Obama as the Joker

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.

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  • Pete in MN

    It’s taken my breath away how Obama is considered such a taboo subject for satire or cartoon characterization by so many. Remember when Ford’s pratfalls became Chevy Chase’s currency on SNL? I thought those skectches were hilarious. Now we have Obama knocking his head against the helicopter doorway and mistaking a window for a door at the White House. To my knowledge, SNL hasn’t touched that stuff with a ten foot pole. The recent beer summitt would make a hilarious sketch. Guess I’ll have to write it myself.

  • Ken

    Jamie, I agree that liberals sometimes cry racism with little or no reason in order to stifle debate. But I also think that all this absurd talk of Obama supposedly not being born in this country and being a Muslim, etc. must be racist in many cases. Racism is hardly dead, it’s just not respectable, so it seeks a cover.

  • Ken

    Western Chauvinist, I do withdraw that claim, because my information was incorrect. You should look up the meaning of ad hominem, though. It doesn’t mean simply accusing someone of doing something wrong. And for your information, I only bashed Bush for about 4 years. ;-)

    And sure I think lots of people are honestly afraid of what Obama is trying to do, and I don’t blame them for opposing it or protecting. But there are ways to do that civilly. But your rant about that clever “juggernaut of Leftist ideologues” reminds me that Frank Schaeffer makes an excellent point when he says that the Religious Right isn’t really patriotic. It doesn’t love America, which is a very diverse country. It only loves it’s idea of what America should be, so it considers liberalism un-American. Unfortunately, the RR, there are a lot of leftists in this country, and they can cite the Constitution and the Founding Fathers too.

  • http://sherryantonettiwrites.blogspot.com Sherry

    1) The Obama Joke poster is tame by comparison with all the junk levied at Palin, McCain, Reagan, Clinton and Bush. It is barely worth mentioning as a slander or a slam. If the White House is upset, it doesn’t have enough to do and should maybe try…reading a bill before signing instead of scouring the California coast for the artist.

    As for the criticisms levied at those who protest Congress over this proposed piece of government largess, how do I get on that gravy train with the insurance? Who do I call? I mean, these people who yell at their legislators must get paid. Insurance companies have scads of money, it’s just lying on the ground from all the claims they’ve denied to ensure a maximum amount of profit. So they must pay these people to be lobbyists on their behalf.

    Man, it seems like everyone else is in on the conspiracy except me.

  • Ken


    1) There is no evidence that White House is upset.

    2) Two wrongs don’t make a right. If something is indeed “a slander or a slam” from one’s own side, it is in fact worth “mentioning,” i.e. criticizing if one is posting as on a Christian site as a Christian, since, well, Jesus didn’t countenance that kind of thing.

  • http://westernchauvinist.blogspot.com Western Chauvinist

    Don’t we all love being lectured by Ken about the use of language and being Christian and patriotic? Perhaps you should look up “ad hominem”, Ken, as I was referring to your habit of attacking the person rather than the arguments he puts forth – in this case, the townhall attendees being lackeys for the insurance companies.

    I appreciate you conceding two or three of my points. Your attack on those “lackeys” was obscene (note, you did not apologize – therefore confirming my statement about the Left). And, you admit we’re fighting leftists. And now, our opposition to leftists is unpatriotic. Hum… dissent is only patriotic when it comes from the Left – eh?

    Please – do cite the Constitution and our Founding Fathers in support of your leftist vision of America. You define America by its diversity? Nothing about the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Or, more to your point – e pluribus unum? How about, “In God We Trust”? Or, self-governance. Or, the Rule of Law and equality before the law (even for Prof. Gates)? How about government of the people, for the people, by the people? Where, exactly, in the Constitution does it enumerate the power of the State to determine your health care coverage? Or to buy your clunker with tax money? Or to decide how much water your toilet will flush or what light bulb you may use? Where? Gee, that provision in the stimulus bill that pays for weather-proofing homes is something the Founders missed!

