March 11, 2008

The Red Phone

Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson is quite worked up in the NYT over that Hillary Clinton "Red Phone" television spot.

You know the one (as explained by the NY Daily News):

"It's 3 a.m., and your children are safe and asleep," a grim-voiced announcer intones over footage of angelic young kids in their beds.

"But there's a phone in the White House, and it's ringing," the menacing voice-over continues.

"Your vote will decide who answers that call," the announcer says. "Who do you want answering the phone?"

Patterson uses his super racism decoder ring to explain the subliminal hidden message:

ON first watching Hillary Clinton’s recent “It’s 3 a.m” advertisement, I was left with an uneasy feeling that something was not quite right — something that went beyond my disappointment that she had decided to go negative. Repeated watching of the ad on YouTube increased my unease. I realized that I had only too often in my study of America’s racial history seen images much like these, and the sentiments to which they allude.

I have spent my life studying the pictures and symbols of racism and slavery, and when I saw the Clinton ad’s central image — innocent sleeping children and a mother in the middle of the night at risk of mortal danger — it brought to my mind scenes from the past. I couldn’t help but think of D. W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,” the racist movie epic that helped revive the Ku Klux Klan, with its portrayal of black men lurking in the bushes around white society. The danger implicit in the phone ad — as I see it — is that the person answering the phone might be a black man, someone who could not be trusted to protect us from this threat.

The ad could easily have removed its racist sub-message by including images of a black child, mother or father — or by stating that the danger was external terrorism. Instead, the child on whom the camera first focuses is blond.

And we know what that means ...

Two other sleeping children, presumably in another bed, are not blond, but they are dimly lighted, leaving them ambiguous. Still it is obvious that they are not black — both, in fact, seem vaguely Latino.

They should have shown all the children sleeping in one bed with all the lights on, and they should all have been different races. It would be like Angelina Jolie's house -- gotta catch 'em all!

By the way, wouldn't "Vaguely Latino" be a good name for a rock band? No, you're right, it wouldn't.

Finally, Hillary Clinton appears, wearing a business suit at 3 a.m., answering the phone.

Well, that's a reassuring image: An overwhelmed President Hillary trying to get by on two hours of sleep per night, cranked out of her skull on prescription uppers.

Anyway, the question I had about Hillary's ad must be the reason they showed Hillary fully dressed and sitting at her desk at 3 AM:

When the Red Phone rings in the President's bedroom at 3 AM, who else is in the room?

With President Obama, I presume it would be Mrs. Obama. And we can forecast Michelle's advice with some degree of confidence:

"Barack, honey, I have to be up early for my personal trainer before I chair that crucial meeting of the National Diversity Sensitivity Outreach Relations Commission and I just don't know how I'll manage it all, so, whoever it is, just nuke 'em so I can get some sleep. And while you're at it, could you drop one on Princeton, New Jersey, too? Make sure it's big enough to take out the Educational Testing Service as well. They'll know why."

But with Hillary, doesn't this ad just re-open that question that we've all tried hard not to think about?

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

47 comments:

Alex said...

"By the way, wouldn't "Vaguely Latino" be a good name for a rock band?"

You're America's greatest living writer, but Dave Barry you're not.

Although I have to admit, I don't think it's a _bad_ name...

Alex said...

"But with Hillary, doesn't this ad just re-open that question that we've all tried hard not to think about?"

Saturday Night Live--and (he claims independently) my father--beat you to that joke. They both had Hillary's answer to the question "Is Bill there?" pegged at, "It's 3 a.m.--what do you think?"

comment overkill said...

good band names:

The Cambrian Explosion

The Lincoln Bedrooms

The Unfair Generalizations OR Unfair Generalizations OR Unfair Generalization

William said...

For those who haven't seen it - the ad.

What I wouldn't give to live again in America where no one had to apologize if every last kid in the commercial had blonde hair and blue eyes.

Eric said...

