Sidebar nomination August 10, 2009 7:18 AM   Subscribe

Mefi's own mike mongo, one of the creators of the 'Andre the Giant has a posse' and 'OBEY' memes , reflects on his experience and critiques the obama/joker montage in this post

As I read his post, I found it pretty cool with someone with a lot of personal experience and insight sharing it on mefi and to be sidebar-worthy.
posted by fizzix to MetaFilter-Related at 7:18 AM (73 comments total)

Which part of it that comment is the insightful part?
posted by Plutor at 7:35 AM on August 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


Thank you for that.

Five minutes ago, I was saying: Who the fuck is Mike Mongo?
Now I can say: Mike Mongo -- holy fuck is that guy annoying.

It's good to be in the know.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:39 AM on August 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


The part about TIME magazine? That would be insightful if it wasn't a wild over-reach.
posted by Mister_A at 7:40 AM on August 10, 2009


Well, I liked his post. So there.
posted by spilon at 7:46 AM on August 10, 2009


All in favour, favourite this comment. All those opposed, flag it.
*I expect this comment to disappear shortly.
posted by gman at 7:46 AM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Heh. I mean it. Heh.
posted by Damn That Television at 7:48 AM on August 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


All in favour, favourite this comment. All those opposed, flag it.
*I expect this comment to disappear shortly.


Then could you refrain from making the comment in the first place?
posted by runningwithscissors at 7:49 AM on August 10, 2009


The part about TIME magazine? That would be insightful if it wasn't a wild over-reach.

Maybe, maybe not.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:49 AM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is the USA! Of course it's racial! That's huge here!

I saw some race for sale at American Apparel this weekend. Flying off the shelves.
posted by DU at 7:50 AM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


What were you doing at AA, oppressing women, you sexist bastard? Huh? Huh?
posted by Mister_A at 7:54 AM on August 10, 2009


Now you're being moronic.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:55 AM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


We'll you're a re... a re... a recidivist!
posted by Mister_A at 7:57 AM on August 10, 2009


IST ZONE
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:01 AM on August 10, 2009


What's moronic is that this guy Mike Mongo was the only freaking person in the entire thread with enough emotional detachment to stand back and look at an image and think about what the hell it meant without letting his assumption about who created it and why to rule his assessment of it.

Art is pretty much dead. Politics killed it.
posted by koeselitz at 8:03 AM on August 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


Anyway, DU's comment takes me back to the mid-90s... [SFX: "Flashback" harp strum]

There were people protesting near Philadelphia City Hall with posters that read "Free Mumia," just about every Friday, if I recall correctly. My friend, Heinrich (not his real name), thought it was great fun to walk up to any of the more clueless trustafarian-looking protesters and say, "Free Mumia? Where?"

The protester would usually say something like, "Huh?"

And my friend would pretend to grow angry, and say, "You told me there was free Mumia. Where is it?"

And they would assume (correctly) that he was crazy and back away slowly.
posted by Mister_A at 8:03 AM on August 10, 2009


Too many damn little-Nietzsches around here.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:05 AM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


ISTIST
posted by Mister_A at 8:05 AM on August 10, 2009


I think the correct term is "developmentally challenged" BB.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:06 AM on August 10, 2009


I could see why you wouldn't want to draw more attention to that thread, mods, but I think the comment qualifies as cool enough for a sidebar. And koeslitz is right: this isn't really about politics... it involves political image making, but it's not about politics.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:14 AM on August 10, 2009


Thanks, fizzix. I had stopped following that thread so I missed the comment. Also, thanks, Brandon Blatcher, for the link to the Flickr page, that was really interesting. Poor guy who designed it.
posted by Kattullus at 8:16 AM on August 10, 2009


As politics, it's stupid and hateful. As art, it's just lazy. OMG make the president look like the villain of the day!
posted by Mister_A at 8:21 AM on August 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm down.
posted by tellurian at 8:28 AM on August 10, 2009


Hey! I mean it. HEEEEEEYYYYYYYY!!!!!!

