If the corporate media wasn’t gushing over Justin Bieber’s new haircut or the nation’s lingering transphobia bathroom drama this weekend, it was lauding President Obama for his speech at the final White House Correspondents’ dinner of his presidency.
The black-tie dinner draws the nation’s top celebrities, journalists, and politicians and includes a stand-up comedy routine from the president. The assemblage of attendees often resembles the elite crowd that populates the lavish capital in the Hunger Games — and the president’s statements this weekend detail an oligarchical American society similar to that depicted in the dystopic novels.
This year, the president seemed unusually candid about the country’s state of affairs — even if he articulated them in a comedic, albeit smug, way.
“It is an honor to be here at my last — and perhaps the last White House Correspondents’ dinner,” he said as he opened his set, obviously referencing the increasingly doomed presidential race.
“You all look great. The end of the republic has never looked better,” he said to laughs and applause.
“If this material works well, I’m gonna use it at Goldman Sachs next year,” he said.
The joke could have been referencing his former Attorney General, Eric Holder’s new job at a law firm that lobbies for corporate banks — or, more likely, Hillary Clinton’s exorbitant fees for giving speeches to the loathed company. His comments are particularly jarring considering he accepted massive donations from Goldman Sachs and its employees during both of his presidential campaigns, and upon taking office, invited former Goldman Sachs employees to join his cabinet. He has famously failed to take any meaningful action against big banks.
In spite of his acknowledgment of Goldman Sachs as an influential player in American politics, he appeared to indirectly endorse Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, which has been marred by the influence of special interests, including Goldman Sachs.
“Next year someone else will be standing here in this very spot, and it’s anyone’s guess who she will be,” he said. The president dished out tame insults to all of the presidential candidates, ultimately turning his attention to the chairman of the Republican Party, whom Donald Trump has said “should be ashamed of himself” for the Republicans’ attempts to thwart his nomination.
“GOP chairman Reince Priebus is here as well. Glad to see you feel you earned the night off. Congratulations on all your success. The Republican Party, the nomination process … it’s all going great,” Obama sarcastically quipped.
The president also focused his attention on journalism and freedom of the press in the United States. Whether or not he intended to highlight the revolving door between government and corporate news, he did exactly that.
“Key staff are now starting to leave the White House. Even reporters have left me. Savannah Guthrie, she’s left the White House Press Corps to host the Today show. Norah O’Donnell left the briefing room to host CBS This Morning. Jake Tapper left journalism to join CNN,” he said.
He also joked about the power of journalists to hold politicians and government accountable, referencing a recent award-winning film about reporters:
“As you know, Spotlight is a film, a movie about investigative journalists with the resources and the autonomy to chase down the truth and hold the powerful accountable. Best fantasy film since Star Wars. Look — that was maybe a cheap shot.”
Adding insult to injury, the president, who has worked tirelessly to silence journalists, told reporters in attendance that though they have not always seen eye to eye with him, he still appreciates their work:
“But we’ve always shared the same goal — to root our public discourse in the truth; to open the doors of this democracy; to do whatever we can to make our country and our world more free and more just. And I’ve always appreciated the role that you have all played as equal partners in reaching these goals.”
Obama has presided over the country’s slip in press freedom rankings, the prosecution of whistleblowers, and the intimidation of journalists. The corporate media he addressed in his speech has, in that same time, shown its corruption and lack of concern for the truth. Amid the current election cycle, establishment news outlets have shown their role is not to educate, but to manipulate, yet Obama maintained “[their] power and [their] responsibility to dig and to question and to counter distortions and untruths is more important than ever.”
As the media celebrated his epic “mic drop” at the end of his stand-up routine, those reading between the lines of his performance witnessed the not-so-secretive mechanisms of chaos, power, and corruption in Washington — as joked about by a president who maintained them.
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