I always wonder about racism that's so subtle you need to be a Harvard sociologist to detect it. I guess it's kind of like being the emperor's tailor.

Anonymous said...

Barack's next ad can be. "It's 3 am. Is there a Latino in your bedroom?"

We slowly pan over a darkened room. We see the faces of young children sleeping. One Melanesian. One Eskimo. One South African Albino. One innocent little Latino with a innocent mustache and sombrero, dreaming of chimichangas and the idyllic pinatas of childhood.

We scroll through the room. In the moonlight we see a dashiki. Volumes of Franz Fanon and the collected Nuwaubic writings of Malachi York. Some uneaten food still wrapped from a gourmet organic Afrocentric supermarket.

Oh no, the iPhone is ringing. It is on vibrate, and begins intoning the frantic sounds of Britney Spears.

We are concerned. But then someone is hard at work at a desk. A hand puts the phone on speaker and holds it six inches from their face.

"Hello? What? Who? iSteve? I'll handle this."

"Barack! BARACK! Wake your sorry cocoa caramel *** up!"

LemmusLemmus said...

All too often, I feel embarrased to be a sociologist. It's not as though he's the only one who lets out this kind of stuff, you know?

On reflection, yes, you probably do.

Black Sea said...

We might as well just go ahead and concede that blond hair is a "racist marker." But then again, what about those black women, and some black men, who dye their hair blonde?

Just further evidence of how our implacably racist society has warped their souls. (Michelle Obama might want to look into this.)

I suppose there's something to be said for going grey after all.

Best unclaimed name for a rock band:

Mother's Basement

Reader said...

By the way, wouldn't "Vaguely Latino" be a good name for a rock band? No, you're right, it wouldn't.


I heard Zack de la Rocha was originally considering that name but came to the same conclusion you did, and decided to go with "Rage Against the Machine" instead.

Ralph Phelan said...

In the comments thread on Ann Althouse's first post on the "3 am" ad a commenter noted that one of the kids looked black, and had the letters "NIG" visible on his pajamas.

He asserted that this was obviously a subliminal racial dig, and Althouse inexplicably and uncharacterstically took this idiocy seriously and posted about the "issue" twice.

Much hilarity ensues.

So Clinton's video producers are simultaneously racist for using stock footage of kids with no black representation, and for using stock footage including a black kid with "GOOD NIGHT" pajamas with the pattern only partially visible.

Or are they just racist for daring to campaign against Obama?

Barak Heather Obama's supporters are doing their best to make a mockery of the "race card" and I'm loving every minute of it.

green mamba said...

Great post, Steve. Hilarious, except for the Michelle Obama bit, which is overstated.

RobertHume said...

Yes, it's really irritating how long and carefully you have to look to find a white male child in pictures of elementary schools, and in political ads. Usually, when you do find them, they are sitting mournfully somewhere in the last row.

mansizedtarget said...

White people are getting to the point where we have to apologize for being white. Some "national repentence" in the life of nations might be appropriate in a well ordered society, but this is just envy and hate dressed up as Marxist redress for injustice.

Anyway, your Michelle portrayal was friggin' hillarious.

daniel said...

thank you for calling this for what it is--paranoid idiocy. i'm kind of looking forward to the backlash on this one. hopefully it will be powerful enough to end the sociology department racism-is-everywhere cottage industry that nurtured patterson's delusions.

none of the above said...

I'll admit I'm a little baffled by this commercial. Hillary's extensive government experience regarding 3AM phone calls was to roll over and say "Bill, it's for you."

Lucius Vorenus said...

Steve Sailer: But with Hillary, doesn't this ad just re-open that question that we've all tried hard not to think about?

Huma Abedin & Hillary Clinton - Abedin Family Ties to Al-Qaeda
freerepublic.com

Huma Abedin & Hillary Clinton - Who is Funding Huma Abedin's Lifestyle?
freerepublic.com

Is Huma Abedin an Agent of Saudi Intelligence?
freerepublic.com

Huma Abedin & Hillary Clinton flown to Aspen & wined and dined by infoUSA
freerepublic.com

Huma Abedin & Hillary Clinton wined & dined by Jobs Outsourcer Tata Consultancy & the Tata Group
freerepublic.com

Martin said...

