Vanity Fair’s Best-Dressed List Clothed in Irrelevance

bdl-obama-0909-ps01 Vanity Fair has released its 2009 Best-Dressed List. Does anybody care? It wasn’t that long ago that these sorts of lists, from publications like Vanity Fair, were powerful measures of a star’s clout, or their clout-to-be as the case may have been. Vanity Fair in particular had a sharp sense of the zeitgeist and was once very good at plucking young stars out of the mix just before they hit the big time.

These days Vanity Fair’s strength, such as it is, lies mostly in its ability to recap some golden era that is still only available to the public through the TimeLife photo archive. To wit: The best-dressed VF archive that is also now online is far and away the more interesting read! Come to think of it, you know who should really do a best-dressed list? The Sartorialist! That would be a great read.

Anyway, best-dressed! Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni top the list. Okay, I take it back, I am not yet tired of looking at pictures of Michelle Obama. But Kelly Ripa is also inexplicably in there. Along with various, mostly uninteresting European royalty. Also, Brad Pitt, Alicia Keys, Anne Hathaway, oh and the President! Well he is well-dressed, it’s true. Oh, by the way you can vote on these, should you manage to make it all the way through. However, by number 17 or so it becomes clear why TMZ has had such great success. Yawn. Far more interesting is this slide show of the ‘Chosen Ones’ which includes the likes of Babe Paley, and Audrey Hepburn. If did a slide show like this every week we would come back for more.

When You’re Wrong About Bill O’Reilly, You Better Correct On The Front Page

oreilly_8-3Fox News host Bill O’Reilly got a rare front page correction today from the St. Petersburg Times – a sign that if you get something drastically wrong concerning the #1 cable news host, you may want to appease him.

TV critic Eric Deggans incorrectly lumped O’Reilly into a column about news personalities who have accused Pres. Obama of racism (his colleague, Glenn Beck, was correctly on that list), but O’Reilly has never said anything like that. The FNC host addressed the story on his program last night as well.

“The problem with Mr. Deggans is acute,” said O’Reilly last night. “All American newspapers have an obligation to hire honest people, not crazed ideologues. Now, I don’t want anyone to lose their jobs, but this situation – beyond the pale.”

For his part, Deggans took to his blog to apologize. “One serving of humble pie, coming right up,” he started.

Deggans also made note of a jinx that apparently came true. When he criticized Alessandra Stanley over her errors, he wrote: “It’s a sure route to jinxland, pointing out the errors of other journalists.”

But at least you got a shout-out on O’Reilly?

Here’s the clip from last night:

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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.

The Death of the Public Racist

danielleThere was a time when you could just say the N-word on television and no one would have batted a false eyelash. No one. Not in a world where this piece of video was ever deemed appropriate for the evening news:

Many of my own commenters on The Black Snob have noted, some with surprise, that among white Americans being called a racist is one of the worst things you can say (or be). This really shouldn’t be a shock since insanely overt racism was largely driven underground after the Civil Right Movement. By overt, I mean having the comfort to drop a “Martin Luther Coon … er King” on national television. That kind of overt. Where Strom Thurmond could flat out say he didn’t want “niggers” in his state’s swimming pools on the radio. That kind of overt.

For years if you wanted to say something racist it had to be in “coded” language – state’s rights, quotas, etc. You couldn’t flat out say something racist, but now there’s a new game in town. The “reverse racist” game. Now how a “reverse racist” is different from an old-fashioned racist I’ve been unable to tell, other than it appears to be the word du jour about conservative yakkadoodles to describe minorities who they feel are keeping the white man down. Usually said from the comfort of their multi-million dollar radio studios ensconced in their multi-million dollar homes.

The latest crier of “reverse racism” is Glenn Beck, who proudly declared that President Barack Obama is a regular ol’ racist apropos of nothing. He concluded that the president must have a serious problem with white people despite the fact that the president was loved and raised by nothing BUT white people.

I wonder if those white people who birthed and reared the president knew from the time he was but a wee babe that he hated their immortal souls? And does the president hate the white half of himself? Does he, in fact, call himself white racial slurs out of malice while singing the Negro National Anthem? Kind of like black, non-Jewish version of Ryan Gosling in “The Believer?” When he does bad things or makes mistakes does he blame “the whitey within?” Puh-leeze.

The NAACP recently released a statement condemning Beck that echoed my sentiments:

Mr. Beck’s statement was irresponsible and inflammatory at a time when as a nation we are attempting to engage in a constructive dialogue on race. Beck’s statements are an attempt to divide when we need to be united, an attempt to inflame with rhetoric when we need to discuss with thoughtfulness the serious question of race. It is a futile effort to distract from the serious issues of health care, the economy and the environment – issues that President Obama is tackling with foresight and fortitude.How could the President be a racist? A man of both African American and white heritage; a man who inspired millions of Americans to unite across the divide of race, religion and age in his historic run for the presidency. We commend President Obama for having the courage to discuss an issue that all too many Americans consider a third rail.

The “reverse racism” cry seems most used by those who are often called on for being the most insensitive to minorities and women – your Rush Limbaughs, your Glenn Becks, your Sean Hannitys. Basically, if you’ve been accused of being an actual racist at some point, you’re probably busy calling someone, on air, right now a “reverse racist” despite the absurdity of throwing loaded language to hide one’s own psychological projections.

As Kelefa Sanneh writes in this week’s New Yorker:

In the past few decades, though, reverse racism has undergone a similar redefinition, from symptom to system. Some who are skeptical of affirmative action, and of other programs designed to advance non-whites, consider reverse racism to be so pervasive, and so well entrenched, that it can only be described as systemic. (Think of Frank Ricci, the white firefighter who argued, successfully, that the city of New Haven had violated his civil rights.) And, despite Beck’s diagnosis of Obama’s “hatred,” many of the people who worry about Obama’s view of race see him not as personally bigoted but as complicit with anti-white interests and policies.

Considering how shameful and violent America’s racist past is you can kind of see why “racist” is a fighting word among white people. Any given Klan or Neo-Nazi rally and you’re likely to see more whites show up to protest their brand of ignorance than attend the actual rally. The Klan is a haunting old embarrassment, along with being highly offensive. The death of public racism lead to them from having a membership of Congressmen and judges to yokels and nobodies. Even if you ARE a racist, you don’t want to be associated with “racists.” Which is why Beck, et al, are quick to call others racists, throwing stones to hide their own prejudices. That’s why someone like Pat Buchanan is so wonderfully amazing in his unicorn-like ability to say something to the effect of “This has been a country basically built by white folks” with a straight face, mean it and not be a-feared that the boogeyman will get him for being so … well … you know.

While some are wondering if all the “President is a racist” rancor will lead to a return of more blatant and coarser racial rhetoric, I think the stigma of being labeled a racist is still so strong that even those who actual are ones, will never publicly adhere to it. They’ll dance around it. Flirt with it. Make out with it occasionally. But the days of declaring the love that dare not say it’s racist name are over. Because, the only thing worst than being a public bigot among white people is “child molester.” And if you’re a racist child molester … God help you. Even Klansmen hate child molesters. You’re not going to have ANY friends in prison.

Danielle Belton has been writing the popular “The Black Snob” blog since August 2007. She has contributed to the American Prospect, NPR, the Huffington Post and has been featured on Nightline. This column originally appeared on The Black Snob here. Learn more about Danielle here.

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.