Here Thar Be Monsters!

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The Way Things Work

You probably read the headlines: Obama's trip costs US$200 million a day, 6 aircraft, 34 warships, taking over entire hotels, army of Secret Service guarding.

You probably think that's all for Obama, that the whole thing is a show of regality for the President.

You'd be wrong.

See, here's how it works: Obama, or really any face in the Oval Chair, is just a shill. Think of him as the top sales person for corporate and banking interests. The individual is nothing more than the marketing guy for a small consortium of business and banking interests. The shill's job is to both draw and divert attention.

Obama is the curtain behind which stands the Wizard of Oz.

Take, for instance, the 6 aircraft. OK, all six land in Mumbai. One carries the Presidential Entourage, one carries press and lackies, two are carrying the Captains of Industry (aka the Wizard of Oz), and two are carrying an army of lawyers, bankers and paper-pushers. When they took over Mumbai, they rented an entire hotel, ground to roof. In each room was a representative of this group or that company. Indians with money were shuffled in and hard-sold down in the hotel bar. Once they were ready to negotiate, they were hustled upstairs to the appropriate room, where the sale took place. The contracts were signed and deals consumated.

Then, forr aircraft left for Jakarta. Two identical Air Force One's landed at the air force port on the east side of Jakarta, where all the cameras and world attention was focused. The other two landed at Soekarno-Hatta on the west side, and looked to anyone watching like standard public carriers. Those had the Wizard of Oz.

Meanwhile, the other two planes stayed in Mumbai. They were carrying all the lawyers and paper-pushers. Their job was to wrap up the business and make sure all the knots were tied.

Back in Jakarta, Obama was put up as an eye-catcher. He has no power and doesn't lead anything. He's like the appendage on an angler fish: just waved around to attract prey. His speeches were vacuous and contained little substance. But, he drew attention, and that could be capitalized on. Anyone who had passed a pre-screening that included a look at their bank accounts, and who expressed an interest in doing some business, was hustled into the appropriate hotel room, where they were hard-sold and contracts signed.

Obama's trip was a whirl-wind, 24 hour, misty-eyed affair that conveniently kept the world focused away from the Wizard of Oz. We were all watching the show and nodding at the simple Indonesian phrases, smiling at the lame jokes, and waiting for something of substance. Meanwhile, in the hotel rooms across town, the real reason for the show was occuring away from the lights and the dignitaries and the meat puppets.

Then everyone left town, and the world's gaze followed, while those two additional planes (remember those?) quietly left Mumbai and slid into Jakarta completely unnoticed. A small army of lawyers and paper-pushers descended on Jakarta to wrap up the business. If there were any sticking points that needed clarifying, or financing that needed to be completed, or additional wining and dining to complete the deal, they were here to finish up.

Yesterday, those two planes quiety slipped out of Jakarta, on to the next stop, following the Wizard of Oz and sopping up the money left behind.

To be sure, the Obama circus is grand theater. He has a good voice and can masterfully read TelePromTrs. He's handsome and charismatic, and was chosen for the job precisely because cameras tend to point at him and not at the Wizard of Oz. In the global media, there are stories upon stories about diplomacy, and human interest tales of baby-kissing, and chuckles about the one or two gaffes, but the real story is on the four aircraft that are part of the road crew, the people behind the scenes controlling your perception and doing the real business of the show in front.

Think of the whole thing like a circus. The MC, in the center ring and with a flashy suit and spotlight, with his melodious voice, keeps you entranced and focused on the dog and pony show. Meanwhile, in the dark and away from the direct attention of the crowd, the stagehands are preparing the ringing, positioning props, laying out costumes, and cleaning up elephant dung. Out front, the box office folks are counting the money, filling out the ledger, getting a head-count on the audience, and wrapping up the business. The performers are concentrating on their upcoming roles, checking costumes and make-up, making sure everything they need to perform is in place, and focusing their minds on the job at hand.

What you see seems effortless and spontaneous. The acts go off with nary a hitch. The music is timed perfectly. The MC speaks his hypnotic lines with perfection. But if you turn you gaze just slightly to the side and peer into the darkness in the next ring, you'll see dark-suited figures scurrying around setting up for the next act. If you do this enough, you can start to anticipate not only where but what the next act will be. If you squint into the vomitorium, you can see the upcoming performers getting into position. If you glance up to the orchestra, you can see the page-turners preparing the music sheets for the next piece. If you look up, you can see rigging and props flying in and out getting into position for the next piece.

You'll see it, but the rest of the crowd will only see an MC, and a dog and pony show.

The Wizard of Oz is the real show. He's in the background counting the box office. That's what the whole show is about. Oh sure, you get a smile. Your kids are thrilled and entertained. The wife is happy to be out of the house. But, the whole reason for this spectacle is to separate you from some cash. All the acts and cotton candy and clowns are there to tickly you into opening your pocket book just wide enough to spill some bills.

Try my trick. While everyone else is watching the center ring, turn your eyes just slightly to the side. You'll be amazed at all the action behind the scenes. I personally think it's more interesting than the show.

Oh, and remember those 34 warships following the circus? No, they aren't guarding the precious President. No, they aren't there to intimidate the world into submission (although there is some bonus effect). They are there to guard the cash box all the way to the bank. After all, that's the whole reason for the show.

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