".....with its portrayal of black men lurking in the bushes around white society."

Orland Patterson should read the recent stories from Auburn University and UNC (two coeds murdered) - black men are often lurking in the bushes around white society.

The fact that a blond child is cause for alarm to Mr. Patterson, is not surprising. Images of black people have become so prevalent in advertising that you'd think they were the majority. For example: consider the recent Domino's Pizza commercial, for their "Brooklyn" Pizza - a white guy, an east asian, and a west asian all acting like doofuses, while the black pizza delivery man is the one who doesn't act like a nitwit. Actually, when was the last time you saw a black pizza deliveryman?

Anonymous said...

...wouldn't "Vaguely Latino" be a good name for a rock band?

Well, how about (nicked from "Black Adder") "Strangely Brown?"

:D

JD

William McNellis said...

Yes, Orlando Patterson's "analysis" - if we can call it that - is simpy silly. This is similar to the "pop" analysis I read once involving a scenario with a white woman on an elevator, and a black person (presumably a black woman) present also. If the white woman "plays" with her hair, she's supposedly sending subliminal "racist messages" to the black woman involving "hair supremacy" or some other stupid Black Studies 101 Marxist claptrap. This stuff is completely ridiculous. Of course, one wonders what the message is if an asian or latin woman played with her hair in front of an aggrieved black woman. No word yet either on what the message is if you clutch your bag, play with your hair, and chew gum at the same time!

Anonymous said...

Best band name ever: The Rough Sex Defense

And this Hillary commercial kind of reminds me of the image that Stalin wanted to convey. I remember reading somewhere that he kept the light on in his Kremlin office until late, even when he wasn't around. You know, always on the job for the Russian people, etc...And the fact that this idiot Orlando Patterson is at Harvard and is considered some kind of academic. I wonder of he was an AA hire, couldn't be, right? All I can really say is that he seems to have better grammer than Michelle Obama.

DYork said...

Over at Althouse they went into even more detail about the ad. Apparently there is text in the ad designed to stimulate the deep White American desire to lynch the black male (Obama) because he's a NIG.....

NIG on the PJs

more NIG on the PJs

keypusher said...

Shame on Orlando Patterson for writing that, and the Times for publishing it.

Jeremy Umstead said...

I suppose Orlando just neglected to mention the inherent racism of the fact that Clinton herself is blond? And both of her parents were white. Coincidence? [death grunt]I THINK NOT[/death grunt]

You know Clinton wants to be the candidate for guys with white kids in their pickups. She's totally as racist as Howard Dean. I knew it.

That ad was stupid and utterly lacking in substance, but it's no worse than anything else on the idiot box these days. (Quick, let's write another treatment for a cop show with a season-long string of white criminals!)

Honestly I don't think anyone really gives a rip about "racism" any more. It's a charge that is no more thought through than "jerkface". Orlando is just sore that someone has thought to challenge his angelic figure ... just as people always do when there are secretly ballots, and rarely do in caucuses. (Interestingly, Thomas Sowell points out that anonymous polls reveal that university decision-makers can't stand affirmative action, while the actions that can be linked to their names specifically support affirmative action most of the time. Hmmph, I guess maybe that charge ("jerkface", I think it was) really carries weight in some places.)

... Not that her boss is even a half-decent candidate, anyone want to try to prove that Ferraro was actually incorrect?

Bill said...

She has to arise early, it takes hours for her to apply all that bondo goop.

BD said...

I think Prof. Patterson is only half right. Yes, there exists a certain amount of unease over the prospect of a black man being in charge of protecting "us" (although there's probably greater unease over the prospect of being protected by a white woman). However, nothing in the ad itself plays on distinctively racial fears. Simply casting white people as the mother and children in the ad hardly qualifies as conveying a racial message.

