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Nov 12, 2007

Swiftboat Anatomy

(click for full size)

When a reader forwarded me an anti-Obama email last week, I dismissed it.  Because its gone viral, however, I thought I would take another look.

The copy accompanying the image reads:

Senator Barack Obama, Governor Bill Richardson, Senator Hillary Clinton and Ruth Harkin stand during the national anthem.

Barack Hussein Obama's photo (that's his real name)......the article said he REFUSED TO NOT ONLY PUT HIS HAND ON HIS HEART DURING THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE, BUT REFUSED TO SAY THE in the hell can a man like this expect to be our next Commander! -in-Chief????

WAPO straightens out the facts, including the point that the shot -- taken at a steak fry hosted by Tom Harken in September -- occurs during the national anthem, not the pledge of allegiance.  (If you're interested, here's the pic in its original context, and the original slide show from the beginning.)

This cheap piece of email (despite what Bill Clinton said) is the first definitive piece of swiftboating of the '08 campaign.  Let other bloggers speak to why it circulated the way it did ... and why the media seems to have run with it.  ...For a particularly nasty example, by the way, check out the MSNBC blog, "First Read."  (Scroll down to "Obama.")  The choice part reads:

" A while back, we had heard of some rumored polling (which we could never get confirmed) indicating a large percentage of African-Americans in South Carolina who thought Obama was a Muslim. "

Beyond the "allegiance charge," however, I think this image -- the way its being used -- also plays on fears and anxiety over immigration (and assimilation).  To get a better sense of this, take a look at this juxtaposition.

  Obama-Alone          Richardson-Alone

It doesn't matter that Bill Richardson is American-born with his father a naturalist from Boston.  To the "target audience," what we've got is "a good immigrant," -- a Hispanic guy who has got himself a good American last name; knows how to aligned himself properly to fit in (see stars and flowers); proudly stands up for the flag; and can look his fellow Americans straight in the eye.

What we have, on the other hand, is a black man with a Muslim name who has not only turned his back on the flag, but also turns away from the model (in the person of Richardson) of assimilation.

(h/t: Joe.  image: Danny Wilcox Frazier / Redux for TIME. September 16, 2007.


adding to the unreality, they didn't even say the pledge at the steak fry.

I think you are dead wrong. They are lining up to swift-boat whomever the Dems select. They (the corporate powers that run the nation)try on different themes, for different candidates, but that is simply a hedging of bets.

well, all this is why he can't run for Prez and win, in a nutshell. Nothing against him personally, but he cannot win. In the Bible belt this email is going to be gospel, plus he's black and named Hussein. HE CANNOT WIN. It's as simple as that. Are the Dems ever going to actually run to win?

Just as an aside, I believe he was once Muslim (like, as a kid) and has converted to Christianity. To me, makes no difference, and I believe having a president who understands a few things about Islam would be a huge asset at this time. But for most voters, understanding gets confused with approval.

HE CANNOT WIN. Edwards can definitly win, hell, I even believe Kucinich can win at this point. Hillary might win, but I'm less sure. Obama cannot win. There are still too many white baby boomers going to the polls. Wait a few more years until they start to die or be confined to nursing homes, and then Obama can run again.

Harsh but true.

And in this photo (on its face value without any corrective commentary), Obama stands defiantly facing left, just outside of mainstream America.

Only his left shoulder — the side his heart is on — grudgingly touches the white edge of the country, but without making any real contact with the fifty white States (or their blue democracy.)

As Tina points out, it looks like he's sunk.

Dear racist tina,
What makes you think that we white baby boomers are racists like you? (And, by the way, just to correct your ignorance, people in nursing homes are still allowed to vote in this country, but perhaps not for long if more age-racist people like you get in power.)
I hope that in a few more years racist Repugs like you are the ones who die.

"age racist" WTF is that?

Also, I am not a Republican. Also, I am pointing out that he cannot win because of racist attitudes, not because I would vote against him.

And yes, elderly whites, you know Bill O'Reilly's demographic, are the people most statistically likely to hold racist attitudes. Racism is present but less entrenched in the younger age groups.

Electing an African American president is going to be more of a viable reality in a post-Boomer America. That is not ageism, it is just a fact.

Please learn to read before posting a comment.

Is there a prerequisite for the Commander in Chief to be?
The brainwashing by the present administration has been effective, now the flag in the lapel, hand on heart, flag on cars, flags display on homes, patriotic flag waving, god, terrorists and national security are the security blanket for americans... and beside that, there needs to be no substance whatsoever.

This particular viral is about two weeks old. It was sent to me too with the caption The Traitor Obama or something like that. On face value it was so ignorant all I could do was shake my head.

But then again, so it climate change denial, creationism, biblical literalism, ... This country is terminally polluted with simple minded, prejudiced bigots. I run into them daily.

