November 12, 2007

Swiftboat Anatomy


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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 PLEDGE… 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.

Post By

Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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