Ron Guhname said...

Is it affirmative action or just something about blacks that makes even their smartest folks sound like cranks?

Sideways said...

Over at Althouse they went into even more detail about the ad. Apparently there is text in the ad designed to stimulate the deep White American desire to lynch the black male (Obama) because he's a NIG.....

Wow. Hilary needs about a half a million (literally) hyper-PC people to scrutinize every ad she runs for any possible traces of racism, the way this is going.

Ralph Phelan said...

Hillary's extensive government experience regarding 3AM phone calls was to roll over and say "Bill, it's for you."


I think we should replace "roll over and say" with "get out of bed, walk across the hall, bang on the door and yell"

Ralph Phelan said...

Yes, there exists a certain amount of unease over the prospect of a black man being in charge of protecting "us"

Bulldinky.
There's a lot of black men in uniform protecting us, and if any of were to run they'd have no trouble on that score (though they might have lots of other problems. For example, though he's a bit dovish for me, the Presidency was Powell's for the asking if he had wanted it.

The unease is at the prospect of a Democrat being in charge of protecting "us."

Ralph Phelan said...

Is it affirmative action or just something about blacks that makes even their smartest folks sound like cranks?

It's the affirmative action.

Anonymous said...

Paterson is crying racism because the ad WORKS. It works because people perceive (accurately) that Obama is weak and indecisive and appeasement driven. And will be shoved around easily by hard men like Putin, Ahmadinejad, Chavez, Raul Castro, Osama, Nasrallah, etc.

Hillary is playing off her "tough bitch" image ... that she may be a "tough bitch" but she's "your tough bitch" the way McCain plays his tough old bastard image up.

Obama has made a fetish of weakness, appeasement, "talk" as a magical substitute for action, and people are waking up to the fact that appeasement ALWAYS means more blood and money in the end. The world isn't going to be milk and honey just because "a Black Man" is elected President.

Ironically, someone epitomizing masculine toughness ala Dennis Haysbert on "the Unit" could walk all over both McCain and Hillary. Americans, particularly men, like a tough guy who won't brook nonsense and garbage from foreign enemies. But Obama very pointedly is not THAT. No military experience. No toughness. Nothing but soft, soft, soft PC namby pambyness. His very appeal to rich white yuppies means he's soft.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why you put in useless links like ETS which go to ... ETS! I was expecting a story about Michelle's low test scores, something value-added. Linking to ETS itself - why bother?

tommy said...

Someday, I'm going to design an internet encyclopedia of all the most lunatic garbage the left has come up with over the years. It should make for humorous reading.

This would definitely merit an entry.

Anonymous said...

Martin,

Absolutely correct on the bias in commercials. Another similar one is the Staples spot where the bald white guy is in a panic about toner, only to be rescued by a white woman and two black men.

Ralph Phelan said...

Hilary needs about a half a million (literally) hyper-PC people to scrutinize every ad she runs for any possible traces of racism, the way this is going.

She's got 'em. They work for Obama's campaign. And every time they spew garbage like this, for every black or whiterperson vote he gains, he losing at least three votes from normal whitehispanic or asian voters.

Anonymous said...

So I'm not the only one to notice the sudden and strange over-representation of Blacks in ads?

The Staples one is for IIRC Dell ink not toner, and the white guy is not bald but bearded, there's a white woman and a black man who condescendingly push the "Easy Button" while the guy acts like an idiot.

Another agency problem. Ad buyers for companies don't care about reaching customers (they don't get evaluated on such and are mostly young women mid twenties with lots of churn). They want to be COOL and express their coolness, principally their disdain for uncool white guys who look them over.

mnuez said...

Steve, thank you for that. That was fan-tastic!

