The Oprahfication of Obama

This blog post/essay by historian of religion Kathyrn Lofton is pretty amazing. A taste:

First, you need a name.  Not just any name.  A weird name: a Biblical misspelling, maybe, or an invocation of some distant land.  No matter what: the name needs an O.  The O will come in handy when you need to summon a common sphere, encourage chanting, or design a gentle logo.  Never deny the utility of its replication, never avoid its allusion, and never miss a moment for its branding.  An O is a space anyone can fill with anything.


You will possess a preternatural ability to give people what they want, to know what they need, to sell what they will buy.  Prepare yourself for this.  You have to get over any anxieties about your own assimilation, incorporation, and amalgamation.  Be the commodity.  Put your O everywhere.  Your iconography is how you brace against the disappointments of your humanity.


You are, as everyone knows, a Protestant.  But you dabble in everything, shying not away from the Koran or kabbalah, Jewish professors or Eastern spiritual advisers.  You will entertain anything that might embolden your O.  You are the ambiguity of your epoch, the middle that makes the mass, the crossroads of a country that excited your youth, raped your ancestral continent, and claps now for your children.  You are a global distribution suffused with spiritual truth.  You are motivated with missionary zeal to convert everyone, unrelentingly, to change.  You make them believe their best lives are yet to come.  You make it impossible to look away, to hate, to dissent, or to change the channel.  You make us feel good, finally.  You are our redemption.  You are our favorite smile. And you are our satisfaction at the possibility of a secular that made it all so.

Strong. Do read the whole thing. I eagerly await Lofton’s forthcoming book on the gospel of Oprah.

[Via Jason Kuznicki.]

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center