Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
May 5, 2012

Newsflash: Franco Still Dead and Obama Still Black

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If there’s a fundamental weakness with the new web ad attacking Obama for taking too much credit for killing Bin Laden, I suppose it’s that the previous administration also spiked the football but lacked actual victories to celebrate. (“Mission Accomplished” comes to mind).

To be honest, what I mostly got out of the video involves the very first image. If you don’t blink, you’ll see a large inflatable raft fighting rough seas. Supposedly conjuring Navy Seals, the more logical, and actually pretty funny effect of the scene (because Abbottabad isn’t on the ocean) is to telegraph that “Veterans for a Strong America” has formally ushered in “swiftboat season.”

Anyway, though they show Obama a few times in the ad with his normal skin coloring, the majority of shots of the president show him darker than he is. That Obama is black transcends the other message in the ad and becomes, I guess, the breaking news.

Now, I look at this technique in two ways: 1. What will you remember from the ad: that the president is taking credit for something he decided to do or that the president is black, black, black? Actually, you may take away both, but his black, black, blackness serves as salt in the wound of his uppity-ness: Not only are real heroes humble, the president is arrogant and black, black, black. 2. Even if you afford yourself the plausible deniability on emphasizing Obama’s blackness by running shots of him with normal coloring, what will the color conscious viewer take from the majority of shots that emphasize his blackness? Damn, he’s black.

This ad isn’t really aimed at convincing those who might vote for Obama to vote for Romney (aka, white, white, white). It’s an “excite the base” ad that rubs the president’s race in the face of an electorate that won’t go vote for Romney in the rain.

— Karen Hull

(Video: Why does President Obama take so much credit for killing Bin Laden? Produced by: Veterans for a Strong America)

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