As an aside, I'm touched that you're sticking up for Hillary, but really that truly is a beautiful piece. The fact that the NYTimes could get away with publishing that is amazing. I mean wow. Seriously, among you readers around these parts there are some serious racists, right? You know who you are. Please tell me, did even one of you think for a second, "children are sleeping safely in bed and there's an international crisis... please don't let it be a black man who picks up the emergency phone.

Clicking over to the NYT (I just had to see this published there with my own eyes) I quickly scrolled down to the bio to see whether it would say: Orlando Patterson is a proud black man.

Heck, if The Onion can do it, the New York times ought to show the same honesty.


Maya Angelou Honored for Courage, Blackness


Seriously, The Onion is God.

mnuez
www.mnuez.blogspot.com

Danindc said...

Funniest Sailer post in 8.5 months- about time, Steve.

Steve Sailer said...

Oh, c'mon, what about that post 6.75 months ago?

mnuez said...

Funniest Sailer comment in 3.0974 mackrel weeks!


By the way Steve, if Harvee saw racism in that Clinton ad, can you just imagine his reaction when he sees this one?!


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BEPcJlz2wE


Talk about subliminal messaging, ey? :-)

mnuez

braindead said...

"ron guhname said...
Is it affirmative action or just something about blacks that makes even their smartest folks sound like cranks?"

Ron, its their track record. Even many Afrikaners in South Africa, who can be undoubtedly labeled racist in the modern sense, were willing to give blacks a chance in the many countries in southern Africa where they took control (Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mocambique, Namibia , South Africa). But invariably they "fucked it up". This is why Afrikaners are not interested in black leadership anymore.

Its not the racism which keeps blacks from serious office, as people like Obama and Michelle like to hold forth. Its their abysmal track record. I know nothing about the US, but the stories I read about the majors of New Orleans, Washington and Detroit remind me very much of what is going on in Namibia, South Africa, Angola and Zimbabwe.

Anonymous said...

It's not just commercials that have gone crazy with showing blacks looking like geniuses and whites looking like doofuses. Watch any TV show, particularly nighttime drama. Every black is protrayed as the rational, decisive character, often the scientist, and always the one who doesn't want to go soft on the perp, especially when it's another black.

At any given time, scroll through the television channels and count the number of instances in which a black appears on the screen. You would swear they make up 75% of the population. I've got black fatigue in a big way.

numbskull said...

" danindc said...
Funniest Sailer post in 8.5 months- about time, Stev"

Steve has funny posts almost every day. That's the main reason I come here: to have some fun. Politics are actually soooo boring, so Steve makes it really interesting and laughable.

Svigor said...

Yes, it's really irritating how long and carefully you have to look to find a white male child in pictures of elementary schools, and in political ads. Usually, when you do find them, they are sitting mournfully somewhere in the last row.

Or having their existences legitimized by interacting (subordinately) with non-whites.

Svigor said...

Is it affirmative action or just something about blacks that makes even their smartest folks sound like cranks?

I think part of it is the flip side of the confidence coin; they have a relative lack of that little critical voice that tells them, "man that's just loony."

none of the above said...

svigor:

I wonder if anyone has good data on this. I suspect a lot of this is that (for reasons that probably seemed good at the time), we've made a bunch of intellectual and political ghettos for black intellectuals. At least three parts of this are:

a. The PC requirement to treat blacks with kid gloves intellectually, and thus not respond to silly crap like the "blacks can't be racist" argument with a derisive belly-laugh.

b. The existence of sinecures like "black studies" programs and "diversity coordinator" jobs.

c. The Civil Rights Act creation of reserved black districts, which makes it pretty uncommon for successful black politicians to have to appeal to whites.

I think (a) is especially poisonous. IMO, one reason Thomas Sowell seems about twice as smart as other black pundits is that, by virtue of being conservative, he wasn't protected from criticism of his arguments. So he actually had to make good ones.

Phil Simon said...

Vaguely Latino is the name of my fantasy football team this year. It's a nod to "The Life and Times of Tim."