What's Behind the Pig with Lipstick Story?
Google News features 884 stories in Top News Stories on the latest manufactured flap by the McCain team. They are accusing Barack Obama of sexism, because of a remark he made during a recent speech. You can listen to the excerpt from Obama's speech, or read a solid piece covering the flap by Jimmy Orr in the Christian Science Monitor election blog.
“John McCain says he’s about change too, and so I guess his whole angle is, ‘Watch out, George Bush – except for economic policy, health care policy, tax policy, education policy, foreign policy, and Karl Rove-style politics – we’re really gonna shake things up in Washington.”
“That’s not change,” Obama continued before launching the land mine. “That’s just calling something, the same thing, something different. You know you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.”
The McCain team claims that this was an underhanded sexist smear against Sarah Palin because in her stump speeches she uses the quip, "You know the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick.”
Is this just another mountain out of a molehill, an attempt to shift attention from the substantial policy issues that should be the subject of this election campaign to a bogus issue of alleged sexism? I'd like to suggest an alternative hypothesis. Yes, it is a scene shifter but perhaps the purpose is uglier--an appeal to the racism that (as numerous psychological tests have shown, is endemic in the American population. Obama himself alluded to this in his Rev. Wright speech, when he said that his own loving grandmother had admitted to being frightened of ssing black men at her bus stop at night.
Certainly the slanders that Obama is secretly a Muslim, slanders that have been spread by emails and are aired in Corsi's book, Obama Nation. are not only an appeal to religious bigotry but an attempt to conflate being a "Muslim" to being Un-American, foreign and dangerous--in other words a black man to be feared.
Swift boating entered our lexicon after the 2004 election when John Kerry's heroism during the Vietnam War was called into question. He was accused of lying about his war record. This introduced the theme that he was a flip/flopper on issues; a man who couldn't be trusted to lead the country. That was ugly enough, but was their also a buried subliminal content to the 2004 swift boat campaign? What comes to mind when we visualizes a flip/flopper? Is it perhaps a limp-wristed liberal who comes from Massachussets where gay marriage is legal?
Is it too much of a stretch to suggest that the Republican ads that sneered at Obama as a celebrity and compared him with Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, not only evoked the image of a black entertainer but juxtaposed two white women admired for their sex appeal to a black man alleged to be abusing his alleged "celebrity status." Does this perhaps evoke a subliminal image, one we we remember from a not too distant past when a boy from Chicago could be lynched in Mississippi for whistling at a white woman. Now we have the allegation that Obama is sneering at Palin--a black man attacking a white woman by calling her a pig with lipstick.
Is this all a stretch of my over-active imagination? I hope so but I'm not at all sure that is the case. The use of subliminal imagery in advertising is well documented, as is the application of advertising methods to political campaigns. Al Gore provides many sources on this in his excellent book, Assault on Reason.
I learned about the current flap from an email by a friend. He is a strong Obama supporter but nevertheless what he wrote to me was,"Obama's gone over the top. He called Sarah Palin a pig with lipstick." I checked the story out with foreboding. Yes, its just another Republican hoax, but why would my friend and I even have considered that the possibility was true?