080409 Obamajoker
…The Joker was an Anarchist, not a Socialist, as all you people who went to see THE DARK KNIGHT 13 times know.

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  1. “I am going to set up a system which benefits the poor masses at the expense of some of the comfort and freedom of the rich… and there’s nothing the Batman can do to stop me! HAHAHAHAHAHA!”

  2. Also, doesn’t The Joker essentially defeat Batman in THE DARK KNIGHT? Apart from the two ferries failing to blow one another up, everything The Joker planned worked brilliantly.

  3. Michael, you’re right. He’s not a socialist…he’s a neo-socialist. And before you get on your high horse and start crying about republicans unfairly calling liberals socialists know that I don’t like either party. Both parties have done things to hurt this country.

  4. Okay… which superhero/supervillain most closely resembles the President? Green Arrow?

    While I have not analyzed the President’s policies in depth, he seems to be a Social Democrat.

    (And if you want to see what the United States should strive towards, go check out the Switzerland page on Wikipedia.)

  5. Yeah, I saw this on CNN.
    I’m not so much hung up on the definition of socialism, that’s just the paint on the vehicle, I’m interested in the idea that the President’s teflon image is melting away and how the public (combined with the media) reacts to any organized criticism, true or not. The concept that this Obama Joker has made it to posters, T-Shirts, Youtube viral videos and CNN coverage speaks to another message.

  6. Contrast this to the ubiquitous Shepard Fairey Obama image from last year and it shows the power of illustration to suit any agenda. This image touches on several levels of creepy – one being that the joker image used is also based on a deceased actor’s image.

  7. The anti-Obama crowd really hasn’t got much to work with, have they?

    I’m reminded of something Einstein famously said about a book of essays by various authors published to refute his theories. “If I had been wrong, it would have only taken one of them to prove it.”

  8. Buzz, I don’t think it’s much about the anti-Obamas having much to work with, it’s more about how much traction they’ll get in the mainstream press and public. There have been plenty of anti-Obama campaigns, the trouble is when they are given weight. It doesn’t have to make sense or even be right, that’s what most propaganda is.

  9. What’s most disturbing to me is the Obama supporters who are calling this poster “dangerous” and a “hate crime” and who are calling for the poster’s creator to “come forward.” Whatever happened to the First Amendment? As someone else already pointed out, when Drew Friedman Joker-ized George Bush there was no outrage over such treatment of the U.S. president.

  10. I think everyone knows the Joker = Obama, the same way that Penguin is obviously FDR and Solomon Grundy is so Eisenhower he might as well be hitting superheroes with a copy of “Germany Is Our Problem.”

    The tricky one is Orca. Part of me wants to say Teddy Roosevelt, because he was deeply interested in the Oceans, but part of me leans towards LBJ because of his interest in inner city children. Once again, Batman’s greatest foe vexes me.

  11. Almost eight years of seeing Bush drawn as hitler, satan, and even the Joker has made me pretty desensitized to this sort of thing.

  12. See, when it’s Bush as the Joker, it’s a beautiful grass-roots kind of thing, “dissent is the highest form of patriotism”, truth to power, yada, yada, yada.

    Ah, but when the tables turn, dissent and parody isn’t quite so appealing anymore, is it? The cries for the designer to “come forward” are as chilling as anything portrayed in “V for Vendetta” and similar “watch out for the facist right-wingers” folklore.

  13. Tom… Theodore Roosevelt was a superhero. He can’t be a villain because he was Commissioner (he used to walk a beat with Jacob Riis). He was almost bulletproof (in Milwaukee, and carried the bullet inside him until he died a natural death). And then there were all the social programs he managed to champion, a Republican president convincing a Republican Congress to pass many laws which remain today. Oh, and then there was the Nobel Peace Prize and a posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor (denied him originally because of his outspoken criticism following the war in Cuba).

    (I don’t know if anyone keeps score, but he’s been in quite a few comics, most notably three appearances in Uncle Scrooge (LaToSMcD 3, 10, 10B).)

  14. Martha Thomases Says:
    “Also, isn’t the whole white-face thing extremely creepy?”

    Funny, I’ll bet people say the same thing about the Joker. Guess it worked then.

