Sunday, March 04, 2007

Is this man an idiot?


I don't admit to fully understanding the way the American poiltical system works, but I do keep a weather eye out for the major players. At the moment the road to the 2008 US elections is clogged with people from all sides of the political spectrum throwing their hats into the ring. However, for me, the most interesting character is Democrat Senator Barack Obama. I first came across Obama when he was interviewed on the Daily Show and he was just as funny as Jon Stewart (no mean feat). Since then I have been quite impressed by him (he certainly seems better equipped morally to be President than George Bush - but then a so is a chimpanzee...)

But certain parts of the US media have already begun the hatchet job on Obama. Wild stories and distortions of parts of his past have been hysterically screamed by Fox in particular (no surprise there).
"HIS MIDDLE NAME IS HUSSEIN!"
(so what....unless they are cynically playing up to people's fears)
"HE WAS EDUCATED IN A MADRASSA!"
(Otherwise known as, the islamic name for a school - a sensible, none-extremist school, as the reporters who actually went to the school discovered)
"HIS SECOND NAME SOUNDS A BIT LIKE 'OSAMA'!"
(ooh, there we go, back to cynically exploiting fear again. Fox captioned a news item on Obama with Osama "by mistake")

and worst of all
"HE'S A SMOKER!"
(Genuine quote on Fox "Do we really want a man like that [who smokes] in the White House?")

Now a new question has entered the ring. Clearly Obama, as you can see from the picture here, is black:
But is he black enough? Obama's Ivy League education and Mid-western accent has led many to question his credentials to be America's first black president. While being interviewed by CBS' Steve Kroft, whose picture adorns the beginning of this post, the following exchange occurred:

Kroft: Your mother was white. Your father was African?
Obama: Right.
Kroft: You spent most of your life in a white household?
Obama: Yeah.
Kroft: I mean, you grew up white.
Obama: I'm not sure that would be true. I think what would be true is that I don't have the typical background of African-Americans . . .
Kroft: You were raised in a white household?
Obama: Right.
Kroft: Yet at some point, you decided that you were black?

Perhaps I'm missing something here, but for goodness sake Mr Kroft, the man is sitting in front of you! Maybe his upbringing is not typically what you expected (which seems a little condescending by the way), but surely you can use your eyes to see that he didn't have to 'decide' on the colour of his skin!

Read this very interesting article from this weeks Guardian G2 that sparked this post.

It all seems crazy to me......

9 comments:

daz said...

The exchange does seem a bit daft. especially since in the past america has been very vocal against other countries who are "rascist". Seems to me the press are indulging in a bit of spin. Its a difficult one really cos I suppose in america 9/11 is still fresh and they paint all muslims/ black/asian with the same brush. So I suppose fox are playing on that. Although it works both ways I wonder if you were in bush's shoes whether youd do anything different having to take a decision to protect everyone in america. I think that even if this guy got to be president he wouldnt be anything different than bush. Its always easier to criticise when its not you making the decision.

Valerie said...

Yah, it's crap. Racist crap. I've been an Obama supporter since early on in his Congressional run, because he is eloquent, moderate and sane. A very intelligent and well-spoken guy.

I think he'd have made very different choices than Bush, daz, but as you say we're not the ones in the hot seat.

9/10ths Full of Penguins said...

Thanks for the posts!

I think the more I hear about Murdoch and Fox, the more evil I think they are!

Daz, it is true, its easier to criticise. However, one of the great things about democracy is that we can openly question the actions and motivations of our leaders. And in some cases, that questioning is not happening effectively.

Anyway, thats a whole other post... which will not be posted next as I plan to do something silly and whimsical again!

daz said...

Just in answer to that, You say we have the right to question, and your dead right and thats the difference between democracy and a dictatorship. But as far as your views concerning bush and america etc. Its all about your perspective and how you feel their actions fit in with your views and how the press spin it. For instance I always thought from what Id seen on tv that nelson mandela was this super peacfull guy and he worked for peace and was generally a good guy. but when you actually research it a bit it turns out he was part of a terrorist organisation called the ANC with was backed by communist russia to blow up women and children and carry out armed struggle against south africa's civilian population. Now that took me by surprise, its not what you see on TV thats for sure. so its all about how the media manipulate everyones views. You cant stand bush because through the media you think he goes around starting wars left right and centre ( maybe thats true) but what about the other side of the coin and consider all the millions of pounds of foriegn aid that america sends to the east? Im not a bush supporter or a detractor im in the middle, cos its too simplistic to call him evil and just assume that this other chap will be any different. when your not in power of course you can make extravigant promises about how you would do things different but in reality he would'nt

Anyway

Tim Footman said...

