that the virus that instills fear in the eyes of a nation is much more insidious and infinitely more transmittable.

I’m speaking of course, about the mass media.

Throughout George W. Bush’s infamous career as president, he employed one of the most successful methods of motivation humans have ever dreamt up to influence, lobby, pacify, and control a group of people; fear. Mr. Bush employed the use of fear in a number of ways in order to accomplish many of his administration’s goals. He used fear of the unknown (or more appropriately, the non-understood) to create a wave of uncertainty that spread quickly across the United States, and made people feel as though it was their duty to prepare for the absolute worst; a loss of control. Presidential addresses went out time and time again about the unknown whereabouts of terrorists, the ever-changing state of the war in Iraq, the fluctuating price of oil, and thus, the dynamic and unpredictable nature of the U.S. we now know was born. It is very important to note how people were able to consume, or more accurately, how these addresses were able to consume the people. They were piped into our living rooms and minds over the airwaves of the media. Press releases dictating exactly how and what to portray in the news were fired off to the desks of every major agency in the United States every time the president wanted to let his actions be known.

Barack Obama has been elected president amidst a veritable whirlwind of uncertainty and turmoil. Americans are scared. They’re seeing family members head off to war in a shiny plane and return home in a matte wooden box. They’re watching their fortunes spiral down the drain. These circumstances combined with the rapidly worsening economic situation only serve to entrench these worries and fears, and Mr. Obama is going to have to take the reigns of this wild stallion of a nation and steer it over hurdle upon hurdle to greener pastures.

I believe the way in which Mr. Obama can accomplish this, is through the same means that former president Bush incited such unrest. Take control of a trigger happy mass media. His administration will have to work with the news agencies and media outlets to properly inform people of the news in such a way that educates them and encourages them as much as possible. Wave after wave of sensationalist stories about the “crisis” here and the “emergency” there will not boost people’s hopes and make them want to head to their local mall and ramp up that purchasing power again (unless it’s for canned goods, batteries and jerry cans of gasoline) .

Mr. Obama has his work cut out for him, but it’s in his best interest, and in the interest of every American, that he allies himself with those who have the power to reach the masses and educate the fear out of that frightened little germaphobe.