Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Interesting Get-out-the-vote images

Cycling in to campus today I saw some interesting get-out-the-vote images. Some tagging images of Obama, others tagging McCain. There were two messages about Obama that student groups used on a series of Obama pictures: anti-abortion and communist imagry. In the first, you can see a pro-life (aka "anti-abortion") sticker placed over Obama's eyes, blinding him. This is an interesting image, since you could argue that it is trying to say that Obama is blind to the immorality of abortion or you could argue that the position that abortion is immoral is a blind one. Not absolutely clear, but that's the problem with imagry-warfare.

The second one has sticker of a Soviet Union flag above Obama's head, almost like he's looking up towards it (although if the person who stuck it there was as OCD as I can be, it would have been more obviously in Obama-image's line-of-sight). It is trying to link Obama with the idea of socialism (something the McCain-Palin ticket has been trying over the past several weeks, ever since their plant - Joe the pseudoplumber - asked Obama a question about the taxes a company he couldn't have purchased would have to pay under an Obama presidency). Unfortunately, the people don't seem to grasp a couple of points. First, communism and socialism are not equivalent (and university students who have taken a class in politics should know the difference). Communism is a form of governance where the mode of production is governed by the people, and governance is done at the commune (or local) level. Socialism is a form of governance where government decisions are made with the idea of benefitting a broad swath of society. The mode of production does not need to be governed by the people (but it is owned by them), nor do governance questions need to be taken at the local level. It is, at best, a middle point between out-and-out capitalism (which we never had) and communism, and it is practiced in many different ways throughout the world. (One could argue that the United States has a form of socialism: corporate socialism.)

Second, the thing that Republicans seem to constantly downplay is that the color of socialism (and communism, and anarchy, too) is red. The color assigned to the Republican party (which they have embraced) is red. Of course, when people call Obama a "red" they mean a communist red, not a Republican red. Still, it is - as an image - a funny one (to me) since Republicans share the color red with the communist movement.

Third, one of the constants in many successful communist movements throughout history is the attacks or dimunition of the intelligensia by communists. In Phol Pot's Cambodia, Western educated people were killed. In Mao's China, higher education was frowned upon (yay for the Great Leap Forward?). In Lenin's (and later Stalin's) Soviet Union, engineers and scientists were respected only to the extent that they could help maximize output from production.  Much of this sentiment seems (to me) to have arisen because the intelligensia were of the middle and upper classes - the bourgeoisie and (at one point-in-time) nobility - while the communists were trying to get the support of the working-class - otherwise known as the proletariat. Now, look at the Republican strategy in this campaign: a belittling of the intelligensia (Palin's mocking of community organisers sticks out as one early example), a major effort to get the support of the working-class (appeal to the proletariat) via people like Joe the [pseudo]plumber (and earlier with images of "Joe Sixpack" and "hockey moms"), and the painting of regions of the United States (which "just happen" to include large areas including the majority of universities) as liberal or non-American. These tactics seem to be a call for a rousing populism very similar to those used by Lenin, Mao and Phol Pot. ... and Republicans call Obama a socialist. (Not only that - they contradict themselves by calling him and his followers elitists, conflating "elitism" with "socialism"! Ironic much!)

Finally, why choose the flag of the Soviet Union? Why not choose China, Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Poland, East Germany, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Albania, Mongolia, North Korea, or Cuba? Is it because the person happened to have a USSR flag at the time, having placed all the other current and former communist country flags on other posters throughout the university? Is it because the "red scare" is tied most strongly with the USSR? Is it because people recognize the symbol of the USSR? It is funny to me because the person chose to use a sticker of a country that no longer exists, and one that (arguably) never came close to meeting the standard of Marxist communism (devolving into a form of dictatorial pseudocommunism). Following this logic, one might argue that it was chosen because that great neo-conservative Republican president, Ronald Reagan, was the one to destroy Soviet communism, thus saving the world (regardless of evidence showing that it was likely to collapse anyway, and Reagan might have actually prolonged its life or could have transformed it into a thermonuclear-hot war through his constant provocations if it weren't for Gorbachev), and is therefore the appropriate symbol (somehow) for this occaision. (I would have used the Eretreian flag, since it would harken to both communism and Africa, but that would be elitist of me, right?)

These attacks of trying to paint Obama as an elitist socialist are laughable when you break it down, but that's just an uppity elitist hapa talking, not some everyday-American. (Of course, I personally feel that everyday-Americans should try and take higher education seriously, but that must be my elitism shinging through.)

On the other hand, I saw quite uninspired Obama sticker attacks on McCain. These only involved placing Obama stickers over McCain-Palin ones. Not really thought-provoking. Very effective, though.

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