It’s hard to tell how much the far right, in its enduring hate for Obama, is seeing an opportunity in the Ebola hysteria, or the Ebola anxiety is feeding and re-igniting those racist and religious attacks on Obama from their heyday in ’07-’10 when he was so unknown. Either way, Twitter and social media is serving as its own source of incubation and a visual breeding ground for rallying the base.
Since the most effective treatment for noxious political memes is inoculation, it’s instructive to examine a few of these specimens to see what they consist of. This combo features the most common signature of the visual hate paranoia, the Ebola virus itself — this one with a little Barack head atop it. What better way to unnerve people — and to gloss over the near absence of domestic cases of the illness or the difficulty of transmission than with Mr. Squiqqly under a microscope? Notice in the companion frame how out of it Obama looks. Obviously, the inference (because he’s African, right?) is that he’s infected.
This last one is pretty terrifying. If the photo features a random Nigerian, the caption by association draws a link to Obama. And, to the extent that the diagnostic device and the infrared dot (remember this?) suggests a shooting, well you know where that’s leading.
Here’s Mr. Squiggly with the warning it could be mutating.
Then there are all kinds of variations on the Obama logo (and the Shepard Fairey poster).
Finally, this is pretty self-explanatory. If Obama is typically the model of propriety, again we’ve got the allusion that he’s not only got the virus but he’s “undomesticated.”
It’s actually worth taking a moment to talk about this one because it happens to be pretty clever. This somebody has really been following her Obama visuals because this plays a deck of race cards. What we have, by the way, are two images from much different times that have been combined together, and then the sign, of course, has also been photoshopped. As I wrote in December 2007:
With forty-six years of pain, thought and effort behind it, today’s Barack Obama seems fairly secure and unconflicted in his own identity as an African-American. …Too bad nobody informed the MSM.
The image above — taken while Obama was waiting to be introduced at a campaign event in South Carolina — was the “Barack entry” in TIME’s just released Images of the Year. Employing the shadow, the implication is that the meditative Obama is somehow personally split between dark and light.
The reuse of the ambiguous Barack campaign photo, from before we knew him, intends to call his race into question again, except the context here pulls for shame or withholding. The altering of the photo on the right, taken seven years later, is particularly slanderous because of its original source. If you remember, Michelle Obama lent her image to the hashtag activism calling for the return of the missing Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram. Both sick and clever in subverting the First Lady standing up for a (previous) humanitarian issue in Africa, the sign also plays on “the two-tone” Obama as if the difference in tone means he’s showing symptoms.
Almost seven years down the road from the election of the first black American president, in many respects it seems we’re back where we started.