I think the real hostility to Obama is based on the fact that he has had an unusual, rather cosmopolitan background, by comparison with the majority of Americans. There are all these snide comments about the fact that he went to school in Indonesia (how many US voters had even heard of Indonesia before that came up), but there are lots of people who'd be suspicious if he'd been to a junior high in Canada.

Don't forget that when GWB became president, he'd been out of the country about twice. The fact that he skived his way out of Vietnam could actually have been turned to his advantage - he could have claimed that he stayed home because he missed his Mom's cooking...

Nat said...

Of course we've heard of Indonesia: that's where our clothes come from.

Sorry, had to say it. The whole "fair trade" concept is still not much more than a vague notion in the US right now. Hopefully thing will get better (fairer?).

Tim's right, though. Most Americans have not left the country, and even people from our closest neighboring country to the south are not culturally accepted here. Cosmopolitan is a word that could only describe a small proportion of Americans. So again, Obama finds himself in the minority.

I think that was part of GWB's initial appeal as a politician. He is a "common man" who doesn't know the meaning of many big words and is a good ol' boy from the South. But of course, being born into extreme wealth and being the son of a former President makes him far from common, especially in his understanding of the people.

With reguards to the initial post, I think the interviewer was criticizing Obama's choice to identify himself (culturally) as a black man even though he is in fact a mix of two races*. There is a whole thing in the US where 'black' or 'white' aren't entirely a matter of skin color but also a matter of cultural identity. Of course he should indentify with being 'black' because that's what color his skin is. It makes the most sense. The interviewer criticizing his choice to emphasize that part of his heritage is rather unfair. The unspoken question: Why not emphasize your whiteness? Also, being raised into neither a traditional african-american household nor in an entirely typical white one makes the question of cultural identity far more complex than the interviewer is allowing for.

Noteably, I myself am not entirely sure how strongly he indentifies with black culture. The interviewer seems to think he does, but I honestly have not been following the news lately. I don't know much about him, so I do apologize if I missed something or have gone off completely in the wrong direction.

*"Race" - I'm sorry I used that term. I don't like using it. I believe race is a social construction. Anthropology has convinced me of this. Culturally tested and science-approved.

daz said...

This whole conversation does seem rather silly, what difference should it make if your white, black, asian or any other minority groups. should it not be simply hes american? Why on earth do we have to have african american etc, why cant people who live in america be simply american whatever your colour or culture if your a citizen in america then your american. There is a similar thought in the uk, people are brought up to consider themselves as two seperate identities its really stupid. If your british your british its as simple as that whatever your colour or culture/religion.

And by the way lee Fox is indulging in spin, but then so are you by calling bush a chimpanzee. fox is indulging in some right wing spin and you some left wing spin. At the end of the day preidents and prime ministers are always gona be critisized by everyone whatever they do because its the nature of the job that you cant please evryone. obviously there is alot of anti bush stuff but to be honest im not interested because your not offering an alternative your just bitching about it. Although i do wonder given the choice whether youd want the chimpanzee bush or saddam hussien as your countries leader? mmmm not much thought needed there.

heres a question for you lee that is along the same lines- If you were president what would you have done different since the Un had given saddam so many chances to stop what he was doin and he just ignored them? what would you do to enforce international peace?

Nat said...

Spin is deceiving, which is unethical of the media if they do it intentionally. By definition they're not doing it out of ignorance, so there must be a bit of intention involved.

Calling Bush a chimpanzee is not spin. I don't think anybody could be lead to believe that Bush is, in fact, a chimp. Imagine the headline: "Nation Elects Lower Primate as Commander in Chief!"

I do agree, though, that skin color shouldn't be an issue. As a voter it isn't for me, and really regardless how much the media talks about it they (thankfully) can't make the final decision about whether it matters in terms of the election.

9/10ths Full of Penguins said...

Thank you for all your posts, its been interesting to read all your thoughts.

Welcome Tim, thanks for stopping by!