  15. This is the best they can do? The desperation of the Obama critics is akin to watching the McCain/Palin ticket throwing out everything they could think of in the last weeks of the campaign. Only this is worse since the Republicans are actually hiring people to attend town meetings given by Democratic Congressmen in order shout out pre-scripted slogans to prevent the elected representative from speaking–and then they get on a bus and go to the next town meeting whether in that state or another. It’s everything combined that’s sleazy and much of it is funded by the health insurance industry which is spending more than one million dollars a day to keep a competing form health insurance from coming into being. When a company’s profits are measured in the billions, they’ll try anything to protect it. This phony “grass roots” campaign has already been labeled what it is– an Astroturf campaign. Seeing the Obama Joker just makes me wonder what they’ll try next because they’ll basically try anything that seems to work.

  16. Meanwhile sensationalist propaganda like Alex Ross painting Bush as vampire and Obama as Superman is met with resounding cheers from the comic community. Really? Do we need to put down any anti-Obama comment that’s found?

    Not that I liked Bush or the Republicans either, but I’m rather sick of the Obama worship and anyone that thinks that he’s really just soooo great is just acting.. stupid. (And don’t get me started on the Gates fiasco.) To me he’s just another politician making government bigger. Sure, it’s not outright socialism, but he is making the pig fatter. It’s like some kinda pseudo socialism that, sure, isn’t actual socialism like you have in Europe, but it’s not gonna work either.

    I’m stuck in Massachusetts with mini-Obama and Obama worshiper Deval Patrick. Hell, I swear the Democrats used him as a prototype for Obama. The slogans and propaganda were like a beta test. And I think Deval is not getting a second term. I even had a cashier at the generally hippy-ish Trader Joes comment that he was sick of Patrick and said he was definitely voting Republican. (Though not for the guy I liked who’s Republican this time and was independent when he ran against Patrick last time.) That surprised me. I wish some of these Democrat votes would wake up like that and just think for themselves. It’s like the flip side of when Bush got elected, when the Democrats were whining and the Republicans were do damn cocky and taking too much power.

    Sorry if I’m venting, but I just opened the page and saw that.

  17. The most depressing thing about this whole ‘controversy’ is it’s based around maybe a dozen posters in LA, then someone sent a picture of them to Drudge (most likely the creator himself) and now it’s on CNN. It is a wholly manufactured controversy compliments of everyone’s favorite republican shill, Matt Drudge.

    The most awesome thing about it is the idea that a 5% tax increase on the top 2% of earners ($1m per annum plus) somehow equals tyranny.


    Not to mention he’s a Kenyan born black supremacist who wants to let homos rape our soldiers in Afghanistan (and in the butt).

  18. Hey you guys, I don’t have ANY problem with this image, personally. It’s all free speech, what have you. And I don’t see anyone IN THIS THREAD saying it’s horrible and must be stopped or whatever. I’m sure there are places where that is being done, but not here.

    Personally, as Paul suggested, I’d rather discuss whether the Joker is really an Anarchist or a Nihilist. I got into trouble the last time I shouted out nihilism here, so can one of our philosophy majors comment intelligently?

  19. Hmmm….

    Under our current insurance system, we all pay into a group money pool with a fixed amount taken from our income, which is then drawn from every time a member of the group needs health care.

    Under a nationalized insurance system, we would all pay into a group money pool with a fixed amount taken from our income, which would then be drawn from every time a member of the group needs health care.


    Frankly, boiling this down to a partisan argument is pointless, divisive and deflects from the actual issue at hand, which is the goal of any piece of propaganda. It would not surprise me in the least if this piece was commissioned for, and is being distributed by, some private healthcare lobbying group.

    Not that it matters, as pretty much everyone, especially healthcare professionals, hate private insurance. If you don’t then you haven’t actually had to deal with an insurance company, or you’re really f’n lucky. It’s not a question of IF nationalized care will happen, but WHEN, and how good or bad a deal it will be.

