Sure, the Far Right in America Isn’t Racist

They just portray Barack Obama as a blood-mouthed and minstrel painted monster, and share the image around the Internet. No big whoop. Rush Limbaugh used this image at his website today. And Drudge also featured the image at his website. And the image, as a poster, is being plastered around Los Angeles, and will no doubt find its way to other urban areas soon. This is what it means to be a projective and paranoid neo-authoritarian American racist in the 21st century. And this is the response of the far right to the nation’s first African American president. No grace. No mercy. No decency. What a gross coarsening of the public realm. Absorb what this image means, its basic lack of civility, and the encouragement to Obama demonology that it fuels. Isn’t the cumulative logical effect of the far right’s response to Obama, assassination? And isn’t this how unbalanced people will interpret this kind of image? It’s a virtual Wanted poster, something you distribute to identify murderers. If Obama is a monster, then he must be stopped, right?

Right?

 Obama-joker-poster-1

The word socialism, however ill-applied to a centrist politician like Barack Obama, nevertheless gives people the excuse to hate, and think in extreme and Manichean terms about him. This poster is the Orwellian two minutes hate image of our time. It’s the culminating image of a conservative movement that has completely lost its moorings and its sense of proportion.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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20 Responses to Sure, the Far Right in America Isn’t Racist

  1. Veronica Abbass says:

    Santi

    There is a glaring contradiction here. You have posted the image/poster three times. Is there a purpose for this and your assertion that assassination is “the cumulative logical effect of the far right’s response to Obama”? Logical? What were the logical reasons for the assassination of other American presidents, senators and prominent men? Why do you keep using the A word; it makes me cringe.

  2. jonolan says:

    Santi,

    I sort of hate constantly being a contrarian on your blog, but we cover a lot of the same topics from divergent perspectives. But…

    his is what it means to be a projective and paranoid neo-authoritarian American racist in the 21st century. And this is the response of the far right to the nation’s first African American president.

    You’ve both bought into and are propagating the Far Left’s meme that all dissent to Obama is based on racism. That’s a false meme.

    Course? yes. Cruel? yes. But where’s the racial component that would be necessary to call it racist. You don’t actually believe that cruel attacks on Obama are inherently racist do you?

    It’s not even a coarsening of the rhetoric; it’s a rather bland – though stylish – continuation of the same rhetoric we’ve had for the last eight years.

    — Bush as Hitler
    — Bush as Osama bin Laden
    — Bush as Chimp
    — Bush as…

    I think you’re the one who is projecting. You’ve forgotten that, even if this is truly hatred-based, there’s lots of reasons / excuses for hate besides race.

  3. Pingback: A Forgotten Beginning | Reflections From a Murky Pond

  4. santitafarella says:

    Veronica:

    I’m deeply uncomfortable bringing up the “A” word also. I hate to bring it up. It makes me cringe too. But it really is the elephant in the room when the far right raises the panic level into the stratosphere. Remember the guy who shot the guard in the Holocaust museum? And the abortion doctor shot in Kansas—in a church?! These are two recent examples of people responding hysterically to the high degree of paranoia circulating on the Internet. And just yesterday, a Glenn Beck obsessive was arrested on weapons charges and for scoping out what she believed to be a FEMA camp.

    And this whole birther thing is also a way of turning Obama into something “other.”

    I, personally, am outraged that the right has been unable, in the first six months of Obama’s presidency, to exercise even a modicum of decency and restraint. Everybody knows that the nation’s first black president is in higher than normal danger with regard to the “A” word. But it just doesn’t matter to far right media. They just keep fanning the fires of monstrosity and metaphysical evil surrounding Obama. There is no sense of proportion.

    I bring it up here at my blog precisely because I believe that silence is complicity with a great moral evil. This is the fascism of our day. That Obama image is a kind of swastika. I don’t like to bring it up. I avoid bringing it up. But look at that image, Veronica. Should we just look the other way? Not speak? Not resist or push back against what this means for our democracy?

    Do you think that there’s no link between the above image and the inabilty this month of congress persons to hold civil town hall meetings where people talk without shouting and disruption? In a democracy, you talk to one another. You don’t shout and shut down to one another. There is a thuggish hooligan demonology circulating on the right in this country. It’s dangerous. I don’t like bringing it up, but I’m not being silent about it.

    —Santi

  5. santitafarella says:

    Jonolan:

    No need to apologize. I much prefer thoughtful disagreement to dittos. It helps me think.

    As for your question, the racist component in this instance is the white-face make-up. It has a history. The poster alludes to it, unmistakably. It’s not an accident.

    As for Bush, I agree that there was demonology directed towards Bush. But within context, Bush got us into a war. Prior to the Iraq War and Guantanamo, the Left thought Bush was a clown, but not a vampiric and blood-mouthed monster-clown.

