Pictures of Obama as “the Joker” above the label “socialism” began popping up around the L.A. area.
Needless to say, liberal outrage was swift to follow.
It didn’t matter that liberals had already come up with the idea themselves to attack George Bush. Nor did it matter that this was the work of one anonymous person, versus the fact that the “Bush-as-Joker” project was created by a major mainstream media outlet in Vanity Fair.
The blatant hypocrisy in crying “FOUL!” over the picture of Obama as Joker never even enter into the liberal mindset that saw no problem in the picture of George Bush as the Joker. Hypocrisy is such a part of them – the very atmosphere they breathe – that they appear as completely unaware of their hypocrisy as a fish is unaware of the water around it.
Noel Shepperd at Newsbusters demonstrates the outrage from the mainstream media surrounding the “Obama-Joker” stunt that somehow never managed to materialize when a major media outlet portrayed Bush as Joker.
Oh, the OUTRAGE (pronounced in identical cadence to the “Oh, the HUMANITY” famously uttered by Herbert Morisson at the explosion of the Hindenburg):
Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable President Earl Ofari Hutchinson is calling the depiction, politically mean spirited and dangerous.
Hutchinson is challenging the group or individual that put up the poster to have the courage and decency to publicly identify themselves.
“Depicting the president as demonic and a socialist goes beyond political spoofery,” says Hutchinson, “it is mean-spirited and dangerous.”
“We have issued a public challenge to the person or group that put up the poster to come forth and publicly tell why they have used this offensive depiction to ridicule President Obama.”
And how long did you think it would take for some leftist goon to depict it as an act of racism? I mean, after all, we ALL know there is a long historic association between “the Joker” and the negro, going all the way back to when Cesar Romero played the role on the the campy Batman program in the 1960s.
Who could have missed the obvious anti-black racism of that role? No one I know, anyway. And, of course, when Jack Nicholson reprised the role in one of the more recent Batman movies, I remember everyone saying, “There they go with that racism again!”
I am now immunized from any charge of racism. I have a knee-jerk response: “That is a terribly racist thing of you to say, you racist bigot.” When charges of racism are unleashed like a flood, it simply turns into water flowing off a duck’s back. The real racists are the people who keep leveling the charge for partisan ideological effect.
I think my favorite pseudo-outraged piece by the pseudo-intellectual Lost Angeles Times is this one:
11:50 AM, August 5, 2009
But when it comes to understanding those same cartoons — as opposed to rehashing, reblogging and retweeting them — context is key.
The New Yorker magazine’s infamous cover illustration of Barack and Michelle Obama in radical drag, bumping fists in the Oval Office as an American flag burns in the fireplace, is understood to be a parody of conservative paranoia, not an attack on the first couple. But put that same image on the cover of the Weekly Standard and the illustration takes on a vastly different meaning.
In this respect, the image of President Obama in Heath Ledger Joker-face is especially disturbing because it is completely devoid of context — literary, political or otherwise. The image seems to have emerged from nowhere and was created by no one. Deracinated from authorial intent, Obama-as-Joker becomes a free-floating cipher that can be appropriated and re-appropriated by everyone.
Clearly, the poster — which has already mutated into countless variations on the Internet — communicates a virulent hostility to Obama, but in a vague and flailing way. It can mean anything and it could mean nothing. (The latter seems more likely than the former.) In some versions of the image, the word “socialism” has been appended to the poster. But as media outlets like CNN have pointed out, the Joker (as portrayed by Ledger in “The Dark Knight”) was a rabid anarchist, which doesn’t jibe well with the accusation of socialism.
Like Shepard Fairey’s “Hope” poster, the mystery “artist” behind the Joker prank has borrowed and altered an existing media image of the president for his or her own creative ends. (It’s from a cover shot of Obama featured on Time magazine.) In many ways, the Obama-as-Joker picture can be viewed as the evil twin of Fairey’s “Hope” — one is laudatory and arguably hagiographic while the other is mean-spirited and demonic. Maybe one day, a publicity-savvy museum will mount the two of them side-by-side in an exhibition on the malleability of the digital image.
Understandably, some people have latched on to the poster’s white-face significance. Is the creator saying that the president is pretending to be someone he’s not? Again, it’s impossible to know for sure. The Joker was a garish parody of a clown, and a clown can be any race — the white makeup doesn’t necessarily have an ethnic subtext.
At one extreme, the poster suggests that Obama is a psychopath who is completely out of control and running afoul of the law — which he clearly is not. For a cartoon or parody to work, it must have at least one toe placed firmly in the realm of reality — a credible starting point from which to launch into the free-for-all ether of comedy.
The most that can be said about Obama-as-Joker is that it’s a prank that the Joker himself would have been proud of. It has exploded like a cultural grenade — an act of cultural terrorism? — and has left meaningless chaos in its wake.
