Thursday, October 15, 2009


John Nolte, writing for Big Hollywood, talks about a press release from the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) outlining "Play your Part America." This is a week-long blitz of TV programming on the four major networks (ironically including FOX in this case) designed to forward Obama's volunteerism and service social agenda.

Political manipulation of the entertainment industry is nothing new. Celebrities have, for decades, fronted for their favorite causes. Some, like Bob Hope, were classy enough to make a tradition out of serving others. As time has passed, however, many others have simply become shills for one cause or another; most notably those who shriekingly support the rights of animals over and above all other living creatures, including unborn children.

Nolte's piece, of course, takes note of the increasingly alarming ease with which Obama has made the media his all-too willing puppet in trumpeting his domestic and foreign agendas to the world. He is the first president, I believe, to have a completely integrated media strategy that relies on willing compliance from Hollywood. That's not to say that previous presidents have not had media strategies, of course. Even Bush, who more often than not wore a large red bullseye on his chest so far as the media were concerned, had strategies for making the Iraq war somewhat more palatable to the public while refusing to play into their hysterical reporting.

But Obama seems to be the first to have this integrated "organic" approach. A cooperative media is, in fact, a keystone to Obama's agenda because without their help he cannot hope to overcome the perceptions that so many of us have of a leader without experience or accomplishment trying to create a socialist utopia in this country. It's a truly disturbing trend.

Oddly enough, his media (and artistic: don't forget his rebranding of the NEA!) manipulations are not all that troubling to me. Not personally, anyway. I'm just not that big of a media consumer to worry about whether I'll be subjected to the latest Obama-ganda whenever I turn on the TV. I actually assume I'll be subjected to it, in fact, which makes it easier to simply be entertained, rather than indoctrinated.

My problem is that I'm pretty sure the government as a whole has absolutely no clue what "volunteerism" or "service" even are. Both activities are deeply personal in nature. You can have entire organizations performing service, such as Habitats for Humanity, but participation in such organizations should always be a personal decision borne of a desire to help others.

It is the desire that is lacking from Obama's perception of a nation full of volunteers providing service to others. The president's agenda is designed to "encourage" citizens to volunteer and provide service, preferably somewhat more than is provided today, to a growing number of those who are considered less fortunate. Unfortunately, insisting on having people volunteer often backfires.

For simplicity, let's assume that there are three basic types of volunteer:

1. The eager volunteer. This is the person who observes a need, feels a strong desire to assist, and does so. The only potential stumbling block for this person is the occasional reluctance of the recipient of this service. No reasonable person, however, would argue with the motives of the eager volunteer.

2. The impressive volunteer. This is the person who answers a call for volunteers, not because they just naturally like to help, but more because the service looks good on a resumé. Beware the impressive volunteer. Often their good intentions are somewhat marred by the sloppy or inept delivery of the service required, which may cause more harm than good. This is what has become of ACORN. They started with the right idea (giving them the benefit of the doubt here), but have become an enabler of thoroughly destructive behaviors.

3. The reluctant volunteer. Here is the person who has been ordered or requested to provide a service that they would not have otherwise provided. They will do so grudgingly, answering the call not because they want to, but because it seems to be expected of them. Akin to a petty criminal who has been ordered to "community service" in order to atone for some crime, these "volunteers" are, in fact, conscripts who will do the bare minimum required of them, and probably not do the best of jobs in the process.

Of course there are many variants of all three basic types. The problem with inducing people to volunteer, as Obama appears to be attempting, is that you more frequently get the impressive or reluctant volunteers to answer the call. The eager volunteers are already serving, happily, and probably expending whatever time they can to their current cause. The impressive volunteers will serve because it looks good to do so, but may not provide the intended results. That leaves the reluctant ones, who won't serve unless given a compelling reason ("we'll throw your fanny in jail unless...") to do so.

I don't know about you, but if I or my family needed service, I'm not altogether sure I'd want any but a truly eager volunteer to provide it. How on earth will Hollywood solve that particular problem?

Let me know if they do. Unless they've infiltrated NCIS next week, I probably won't be watching.

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