    Obama is just six months into a relatively quiet presidential term. He’s trying to wind down Iraq, not wind it up. We’re at the tail end of a recession, not on the verge of one. He’s eased us away from the ledge of a Depression (with the stimulus and bank bailouts). McCain would have done these two things also. We live in a dangerous world, and things can change quickly. But all the current hysteria is manufactured. It’s bullshit. It’s disproportionate to the reality.

    —Santi

    • jonolan says:

      Santi,

      They regularly posted depictions of Bush as Hitler and worse. That’s not mocking someone by your own definition; that’s demonizing him.

      They also regularly hung or burned him in effigy. You even used to be able to buy “Kill Bush” t-shirts online.

      And please stop by my blog – the post is the track-back above – you’ll see the earlier, 2008 depiction – in Vanity Fair! – of Bush as “a vampiric and blood-mouthed monster-clown.”

      And White Face? – Please! It’s the Joker; it’s not “White Face.” If you see it that way, I feel sorry for you since you’re picking at a scab that will never heal over until you stop.

  6. santitafarella says:

    Jonolan:

    I’m not trying to defend the demonization of Bush, but six months into a presidency—and this image above of Obama? So soon? Without a new war? And I’ll check out the Vanity Fair reference at your blog. Thanks for that tip.

    —Santi

    • jonolan says:

      Without a new war?

      The Stimulus? The Financial Takeover? The Auto Takeover? Cap and Trade? Obama’s idea of Healthcare Reform? And you say Obama hasn’t started a war?

      Sir, this can easily be seen as civil war – albeit currently a largely bloodless one, a war for the very future of America. Indeed, both sides, Liberal and Conservative, have cause to see it so.

  7. santitafarella says:

    Jonolan:

    I never saw that Vanity Fair image. It certainly offers some context to the Obama image. And I don’t endorse those types of images of Bush at your blog, and I never put them on my site. It is a measure of American cultural incivility and the poverty of our civic discourse that people treat such images as short-hand for summing up (and dismissing) another human being.

    I really believe, however, that the above image crossed a line from “humor” to something sinister and disturbing. An order of magnitude was reached. The above image is not meant to give a chuckle, but to shock. It is like seeing a swastika. I really think that you shouldn’t be downplaying the import of the white face paint, and what that means (as if referencing a Batman film eliminates its other connotations when placed upon a black man).

    And blood-mouthed oral monsters run very deep in the human psyche. This image is meant to demonize. You don’t have civic discourse with a monster. You don’t work with him, or compromise with him. You shout him down. You seal and silence the mouth that feeds. You eliminate him. The image is a slap at the very notion of democracy and compromise on health care, the environment—on anything. It’s a Manichean call to violent struggle. “Socialism” is the trigger—the signal that it means to convey a fight to the death for a certain version of American civilizational survival. Its resonances are precisely those one gets on seeing the display of a swastika. It’s extreme, and with a secret and sublimated longing for death, apocalypse, and nihilism. Think about the sick mind that made that poster, Jonolan, and what it takes for a person to treat our first African American president with such grossness. And just six months into his presidency! Six. Months.

    —Santi

  8. santitafarella says:

    Jonolan:

    You’re war talk above is illustrative of why, I suppose, the image above resonates with conservatives. What does it mean for democracy that so many see politics in such black and white, uncompromising, and absolutist terms? For domestic incidents of rogue terrorism? Six. Months.

    There’s no meeting Obama halfway with regard to health care? Or the environment? You suppose McCain wouldn’t have bailed out the banks, caught GM in its fall, or had a stimulus package? These are things any centrist politician had to do, both politically and economically. And you would be hearing crickets on the right if McCain had done these things. All the outrage is manufactured. It’s hysterical.

    Oh, and neither health care nor Cap and Trade spell the end of civilization. European capitalist democracies have both of these policies without harm to their economic health. Oppose them philosophically, fine. But treating them as the falling dominoes to communism is hysterical.

    —Santi

    • jonolan says:

      Obama is not a centrist when it comes to domestic policy and economics, as opposed to foreign policy. He’s fairly far to the Left and a staunch big-government Statist with strong Socialist / Italian Fascist economic tendencies with a goal of redistributing wealth and redefining core American structures.

      It’s not hysterical to recognize that. As for compromising with him and the Liberals who rule Congress right now, I’ll quote Obama himself:

      Genuine bipartisanship, though, assumes an honest process of give-and-take, and that the quality of the compromise is measured by how well it serves some agreed-upon goal, whether better schools or lower deficits. This in turn assumes that the majority will be constrained – by an exacting press corps and ultimately an informed electorate – to negotiate in good faith. If these conditions do not hold – if nobody outside Washington is really paying attention to the substance of the bill, if the true costs of the tax cut are buried in phony accounting and understated by a trillion dollars or so – the majority party can begin every negotiation by asking 100 percent of what it wants, go on to concede 10 percent, and then accuse any member of the minority party who fails to support this “compromise” of being “obstructionist.” For the minority party in such circumstances, “bipartisanship” comes to mean getting chronically steamrolled, although individual senators may enjoy certain political rewards by consistently going along with the majority and hence gaining a reputation for being “moderate” or “centrist.”

