The problem with mock-"grass roots" protests put together by highly paid political consultants is that they always lack the true common sense of the kind of theme always underlying a true grass roots protest. This is a prime example. The original "Joker Obama" poster, showing Barack Obama in Joker facepaint, was actually created by a liberal left-winger playing around with Photoshop, without intending to convey a political message. But the idea of co-opting it and captioning it "socialism" and (as this YouTube video suggests) presenting it as an anti-Obama campaign by posting it up around college campuses and young, left-wing cities like Los Angeles as a jab at Obama, is so inept that it can only have come from the narrow vision and backwards logic that seems to occupy the minds of political think-tank bureaucrats of any stripe. Here's why.

First, the Joker from The Dark Knight, the version that this image is lifted from, was no socialist; farthest thing from it -- he was an anarchist. That Joker conveys anarchism in his appearance, even. His hair is a mess, the make-up is disorderly, sloppy, has an air of griminess to it. Why? Because anarchism is the complete breakdown of order, the farthest thing from socialism. Real socialism has many drawbacks, but (as anyone who has visited the truly socialist-leaning areas of Northern Europe can attest) a tendency towards disorder isn't one of them. So the image itself totally dominates the presentation, while totally contradicting the message that the promoters are trying to push.

Batman villains tend towards one of three ideologies: anarchism, fascism, capitalism. Those within the last two types are looking to take the easiest route to obtain power or line their pockets, rather than forward a real sociopolitical agenda. But this Joker was markedly different from the money/power types, even from the occasional apolitical revenge-seekers. Even the Jack Nicholson version of the Joker from the original Batman movie (discounting the camp versions from the 60s/70s) appeared more interested in making an artistic statement, rather than a political statement. The Dark Knight Joker was all about fraying the boundaries of polity.

But the biggest problem with the whole campaign is that the Joker is cool. He was the coolest thing going in The Dark Knight, much more fun to hang out with than the brooding, conflicted Bruce Wayne/Batman. He was the kind of villain you can't help but root for a bit, like Hannibal Lecter without the cannibalism, and with a big vision and a posse to bring it to life. Cooler than any Joker to come before him, and the reason that the film was taken seriously, and Heath Ledger won the only Oscar he'll ever get. Indeed, the Joker really was the winner by the end of the film. He didn't get killed off, and although he didn't get the citizens to blow each other up, he succeeded in corrupting the incorruptible Harvey Dent, and in getting Batman first to break all bounds of privacy with that mass-cell phone infiltration, and ultimately to break his own code by killing Dent.

Now, that "criticism" of Obama, that he's too cool for school, is a message previously pushed in the pre-election Summer with a horribly misdirected ad campaign, part of the "Celebrity" and "The One" series, questioning whether Obama was too much a "celebrity" to lead. Which only made people think of him in a larger-than-life (i.e. "presidential") frame. So, painting "cool President" Obama as "cool villain" Joker doesn't really get people to think Obama is a villain. For the people it seems to be aimed at, college types who are on the fence politically and still developing their own ideology, it just sends the message that Obama is even cooler than they'd thought.


Please note, this is not intended as a statement for or against Obama, or his political opponents; just an analysis of the ineptitude of a particular piece of political theatre.

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