edwardhenry

March 5, 2007

On Oprah

Filed under: criticism, culture, education — ted @ 1:08 pm

Essential reading in Salon: Peter Birkenhead on Oprah’s ugly secret

Has Oprah ever done anything that didn’t leave people with mixed feelings?

And at what point do we stop feeling like we have to take the good with the craven when it comes to Oprah, and the culture she’s helped to create? I get nauseated when I think of people in South Africa being taught they don’t have enough money because they’re “blocking it with their thoughts.” I’m already sickened by an American culture that teaches people, as “The Secret” does, that they “create the circumstances of their lives with the choices they make every day,” a culture that elected a president who cried tears of self-congratulation at his inauguration, rejects intellectualism, and believes he can intuit the trustworthiness of world leaders by looking into their eyes. I’m sickened by a culture in which the tenets of the Oprah philosophy have become conventional wisdom, in which genuine self-actualization has been confused with self-aggrandizement, reality is whatever you want it to be, and mammon is queen.

There’s no doubt that Oprah’s doing a lot of good with her South African project, and with many other charitable works. And yeah, I know, her book club “gets people to read,” and yadda yadda yadda. But there’s also no doubt that a lot of us have been making forgiving disclaimers like that about Oprah for years. And that maybe they amount to trains-running-on-time arguments. Maybe it’s time to stop. After reading “The Secret,” it seemed to me that there were basically three possibilities: 1) Oprah really believes this stuff, and we should be very worried about her opening a school for anyone. 2) Oprah doesn’t believe this stuff and we should be very, very worried about her opening a school for anyone. 3) Oprah doesn’t know that any of this stuff is in the book or on her Web site and in a perfect world she wouldn’t be allowed to open a school for anyone.

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