A few weeks ago, fliers of President Obama in Heath Ledger’s Joker makeup with a caption of “socialism” began appearing around Los Angeles, making headlines and going absolutely viral on the web. The left went into an uproar, claiming the photo job was obviously racist, with the LA Times claiming all that was missing was the noose. Liberals used the photo, which went viral because it left such an impression on the visual sense, as a point to hem and haw about how insensitive and hate-filled the right-wing nut jobs are and how the poster obviously illustrates the underlying depravity of conservatives.
There’s only one problem: the artist, identified this week, can in no way be classified as a racist right-winger.
The image was created by a 20-year-old student named Firas Alkhateeb with a Palestinian heritage and who hails from Chicago. He didn’t vote in the last election and does consider the hype around Obama to be a bit much, but he was actually a supporter of the very liberal Ohio Dem. Dennis Kucinich, and takes exception to the idea that socialism is evil. So much for this being the racist work of a white right-winger.
It turns out that it was someone else, still anonymous, that took the image, originally a photoshopped TIME cover, slapped the caption on it and began hanging up fliers. I guess that means they’rethe racist now, right? That would have to be the explanation now since Firas doesn’t fit any sort of profile the left would like to use.
Regardless of his politics, I say good for Firas for creating a small pop culture phenomenon and not being ashamed of being a part of it. As for the left, I’d say this serves as a cautionary tale of what happens when you make broad-based assumptions over what seems to be a difference in ideology. It turns out that even young Arab students are capable of Photoshop dissent. But here’s the broader point – it makes absolutely no difference at all what the age or nationality of the artist is. A kneejerk reaction of racism is becoming all too common these days in response to any sort of criticism of Obama’s policies. This episode illustrates the sheer inanity of that line of thinking and why it’s always better to debate on substance rather than make ad hominem attacks against the other side.