Sunday, 07 February 2010

If you think this is awful, you should read the comments below the fold. A number of you have emailed me a link to the latest Jack Cashill article, and although I understand why, I'm not any better equipped to deal with his unsubtle descent into pure lunacy than you folks are. What can you do with an article that argues: No one would ever want to go to Kenya, so Obama's resemblance to his maternal grandfather, Stanley Dunham, is suspicious; therefore Stanley Dunham is his real father, but because Obama must have one black parent, That means his father must have been Stanley Dunham's friend, the black communist Frank Marshall Davis; Or, because these friends drank at a black bar near a red-light district, Obama must be the child of Dunham and a black prostitute, because White women with black children were socially acceptable, whereas white men with black children were not, and Barack Obama Sr. was enlisted because "African" is a more respected cultural identity than "Negro," and because, as everyone knows, No one named "Darnell Johnson" would ever be elected President; moreover, Stanley Dunham sung the Obama Sr.'s praises Obama, which would have been odd in "the racially charged 1960s," especially when you consider That a 69-year-old woman said a momentous something happened in 1961, when in fact it had to have been in 1962 that This 69-year-old woman saw Ann Dunham nursing baby Obama, which she could not have been, because Obama must have been born to Dunham in February or March of 1961, on account of the fact that pregnant women can't attend college, But if they could, they would have learned that scientists use the phrase "inference to the best explanation," which leads Cashill to infer that "Obama was likely born in Hawaii but that Ann Dunham did not give birth to Barack Obama Sr.'s child on August 4, 1961," and what proves the legitimacy of this inference is that A celebrity biographer got confused when 69-year-old women mistook something that happened 49 years ago for something that happened 50, meaning The mainstream media ought to be paying attention to this, but because it is not, Cashill has no choice but to label himself a "birther." Putting aside for a second that the majority of these alternative parentage theories would utterly invalidate the birther's central claim that Obama is ineligible to serve (white Washingtonians and black Hawaiian prostitutes being natural born citizens and all); and putting aside all the racist assumptions (white women love black men, but no white man would ever want to have sex with a black woman, the history of slavery in American notwithstanding); and putting aside the blatant contradictions (Dunham named his child "Barack Obama" so no one would think he's black); and putting aside all the other nonsense in this article, you are left with nothing. Because once you put aside everything that sensible, rational people rightly put aside, there's nothing there. Every time he posts something, I wonder what whether this new bit of lunacy will be what's required for those conservatives...
Paris Hilton : Bruce Wayne :: Roosevelt : The Bat-Man Timothy Burke's post on how characters who originated during a particular cultural moment in the first half of the Twentieth Century are incapable of escaping it is compelling: Batman (and most other comic-book and pulp characters from the time of his original appearance) draws a lot of his basic storytelling and setting from a moment when middle-class and working-class Americans were enmeshed in a complex national encounter with crime, law enforcement, corruption and Prohibition: a helpless frustration that the state couldn’t control organized violence and illegal commerce combined with a thrill at the lurid spectacle of gangster criminality and in more than a few cases, direct participation in an illicit economy of leisure that exposed the ludicrousness of middle-class respectability. One of the commenters on the Varney article very incisively observes that the result is that the Batman character is forever trapped fighting “Italian-American gangsters in pinstripe suits and crazy circus folk.” However, drawing on expertise I can't legitimately claim, I think it's wrong. "The Bat-Man" (as he was then called) first appeared in Detective Comics 27, published in May of 1939, six years after Prohibition had been repealed, but two years before military mobilization would help the American economy recover the losses of the Recession of 1937. The economic situation was bleak, but the violence associated with Prohibition had so abated that even Dick Tracy was being re-purposed to fight threats abroad. The pulp aesthetic still appealed to the popular imagination, but its villains had become more myth than menace, which is why I would argue the appeal of Bruce Wayne in 1939 had more to do with the "helpless frustration" created by the depressed economic climate. Wayne is, after all, introduced to the reader as that most pointless and contemptible of people: He may be the dullest socialite ever, hanging out with Commissioner Gordon deep into the night, but he still represents the only upper-class figure commonly reviled by anyone with any political affiliation: the idle rich. Even the feigned ennui in these panels is designed to play upon a deep annoyance with people who have no cares and care about nothing: Did the Bat-Man become a popular character because the largely middle-class children who read comics wanted to see a wealthy man beat up, down, and upon common criminals? Not really. I don't think we can underestimate the potential appeal of believing that the Paris Hiltons of the Great Depression secretly deserved the air they breathed. Roosevelt's popularity was due, in part, to the image of him as a patrician who cared. He could have weathered the Depression on the strength of his family's fortune, but he believed in social responsibility (or so the story went). The socialite-as-secret-hero narrative almost reads like a deliberate attempt to cure a literary-naturalist hangover: the robber barons and their idle children had been savaged for the better part of three decades, but with the Roosevelt's rise to national prominence, a new mode for what had become an archetypal villain became possible....

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