Monday, August 12, 2013


This is a huge story right now:
A clown wearing a President Barack Obama mask appeared at a Missouri State Fair rodeo this weekend and the announcer asked the enthusiastic spectators if they wanted to see "Obama run down by a bull."

The antics led the state's second highest-ranking official, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, to denounce the performance in a tweet Sunday. He said it was "disrespectful" to the president....

Here's a news story, via Ed Kilgore:

You're going to say I'm letting down the side, but I'm inclined to save my full outrage for other things.

In part, it's because I went to the Minnesota State Fair two years ago and saw several Michele Bachmann-bashing artworks in the seed art display (yes, art literally made with seeds and grains), as well as quite a few pro-Obama pieces.

The seed art at the Minnesota fair has leaned liberal over the years -- birther-bashing, gay marriage-supporting, Occupy-supporting, Paul Ryan-bashing, Bachmann-bashing (again), Cheney-bashing, etc., etc., etc.

("Norm" is Norm Coleman; that one came from 2008, when he ran unsuccessfully for the Senate against Al Franken.)

Admittedly, the seed art is in one display at a massive fair; it doesn't seem as central as Missouri's rodeo.

Oh, and very little of the seed art actually invokes violence (unless you count Norm Coleman being felled by a bowling ball). But I'm more inclined to get upset about invocations of violence against the president when they involve either realistic ways that presidents have been victimized (shooting) or realistic ways that black people have been victimized (e.g., hanging). Violence via rodeo bull is not likely to happen to Obama in the real world.

And I can't think of anything further from the usual anti-black stereotypes than this sort of rural violence.

I'm inclined to let this slide because getting upset about it only invites right-wingers to dredge up every time any liberal or Democrat has said or done anything even remotely comparable (already they're invoking the head on the pike in Game of Thrones that was modeled after George W. Bush).

So I think this is a distraction. Best to denounce it briefly and just move on.


aimai said...

I think it will be largely ignored by Obama and the top dems--they've had to ignore much greater provocations. But, look, there is a different valence to what is done and said about our first black president than what was done and said, even in the throes of great anger, vis a vis Bush and/or Cheney. There just is. And when we get to having a female President the amount of "rape her" jokes and rape centered imagery is going to have a different valence than code pink holding up bloody hands at Condi Rice or making fun of Cheney for shooting his friend in the face.

Some kinds of violence towards political actors are, by historical precedent, no longer merely metaphorical when visited on the effigy or image of the political actor. To even refer to the rodeo clown thing as somehow being "rural violence" and therefore not associated with black people strikes me as weirdly ahistorical. Slavery itself was a rural/agrarian form of violence against blacks. James Wood was dragged behind that icon of rural life: the pickup truck.

What disturbs me more than the racial insult (the focus on Obama's lips) was the incestuous "we'ness" of the assumption behind doing this at the state fair as part of the show. Hell, I'm from Ma and we drove around with "don't blame me/I'm from Massachuesetts" on our cars but the STATE and state sponsored public events never, ever, showed this kind of disrespect towards any of our republican leadership. No one ever threatened Nixon or Bush with death or dismemberment or deportation. And certainly it never would have happened under the auspices of a public school superintendent.

This is all part of the right wing/heartland fantasy that their beliefs are universally held, that their resentments are reasonable, that losing the election gave them free reign to be sore losers for the rest of their lives, that if they can't run the store they can steal the merchandise. I disagree with that. I had to put up with Bush and Cheney and continue to respect the office and go about my business politely even though I actually knew they were engaging in criminal acts. These fuckers have never, not for one minute, given the President and his family the simple courtesy you'd offer a god damned stranger in the parking lot.

At any rate I'm sick and tired of this tit for tat shit--sometimes its actually more wrong to do some things to some people than to others. Specifically, I'm going to assert that it is more wrong to defame and threaten and symbolically castrate and attack the first black president than, say, the son of a former president and president himself. Why? Because people should punch up, not down. Because Bush was not in a vulnerable position and neither were his voters.

Steve M. said...

I take your lynching/James Byrd point, but there's a lot of psychic distance between rodeo-clown violence, which is stylized and played for laughs (with affection for the clown), and the extreme sadism of lynching.

And while it's not something that was sponsored by the government, I recall a Watergate-era National Lampoon Radio Hour with a mock call-in show on which callers were offering suggestions about what should happen to Nixon if he was found guilty. Responses included "I think he should be staked out in the desert under the hit sun and red ants put in his ears and nostrils" and "Hot pokers in the eyes." And that was written by the likes of, I suppose, Tony Hendra and Chris Cerf (Bennett's son) and other now-beloved folks who are regarded as the grandfathers of modern comedy. My point being that lefties imagine violence against pols we hate, too, and I'd prefer no pissing match on that.

Steve M. said...

HOT sun.

aimai said...

Violence against political opponents is nothing new but lets not kid ourselves--the violence and violent rhetoric aimed at both Clinton and Obama is over the top and was from the get go. Something something someone said "if Nixon was found guilty" doesn't even begin to come close to it.

Anonymous said...

Well done, that man! A bit of a laid back shrug, so rare on political sites where hissy-fits appear to be the norm.

When it comes to politicians of any colour I take the advice of the late, great Auberon Waugh who said that when faced with a politician on a soapbox simply shout, "SHOW US YOUR WILLY!"

Actually, it is a weakness in your otherwise excellent system that the president, who is merely another lying liar pol is also the Head of State and must therefore be treated with due deference. 'Over here' Her Maj rules supreme but has no power, and the pols are simply in transit across the stage being booed all the way. Surely it's not too late for you to have a monarch, you could start with 'King Barry' because he does that superiority 'schtik' better than anyone.

David Duff

Dark Avenger said...

Thanks for repeating right-wing nutter point here, Duffy-the-dumb.