      – Senator Barack Obama
      The Audacity of Hope, Chapter 4 – Politics, pg. 131

      The above is exactly what we’ve seen from Congress since Obama’s election and Obama has never spoken out against it. In fact, he’s actively gone along with the painting of the GOP as obstructionist.

      Face it, if Obama had really wanted bipartisanship and compromise, he wouldn’t have tried to push so many massive initiatives through at once. He would have fulfilled his campaign promise and made time for real discussion – or at least reading the bills in question.

  9. jonolan says:

    Santi,

    hink about the sick mind that made that poster, Jonolan, and what it takes for a person to treat our first African American president with such grossness.

    The image, quite obviously (Vanity Fair, 2008), is not an order of magnitude worse. Indeed, I find characterizing Bush as Hitler or a Demon to be at least as demonizing – as was the earlier vile depiction of Obama as Osama Bin Laden.

    Also, and more importantly to my mind, what sort of sickness – or at least fixation – does it take to keep advocating that Obama get an easier ride because he’s the 1st Black President?

    It really doesn’t even occur to you that this has nothing to do with Obama’s race and everything to do with his policies, doesn’t it.

    I suppose it could be argued that Obama’s self-identification as Black – by his own admission dating from his college years – is part of the cause for those policies, but that’s not a road I’ve heard of anyone going down as of yet.

    And the White Face? Think about it; which is the prevalent meme these days, Batman or an entertainment meme of pre-WW2? How many people who would make these posters even know what White Face is?

    What’s next? A picture of Obama in a tuxedo handing someone a drink at a gala being described as racist because summons up shades of the “hose slave?”

  10. jonolan says:

    Typo – should have been “house slave.”

  11. santitafarella says:

    Jonolan:

    I think the MSN Butterfly has that slave quality to it—especially when an African American is going around in a butterfly suit handing golf clubs to a white guy. Yes, I think we should notice these resonances (as when people were bringing stuffed monkeys to Palin rallies in October). I think that they function in our culture, and often do so subliminally. And I think that they are racist, as in the above image. An “aw shucks” proclamation of ignorance about historic resonances is largely an excuse for indulging them without the uncomfortable self-knowledge that they are allying themselves with racists of the past.

    —Santi

    • jonolan says:

      Couldn’t equally be said that you and people who cling to these old memes are allying themselves with the racists of the past by continuing the negative association of essentially random – in today’s world – images?

      BTW: About the 6 months thing.Here’s a quick sample of a LIberal’s response to- and attitude toward GWB’s 1st 6 months: http://www.juicycerebellum.com/bushbullshit.htm

  12. santitafarella says:

    Jonolan:

    I think that we should start seeking Republican responses to this poster—get people on the record about this—and see if anyone distances themselves from the image. Do you think that conservatives should distance themselves from the image, or should they embrace the image as part of the mix of images and rhetoric that advances the views and style of the conservative cause?

    —Santi

    • jonolan says:

      I don’t care really. I don’t see it as particularly hateful – but look at my chosen avatar.

      Insofar as the imagery goes, I find it nonsensical. The Joker and Socialism don’t make a good fit.

      Frankly, if the Liberals hadn’t cried race, this would never have made any headway at all. The posters went up in April and nobody really cared or noticed – read as failed marketing campaign by somebody in LA – until some Liberal blogger made a fuss and called it racist.

      As for the image furthering the conservative cause – it doesn’t. Sure it’s anti-Obama, which I find very good. But it’s not pro-Conservative / pro-American; it’s just there.

  13. Anonymous says:

    jonolan: Please take your meds; I can’t believe you keep responding to every post (do you have a life)? And your views are far to the right, not mainstream. Get your head checked. Obama is a centrist, relative to other Western countries.

  14. santitafarella says:

    Anonymous:

    I would prefer that you avoid ad hominem on this site and deal with the substance of arguments. I almost always disagree with Jonolan, but he sometimes jars my own ideas, and forces me to think clearly (as a liberal) about how what I say sounds to a conservative. Part of the fun of contributing to threads is to be a bit obsessive and passionate about things. It could be argued that non-passionate people are the scary ones. As for who has a life or not, that’s really mean. Jonolan actually hasn’t been around this site (so far as I can tell) for a few weeks. And when he responds here he’s no more or less obsessive in response than, say, I am.

    Of course, I’m a pretty obsessive person myself.

    —Santi

  15. santitafarella says:

    Anonymous:

    I do agree with you, by the way, that Obama is a total centrist. I have no idea what is making the right so nutso over Obama. But I do remember, back in the early 90s, calling a conservative talk radio host and arguing about Clinton. I insisted that Clinton would balance the budget over time and be a centrist president, and the radio host was talking about Clinton as if he were Malcolm X or Castro. It’s nice to be in the reality based community, isn’t it?

    —Santi

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