Why are people so fascinated by the Obama Joker poster?
This poster depicting Barack Obama as the Dark Knight Joker is currently causing a stir in America and the rest of the world.
Debate on the subject has been raging online and in papers on what the poster means, from those claiming it shows a backlash against Barack Obama to arguments that it is a popularised racist attack on the President.
But perhaps what is most interesting about the poster is that we’re even surprised that people are now openly mocking the American President. The debate itself is probably an indication of how incredibly popular Obama still is.
For those of you who haven’t seen or heard about the Obama Joker Socialism poster it anonymously emerged as early as April around Los Angeles freeway walls, but it has only been popularised in recent weeks. It is now reportedly showing up in other cities.
According to The Daily Mail the poster collapsed the first internet site that displayed it and is one of google’s top hot topics.
America’s Fox News Channel has publicised the poster with some right wing commentators pointing to it as beginning of a mainstream backlash against the President.
“It is starting,” says Thomas Lindfun the editor of conservative website American Thinker told The Times.
“Open mockery of Barack Obama, as disillusionment sets in with the man, his policies, and the phony image of a race-healing, brilliant, scholarly middle-of-the-roader.”
Others have justifiably pointed out that there was an entire industry of posters and t-shirts calling George W. Bush just about everything under the sun. Ditto Sarah Palin who was out and about for 30 seconds before it started.
Some Obama diehards have made rather ham-fisted attempts to denounce the poster with Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, quoted in The Times as characterising the poster as “dangerous”.
“Depicting the president as demonic and a socialist goes beyond political spoofery.
“It is mean-spirited and dangerous.
“We have issued a public challenge to the person or group that put up the poster to come forth and publicly tell why they have used this offensive depiction to ridicule President Obama.”
Of course to the call the poster dangerous is ridiculous, it’s a plain expression of democratic freedom. In a democracy people are free to dress up Barack Obama as a bee and call him a de’Medeci apologist if they so wish.
Furthermore, this argument plays perfectly into the hands of Republican critics that Democrats can’t take what they have been dishing out for years. Ofari has since watered down his comments on the Huffington Post.
Phillip Kennicott of The Washington Post devoted his entire column to the poster today. He concluded that as the imagery of Obama as the Joker did not make sense it was actually racist:
“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.”
But whether Obama can be called a socialist or the poster is racist kind of misses the broader point here: why has a funky looking protest poster against Barack Obama on an LA underpass fascinated so many?
The poster uses the same techniques of tapping into popular culture that Obama has used to his advantage against him, which does make it a particulaly interesting and pin -pointed attack.
Obama’s popularity ratings have dropped from messiah level to mere prophet status, but one could hardly argue that the appearance of a poster or two is evidence he’s on the way out.
Rather than being an indicator of an Obama backlash, it’s probably more of a sign of his on-going popularity that America and world think it so novel that some people - wait for it - don’t much like Barack Obama.
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