– David Ng
First notice the complete omission of the Vanity Fair attack against Bush. Mentioning it would obliterate Ng’s thesis, so he simply doesn’t mention it. But isn’t the fact that it was done to Bush part of the overall “context” in understanding why it might be done to Obama? Why bother yourself with revealing something that would only serve to demonstrate how truly full of crap you are?
Then there is the reference to the New Yorker cover featuring Barack and Michelle Obama “in radical drag.” It’s not the Obama’s we’re mocking, it’s conservatives. So it’s okay. You see, it’s perfectly acceptable to fabricate a straw man by which to mock and attack conservatives.
Whether Vanity Fair or the New Yorker, the point is the same: if you’re a Joseph Goebbels-modeled propagandist, as long as you’re not negatively depicting your fellow Nazis, pretty much anything goes. The left is always able to create a self-serving “context” to declare what is and is not in bounds. “Joker-Bush” is perfectly acceptable; “Joker-Obama” is immoral, dangerous, and racist. Says we.
Then there’s the dismissal of “Joker-Obama” on the grounds that Heath Ledger’s Joker was an anarchist – and Obama is clearly not. Let’s put aside the fact that “the Joker” has been around for a loooooooong time prior to the Heath Ledger movie role, and that it is frankly asanine to define the meaning of the Joker strictly within the Heath Ledger-created “context.” Let’s put aside that Cesar Romero’s Joker and Jack Nicholson’s Joker were just thugs (as in “Chicago thugs”) with an unusual pigmentation.
Was George Bush an anarchist? You see, that’s why any analysis that really wanted to take itself seriously needed to mention the Vanity Fair “Joker-Bush.” If Bush wasn’t an anarchist, and the left used the Joker anyway, then how is it somehow suddenly intellectually stupid for the right to use the same motif? Other than the fact that Goebbels never turned his propaganda against the Nazis? What about the simple playground rules that if you punch me in the mouth, I get to punch you back?
In any event, the Lost Angeles Times writer concludes that Obama as Joker “is completely devoid of context — literary, political or otherwise.”
I’ve got two things to say to that.
First of all, it there is absolutely no related context, then why is everybody talking about it? Why didn’t they talk about Bush-as-Joker the same way? Good satire simply has to have some direct relationship with the object of the satire. And the closer to reality the satire comes, the more powerful it is. If there’s no connection, the joke is literally lost. So I would ask the Lost Angeles Times, why is it that some lone guy put up a poster of Obama as the socialist “Joker” that struck a powerful chord, while a giant magazine published a nationally distributed cover that failed to strike anything?
And secondly, I would submit to you that there very much IS a context. And that context is that President Obama, like the Joker, is “changing” society in what will be an incredibly destructive way. Like the Joker, who loved to mar traditional societal representations with his own image, Obama is out reshaping and distorting and perverting our society into his own, yes, socialist image. I can’t help but think of that elderly woman who got so tired of seeing Obama that she sold her televisions.
Joe the Plumber heard Obama talk about “spreading the wealth around” and responded by saying, “That sounds like socialism.” And Joe the Plumber was right: it DID sound like socialism because it WAS socialism.
The Obama campaign came out in a fury that he was not a socialist, and that his policies were not socialism.
Then after Obama won election, the leftist magazine Newsweek triumphantly exclaimed:
And Earl Ofari and David Ng want to tell us it is somehow “mean-spirited and dangerous” to simply state the truth?
We’re seeing what is being done with the “Joker-Obama” poster to what is being done with the “manufactured anger” over health care town hall meetings. Just as it was the left that FIRST attacked George Bush as “the Joker,” it was also the left that began using the tactics that liberals are ascribing to conservatives confronting Democrat politicians over health care. An article written back in 2001 records how the left would show up and simply shout down conservative speakers such as David Horowitz, Ward Connerly, Dinesh D’Souza, and many others. They weren’t even allowed to clear their throats before they were shouted down.
This is part of the larger category of how the left used to say “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism” (usually erroneously attributing it to Thomas Jefferson) when Bush was president, only to depict conservatives as being obstructionist and immoral for protesting President Obama’s policies.
This tactic of blatant hypocrisy is only successful because the mainstream media are themselves major participants in that leftist hypocrisy.
Hopefully, by pointing out these blatant acts of mainstream media hypocrisy and pseudo-outrage, we can turn the spotlight of legitimate criticism on them, rather than on the false target of conservatives.
Tags: anarchist, Bush, caricature, Cesar Romero, conservative, context, dangerous, David Ng, Heath Ledger, hypcrisy, Jack Nicholson, Joe the plumber, Joker, mean-spirited, New Yorker, Obama, psycopath, racism, racist, socialism, Vanity Fair, We are all socialists now