For reasons that baffle me, a big deal is being made over someone photoshopping the president’s face into a representation of The Joker from the The Dark Knight. The LA Weekly, eager to play the racism card says “the only thing missing is the noose.”
Now, I can see if someone had taken a picture of President Obama and photoshopped whiteface for spite and without context, (or, for that matter, blackface as done here to Michael Steele) then one might have a credible case for crying “racism.”
But this is making a clear reference to a known fictional character called The Joker, and there is clearly the word “Socialism” beneath the portrait. This is political commentary; whoever came up with it is using a familiar visual image, and giving us an actual word which delivers a two-point message: he or she thinks the president is a joke, and a socialist.
This -until very recently- used to be called “free speech.” It is protected in this country, and thought very highly of. And protest or dissent, we have been told, is the very highest form of patriotism.
For that matter, using The Joker for political commentary has been done before, and more menacingly:
More reaction here:
“Depicting the president as demonic and a socialist goes beyond political spoofery,” says [Urban Policy Roundtable President Earl Ofari] Hutchinson, “it is mean-spirited and dangerous.”
We just went through 8 years of President Bush being called Hitler and photoshopped as Hitler, as Mussolini, as Saturn Devouring One of His Own Children.
Obama’s predecessor endured 8 Years of Assassination Fascination. Actually, the “Assassinate Bush Chic” began even before the 2000 election, when Craig Kilborn flashed “snipers wanted” under a picture of Bush. So-called “newsmen” like Keith Olbermann repeatedly called the president “a fascist” and “a terrorist.” And Obama supporters can’t handle The Joker and the word “Socialism”?
Politics is ugly, and it is often over-the-top but that’s not new. Photoshop happens; it’s a free country. I myself have been photoshopped next to a dancing condom, a commentary on my annoying habit of being a Catholic.
Bob Owens amuses himself thusly:
Frankly, I don’t get it. One embraces terrorists and madmen, is dedicated to anarchy and the destruction of capitalist society, and sends the population fleeing in horror from his creations. The other is a fictional character played by the late Heath Ledger.
Uh-oh. That sounds almost like a late-night talkshow sort of joke, doesn’t it? Are late-night comics yet making those sorts of jokes about Obama, or is he still Obama-the-Unmockable? To be fair, the “hands-off-Obama” thing seemed to come out of Hollywood’s own instinct to kneel, and not “by decree.” Just as Bush managed to roll with the non-stop punches throughout his presidency, I think Obama is cool enough to roll with this little picture.
This Obama/Joker portrait is actually heartening to me. I may not have liked the press’ incessant attacks on Bush, and some of the uglier media put out about him, but I never found any of that as worrying as I have found the unquestioning incuriosity of the Obama-press, or the inclination by some to treat him as something more than a mortal politician voted into office by the people. The self-censoring we have seen in media has been sad and a little chilling. More chilling than any of the pics used here.
Besides, Obama has his face plastered all over America. One of the newsweeklies has had him on the cover 12 times in 12 months. One little poster shouldn’t get his supporters so hot and bothered. In the end, they might prefer it to this.
As Hillary Clinton famously yelled, “I am sick and tired of people who say that if you debate and you disagree with this administration, somehow you’re not patriotic, and we should stand up and say, ‘WE ARE AMERICANS AND WE HAVE A RIGHT TO DEBATE AND DISAGREE WITH ANY ADMINISTRATION!’”
Free speech. It might be the very best thing about America, even when it irks.