July 24, 2008: The presidential candidate Barack Obama delivers a speech in the Berlin Tiergarten, under the Victory Column, a kilometer away from the Brandenburg Gate, whose symbolic power has been denied to him as campaign advertisement. The 200,000 audience is said to have experienced the full range of the candidate’s rock-star charisma, which transformed the campaign rally into a summer, pop gathering of peace, love, and loathing for George Bush.
MMM Berlin wall from conrad-bercah on Vimeo.
June 19, 2013: President Obama is back in Berlin at the invitation of the German Chancellor to deliver a talk in front of the Brandenburg Gate in celebration of the U.S.–German bond 50 years after Kennedy’s legendary ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech, which was delivered at the Schoneberg Rathaus even though Kennedy had really wanted the symbolic gate as a backdrop. Tellingly enough, most of the U.S. media reporting the event are managing to make Kennedy’s wish come true: they have equated the two speeches as being delivered in the same spot, a further confirmation of the virtual distorting the real, or at least the historical.
The PRISM leaks, however, have altered the festive mood and made Obama look like another undisclosed STASI official. The banners register this: ‘From yes we can, to yes we scan!’ or the unrequested sequel to ‘The (surveyed) lives of Others.’
‘Freedom has many difficulties, and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us,’ said Kennedy in 1963. In 2013 Obama’s good-willed intentions have fallen victim to one of the more sinister tricks of history: the safety measures taken to protect the president’s selected crowd of invitees―8,000 agents to protect 4,000 invited people―have managed to bring the wall back up. A 1-km wide zone around the gate has been sealed off, public access is possible only through checkpoints, a consequence that the president, sealed in his own glassed ‘Davos box,’ is probably unaware of, let alone thought possible. The newspapers covered the speech as a further episode of Obama’s long gone charisma, which has proven inadequate in bringing home any of the reforms of the crooked timber of the many flawed social, political, financial departments of American life, the ones that—as a candidate—he had so promised to reform and that still so deeply encumber global life in the MMM.