Why put this picture up? Well, obviously, it gets hits for BuzzFeed, which doesn't need any more motivation than that. It does need the utter lack of ethics and decency it takes to throw something this unfair into the public debate. The BuzzFeed staffer who did this post is Andrew Kaczynski, whom we've seen before. (He was behind "Paul Ryan Gets Testy and Walks Out of Interview.") Presumably, he's doing his job of attracting links, and I'm exacerbating the dynamic by linking. But I'm doing this because I have recently criticized Romney supporters for injecting race into presidential politics.
I said it was a mistake for Rush Limbaugh and others to play that Obamaphone lady over and over. Even with no mention of race, I thought the recording was used — with deniability — to stir up racial feelings. My post — "Just How Racist Is the 'Obama Phone' Video?" — got very strong pushback from commenters. People did not want to acknowledge that race had been injected at all. I participated in the comments at first. For example:
Look, those of you who don't see the racial problem are already probably going to vote for Romney. For Romney to win, he has to influence people in the middle who are sensitive to this kind of racial ugliness. You may say my sensitivity is set to[o] high, but I'm saying that I believe the people with my level of sensitivity are much more likely to determine the outcome of the election.But my commenters fought on, passionately, which showed, I think, how deeply they — like me — object to racial material. The objection took different forms. I was saying don't use powerful material when it will feel racial to some people, and they were resisting seeing it as racial. Within our disagreement, there was an intense agreement: We object to racial material.
Back to that T-shirt. Who should be condemned here? There's that bald-headed, no name guy. I assume he is a Romney opponent. The reasons for that assumption are oozingly obvious. (Here, Robert Stacy McCain spells them out for you.) He deserves condemnation, whether he's for or against Romney. The photographer deserves condemnation if he has thrown this crap into the public space without giving us a name, a shot of the man's face, or even a broader shot of the people around him. We are deprived of the context we need to think about whether other people at the rally saw it, approved, laughed, shunned him, confronted him.
But Buzzfeed and all the Romney opponents who chose to link to Buzzfeed should be ashamed. They lowered themselves. They saw an opportunity go racial and they took it. Here's Caroline Bankoff at New York Magazine:
This photo of the not-so-subtle look, taken at Friday's campaign rally in Lancaster, Ohio, doesn't really require further description.It sure as hell does require further description! Who was that bald man? How long was that shirt-back displayed? Is this a false-flag effort to smear Romney? And why don't you care? Just go ahead and stir up racial fears and ugliness, Caroline Bankoff. Shame on you and everyone else who slavered at the opportunity to serve up this racial obscenity.