March 11, 2008


The Red Phone in Black and White (Orlando Patterson, 3/11/08, Der Spiegel)

I have spent my life studying the pictures and symbols of racism and slavery, and when I saw the Clinton ad’s central image -- innocent sleeping children and a mother in the middle of the night at risk of mortal danger -- it brought to my mind scenes from the past. I couldn’t help but think of D. W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,” the racist movie epic that helped revive the Ku Klux Klan, with its portrayal of black men lurking in the bushes around white society. The danger implicit in the phone ad -- as I see it -- is that the person answering the phone might be a black man, someone who could not be trusted to protect us from this threat.

The ad could easily have removed its racist sub-message by including images of a black child, mother or father -- or by stating that the danger was external terrorism. Instead, the child on whom the camera first focuses is blond. Two other sleeping children, presumably in another bed, are not blond, but they are dimly lighted, leaving them ambiguous. Still it is obvious that they are not black -- both, in fact, seem vaguely Latino.

Finally, Hillary Clinton appears, wearing a business suit at 3 a.m., answering the phone. The message: our loved ones are in grave danger and only Mrs. Clinton can save them. An Obama presidency would be dangerous -- and not just because of his lack of experience. In my reading, the ad, in the insidious language of symbolism, says that Mr. Obama is himself the danger, the outsider within.

Sweet! Our first obligatory Klanswoman reference. How long until they have her just about driving the pickup in Jasper, TX like they did W?

Too bad Bernard Kettlewell isn't around to warn Mr. Patterson that if you spend your life looking for something you find it, even if it doesn't exist.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 11, 2008 7:44 AM

Poor Mr. Patterson and the Democrat activist left just don't get it, do they? The Clintons are not going to allow Barack Obama to become President. No way, no how. To paraphrase The Terminator: You still don't get it, do you? They'll destroy him. That's what they do. That's all they do! You can't stop them. They'll wade through you, reach down his throat, and pull his f'ing heart out.

Posted by: b at March 11, 2008 9:20 AM

Has anyone alive today actually seen Birth of a Nation? Anyone, that is, except:

(1) film-school geeks;

(2) anyone who saw Nickelodeon (1976), which included brief clips from Birth of a Nation in a theater scene; or,

(3) racial-grievance-studies majors.

Posted by: Mike Morley at March 11, 2008 11:30 AM

This has me thinking about the consequences of another bogus racism charge:

Since we’re no longer allowed to use Barak [redacted] Obama’s original middle name, we need a replacement.

The first two that popped into my mind were “Mary” and “Nancy” but I’d rather not make him replace all his monogrammed hankies. {After all, we've all heard from Michelle how tightly stretched their family budget is, with the barely $500,000/year combined income.)

“Hillary” is much too butch for him to carry off.

But if you’ve ever seen the plurally eponymous movie, “Heather” has the perfect air of rich, spoiled, airheaded social-climbing fashion-plate bimbo.

So how about from now on, we refer to him as Barak Heather Obama?

In a few weeks, he’ll be begging people to start calling him “Hussein” again.

Posted by: Ralph Phelan at March 11, 2008 12:30 PM

My Civil War prof at Colgate--Carol Blesser--showed it to us on the first day. It's great filmmaking in an awful cause, like Triumph of the Will.

Posted by: oj at March 11, 2008 1:54 PM

I've seen it and I don't fit any of those categories. It was on TCM so I watched it.

Posted by: RC at March 11, 2008 3:40 PM

Why not just Anglicize it -- "Who's sane"

Posted by: oj at March 11, 2008 5:17 PM

That doesn't carry the "girly man" implications that he and his supporters' hissy fits about imagined racial slights have earned him.

Posted by: Ralph Phelan at March 12, 2008 7:41 AM