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Aug 05, 2008

ObamaPhobia: BAGnewsNotes NetrootsNation Presentation '08

 Misc Obamaphobiastrip

In looking at the fearful or polarized treatment of Obama, it breaks down into three categories:

>> Obama as “Other.”

>> Obama as racial stereotype

>>And third, in descending order: Obama as shadow figure; Obama as man with a covert, anti-American agenda; Obama as
Machiavellian mastermind; and Obama as closet Muslim and even Islamic Manchurian candidate.

For those of you who have yet to see it, I'm proud to bring you the "fuel injected" audio slideshow version of "ObamaPhobia," my presentation delivered July 19th, 2008 at the NetrootsNation conference in Austin. 

"ObamaPhobia" was part of the "Don't Think Of Violence: Framing, Media And Policy" panel moderated by cultural anthropologist and political communications expert Jeffrey Feldman, author of "Framing the Debate" and "Outright Barbarous," and featuring David Neiwert, Firedoglake managing editor and author/editor of the blog Orcinus, and Andrea Batista Schlesinger of the Drum Major Institute.

The presentation -- which is visually-driven, of course -- runs a bit under 13 minutes, and outlines the racial and religious stereotypes in the media's visual coverage of the Obama campaign.

I would especially appreciate your critique and feedback -- especially since you know me best, and because I'm considering a similar format for at least some of our Democratic Convention coverage later this month. 

Finally, I owe a mountain of thanks to Al Shaw, who produced and edited the piece.  Al, my long-time blogospheric partner-in-crime, technical consultant and multimedia guru, is applying most of his talent this summer over at TPM.


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One of the things a psychologist does is make explicit what is not supposed to be acknowledged. However, one result of therapy is that recognition of a behavior is a way out of it. For example, when compulsive handwashing is revealed as linked to say, a childhood trauma, the patient is free of the compulsion.

One hopeful sign is that we're becoming more sophisticated about racist images. McCain's ads exploit racist themes without being so heavy-handed they call attention to themelves. Sen. Lindsey Graham protested that McCain "doesn't have a racist bone in his body." But now that there's greater awareness of racist themes, Sen. Graham will have difficulty using that particular dodge.

We're growing up. I have more faith in America now that Obama is the Democratic nominee than I did when it was common knowledge that he had no chance. We've made progress. Hillary didn't hesitate to exploit racist imagery either. In one famous gaffe she implied that working people were white. However . . . she didn't win.

I have just come across your blog. It is the most intelligent, thoughtful set of essays I've yet seen. I'm a denzen of the psychohistory list over at Yahoo (they have a journal that's published quarterly) and it's very interesting in looking at the news under the news (and analyzing, as you have, for example, all the headlines in a week, or movie images in a month -- for an understanding of what is happening to the larger group -- a la Bion) as we go through these times (or any times).

Your offerings here are erudite, clear and you do a very good job of explaining your meaning without condescending. Congratulations. Your interpretatios of the imagery is as accurate as can be.

Thank you very MUch for your work.

betsy davenport

I don't know what you call the cinematography of a slide show but it was well done! The documentary (think Ken Burns) revelation of the images and the tight bonding between the spoken words and the projected images made for an interesting presentation of interesting and important content. Well done.

Thank you for unveiling the race baiting tactics used to discredit Senator and Mrs. Obama throughout the primaries and now the general election campaign. Racism is certainly alive and striving in America, a fact that is denied by many. Your presentation will never loop endlessly on the MSM because it forces the MSM to take ownership for their irresponsible and biased coverage of Senator Obama's presidential campaign. It is really amazing to me that Senator Clinton in the primary race and Senator McCain in the general election race can belittle and attack Senator Obama's character, experience, age and wife and get away with it. But, if Senator Obama refers to Senator Clinton's dump truck of negatives, or Senator McCain's age and "senior moments", it would loop continuously as a negative attack by Senator Obama. He can't even respond to negative attacks to present the facts without being accused of going negative. Amazing! "Double Standards" in favor of Senator McCain describes what is exhibited in this campaign. It is really disheartening to see the MSM pundits perpetrating misconceptions and biased coverage. It's as if they are STUCK ON STUPID!

Another McCain ad today with the flashes targetting Obama.

Their subtext is really beginning to worry me. Why does nobody else point this out but you?

Thanks for sharing. With the bombardment of campaign info and images every day and the resulting time sense distortion, it is easy to forget a lot of the photos and accompanying narratives. Nice to see come of them compiled and explained in a larger context. I imagine there were hundreds of additional photos you could have used but didn't have time for.

I think we are in a position to see a flip in the powers and perceptions within politics. The Republican brand is in so much trouble, their policies have hurt us so much, their politics are so blatantly underhanded and their members so corrupt and morally wrong-footed that their only strategy is to pour on the hate and fear with such ferocity that it is likely to break through the vail and into the light of awareness and criticism.

