Obama was criticized recently for not showing anger about the oil spill. Naturally, he has also been criticized on more substantial grounds, such as the way the government has been handling (or not handling) the situation.
From a appearance standpoint, perhaps Obama should work on showing anger in the generally accepted way. After all, it is claimed that perception is reality in politics, so Obama has to make people perceive that he is angry so that they will believe he is angry. Merely saying it is not enough, apparently. He has to emote anger in a way that people get and this seems to be an big deal to some folks.
While I do recognize the eternal need of political theater, I do not see Obama’s lack of visible anger as a flaw. This is, not surprisingly, because I am not inclined to let my anger run wild or even express it in the stereotypical way. One reason is, not surprisingly, is the influence of Plato and Aristotle. Plato argued that allowing emotions like anger to hold sway over reason is to invite disaster.
He also, conveniently enough, noted in the Republic that a foolish and fitful temperament is easy to understand and imitate, “Whereas the wise and calm temperament, being always nearly equable, is not easy to imitate or to appreciate when imitated, especially at a public festival when a promiscuous crowd is assembled in a theatre. For the feeling represented is one to which they are strangers.”
Plato seems to be quite right about this. While Obama should hold BP accountable for its actions and these actions are worthy of anger, what is needed is not pandering to the media’s need to see its manufactured rage mirrored in the president. Rather, what is needed is rational and effective action. Of course, some stirring speeches would be a nice touch as well.
This is not to say that people should not be angry at BP. However, it is (to steal from Aristotle) easy to be angry. What is difficult is being angry in the right way, at the right time, for the right reasons, towards the right people and in the right way. As such, this sort of anger is not merely an expression of rage, but a considered anger. This sort of rational anger generally does not manifest itself in a loud, red-faced, and boiling hot form. Rather, it tends to be a cold, quiet anger.
Of course, this sort of anger can easily be confused with a lack of anger or even indifference. This can be a bit of a problem since people might not be aware of the anger or might misinterpret it.
Of course, it must also be noted that perhaps Obama is not angry at all. Perhaps he is detached or even unconcerned. For the sake of argument, let it be supposed that this is true. Even in this case, it would not really matter. What matters is not what the president feels or whether he emotes in a way that people can easily recognize. What matters is how effectively he leads and accomplishes things (or fails to do so).
That said, a mastery of expressing emotion does seem important as a tool for swaying the masses. The sophists did an excellent job developing these tools and a clever politician would be a fool to not use them. As Aristotle noted, the many are not ruled by reason, but by emotion. As such, it is hardly a wonder that people are crying out for Obama to show anger. However, I would much prefer that he had an effective plan and could implement it.
As a final point, it is probably best if he refrains from any future use of “ass” in the context of applying a kick. Such talk seems to be unnatural for him, at least in the public context. Also, it hardly seems to fit the seriousness of the situation. But, at least he did not say he was going to “pwn some noobs.” That would have been way too much.