    You, Ken, are the one who loves some abstraction of America, which is recognizable to the rest of us as a European welfare state, where the government is large and the people are very very small. We love America for what it has been up to this point. The only place where individual liberty has flourished and the people have prospered as a result. That place is going away because we – no – you on the left, have failed (or is it chosen not?) to teach the last couple generations what Americanism is. Even you might miss it when it’s gone.

  • newton

    Oh, “There is no evidence that White House is upset. ” Coming from the mouth of little Ken.

    The White House might not be “upset”, but they’re definitely concerned!

    There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to flag@whitehouse.gov.

    So, now the White House is asking for people to call on people to start calling them back on their friends and neighbors, even in their private conversations… In other times in history, that was called spying. Wow! I guess the powers of ACORN and the SEIU are not enough! They need a little “underground action”. Especially with those “redneck” Christians… right Ken?


    Let me remind you of one thing, Ken. A Christian is a sinner saved by grace through faith – the faith to confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. That’s it. A Christian is not what Ken decides a Christian is, but what the New Testament says it is. That’s all.

    And nope, we don’t have to take punches and sit down like the victim of a school bully. We answer back to injustice because we must. Obama and his people have deceived A LOT of people in order to gain power. They will continue to deceive in order to keep it. My duty as an individual Christian is to answer back, with the strength that I have.

    You seem to want to condemn about fifty million or so of the “Christian right” because they don’t think as YOU do. Let me remind you that we are reminded every single day that we sin. But you don’t seem to think that we are even capable of thinking that, or that we even have a right to fight back any threats to our freedom to worship freely without any threats from the government or any other entity. Or against any attempt for us to choose what we want for our individual or family welfare.

    I’m sorry, but if the chance comes for me to protest or to speak against the calamity we’re about to experience because of this man and his Marxism, I’ll do it. And I won’t give a fig about what YOU think. You are too willing to condemn people who want to protect their freedoms from a creeping State and its bureaucracy, which is pretty darned close to counting on an army of thugs to enforce its will. I don’t condemn Jeanette or anyone who has seen beyond Obama’s mask to find someone who does not have the interests of Freedom in mind, but on giving people a false sense of security under his control. I for one don’t want to be enslaved to Papa Obama. I’m a free person in Jesus, thank you very much.

    P.S. Jesus knew how to answer back to critics. And at one point, he got not just rowdy, but ahem… a little violent.

  • dry valleys

    Would you like to link to this poll then, Western Chauvinist? I must say I’d be taken aback by even the slightest hint of a Republican revival.

    Is there anyone that anyone here thinks has a serious chance of defeating Obama in 2012, assuming he holds an election rather than crowning himself dictator for life?

  • Ken

    Western Chauvinist,

    I apologize to people I’ve harmed. No rude protestors or insurance companies were harmed by my mistaken attribution. ;-) Dissent can be patriotic coming from both left and right, obviously, but it can also be rude.

    Your third paragraph is just silly, starting with your claim that I defined America merely by its diversity and in opposition to the pursuit of . . etc. The Constitution does not preclude citizens from using their liberty to empower the government to provide health care.


    by all means, speak out and protest against what you see as wrong. I respect conservative views. I don’t respect incivility.

  • http://westernchauvinist.blogspot.com Western Chauvinist


    I’ll try this link thing again, but if it doesn’t work, Google Rasmussen.

    Here’s one specific to Virginia.

    Oh yes, Ken. We all see how virtuous you are. No incivility from you. Just insinuation and the use of others’ good nature against them. Disciple of Alinsky by any chance?

    Yes – citizens have so far had the liberty to empower the government to do most anything. Which is why Franklin told the woman asking about the new government – “a Republic, if you can keep it.” The American founding is rooted in limited government. Some of us get that and, despite our good natures, we’re going to push back against you who don’t.

    “Ad hominem”, Ken? My third paragraph is silly, but you STILL haven’t cited the Constitution or the Founders. Argue the bleeping point! How do you understand America, Ken?

