Oprah Winfrey was welcomed on stage in the midst of a standing ovation at the 2018 Golden Globes Awards. Winfrey didn’t disappoint. She delivered a moving speech, not just talking about African Americans emerging from obscurity but she went on to hit the hot button issue of sexual harassment in showbiz. She certainly touched many hearts (especially women’s hearts), speaking with such power and conviction that she was sent off in the midst of another standing ovation. Moments later, millions of Americans decided and made their decision known on social media, that the ideal 2020 Democratic nominee for POTUS had appeared.
To be brutally honest and objective, the content of her speech was unremarkable. In fact, it was so flawed that Ben Shapiro responded to her speech by quite successfully tearing it apart. But back on that stage and in most of cyberspace, the audience seemed mesmerised. Suddenly Oprah seemed to stand alone as a leader and role model for Black women. Forget about Michelle Obama, the Williams sisters, Beyonce and Condoleezza Rice. And this whole “resistance movement” against sexual predators was not even started or aided by Oprah Winfrey. In fact, she hadn’t done very much except waving some imaginary magic wand on stage and tell the jerks their time is up. What has she done? She is a consummate opportunist, skillfully claiming credit and turning the gullible public’s attention towards herself. Check it out.
But … flawed as the speech undoubtedly was, the strength and conviction with which she delivered it was epic. This is the talent that had made her the most powerful “influencer” in America over the last 30 years. Now, I have a confession to make. I admire her talent. I envy the way she could influence people and like King Midas, everything she touched was instantly turned into a bestseller. At first, I thought we shared the same ideals. I had wished that I could uncover gems and nuggets, write about them and give them the attention they deserve. I liked what Oprah did for unknown writers and unheard thought leaders in the making. I’m not sure if she started out with such intentions, but eventually, Oprah Winfrey was propelling the entire $11 billion self help industry in America. The amazing thing was, for substance, Oprah depended almost entirely on the “experts” she invited on her show. She was only playing the facilitator or cheerleader – a job that earned her $3 billion.
I think it’s great if you promote talented but unknown people with groundbreaking ideas or discoveries but self help is more often than not, an industry full of dubious New Age gurus and false prophets espousing pseudoscience, beliefs and proprietary products which are useless at best and harmful at worst. Unfortunately, these snake oil salesmen found a perfect partner in Oprah Winfrey. Everything she endorsed (without any research or critical analysis) was instantly lapped up by followers of her cult. The relationship worked beautifully and the woman never looked back. Oprah became Oprah – an icon of American culture and society’s lack of trust and confidence in institutions and ethical mainstream practitioners who can’t promise miracles.
And if we go back to her rousing speech at the Golden Globe Awards, was Oprah promising miracles that the gurus on her show were promising? Was Oprah being fair to the unsung heroines who had been quietly helping victims of sexual abuse without all the publicity and rewards? Doesn’t this run contrary to the purpose of her shows which was allegedly to bring heroes under the radar into the limelight? I have no doubt that she will remain a powerful “influencer” to millions of gullible and shallow Americans, but does she deserve to be POTUS by virtue of her ability to make people stand up and applaud? Probably not, but millions will disagree with me.
America’s millions of desperate and diffident folks who keep purchasing ineffective self help are going to keep purchasing ineffective, time and money wasting self help (Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, Mars and Venus in Love, Mars and Venus in the Bedroom, Mars and Venus on a Date, Mars and Venus Starting Over, Mars and Venus: 365 Ways to Keep Passion Alive, Practical Miracles for Mars and Venus, Mars and Venus in the Workplace, Truly Mars & Venus, The Mars & Venus Diet & Exercise Solution, Why Mars and Venus Collide, Venus on Fire, Mars on Ice, Beyond Mars and Venus). It’s like some saga even though common sense tells you that you won’t need to read the next book in the series if the first one has worked for you. You can see where they’re coming from. It’s an obvious rip off. Whenever I gave my honest opinion on Amazon, my reviews got sabotaged by the angry, brainwashed, willing victims. Never go against a cult if you want to be a top reviewer on Amazon. I have given up giving my honest reviews. It’s not a loss to Amazon as they certainly know where the money lies.
Some people have expressed concern that such cult “wisdom” may get a lot worse if Oprah gets elected as POTUS. I’m not. While Oprah contributed greatly to the self help and pseudo-scientific New Age movement, she was not wholly responsible for it. She was just doing the right thing at the right time. Besides, the self help industry has been around for decades and like the equally ineffective wellness industry, it contributes to the economy. If that has the potential to ruin America, it would have ruined America a long time ago. With so many repeat purchases of self help products which are obviously ineffective, America is still thriving. President Winfrey certainly won’t make things worse. She probably can’t even if she wants to. The problems of racism and sex crimes are also unlikely to abate during her term in office. President Winfrey will make great speeches but probably won’t make things better either.
The worrying pundits were wrong. Even Donald Trump didn’t manage to screw things up for America. I’m sure America will survive Oprah Winfrey.
© Chan Joon Yee