Tuesday, August 04, 2009


The talk of the blogosphere right now is this:

LOS ANGELES -- A poster showing President Barack Obama as Heath Ledger's "Joker" character from "The Dark Knight" is creating a stir on the streets of Los Angeles where the image began appearing over the weekend.

The Obama-Joker poster shows President Obama with white face paint, dark eye shadow and smudged red lipstick and also has the word "socialism" printed in bold, dark letters under the image of his face....

First of all, I have to say that this is somewhat better agitprop than I was expecting from the other side. (Heard wingers rap yet? Painful.) I think the best thing to do is nod and move along; I'm not going to overreact like the L.A. Weekly:

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 get the point of this poster. I told you a while ago what the Joker means to wingnuts:

The key ... is that he can seemingly do anything he wants. ... he's just about omnipotent -- no evil plot seems physically, logistically, or financially impossible for him to pull off, instantly and effortlessly.

That, added to the nihilism, makes him the villain of right-wingers' dreams.

See, if your goal is pure evil and you can do anything you decide to do, then we, the good guys, get the delicious option of throwing out the rulebook. Since you would do anything and you
can do anything, we're allowed to do anything we want right back -- no torture, no act of brutalization, is off limits.

That's the right-wing fantasy. Oh, and it's compounded by the sheer pleasure of telling liberals that their pathetic due process just isn't going to cut it.

At the time I was talking about the Joker as a stand-in for Guantanamo prisoners and other real and accused jihadist evildoers. Now he's Obama. Well, for the wingers, there isn't really a difference, is there?

I lurk at wingnut sites all time, and the 'nuts really do see Obama as someone who hungrily seeks new things to destroy all the time, for the sheer pleasure of it. And by "destroy" I mean "subject to oversight" (or just propose subjecting to oversight). They call this socialism, and equate it with nihilist anarchy and the destruction of civilization as we know it. (In reality, it's barely a baby step toward FDR's America.)

If you have this image of Obama, this poster is genius. If "socialism" isn't the vilest cussword in your vocabulary, well, this probably isn't going to do much for you. And I think that still describes most of the country. So I don't think this the poster is a big deal.

And hey, when was the last time posters helped reverse the course of the U.S. government? Well, maybe in the '60s and '70s (but only after years and years of war). Since then? Er, remember the angry, hard-hitting anti-Reagan posters of Robbie Conal? They were great! They were really nasty! They really ... um, what did they accomplish exactly?

Or the anti-war freeway bloggers during the Bush years? All those clever anti-war signs on overpasses? Hey, they sure brought that Iraq War to a screeching halt, didn't they?

I could be wrong about this, of course -- the lefty posters really were what we'd now call "viral," whereas this Obama/Joker poster has garnered attention suspiciously fast (at NewsBusters, Drudge, local L.A. news, a thousand conservabot blogs). It wouldn't surprise me at all to learn that even the wingers' wheat-pasted agitprop is Astroturf generated and promoted by industry- and/or right-wing-foundation-supported groups. The timing -- right in the midst of the right's Astroturf harassment campaign on health care -- is rather suspicious. But even then, I don't think it's going to do any more harm than, say, a thousand posters of Bush as a chimp did to Bush.

(For more on the wingnuts' desperate desire to replicate lefty tactics of the past, go here and here.)


UPDATE: What was I just saying about the timing of this? The L.A. Times says:

Bloggers found that first reports of the poster in L.A. surfaced in April -- so it's unclear why it became such a Web sensation today.

Um, because the GOP and its allies think it's useful to promote the poster at this moment?

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