  • dry valleys

    Thanks Western Chauvinist- I have written a quite lengthly reply but some kind of fault happened to my computer!

    Aye- I don’t think Obama will be getting complacent any time soon & doubtless has these concerns in mind.

    I do observe the claims that Rasmussen has a slight Republican bias, but only a slight one, so it may have called it right this time. But I know more than a bit about fluctuating opinion polls (I follow obsessively, & know that they have to be localised, so we’ll have to wait for the election.

    Worthy of note is this. Health having hit some bumps, this is a bad time for Obama. If the bill passes his fortunes may well revive. But I am by no means ignoring what you say.

    Of course I wouldn’t be happy if Republicans did come back :)

  • Ken

    Western, I have never read Alinsky. And like I said to Newton, by all means, push back. That’s your right and your patriotic duty.

    Of course I also believe in all the principles you listed. I also answered your other questions; I might ask you, since you think the Constitution prohibits those things, please explain why, and be specific.

    ” Just insinuation and the use of others’ good nature against them.” — Unintelligible, sorry.

  • http://www.erud-awakening.blogspot.com Gina

    This isn’t going to get a single person to vote Republican, it’s going to have the opposite effect if anything.

    Don’t be so sure. Obama’s poll numbers were never that good on his actual stands on issues, and have been dropping like a stone as the recession wears on. They are not good on his health care boondoggle, either. Newest one out today is WSJ/NBC News which shows a clear drop in support in the past month. Other polling shows more people, not less, identifying themselves as conservatives, and the daily tracking poll as well as trust on the issues polling showing tips towards the GOP that haven’t been seen in years. Traffic and ratings for conservative news outlets is up, sales of Ayn Rand through the roof. This is the backlash. And those of us who are carrying the pitchforks don’t appreciate being told we’re stooges for the insurance companies. I predict that tactic on the part of Democrats is going to backfire.

    Meanwhile, it is only liberal commentators who bring up the birth certificate issue. The “birthers” have been around since the campaign, there was even a court case about it, but now with no change in anything and no mainstream conservative pushing it at all, the Obama denizens in the media suddenly are wagging their tongues and shaking their heads. You have to ask yourself why that is. (Hint: See above.)

    Frank Schaeffer… Someone quoted him saying Republicans “aren’t really patriotic.” Please don’t even bother. We don’t need regurgitations of HuffPo, and someone who makes a living out of trashing his family has problems in the credibility department. His constant refrain about being a “lifelong Republican” is just a gimmick, similar to his gimmick about being a “child of fundamentalists” pretending to expose the ills from the inside.

  • Ken

    Nnine House Republicans signed on to that birthers bill and Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs have also encouraged speculation. There have been birther posts on this blog.

    As for Schaeffer, I don’t like some of what he’s written about his parents, but I also know people who knew and loved the Schaeffers but made no bones about the fact that they had their problems (like the rest of us). Dr. Schaeffer didn’t try to hide his, either.

    As for Frank the son, “lifelong Republican” is accurate. He even worked for McCain in 2000.
    But this is really beside the point — his observation hardly depends upon his background or his character. The fact is that loving “America” and playing culture wars are mutually exclusive activities. The country is full of liberals as well as conservatives, and both sides have made great contribtions individually and collectively.

  • http://www.erud-awakening.blogspot.com Gina

    Nine House Republicans supported a bill that would require a Presidential candidate to provide a valid birth certificate, which would not apply to Obama at all but only to future candidates. The horror! That the government might actually have to uphold our Constitution!

    “Speculation” or discussion is not pushing the idea that Obama is not a natural-born citizen. The fact is that he has gone to a great deal of trouble to conceal records in his background, though not the COLB. It is natural to ask why, particularly when the usual watchdogs are so studiously disinterested in anything but the official line direct from David Axelrod’s office.

    It is also the height of irony that the left is suddenly so wary of conspiracy theories about the Presidency. Really quite comical.

