You asked me the other day, regarding the Joker poster, if we can ever go too far in attempting to provoke outrage and as I am sure you agree, the answer is “yes.” If we do go too far, we will lose credibility. If we lose it with the public I would argue that it is no big deal because we don’t have much with them and exposing truth is more important than building credibility with that crowd anyway. If we lose it with our donors, however, the results could be more dire. But our donors have shown themselves to be made of sterner stuff. On the other hand, if we don’t go far enough, babies will die. Without provoking outrage, we are both invisible and irrelevant.
It seems to me that we go too far if we make personal attacks on Mr. Obama. Those kinds of attacks would be gratuitous and excessive and have nothing to do with any policy question fairly at issue. Accusing him of kicking his dog and cheating on his wife or taxes are obvious examples. Someone told me the other day that she thought we were going off track into “Randall Terry’s” domain because the Joker poster is not “realistic.” She apparently referred to the fake blood, etc. But I see the Joker poster as a type of political cartoon. It dramatizes injustice and exaggerates for emphasis. I once watched a TV interview with one of my favorite political cartoonists, Steve Kelly. He was working for the San Diego Union. The program host asked him if fairness entered into his calculations when working on a cartoon idea. Without missing a beat, he deadpanned, “Oh yes, if it is fair, I won’t do it!” I laughed out loud but that will not be our philosophy at CBR. It has to be fair and I think the Obama Joker poster is.
Heath Ledger’s character in the latest Batman movie (“Dark Knight”) is sinister and erratic. Beneath his soothing exterior, Mr. Obama is all of that and more. I believe he is a truly evil man. He kills newborns without remorse and muses over whether his grandmother should have been allowed the hip replacement surgery she wanted. I haven’t seen the Batman movie but in trying to decide if we wanted to use this caricature of Mr. Obama (and to get the makeup right once I decided to go with this approach), I watched many YouTube clips of Ledger playing the Joker. His portrayal is disturbing for many of the reasons that Mr. Obama’s agenda is disturbing. To put Mr. Obama into the Joker character is merely to expose his true persona. I would argue that his natural features are the mask and the Joker makeup is his true visage. With the essay with which we accompany our poster, we provide the context which justifies, as the level of facts and analysis, our portrayal of Mr. Obama. Our president is much more like the malevolent Ledger character than the benign spoof who was the Joker in the 1960 TV series.
With all due respect, this isn’t Randall Terry. This is more Michael Ramirez, my all-time favorite political cartoonist. When you are taking a beating, as we are, you have got to take risks. This strategy is risky because modulating conflict is always more art than science. But the risks inherent in not taking risks are much more perilous than the risks involved when losers heave a well-considered “Hail Mary” pass.