On the other hand, Obama does demonstrate the same political naivete that sunk John Kerry and Al Gore. You need to have radar that insures you will cross your heart on stage when everyone else does.

Indeed, it is the American mindset that must change before we will have real change in this country.

I am actually more struck by the perspective of the picture, where a black man looms larger than a whiter man, who looms larger than a woman, who looms larger than an even smaller, whiter woman.

Isn't the real fear expressed that the whiter people are looking small and overshadowed? The real message of racism is the underlying fear and insecurity of those who feel it.

Amen to what Donna just said. Obama "looms"=threatening, overpowering.

Well it should be a fun campaign visually in any event. The BAG is going to be having its hands full.

Climate change denial, creationism, biblical literalism, ... This country is terminally polluted with simple minded, prejudiced bigots.

And genuflecting before symbols like flags, pledges and anthems as if they are OH SO IMPORTANT -- it's the simpleton mindset of the authoritarian follower craving a strongman. They're probably voting for Guiliani anyway because they're scared stupid.

When I first looked at the photo I thought it was a manipulated photo deliberately drawing attention to Barack Obama. As I look at again I still feel that it may have been chosen for the slide presentation because of the angel, pushing Hillary Clinton and Ruth Harkin into the background and almost off the stage. If I were trying to emphasize Barack Obama and enhance his stature in relation to the other candidates, this is one way I would do it.

Yeah, tina, it is ageism. I'm more-or-less the demographic of the leaders of the "boomer" era, who are now 65 plus, the boomers in their 50's. I still talk to them. Most of them are for Edwards or Obama. Racism is only partly a factor in the elderly; more important is the region and culture they grew up in. If you ever listen to talk radio, you will hear some very young voices call in ranting racism. You will also hear the elderly (and I'm talking 70+) talking against racism. So, I would say that it's not age, but hate that is the determiner.

I do agree that Obama is not electable this year, but because of the South, not the age of the voter. The racism of whites in the south is a fact of life and why the republicans have been able to take over. I still have relatives in the south and they are good people all, until you scratch down to the race issue. That is something they got with their grits when they were toddlers.

As progressives, we may cheer and be comfitted by Obama's refusal to go along with all the simplistic jingoism and false patriotic symbolism. But for the 24% of neocon supporters, it's just one more slap in the face from an uppity "n" who has to be told his place. And that goes for Hillary, too. It's like a red cape to a mad bull.

OMG, there are so many things for a small white man to fear in this time when a black man and a woman can dare to run for CIC. It's just beyond comprehension.

yeah, the immigrant dynamic is one here, and the other is obviously the diminishment of the women, both of whom look tiny beyond possible optics...

interesting... the barren-ness of the landscape behind this stage set -in- nowhere; even the horizon is visible: While they, the candidates, are the only 'diversity' apparent in this pasture = pastoral delusion of America's ‘Heartland’.

there is a two-dimensional quality to this image = "a politial primary from cow-land" scene (albeit, some side-stage presence apparent, we deduce, from their gazes) suggesting what a faux projection IOWA (or for that matter, N.H.) really is. Viewed from the side, the FlatLand FLAG would disappear and the candidates, however sorted from stage-front POV, combine to become Matryoshka Doll metaphors.

=> ironically, you can't get away with this kind of bullshit, living & working in the Big City :)

Speaking in tongues.

Eliminate the flag and flower pot and this photo reminds me of way way back when.

Once a year in a vacant field outside of a small town in Nova Scotia, a strange bunch of people would arrive unannounced. They pitched a tarp tent waved their limbs about and jabbered away for hours.
Told to avoid the Holy Rollers it became a must see event for all adventuring preadolescent boys.

Cactus--I agree with your general point, but in my geographical area the group of people who summarily reject ANY idea of a "colored" president are 60 or older. Just the way they were raised, and they don't even think that is racist. They are the "I'm not racist but my daughter should never date a black or a brown" brand of people. The younger age group doesn't have this attitude. I'm not saying there are no young racists but the older folks have much different ideas than their grandchildren, at least in my neck of the woods.

Their reasoning goes this way: "I am not a racist but we all know 'those' people are different and their values are different from ours and less American by definition. We cannot vote for them if we want to uphold our values and way of life. So no votes for a black or a brown, ever".

The new generation sees this for the thinly veiled racism it is. Some of the oldsters do, but they are a lot fewer since this was quite an acceptable attitude back in the day. See what I mean?

My favorite part about this, and it is all so amusing, is that the term "swiftboating" has come into reality. I know, of course, what it refers to, but I love that now it has gained its own identity as a verb. It's very much like "truthiness," and is just one of the many reasons why I love the English language.

But back on topic. Obama could be electable because of things like this. To the average on-the-fence Republican (which is the demographic Obama needs most if he is going to win this thing) Obama will not appear strong and patriotic if he refuses to place his hand over his heart during the national anthem, just as he will not appear presidential if he refuses to wear an American flag lapel pin.

