Friday, September 25, 2009

The Joker's on You

Obama in Joker face with Socialism written below the imageOne day, the radio presets in my vehicle went kerflooey, and when I punched in the one for MPR I got KTLK instead. This was slightly disorienting, because KTLK is the Twin Cities home of Rush Limbaugh.

The big man himself was on the air at that very moment, talking about the Obama Joker poster. He was crowing that the artwork wasn't created by anyone from the Right after all, but rather was the work of a young Palestinian-American man named Firas Alkhateeb, who considered himself, if anything, a supporter of Dennis Kucinich. I managed to tune the radio to my preferred station just after those words, but promised myself I'd look into the facts of this story later.

Limbaugh had the facts right, at least the ones I heard in my 15 seconds of listening. Alkhateeb created the image "using a tutorial he'd found online about how to 'Jokerize' portraits" during winter break, according to the L.A. Times, which first reported on Alkhateeb's identity and reasons for creating the image. If he had any motivation at all, it was that Obama wasn't his idea of what a progressive leader should be.

The "socialism" label was attached later by someone else, of course, since Mr. Alkhateeb clearly wouldn't consider Obama a socialist. And this mashup makes a much more coherent origins story, because the combination of the image and words never made any sense. What does the Joker have to do with socialism? Huh?

Last night all of this came back to me in a rush -- no pun intended -- when I saw a Flickr photostream by a Chicago art director using the name "lunchbreath." (Since his posts are art, not photos, wouldn't it be better to call it an artstream or a cartoon stream?) All of his works are worth seeing, but I found this series especially resonant:

Cartoon with intsructions on how to create your own disjointed image mashup
Here are a few examples of what lunchbreath did with his formula. There are more on Flickr, so check them out!

Rahm Emanuel as the Rum Tum Tugger with Marxism-Leninism label beneath

Joe Biden as the Darth Maul with Bolshevism label beneath
Absurd, I know. That's the point.

But given Poe's Law, I'm sure there are some people out there who will take lunchbreath up on his offer of free ideas.

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