Saturday, 20 April 2013


Obama joker poster free speech or hate crime
The Obama Joker Poster has taken the Internet by storm, and anyone who is against President Obama’s policies or agrees with the notion that he is a socialist, is grabbing hold of the image. Obama joker posters, tee-shirts, and mugs have now found their way to the Pinellas County Republican Party. In fact, a visit to the Pinellas County Republican Party’s Facebook page has the Obama Joker Poster for sale in a variety of forms. Florida State Representative Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, finds the Obama joker picture hurtful and inflammatory.
He is quoted as saying, "If there had never been a period of time in this country when African-Americans in order to be funny played Stepin Fetchit type roles in greasepaint, and members of the majority population had not used such caricatures to make a people feel inferior or as buffoons, then maybe some folks could look at it for some pure artistic humor, but for many of us, it conjures up feelings of denigration."
Though we live in a country that advocates freedom of speech, is this crossing the line, especially for the Republican party? Let me point out an issue.
When Sarah Palin, a former Republican governor of Alaska, found her image defaced on the Internet, or when her daughter was used in a joke by David Letterman,there was an outcry across the GOP. The Republican camp jumped aboard the Palin bandwagon as rallies against David Letterman were held, and campaigns to stop the attack of Sarah Palin were launched nationwide. Additionally, when one Alaskan blogger questioned the motives of Sarah Palin’s sudden resignation, media outlets were sent letters by Sarah Palin’s attorney threatening defamation lawsuits.
Isn’t it ironic, that Republicans are now grabbing hold of the Obama Joker Poster image and using it in similar fashion as those who morphed an image of Sarah Palin and her baby?
If Sarah Palin had grounds for defamation, should President Obama remain silent as his image floats across the Internet? Of course freedom of speech allows for a great use of media forms that seem tasteless, even offensive, but does that make them criminal?
Another factor that must be taken into consideration is the use of greasepaint in the image. Though taking a photo of President Obama and calling him a socialist might be an expression of free speech, does it become an act of racism once you apply greasepaint to the face of an African American president? Greasepaint holds stereotypical and racist connotations for many people, dating back back to the early minstrel shows. Has this image by itself crossed the lines of free speech and moved over to an act of racism?