Thursday, August 6, 2009

Birthers Right and Left

I thought this by Chip Bok was pretty funny:



There's an amazing story of heroism on this video. It's the story of a Marine named Channing Moss who suffered an astonishing combat wound and the men who overcame their own fear and risked their lives to save his. It's very much worth watching.

Thanks to PowerLine for the link.


Deconstructing the Obama Poster

Philip Kennicott scrutinizes the Obama as Joker objet d'art for the Washington Post and comes to the startling conclusion that it is, in fact, a deeply racist composition. Well, of course. Why didn't we see that? Obama is black. The picture satirizes him. Ergo, the picture is racist. Even a schoolboy could have figured it out:

So why the anonymity? Perhaps because the poster is ultimately a racially charged image. By using the "urban" makeup of the Heath Ledger Joker, instead of the urbane makeup of the Jack Nicholson character, the poster connects Obama to something many of his detractors fear but can't openly discuss. He is black and he is identified with the inner city, a source of political instability in the 1960s and '70s, and a lingering bogeyman in political consciousness despite falling crime rates.

The Joker's makeup in "Dark Knight" -- the latest film in a long franchise that dramatizes fear of the urban world -- emphasized the wounded nature of the villain, the sense that he was both a product and source of violence. Although Ledger was white, and the Joker is white, this equation of the wounded and the wounding mirrors basic racial typology in America. Urban blacks -- the thinking goes -- don't just live in dangerous neighborhoods, they carry that danger with them like a virus. Scientific studies, which demonstrate the social consequences of living in neighborhoods with high rates of crime, get processed and misinterpreted in the popular unconscious, underscoring the idea. Violence breeds violence.

It is an ugly idea, operating covertly in that gray area that is always supposed to be opened up to honest examination whenever America has one of its "we need to talk this through" episodes. But it lingers, unspoken but powerful, leaving all too many people with the sense that exposure to crime creates an ineluctable propensity to crime.

Superimpose that idea, through the Joker's makeup, onto Obama's face, and you have subtly coded, highly effective racial and political argument. Forget socialism, this poster is another attempt to accomplish an association between Obama and the unpredictable, seeming danger of urban life. It is another effort to establish what failed to jell in the debate about Obama's association with Chicago radical William Ayers and the controversy over the racially charged sermons of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Obama, like the Joker and like the racial stereotype of the black man, carries within him an unknowable, volatile and dangerous marker of urban violence, which could erupt at any time. The charge of socialism is secondary to the basic message that Obama can't be trusted, not because he is a politician, but because he's black.

There you have it plain as can be. Now, some pitiably unsophisticated bloggers have objected to this sort of analysis by recalling that when Vanity Fair ran a similar picture of George Bush in July of 2008 no one offered such astute psychoanalysis as we have from Mr. Kennicott, and certainly no one alleged racism. But what the uneducated rabble in the blogosphere doesn't realize, as our trenchant critic notes, is that the Bush image used the Jack Nicholson Joker. The Obama rendering uses the Heath Ledger Joker, and that, don't you see, makes all the difference in the world. If you don't understand why well, then, you're just not tuned in to the exquisite subtleties of racial signaling and codes to the enviable degree Mr. Kennicott is.

I'm tempted to believe that this article is actually a hoax and that the writer is, in fact, constructing a clever parody of the left's tendency to find racism in every nook and cranny of our public life. If, however, he's serious his essay is surely the sort of thing that causes regular people who don't appreciate their betters to smirk at intellectuals and call them chuckleheads. No one knows who even did the Obama poster much less what he was trying to say in composing it, but then when you're an intellectual like Mr. Kennicott, whose erudition doubtless surpasses what most of us could ever dream to attain, you're freed from the constraints of logic and common sense that bind mere mortals. If you're a "thoughtful man," especially one who endorses and reinforces all the racial dogmas and shibboleths of the left, you're permitted to espouse in venues like the Washington Post pretty much whatever goofball ideas pop into your head.



I'm not defending every person who has vented his or her anger at the recent town hall meetings. Some of the behavior, especially at the Steny Hoyer meeting, makes me wince, and I wish some of the more obstreperous folk would be a little more respectful and less obnoxious in expressing their frustrations. But, having said that, the Democrat National Committee ad that's been airing on tv the last couple of days impugning these people is really shameless.

The ad alleges that these irate folks are actually extremists who are being manipulated, orchestrated, and funded by "high level GOP operatives" and organizations. This is simply an absurd slander as Mary Katherine Ham documents at The Weekly Standard.

It turns out that the "high level Republican operative" who produced the memo that appears on the DNC ad is a libertarian who writes on Facebook to about twenty friends. The fact that he is a very minor figure in his state's politics, however, didn't hinder the DNC from producing a piece that deliberately gives viewers the impression that what's happening at town halls across the country is some sort of nationwide conspiracy organized and funded by nefarious and powerful Republican fat cats.

Here's the ad:

It's pretty ludicrous, actually, to label thousands of mostly senior citizens "extremists" because they refuse to go gently into Democrat health care nirvana. It's also a sign of desperation. Check out Ham's account at the link.


Only in America

For the last couple of years the United States, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), has been funding an effort to translate moderate Islamic writings into other languages so that more Muslims would be exposed to teachings, for example, that forbid suicide. This, it was thought, would help counter the more extremist Islamists and help diminish their appeal to the masses of Muslims.

It turns out, though, that lawyers at USAID have consulted their law books, read their tarot cards, held seances to commune with the Founding Fathers, and have concluded, incredibly, that this violates the prohibition of using public money to establish a religion. Really, I'm serious. Well, except for the tarot cards and seances.

Apparently, we are in violation of the Constitution if we use public money to try to help one version of Islam prevail over the more violent extreme version. I wonder if this means that tax-payer funded efforts to arrest and kill the radicals before they kill us are unconstitutional. I'm sure we could find a lawyer somewhere who would maintain that the war on terror violates both the establishment of religion clause and the free speech clause of the First Amendment.

Keith Pavlischek writes about it at First Things. It's no wonder people make jokes about lawyers.


How It Used to Be

Byron links us to a story of racial discrimination from the early forties that would be hard, perhaps, for many of today's young people to imagine. The writer, the daughter of the man who was the victim of what can only be described as some very stupid decisions made by men whose intellectual furniture apparently made such decisions inevitable, draws a number of conclusions about the episode that one wishes were more widely held. You'll like the story.