Of course race will play a factor, just as gender will as far as Hillary is concerned, but what it going to sink Obama is his rebellious attitude that comes off more as cantankerousness than spirited resistance. If he could somehow really embrace the rebel role, and manage to rally folks to his cause then he would stand a chance. But the last Democrat to show that kind of spirit was Howard Dean.

We do not speak of the tragedy of Howard Dean.

America's must put your hand-over-the HeartLand’ pastoral delusion rituel d'obeissance :)

def : “Obeisance comes from Old French obeissance, from obeissant, present participle of obeir, to obey, from Latin oboedire, to listen to, from ob-, to + audire, to hear.

The Roman salute is the right hand held flat, palm down and fingers closed, and the right arm raised at an angle of about 45 degrees. It was used by the Roman Republic, by armies of the Middle East (even before being adopted by the Romans) and South America at various times. It was also the historical civilian salute of the United States, from about 1787 to 1934, known since 1892 as the Bellamy salute:

From 1939 until the attack on Pearl Harbor, this salute worked against the reputations of Americans who argued against intervention in World War II, such as aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh. Opponents of Lindbergh's views would include pictures of Lindbergh using the Bellamy salute in pamphlets attempting to tie him to alleged Nazi intrigue. In his Pulitzer prize winning biography of Lindbergh, author A. Scott Berg tells the story of how interventionist propagandists would photograph Lindbergh and other isolationists using this salute from an angle that left out the American flag, so it would be indistinguishable from ‘the Hitler salute’ to observers.

When the Nazi party of Germany adopted the Roman salute from the Italian fascists, President of the United States Franklin Roosevelt instituted the hand-over-the heart as the salute [of obeisance] to be rendered by civilians during the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem in the United States. This was done when Congress officially adopted the ‘Flag Code’ on June 22, 1942.

As progressives, we may cheer and be comfitted by Obama's refusal to go along with all the simplistic jingoism and false patriotic symbolism. But for the 24% of neocon supporters, it's just one more slap in the face from an uppity "n" who has to be told his place.

Neocon bigots wouldn't vote for him anyway. They're just scratching for a non-racist-sounding excuse. "Uh, yeah, it's because he doesn't sing the national anthem loud enough! That's why I'm not votin' for 'im!"

Unless things have changed in the last few years (and almost everything has) it is only the military in uniform who are supposed to put hand over heart during the singing of the national anthem. All civilians are to remain standing with arms to the sides. Obama is the only one doing it correctly. The rest apparently don't know the correct way or are just afraid of offending the right-wingers who don't know any better anyway.

As to the pledge to the flag, we used to have hand over heart up to the words "to the flag" at which time our flattened hand would be hailed in the direction of the flag. At some point after Pearl Harbor (M.Gonzo says 1942) we were told the president (?sic?) decided it was too much like the nazi salute. Personally, I think it is silly to define our cultural preferences by reference to what an enemy does, as with "under god" in the pledge added during the insanity of the McCarthy era.

This non-issue just fries me. Personally, I quit saying the pledge of allegiance back in the 60s when it became obvious to me that there was no "liberty and justice for all." I think I was about 12. I also had (and still have, for reasons which become more obvious every day) reservations about exactly WHICH G-d the pledge refers to. As a Jew, more and more often, I don't think the people who are so rabid about the pledge are including my G-d.

As to the comments regarding the electability of Obama versus Clinton, it is my (sad and resigned) belief that in this country, in this day and age, a Black man is more likely to become president than a woman of any color, and a Jew will become president after both.

ref : “we were told the president decided...

interesting point, Cactus, suggesting that the mass follows the leader vis-a-vis The Salute rituel d'obeissance.

in this image The Leader Clinton appears to be saluting the sound source of obeisance; she is reactionary to this cue, thus ~ perhaps {snark} she is 'trangulating' FLAG-BAND-VOTER. As leader she is directing the mass to reflect = conform to her (we see one follower)...

...whereas The Leader Richardson confronts US ~ as we reflect him our salute is through him to the Flag, he embodies a conduit, thus, a way to the visual focus of mass obeisance...

...while The Leader Obama, for all intents and purposes remains within himself. His passive posture neither acknowledges us nor conducts us to perform mass obeisance in response to aural & visual cues apparent:

Obama fails to command us to follow his lead : who, what, then ~ is he following ?

The image is effective propaganda: the base ‘herd’ instinct sees it: "Obama fails to follow the ritual of obeisance," whereas the high ‘identity’ instinct says: "Obama fails to lead the ritual of obeisance." The viewer fails to find any place for him in heart or mind; so she is motivated to reject this branded Obama = image FRAME revealed truth apparent to be her identity = like me : like him, my mass:leader not, thus.

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