Monday, August 07, 2006

FDL's Hamsher as CT-Sen Campaign Issue...?

As kazablog reported yesterday, part-time Oregonian Jane Hamsher has inserted herself firmly into the Lamont-Lieberman primary campaign, and now finds that she has become part of the story:
Lieberman angrily demanded that Lamont denounce the action and sever all ties with Jane Hamsher, the founder of the Web log Firedoglake, who posted the photo on another blog, She travels with the campaign along with other bloggers. She is not on the campaign staff but has actively promoted Lamont's candidacy and helped raise money for him through her blog.

The photo, showing former president Bill Clinton in dark glasses and Lieberman in blackface, appeared early Wednesday, accompanied by a dispatch attacking Lieberman, his supporters and some news organizations. There was no mention of the photo in the dispatch, and the photo later was removed. But the two campaigns heatedly traded charges as the day progressed.
For starters, here is the original post of Hamsher's that appeared at Huffington Post on the 2nd of August. As noted, at the Lamont campaign's request Hamsher had the photo retracted from the piece, so it's no longer there. For your viewing interest, here it is at right. The purported composer of the photo (although I have no reason to doubt him except for general internet suspicion), who commented as "darkblack", explains the picture this way:
Lieberman has attempted to activate a voting demographic that his strategists believe will aid him in his quest.

To this end, he has imported a figure, Bill Clinton, who has standing with the American black community, and has repeatedly asserted his personal credentials as one who has worked on behalf of that community.

Yet Lieberman has engaged in race baiting (with the Lamont flyer) as a cynical attempt to game this demographic, and he has engaged in other activities which cast doubtful shadows upon this allegiance.

Thus, in my opinion, Lieberman is pretending to be something that he is not for personal gain, exactly like the vile caucasian minstrel show performers of Vaudeville. And so my artist's impression stands.
That seems reasonably clear to me, and it does fit in with the recent commentary of Firedoglake's posts to that point, which made an issue of Lieberman's fairly transparent job of race-baiting a couple days earlier. The combination of that incident, and Clinton's semi-serious status among some African Americans as "our first black President" being used by Lieberman for political gain when Bill came to town, puts the picture in the proper context, and makes a fairly devastating political point: Joe Lieberman is a phony and a hypocrite. I get it, although to be fair I read the artist's explanation before I got to see the picture in its natural habitat, not allowing me to experience an initial reaction the way many commenters against Hamsher did.

If there is a mistake Hamsher made in using the photo, I would have to agree with the commenter in her original post who called the picture and its meaning too complex, and too open to other interpretations. (And also that it might make Lamont look bad by association as a result of any misinterpretation, something Hamsher seemed to agree with fairly quickly, based on the short time it spent up at HuffPo.)

But from there I have to diverge pretty quickly with those who are now upset at Jane, including kaza (and commenter Ron Beasley over at Middle Earth Journal). I guess I miss where depiction of blackface (as opposed to the actual wearing of it) is repugnant. In fact, the target of repugnance in the photo is Lieberman, not blacks. It's an attempt to use symbols of repugnant times in order to explain through exaggeration that those times are not completely dead. Is Lieberman a bigot? I'd say no, but that's not how he's being called out in the picture; he's being called a hypocritical panderer-by-association: "Some of my (semi-ex-ex) friend's best friends are black! Support me, too!"

Hamsher responds with a direct apology, which kaza doesn't like either, and then with a followup yesterday which I think gets at the true meaning of this story: this is what a thoroughly seasoned politician like Lieberman is resorting to in his drain-swirling campaign? Trying to tie Ned Lamont to a blogger? Even if you grant that Hamsher became temporarily unhinged, Holy Joe's last couple months have been an unrelenting excercise in Meltdowns 101--and this is part of his job! The clubby old guard is beginning to get frightened, and their panic attacks are not pretty. But what should be more important to them is that inflated kerfuffles like this one involving Fauxmomentum are a needless distraction that is costing THEM momentum, rather than those who now seek to crash the gates:
The punditocracy — and the LieberDems — should feel free to continue to roll around in the kind of solipsistic ignorance which completely ignores the fact that the people of Connecticut actually had something to do with this. I’ll just say right here that this kind of institutional blindness is fine by me.

An opponent who can’t keep his eye on the ball is just that much easier to beat.
And one last thing: Natural Born Killers has no redeeming social value? How about as a sledgehammer to the face of media fetishism that creates an easily discernible other, masking our own voyeuristic excitement at their violent antics? Robert Downey Jr. deserved an Oscar for his one-upmanship on William Atherton's portrayal of a TV news gorehound in Die Hard. I don't tend to like gratutiously violent movies in general, but NBK makes a serious point that requires cartoonish levels of violence to get across.

Update, 8/9 945AM--
Anybody ready to give Jane an apology? Today's Kos commentary by Congressman John Conyers notes this:
I am already concerned that Senator Lieberman's independent bid seems destined to divide Democrats in the most insidious ways. His supporters have called Ned Lamont an "Al Sharpton Democrat" and this morning Lieberman stated on the Today Show that he was committed "to bringing the Democratic Party back from the extreme, back from Ned Lamont and Maxine Waters." It is not lost on me that both of these appeals seem designed to peel off support for Mr. Lamont by highlighting his support from prominent African Americans. This type of rhetoric degrades the political process and should not be tolerated.

Joe Lieberman, posing as something HE IS NOT.