Is Obama/Joker Poster Racist?


There’s a Barack Obama/Joker poster that’s spreading around the interweb like wildfire. It first surfaced back in April, but is catching on, now, in a big way.

The April Bedlam article noted a “Jim Crow quality” to the poster, and at least one writer has pegged it as being more than kinda racist:

The poster, which bears a very superficial resemblance to Shepard Fairey’s famous Obama Hope illustration, has been pasted on freeway supports and other public surfaces. It has a bit of everything to appeal to the drunk tank of California conservatism: Obama is in white face, his mouth (like Ledger’s Joker’s) has been grotesquely slit wide open and the word “Socialism” appears below his face. The only thing missing is a noose.

I think he’s overstating it just a little.

I don’t think the guy who made this intended to be racist, nor do I think the right wing is spanking themselves chafed over it because they’re racist (just behind-the-times dorks. Dark Knight came out, like, a geologic era ago). I give everyone 100% benefit of the doubt. When I was first writing this up, my 16 year-old son asked me what was so bad about blackface, and what the hell minstrelsy was. If you haven’t been the subject of it, you can be forgiven for not recognizing it.

I’ll even laugh at the guy who says the poster misses the point because the Joker was an anarchist, not a socialist. The premise of the poster is that Barack Obama is a joker because he’s a socialist, not that he’s socialist because he’s the Joker.

Having said all of that, this poster is immediately and strongly evocative of blackface minstrel shows. Hey, it happens, like when some ad guy accidentally snaps a picture of something that looks like a phallus. But, there it is. Care, or care not, ’tis a fact.

Once this was pointed out, however hyperbolically, the right wing was reluctant to give up their new plaything. Both Hot Air and Matt Lewis, among others, immediately went to the “they-did-it-to-Bush-too” defense. While I understand being defensive when someone puts a noose in your hand, this is a really poor analogy. Obviously, Bush didn’t belong to a group of people that had been historically mocked and demeaned through the application of race-changing makeup.

Even conceding that the poster is racially insensitive, I don’t think it should be censored. Art is supposed to provoke, and the as-yet-unknown artist may have intended to tweak the minstrel angle to make a statement about politicians in general, or Obama specifically. Believe it or not, he’s not universally beloved in the black community.

On the other hand, if you wear this as a t-shirt, you might rightly offend some folks. That might be worth the conversation, but it’s silly to pretend that the concern isn’t valid.

Happy Birthday, Mr. President! What The Media Elite Wish Barack On His Birthday

2009-01-17-michelleIt’s August 4th — and if President Barack Obama had a birth certificate, it would say that today is his birthday! (Kidding. HE HAS A BIRTH CERTIFICATE.) It’s his first birthday in the White House, and so far, he’s having a good one.  Will he get a pony? A health-care mandate? More network air time? Heck, he doesn’t need a birthday to get network air time! On this glorious day of celebration, the kind of gift that matters is just this: love. To that end, Mediaite has obtained birthday messages sent to the President  from members of the media and other prominent well-wishers.  Today, as the President turns 48 and a nation rejoices, let’s see how those in the fourth estate want to express their birthday wishes…

Happy 48th birthday! (That’s 12 in Kenyan years.)
L. Dobbs

I hope you fail to blow out all your birthday candles…um, save me some cake, though?
El Rushbo

Jeff Zeleny

Happy 48th! I hope your birthday is surprising, enchanting, humbling and troubling.
Jeff Zeleny, New York Times

Happy racist birthday! JK! LOL!
Glenn Beck

According to their DW-NOMINATE scores, the over-under for how many candles you can blow out on the first try is 27. Just so you know.
Nate Silver

Happy birthday, President Obama! (I can ask about this topic, right?)
Nico Pitney, Huffington Post

sarah-palin-1Have a happy 48th in the Lower 48! I’d send this message on behalf of Alaska, except I think I can be more effective on behalf of Alaska not doing so.
Sarah Palin, via Facebook

How dare you consider having anything other than a happy birthday, sir!

For more of my birthday wishes, please visit Daily Kos.

Keith Olbermann

Take Us to Your Leader! Clinton Meets Kim Jong-il


This is the picture that is currently running on the homepage of the New York Times. I think it’s safe to say, considering the U.S.’s relationship with North Korea, Barack Obama’s relationship with Hillary Clinton, Hillary’s relationship with her husband, and Bill Clinton’s relationship with just about everyone (oh yes, and Al Gore!) that this picture is worth about 10,000 words. Which is probably approximately how many are going to be devoted to this story in the next 24 hours. Wow. You could pretty much write a history of modern (and recent!) American politics based on this shot. Or just wait for Maureen Dowd to distill it down to short series of bon mots this Sunday. The maneuvering of egos it must have taken to organize this trip boggles the mind.

Obama BusinessWeek Cover Shoot: Sales Pitch or Swan Song?

obama_cover_small-copyPresident Obama has been on an impressive number of covers this week — Time, The Economist, The New Republic, New York Magazine, to name a few). All the newsstand facetime might have something to do with the Executive Branch’s ‘full saturation media habits.‘ Or maybe Obama’s face just sells magazines.

If the latter is true, it would explain why BusinessWeek has joined the pack, and even upped the ante with its cover this week, sending photographer Brad Trent to photograph the president while he answered questions from BW editor in chief Steve Adler and Washington bureau chief Jane Sasseen.

“There are assignments…and then there are assignments,” Trent wrote about the shoot on his blog Damn Ugly Photography:

First we went from half the editorial staff of the magazine wanting to come along, while I would bring two assistants and a few tons of gear for the intense, overly complex formal cover situation. Then, as we learned more details of what kind of access the White House would allow, it appeared that I might have to go in paparazzi style…just me and a single camera bag going into the Oval Office to document the Q & A, with no time to do an extra set up.

Publisher McGraw-Hill has put BusinessWeek up for sale (on the chopping block?), and things aren’t looking so good. PaidContent reported late last week that out of four possible buyers, one has definitely dropped out, and another is “almost certain not to proceed” either. This, before any formal bidding has even begun.

We wonder if BusinessWeek asked the president to save room in his birthday wishes for ad pages — more than 36% behind last year. Otherwise BW might be lights-out like the candles on Obama’s cake.

More images from the shoot on Damn Ugly Photography. Don’t miss Trent’s mosaic of the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room.