From Assange to Schweitzer, the Cult of Personality Will Fail

by lizard

Thanks to Netflix, I’ve been on quite the documentary kick lately, providing handy material for posts about how to survive a plague of transients and Kubrick moon-landing conspiracies.

Well, tonight I finally watched We Steal Secrets, and despite being exposed to the damage-control attacks from the Wikileaks camp via platforms like Twitter, I found the documentary to be quite credible, and compelling.

One of the big takeaways I got from the film is how destructive the cult of personality can be to worthy causes/ideas/movements, especially when moral righteousness is your main public currency.

Maybe this is just my own biased perceptions, but I seem to remember, in regards to the early reporting of the OWS protests, a palpable desire by the media to find personalities to stand-in for the discontent that was being expressed. Not providing those characters seemed to confuse and upset the establishment media.

Despite all the difficult groundwork a non-hiearchal structure takes to maintain, in hindsight it was a smart move, because to this day it’s the idea of OWS that persists, and not the face of some blond-haired Aussie who relished the fame he finally caught.

When it comes to the cult of personality, I’m concerned supporters of Brian Schweitzer are making a similar mistake as the burned supporters of Julian Assange.

Bob Brigham, for example, cites Schweitzer’s stunt of bussing old people to Canada as evidence of a substantive commitment to a single payer health care system in a post at DownWithTyranny!:

For the last decade, Brian Schweitzer has butted heads with Max Baucus over health care. Schweitzer made a name for himself pioneering the bold campaign tactic of taking busloads of seniors to Canada to get their prescriptions filled cheaper. Baucus on the other hand, is PhRMA’s top guy in the senate. Brian Schweitzer has been one of the country’s leading voices for single payer. Max Baucus took out the Public Option and replaced it with the Individual Mandate. And in this senate primary, Baucus’s hand picked successor is sticking with Baucus while John Bohlinger is changing the dialogue to health care as a right and trumpeting the success of the Schweitzer state health clinics for public workers.

When you tie your rope to the mast of personality, it’s a fickle wind that blows your sails.

The primary battle of Johns is not “a battle for the soul of the Democratic Party” it’s a personal grudge match.

Good luck with that, MT politicos.

  1. Steve W

    Lizard, i think it demonstrates the power of movies to shape what we think. i haven’t seen the movie and I don’t have nor have I ever gotten the idea that Assange was a publicity hound. Quite the opposite in fact.

    My perception is Assaunge was dragged kicking and screaming into the spotlight because he was well set up. And this movie is just part of that process.

    I never heard of him that I recall before his arrest. Maybe I was just oblivious, but that’s how I remember it.

    Whatever ‘backstory’ was occurring (or not) wasn’t on my radar.

    I did know about the video from Iraq, though.

    That said, it’s long been recognized that one bullet was all it took to shut down the poor peoples march on DC, and that while personalities are very good at attracting participation, they are also very easily neutralized by opposition action. This includes everything from discrediting to murder to co-option.

    So certainly a group that wants to have staying power needs a way to diversify leadership initiative and integrity. That usually means lots of training on organizing for everyone.

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