    {*except me, because I can’t afford health insurance.}

  20. Oh, I’d definitely say that the movie Joker is a Nihilist. I’d go even farther to say that he is a Joker tailor made for people who don’t like comic books. The whole movie was. It was good, but not for the right reasons, which makes it bad for comic book fans. Can we say “grim and gritty” syndrome? The comic book Joker is just crazy. That’s why he works so well as a Batman bady. As far as the image goes, well you had to know you were asking for some sort of trouble. For the most part, I found it as predictable and uninspired as most mudslinging is these days. If they want good mudslinging, we all know they should hire a comic book writer… or Spurgeon. You can always count on him to be witty.

  21. Heidi asks is the Joker an anarchist of a nihilist?

    I am not a philosophy major, but I figure it would depend on who writes him at any given time. Much like Batman, the Joker’s motivations and operations have changed over time with editors and writers of every stripe. And I would assume it depends on the POV. Perhaps the Joker is a nihilist (to get things done) with the end goal of a socialist’s agenda for the criminal underworld (to keep things rolling), which would invite anarchy from our POV on Main Street (to declare a change in laws). When a character has been around so long to be considered part of Americana I think he transcends a specific title and merely becomes his own *icon* for whatever suits the needs of the time and political era.

    That’s what’s going on here, albeit in a strange twist by appropriating Ledge’s joker over Obama. It’s more akin to the Joker merely being a VILLAIN, not which affiliation the villain leans.

  22. I think the selection of the Heath Ledger Joker has less to do with aligning the Joker with a specific political philosophy and more to do with selecting a widely-recognized sinister face. Sort of the opposite of “Beneficent Leader” Fairey poster from the election season, evoking the political iconography so popular in revolutionary boiling pots around the world.

  23. Hurm.. speaking of anarchy, maybe the author should have had the (sooo overrated and.. stupid) Shepard Fairey poster with the V for Vendetta logo over it. That whole poster reeked of “You love big brother”.

    V, now there’s a definite anarchist character I can get behind. Well, at least to a certain extent. “There is something terribly wrong with this country, isn’t there? ” This is not the land of do as you please. One administration later, it’s still turning into the land of do as your government tells you. Does it really matter which party is telling you how high to jump? Does it matter if it’s Punch or Judy who you’re following?

  24. I think an Obama/Ceasar Romero Joker would have been a better choice.

    Um, no political or deep meaning here. It’s that you just don’t see that classic painted-over mustache Joker version that much any more.

    And that’s just a damn shame.

  25. The image would have worked better had the designer used the Joker-as-nurse template to index the healthcare debate… as it is it makes no sense at all.

  26. My favorite scene in the Dark Knight was the one where the Joker fed the mob boss to his dogs then spread the money between the poor and lower classes.

    Its a good thing Batman stopped him. Now the lower classes can have the honor of pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. Just like everyone’s grandfathers did.

  27. I wonder if a villainous psychopath can have a working philosophy?

    Starlin’s Thanos has been regarded as a nihilist, in that he pursued death and the end of existence. If the Joker pursues actions and plans to benefit himself, then I don’t believe he can be called a nihilist. Considering how often his plans have failed, frustration would have led a nihilist to conclude that his efforts and his life were useless, and committed suicide. If anarchy is simply the absence of social order, then I’d feel comfortable calling the Joker an anarchist.

    Alex Peak has called the Joker an anomist:

    Anarchists are ethical voluntaryists—we don’t want any person imposing a coercive hierarchy on any other person.

    The Joker, on the other hand, is an ethical nihilist—he doesn’t believe that Justice is anything other than an illusion, and clearly holds that might makes no wrong.

    Whereas anarchists want to do away with the coercive hierarchy of any person over any person, the Joker wishes to impose upon all a coercive hierarchy of each person over each person. In a very literal sense, the Joker wants what Hobbes called the war of all against all, the entire breakdown of society, the reign of chaos.

    It therefore seems appropriate to me that we use a totally different word to describe the goal of the Joker: omniarchy.

  28. Joker in the DK believed in something: Everything Burns. He proved a point, as Mr. Colden pointed out. That, coupled with his little speech to Dent in the hospital about “Anarchy being fair…,” etc. has me convinced he is an anarchist.

  29. Up here in the Great White North – Obama would be considered a conservative. Our NDP Party are true socialists as they would like to control us from crib to grave. I’m not quite sure if most Americans actually no what a socialist is.