  • Ken

    I seriously doubt if those Republicans were worried that some future president won’t be eligible for the office due to birth. Out of 44 presidents so far, how many of those have we had? The intent was to legitimize –perhaps in large part to defend — the absurd questions about Obama’s own birth certificate.

    And Obama has gone to no trouble to conceal his records. On the contrary, he made the certificate available to a non-partisan, fact-checking group.

    “It is also the height of irony that the left is suddenly so wary of conspiracy theories about the Presidency. Really quite comical.”

    Is it also the height of irony that the Right railed against them for the last eight years? It’s we as Christians who are supposed to be above that stuff.

  • Ken

    I should point out too that arguments can be made that McCain was ineligible for the presidency on a technicality, his having been born in the Panama Canal Zone and thus not being a natural U.S. citizen. But the Obama Camp didn’t push that last fall, they dismissed it.

    [It should be noted that the Senate did actually check McCain's eligibility; they did not check Obama's. The Obama camp was not being magnanimous. They'd been handed a gift. -admin]

  • http://sherryantonettiwrites.blogspot.com Sherry

    By comparison Ken, as political satire goes, this is extreemly tame. I never said political satire was wrong. This portrait of Obama as satire gains an added dose of irony when it is compared to the stuff that came before.

    The same people who declared the Bush portrait art, consider this piece dangerous. People who didn’t like Bush being criticized and portrayed in such a light, didn’t like it because it was mean spirited, but they didn’t think such creations were a threat to the existence of the state. I remember lots and lots and lots of Bush slams and not once did I hear, that such things were dangerous, indeed, they were lauded as patriotic.

    One last note: Don’t remember Jesus saying, “Thou shalt not criticize the existing government or portray leaders as comic clowns that battle vigilante men in tights.” But I’m sure you’re right in your interpretation.

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  • Ken

    you’ll not that Democrats agreed he was eligible. Neither Congressional Democrats nor big names on the Reft made an issue of his eligibility. Compare that to the Right with Obama.

    I agree, the Joker image is quite tame as satire goes, and I’ve said here that I have no issue with it. But who has called it dangerous to the existence of the state? (Maybe I just missed that).

    [I was simply supplying you with information. You acted like there was some magnanimous gesture by the Obamites re McCain, but the Senate actually looked into the question with McCain and did not with Obama. That is worth noting. It's also worth nothing that I am not a birther, but I do not think it at all unreasonable to ask why this president is allowed to hide as much of his past as he'd like to, with no questions from the press. That has always been my complaint. And the Joker pic was called "dangerous" as quoted above. Whether the state or whomever was not made clear, so I guess anyone can assume it means anything. BTW, Sherry, Ken's a nice enough guy, but the thing is, he NEVER lets up, once you engage him, and so just be warned that he seems to have lots of "free time" like those people Linda Douglass is worried about. You'll need lots of free time to debate him. ;-) -admin]

  • Robert

    The Joker was also cruel, sadistic, and capricious, as is a socialist system. This poster may well hit harder than it first appears.

  • http://www.erud-awakening.blogspot.com Gina

    And Obama has gone to no trouble to conceal his records. On the contrary, he made the certificate available to a non-partisan, fact-checking group.

    As I said above. However he has a raft of lawyers keeping his and Michelle Obama’s academic and employment records under wraps. Such things, and the dedicated incuriosity of the press towards Obama’s associations and background, only fuel conspiracy theories.

    About the L.A. Weekly faux outrage over the Joker poster, not long ago they thought actual depictions of certain political figures with nooses around their necks was heeelarious.

  • Ken

    Gina, why do we need to see those records and what right do we have to see them? And what in the world is the LA Weekly and who outside of LA had ever heard of them before? It’s not exactly like the Times and Post and NBC or any major have expressed alarm about the poster. Has any major news outlet done so?

