New insights on capitalism from Charles Krauthammer:
There's no better path to success than getting people to buy a free commodity. Like the genius who figured out how to get people to pay for water: bottle it (Aquafina was revealed to be nothing more than reprocessed tap water) and charge more than they pay for gasoline. Or consider how Google found a way to sell dictionary nouns— boat, shoe, clock — by charging advertisers zillions to be listed whenever the word is searched.
None of those things are actually free commodities. Water of any kind costs money to purify, bottle, and distribute; advertising placement on the internets is a highly desirable product that the Google is able to secure. They're not selling the noun qua noun–if you want the noun, look it up in the dictionary. Everyone has seen those TV commercials anyway–this schtick is not original. But where might Charles be going with this?
And now, in the most amazing trick of all, a silver-tongued freshman senator has found a way to sell hope. To get it, you need only give him your vote. Barack Obama is getting millions.
Millions of votes, he should say. So Krauthammer starts with something you can sell and buy, says its free, and now moves to something that's free, and says you can buy it.
This kind of sale is hardly new. Organized religion has been offering a similar commodity — salvation — for millennia. Which is why the Obama campaign has the feel of a religious revival with, as writer James Wolcott observed, a "salvational fervor" and "idealistic zeal divorced from any particular policy or cause and chariot-driven by pure euphoria."
Now I see. You heard it here–and in many other more insightful, original, and accurate sites than this one–we have a new political meme: Obama is some kind of cultish snake oil salesman. That's convenient in that it provides Krauthammer and everyone else with ready-made explanation for Obama's success: it's a cult.
The weird thing about this particular ad hominem is that it grants that someone is success, nay a remarkable success, at what he does, but then they turn that success against him–claiming the only explanation is deceit. No one can be that successful unless they have generated a kind of cultish following.
I think this particular fallacy may deserve its own name. Any suggestions?