  30. At the risk of sounding pedantic, I am gonna add to this thread, apologies in advance. A couple thoughts.

    “Everything burns” is surely being used in a poetic sense in that context, in the same way Thomas Aquinas wrote that evil exists because of the “cleaving away” from God, or Descartes wrote that the relationship between spirit and body exists because of “little brown demons” crossing between the two states of being (I’m not making this stuff up, real quotations from the sources). Those sorts of statements are poetic speech, not philosophic arguments or statements per se– they’re referents are not clearly defined, but left vague, poetic, interpretable– rhetorical terms. If joker was literally out to prove that “everything burns”, he would technically be an Empiricist– a natural scientist, chemist, geologist, or physicist–which seems absurd.

    Nihilism– a “belief in nothing”. I say nihilist because (my take on Joker as portrayed in the DK film, at least) is that he seeks to prove nothing positively (in the philosophic sense, proving something through argument or some sort of applied demonstration), but seems rather to seek to negate the distinction between ALL moral choices, good or bad or in between. He seems to me to be intent on showing there is no existential difference between the choices and actions and outcomes of anything–whether on the part of the good guys or the bad guys. Joker is played as a force and law unto himself (as I suppose all psychopaths see themselves).

    In a way, that’s agreeing that Joker’s “Everything burns” is a poetic statement which could be interpreted as I did above– a statement suggesting poetically there is no meaningful difference between good or evil categories, between choice and acceptance, between earning and stealing, life and death, etc.

    The Obama poster is agit-prop, and it’s clearly working. The fact that one little wheatpaste demonstration by some anonymous person (a teenager even?) has garnered world-wide attention ought to show that there is very little public criticism of the President in the media today. I’m frankly more disturbed by mega hit-selling rock stars who write songs for the President.

    Artists as social critics are supposed to be jokers. Satire– even poorly excuted satire, as is the case here– is a powerful poison. There is always akernel of truth in it. Which is why people who can’t out-argue are always in favor of shutting their opponents up or shouting them down.

  31. ps quick point– speaking of Shep Farrey– does everyone know the original appropriation of his OBEY stuff from way back is lifted from the the 1950s BBC version of 1984, with it’s obvious Stalist references? Of course, SF used Andre the Giant to make the message absurd, yet in the beginning the use of the term OBEY was clearly intended to be sinister and referred to political propaganda.

    Years later SF applied the same rules in the real arena of propaganda, created the Obama poster which was a vitally useful asset to the campaign, and in the process earned SF a lot of $$. I’m not sure SF’s income bracket, but there is a funny cycle at play there if you think about tax hikes.

  32. Obama as a white-faced Socialist makes the same factual sense as GWB in his fighter-pilot drag with the “Mission Accomplished” banner in the background.

    (What?? One of the above WASN’T a photoshop job??)

    And, I enjoy playing the ‘match the political philosohies with Comics personalities’ game with the occasional Rorschach post such as this— good one, Heidi!

  33. It’s tough figuring the politics of a fictional character written and edited by so many over the years, most of whom, I’ll venture, had not much political theory background and would need a dictionary to follow this thread.

    Switch/shock here is having one’s good guy dressed as bad guy, as others have mentioned. Editorial cartoons do this all the time, but they’re such a throwback (black-and-white, line art gag panel, done to the production standards of a century and a half ago) that a similar gag in up to date visual standards seems like a squid in Grand Central by comparison. Calling Ted Rall.

  34. The whole socialist/anarchist/nihilist definition debate going on this thread is ignoring the broad strokes that the image paints.

    Joker in “The Dark Knight” = evil character who caused chaos and destruction = Bad.

    Obama = The Joker in “The Dark Knight” = evil president who will cause chaos and destruction = bad.

    There is no subtext or subtlety,

  35. Is this writer’s interpretation of the “Obama as the Joker” poster overanalysis, or slanted?

    The Joker’s makeup in “Dark Knight” — the latest film in a long franchise that dramatizes fear of the urban world — emphasized the wounded nature of the villain, the sense that he was both a product and source of violence. Although Ledger was white, and the Joker is white, this equation of the wounded and the wounding mirrors basic racial typology in America. Urban blacks — the thinking goes — don’t just live in dangerous neighborhoods, they carry that danger with them like a virus. Scientific studies, which demonstrate the social consequences of living in neighborhoods with high rates of crime, get processed and misinterpreted in the popular unconscious, underscoring the idea. Violence breeds violence.