The media is in no position to shed light on this because it's ownership is on the right - but you can see that the blogs have a direct impact on the MSM conversation and are, in fact the main news source for some people. I have no doubt that blogs like this are being read and digested by both campaigns, as well.

Once McCain's campaign becomes a laughingstock, all of his clumsy attacks are seen clearly for what they are. Along the lines of what Betsy said above, if "dog-whistle" politics become a common term and people are aware of the tactics, then using those code words looks underhanded and dishonorable.

As for me, I wish I had my hands on one of the Obama Tire Gauges!! It could become a symbol of a practical, concrete step towards energy responsibility and conservation - instead of making Obama look dumb - the gauge represents his willing to start talking about practical steps, answers and solutions. It will also represent the single clumsiest attempt at political mockery ever.

Not to come off pretentious, or anything, but I'm impressed by the level of discourse on this site. This is the best new site that I've come across in ages.

The images are better with the sound off: there's no post-game color commentary to distract from the replays. Like the Ken Burns panning and zooming thing, too: if only we could do that in newsprint on the morning train.

Didn't really see much to be afraid of or to be polarized by: this looks like a typical race. BHO is smart, but he hardly resembles an anti-American Machiavelli coming out of the Islamic closet (I liked the New Yorker cover and got the joke, but had no idea whatsoever that shadowy Karl Rove could disguise himself as a cover artist. Those poor, high-minded dupes.)

Barack is just another Presidential hopeful, no more, no less. However, if you keep running a slide show that shows him in such a bad light, perhaps the RNC will donate a little something to defray BnN's bandwidth cost.

If there's any phobia around here, it's undeservedly directed at GOP boogeymen. Instead of crying "Foul!" at what you speculate the Republicans — clearly the real masterminds — are up to, Dems would better direct their efforts towards putting their candidate in a good light, like getting behind him 100%.

Oh, wait...

Thank you for sharing this with the world, though it's hard to be optimistic about the USA public ever getting image-savvy since it floats in an image ocean and quit thinking so long, long ago. Rational thought requires reflection and those at sea in the images react, not reflect. This is too bad. We're Americans watching all this from afar (Europe) but we have seen the gradual, inexorable tidal effect as Sen. Obama has gone from a curious and perhaps hopeful new figure on the stage back when he announced his candidacy to all you've outlined so effectively in your slideshow. Drip, drip, drip. And now even those who once felt good about hope again have their doubts, the constant image tide wears away at the shore. Sadly, it works.

Well, enough of that metaphor. We see much the same sort of thing happening here, as corporate media turn merde into gold and the people can't tell the difference. It's sad to wonder what will become of us all if we don't keep hope alive and question all images. To paraphrase H.L. Mencken: Nobody ever lost an election underestimating the media savvy of the American public.

Thanks again. We've been loyal BagNotes readers forever and depend on your clear vision. You help us get thru the day.

This was powerful and very well done. Thank you.

Open Letter to All Democrats:

The Democrats have had the wind knocked out of our sails with the revelation of Sarah Palin. I said last week that picking her would not work but boy was I wrong. She has fired up the republicans in a way no one has done since Reagan.

To the detriment of many republicans, Obama was underestimated for his intellect, charisma, ability and candor. Regardless of Palin"s lies and spin, she is being lauded as the great hope of the Republican party. IT WILL WORK! Just like millions of people find themselves drawn to Barack Obama because of his interesting story, so will many Americans find themselves drawn to Sarah Palin.

We can"t force her to talk to the press. But we can talk about what we know of her and make her WISH she had talked to the press. We need to flip the script and change the media"s narrative. They are just as smitten with Sarah as they were with Barack when he first came on the scene. The Republicans finally realized they couldn"t beat Barack unless they nominated their own version of him. There are definitely things we can do as Democrats to knock the wind out of the Republicans sails.
Along with changing the media"s narrative we must focus on how her executive experience provides us a DIRECT view of how she will govern as VP or President of the USA. The Republicans will cry SEXISM every time we challenge her record. So let"s give them something to cry about. By the way, the challenge should come from JOE BIDEN. Let"s let Barack focus on John and MEDIA focus on her scandals, corruption allegations and personal struggles. We are concerned with her policies and what would America look like under Sarah Palin.

It"s not about what you DON"T know about Palin, it"s about what you DO know. We know she:

1) supports earmarks that John McCain finds wasteful spending.
2) is extreme on abortion rights and wants to overturn Roe V. Wade.
3) doesn"t believe in science or global warming.
4) believes God should tell her how to govern, fight wars and write policies.
5) is against equal pay for women.
6) is pro-censorship and would ban certain books in libraries across the country.
7) has flip-flopped on guns and abstinence .
8) does not have any foreign policy credentials to speak of.
9) and her husband flirted with Alaska"s secession from the Union.
10) Finally, we know she’s itching for a fight. Dems need to answer her wish.

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