(The United States of America is two months away from a crucial election. The election will decide if America will retrace its steps and reconnect with its defining objectives, or continue on the strange and sinister trajectory on which it has been launched by Donald J Trump. Henry Louis Gates, Harvard University professor and notable African American historian, has written, in trying to explain the phenomenon of Trump, that the presence of four good looking, well-educated and decent African Americans in the White House for a period of eight years had the effect of “freaking out” many white Americans, and that Donald Trump and his “base” are the products of that “freaking out”.
The early signs of race hate rising to a level of socialised “insanity” were there, even while the Obamas were still on Pennsylvania Avenue.
A piece in an earlier version of this column, published in February 2009, is reproduced here. The events described, and the role of the Rupert Murdoch press, seen together with present happenings, may leave the reader with a sense of déjà vu.’)
Just the other day, the New York Post carried a cartoon which had not just ugly, but even dangerous, overtones for Barack Obama, President of the United States of America.
Some people were so incensed by the cartoon that they wanted to request the FCC, the regulatory body in charge of all broadcasting, to revoke the publishing licence of Newscorp, the company owned by Rupert Murdoch, publishers of the New York Post and owner of Fox News channel.
Murdoch media are famous for their unabashed opposition to anything that runs counter to the “received” order of things, which is an America, and a world, controlled by white male persons, practising their virulent, unforgiving form of “Christianity”.
It is, unfortunately, an argument that has held powerful, if obnoxious resonance for centuries
In the course of his campaign to become the first African American President of America, Barack Obama encountered no stronger opposition than from the Rupert Murdoch media. Fox News fought him till their knuckles were bloodied. In the process, every rule of decent engagement in a democratic society was broken by them. Towards the end, when the Obama landslide was becoming inevitable, they became livid, frothing insanely at the mouth. But nothing they could muster could burst Obama’s bubble. A new reality had dawned.
If anyone thought these sorts of people were just going to lie down and die, they were sadly mistaken.
It is in the context of all this that the cartoon in the New York Post should be seen.
It is appropriate here to paint the full picture of what the cartoon says. It shows an urban scene, and two policemen standing. One of them has his gun drawn, and there is evidence that he has just fired it. Splayed out on the ground before them is the body of a dead monkey. The monkey has been shot dead by the policeman. In the caption, the policeman is saying
“Now someone else will have to sign the Second Stimulus Bill”.
This was just days after President Obama appended his signature to the First Stimulus Bill, designed to jump-start the American economy.
It is difficult to understand the cartoon in any other way than the obvious. The monkey is the President of the United States. The white Policemen are the embodiment of “Law and Order”.
The cartoon, in effect, is a denigration of Obama and his race, and an invitation to “law enforcement” to lynch the “uppity black man”.
There have been vociferous denials all the way round. The paper has denied racist intent. The author of the cartoon has sworn to highest heaven that such was not his intention.
The pattern, and the evidence, sadly, is that there is no mistake here. It is, at the least, an attempt by people who have lost the vote and feel temporarily off balance to reassert themselves, to tell themselves, and others who may be listening, that they are still in charge.
It is, unfortunately, an argument that has held powerful, if obnoxious resonance for centuries.
But the world has changed, things are not the same, and perhaps will never be the same again. Barack Obama is the leader of America, whether anybody likes it or not. Change has come, not only to those who desire change, but those who oppose it most violently.
Bizarrely, an African American, Michael Steele, has just been appointed as Chairman of the Republican Party.
Black conservatives in America have tended to be people of middle class who have done well for themselves in business. They are all too often cast in the character of “attack dogs” by the Republicans, much freer to denounce black issues like affirmative action and “black criminality” than whites are. Steele – like other notable black Republicans, is not a popular figure, or held up as a symbol of success among the masses in his community.
Ironically, even if the appointment of Michael Steele was a cynical move to get the blacks into the conservative wagon, it comes at a cost for red-faced rednecks. Being GOP Chairman is power of a sort, and a further crack in the glass ceiling that has held black people down. The man elected to staunch black change has himself, without any intention to do so, become an emblem of change.
Indeed, both Barack Obama and Michael Steele have become symbols of political change.
Rednecks, crowded out of Pennsylvania Avenue, are left to lick their wounds and spread their message through word of mouth, through conspiracy theories, through tendentious talk shows on Fox News and through hate cartoons with criminal innuendoes.
It is an admission that they are out of power, at least for a season. But it is not their intention to be out of power for long.