Did I do it wrong? Eh, who cares. Pay attention to MEEEEEE!!!!!!!
posted by iamkimiam at 8:29 AM on August 10, 2009


The guy behind thirddesign.net did this to Andy Dick for me back in May. I guess I just picked the wrong guy for the meme to go viral.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:33 AM on August 10, 2009


As politics, it's stupid and hateful. As art, it's just lazy. OMG make the president look like the villain of the day!
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:36 AM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Exactly! It's stupid and lazy when Vanity Fair does it too.
posted by Mister_A at 8:40 AM on August 10, 2009


well, I found it insightful, in that it was an insight into the thought process and perception of the people who live in that gray area between graffiti for graffiti's sake and graffiti for the sake of capital A Art.

I don't want to get into whether or not I agree with him or anything like that, but I'm glad he posted because I don't think there's a whole lot of opportunity, even on the internet, to get viewpoints from people in his position. There's a whole lot being said about graffiti art and the commercialization thereof by people who are not actually involved in the production of it, and (except for Shephard Fairey, who seemingly won't shut up) not as much by people who are.

So I'm glad for his comment, I guess is the bullet point of this presentation.
posted by shmegegge at 8:40 AM on August 10, 2009


As politics, it's stupid and hateful. As art, it's just lazy.

You one of dem, whachmacallit, reality-based peoples.

As art politics and art, it's brilliant, though I doubt the original artist intended for it to be used this way. It so perfectly distills a line of thought and unites people who believe in its message.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:44 AM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Devil's advocate: is it hateful because it's Obama and this isn't socialism by a long shot, or is it hateful because he's no megalomaniac sociopath like The Joker? Was it as bad when Bush, Hilary Clinton or McCain were painted with the sadistic grin?

Political commentary via parody art isn't supposed to be deep, because the message is only as viable as how widely it's understood. The content of the message is another thing all-together.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:44 AM on August 10, 2009


Your favorite artist sucks.
posted by JeffK at 8:49 AM on August 10, 2009


Sadly, Jeff is correct.
posted by Mister_A at 8:50 AM on August 10, 2009


It so perfectly distills a line of thought and unites people who believe in its message.

That's a bullshit, and I'm as reality-based as they come. The message here is all over the charts: there's nothing to distill. It pissed you off, no doubt. Me too! But that doesn't make it propaganda.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:57 AM on August 10, 2009


Oh no, it is propaganda– the message is, President Obama is a black man who is going to take all your money. Really, that's it. I don't think that's brilliant, I think it's the same garbage I've been hearing from racists my whole life.

And to answer your question, filthy light thief, I find the charicature hateful because it is too clearly tied to the imagery of the black minstrel shows. The person who created the image may not have been aware of this relationship, but the proliferation of these posters owes its popularity in large part to the "black man as buffoon" connotation of the image.
posted by Mister_A at 9:05 AM on August 10, 2009


anotherpanacea: "That's a bullshit, and I'm as reality-based as they come. "

A bullshit it may be, but I'm going to have to differ with you on your second premise. I'm afraid that I'm more reality-based as you are. My neighbor, in full disclosure, is more reality-based than I am.
posted by shmegegge at 9:12 AM on August 10, 2009


And that's why I don't support placing this comment on the sidebar–because if this poster "works" at all, it works as a vulgar appeal to the racism that is ingrained on this country. I don't see anything brilliant or clever or insightful about it. So I disagree with a guy on MetaFilter is what it comes down to. And that's really our thing here, isn't it?
posted by Mister_A at 9:14 AM on August 10, 2009


if this poster "works" at all, it works as a vulgar appeal to the racism that is ingrained on this country.