    It is an ugly idea, operating covertly in that gray area that is always supposed to be opened up to honest examination whenever America has one of its “we need to talk this through” episodes. But it lingers, unspoken but powerful, leaving all too many people with the sense that exposure to crime creates an ineluctable propensity to crime.

    Superimpose that idea, through the Joker’s makeup, onto Obama’s face, and you have subtly coded, highly effective racial and political argument. Forget socialism, this poster is another attempt to accomplish an association between Obama and the unpredictable, seeming danger of urban life. It is another effort to establish what failed to jell in the debate about Obama’s association with Chicago radical William Ayers and the controversy over the racially charged sermons of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

    I agree with the sentiment that the poster’s message, despite the “socialism” text, is less about politics than it is that Obama is a danger to America.


  36. Didn’t we forget that Capitalism collapsed and is in fact dead? That Bush was called a socialist?
    Socialism has many strains, but can be really good -it’s Capitalism, but just not unfettered.
    Hey, let’s hope we are merely talking Socialism, and not some “New World Order” furthered by Bush/Obama.
    I’d say the American people are the Joker -we’re nutty:)

  37. Jackie, Mark, would you please link to these dangerous scary people you claim are demanding the creator of this image “come forward”?

  38. Irwin-

    Here’s a couple of examples:

    Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable President Earl Ofari Hutchinson is challenging the group responsible for the poster to come forward (from an KTLA News piece).

    “Depicting the president as demonic and a socialist goes beyond political spoofery,” says Hutchinson, “it is mean-spirited and dangerous.”

    “We have issued a public challenge to the person or group that put up the poster to come forth and publicly tell why they have used this offensive depiction to ridicule President Obama.”


    Chris Houston of Associated Content:

    “Trying to possibly spread this imagery of the Obama joker poster is only cowardice. If you really feel that he is a socialist then come forward and say it during the proper places. No one can tell you how to feel or think and that’s one of the things that makes this country great. So just speak in a public forum about your anger if you are upset with his policies.”


  39. Mark, your first example is someone talking about whoever hung up the poster in a specific location, not a call to track down the artist. The second is someone saying that speaking publicly would be a more effective way of making an argument than circulating an image of the first black president in whiteface. Neither one, crucially, says anything at all about the creator of this image.

    So, two swings and two misses. Care for a third?

  40. This is a good piece of art in the sense that it makes you stop and look.

    Of course, the no-nothings who actually think Obama is a socialist, or neo-socialist, or whatever don’t actually care or know that the Joke is/was an anarchist. That’s too much thinking for them.

    And to echo the person above, Obama’s not even a die-hard liberal, let alone a socialist.

  41. Commentators have pointed out that Drew Friedman did George W. Bush as the Joker last year for Vanity Fair. Part of his comment re accusations of hypocrisy:

    The Obama/Joker image just doesn’t work as satire, humor or anything else. You can put the white face Joker makeup on any celebrity or politician and you’d have a provocative, negative image, but beyond that, what’s the actual point? What does being a supposed Socialist have to do with The Joker?

    Friedman’s “Bush as the Joker” pic.

  42. Irwin said: “I asked for examples of people “demanding the creator of this image ‘come forward’”. You failed to do so…”

    Wait…you’re hung up on the word “creator”? Seriously? Here’s a line from the first article I linked to. How is this NOT what you were looking for?

    “Hutchinson is challenging the group or individual that put up the poster to have the courage and decency to publicly identify themselves.”

    Most rational people would understand that the intent behind Hutchinson’s request is the same whether or not the person who put up the poster was its creator. You’re splitting hairs, chum…and not looking at the larger and more disturbing point of someone “challenging” an anonymous person to identify him or herself.

  43. No, Mark, I asked you to back up your statements and you’re quite patently not able to do that. You yourself claimed that “The cries for the designer to “come forward” are as chilling as anything portrayed in “V for Vendetta” and similar “watch out for the facist right-wingers” folklore.” And yet, you can’t find a single instance of anyone actually crying for the designer to come forward. So, please, get down off your high horse.