    [Gina, just so you know, Ken - nice enough guy - is just playing with you at this point. This conversation has been had over and over on this site, and he keeps asking these questions, getting the answers and acting like he's never asked the questions or gotten the answers before. The answer to this question is that Obama was sold to us as a stunningly brilliant and effective guy -smartest guy who ever took the office, the guy who was "stepping down" to take the job as president- but no, we're not allowed to see any of the school records, (or for that matter, his medical records; all we got was a signed letter from a doctor, that he was in "good health") we have NO RIGHT to see them, (indeed we are UNREASONABLE to even wonder about their inaccessibility) even though the guy, who has never run so much as a hot-dog stand, is now supposed to be allowed to run everything as he sees fit, with no dissent, no argument, or he'll have your names. Once you engage with Ken he will not stop. This thread will be 5 weeks old and 500 comments long and he still will be doing this. He says he hasn't read Alinsky. That's fine; if he says it I believe it. But in that case he is an actual prodigy. You are welcome to continue this but I'm frankly getting bored and hope it will end soon. It's certainly your time to waste. Ken, you may inspire me to put a hijacking clause in my comments rules. :-) Yes, I'm smiling. But only for now. Part of being civil is not deliberately baiting people with the same questions over and over when they have been answered, over and over. -admin]

  • Ken

    The have-your-names charge is pure sophistry, as I’ve noted on the Obey-mian Representative Democracy thread. But you gave a non-answer too. As I said earlier, I believe there may well be embarassing information in those documents somewhere, and/or Obama is betting that you guys will mrginalize yourselves lby harping on this stuff. Because the fact is that you have no legal right to the info (and his current doctor’s findings are released as a matter of law, if I’m not mistaken, so he can’t hide any real problems), and the guy is already president, and what he wrote years ago may not reflect his current views anyhow, all of which adds up to ‘why in the world do you have some kind of moral right to the documents?’

    I ask the question because I’m genuinely interested in your answer, and it’s sad that you mistake honest disagreement for baiting. Gina said today that withholding records only fuel conspiracy theories. Yes it does — among people who are sworn enemies in the first place.

  • Gerry

    The word “alternative” should be enough to explain the L.A. Weekly. You should not be surprised to learn that its back pages are full of ads for what are sometimes called “erotic services”.

    There is an incredibly silly article on the Washington Post site. I won’t waste anyone’s time by saying it’s worth reading. I’ll give the link so you can see this has gone across the country:

  • Sean

    The first thing I thought when I saw this poster was that it is wrong to portray a black man in white face and that to do so was a conscious choice by the artist, and yes, likely racist. Not that I care much.

    As far as I know it’s still an expression of free speech even if it is racist. So why deny there’s an element of racism here? We have our first black president – there’s a racial element to that.

    The truth is, there’s been a shift from overt to covert racism in this country. Denying there’s an element of racism in this poster seems silly. The poster draws attention to the color of the man’s skin, which is dark, by changing it to white. For others who had this same PhotoShop treatment, Hillary, Bush, etc., well, their skin isn’t as dark as Obama’s. This artist has played on the man’s skin color, and the poster is reminiscent of “blackface.” Blackface solidified and perpetuated negative black stereotypes.

    So what might this artist be saying about Obama by presenting him in whiteface? What does that tell us about the changing face of race relations in this country?

    We could ask the artist, if he or she had not chosen to be anonymous but that doesn’t matter either, since this is art, and its interpretation is open.

    [I think that's nonsense. When I saw the poster, it didn't even occur to me that this was "whiteface on a black man," all I saw was "Joker on Obama." I think you have to be race-fixated to see Obama first as a black man and then as a man. I don't think there is "overt" racism in the nation (although the gross blackface done to Michael Steele was certainly overt) The only people who ever bring it up are the people who are fixated on it. Doesn't mean there is no racism in America - there is - but since we CANNOT know the artist's intent, you're quite right; we see what we want to see. I do not see race anywhere in it. I see a mean clown meant to make a point. Race-fixated people will see black skin and white skin. -admin]

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