Some art works only succeed because of their context. This one only succeeds because we live in a country that constantly struggles with race and racism. But the same thing could be said for Spike Lee's Bamboozled. Just because it's about race and it jerks at your discomfort about racism doesn't mean it's actually racist! I'm pretty sure if Spike Lee or one of his collaborators offered a comment like Mike Mungo's we'd sidebar it.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:41 AM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


For one thing, anotherpanacea, mike mongo disagrees with you over whether or not this is propaganda. And it's worth pointing out that the reason this poster and its use "jerks at my discomfort about racism" is that it (the poster) is overtly racist. Maybe the creator of the image seen on Flickr did not intend it to be a racist statement, but its use in the context of a poster campaign, grassroots or not, is good old-fashioned racism.
posted by Mister_A at 10:00 AM on August 10, 2009


Mister_A: I understand that you believe it is racist. It may be intended as such. But let me ask you: if I tell you that "Green ideas sleep furiously," am I biased in favor of or against green ideas?

In my view, that's what this poster does: it combines a famously anarchist image with the word 'socialist'! It takes popular images that are floating around and mashes them altogether in the way best designed to make no sense. It's racist the way "Andre the Giant has a Posse" is sizist.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:08 AM on August 10, 2009


is it hateful because it's Obama and this isn't socialism by a long shot, or is it hateful because he's no megalomaniac sociopath like The Joker? Was it as bad when Bush, Hilary Clinton or McCain were painted with the sadistic grin?

Thanks to internet searches, it is easy to discover that there is no bit of political propaganda used against politician A that has not also been used, by someone, somewhere, against politicians B through Z. Let's all just acknowledge that for the record so we can stop having the "well, it was also done to (this other person)" trotted out in every thread. I had a vague recollection of the Vanity Fair Bush-as-Joker illustration, but hadn't seen the McCain and Hillary Clinton versions until you posted them here. If I had to place a bet, I'd say that you hadn't either until you went looking for them to make a point. Was it as bad when it happened to the others? Well, no, it wasn't, for the same reason that shadow boxing isn't as bad a punching someone in the nose. The same motion can have very different consequences.

Here's my point. When it's been done to everyone, but only one of the catches on, that in itself is worthy of some thought. Why did this one resonate with enough people to spread (and lead to the backlash)? None of the others turned into the phenomenon that the Obama Joker has, and that's (obviously) why we are discussing it.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:10 AM on August 10, 2009


I argue that it is not "designed to make no sense," it is designed to appeal to the most base aspects of racial tension and fear in the US. Here's how this boils down to the intended target demo:

Socialism = big gummint taking my money and giving it to freeloaders and welfare scammers.
Obama in whiteface = black buffoon who is in charge of taking my money and giving ti to freeloaders and welfare scammers.

It makes perfect sense to people whose sensibilities are tuned to receiving these messages uncritically. It may not make sense to you, because you actually have some idea what socialism means, and you understand that it's a little ludicrous to call either Obama or The Joker a socialist. That doesn't make it clever, though.
posted by Mister_A at 10:14 AM on August 10, 2009


Ditto anotherpanacea and Mike Mongo: there is racism in the eye of the beholder, and you can't avoid racism in the United States. Was it sexist when it was Hillary? I get the feeling that because the president is black, a lot of commentary that would have simply been political now has racist tones perceived (though comments about monkeys/ apes, watermelons, and other things not typical political commentary fodder are straight-up racism). If we had a white president who was painted with the same face, there wouldn't be the same backlash.

This is all a derail from the FPP thread (which is all about the implied/interpreted racism). Back to topic: I agree with Mike Mongo's reading of the situation, and I dig his insight from his involvement with the rise of Obey/Disobey.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:17 AM on August 10, 2009


By Toutatis, you Americans are crazy.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:28 AM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Picture of Toutatis.
posted by Mister_A at 10:30 AM on August 10, 2009


those are some hardcore tatis.
posted by shmegegge at 10:32 AM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]



With regards to Plutor's comment, I thought Mongo's experience allowed him to give a detached look at the propaganda and critique the image's effectiveness to incite certain feelings and thoughts into its viewers.

The topic of image's connotations (or lack of) to racism and the author's intentions of the work are legitimate to discuss on mefi but that should remain in the blue post and have the discussion (on this thread, in the grey) on whether Mongo's comment is worthy to be sidebarred.
posted by fizzix at 10:33 AM on August 10, 2009


So you're saying it's dog whistle politics. And that would not be surprising, given the amount of dog whistle politics we've had in this country around race. But I don't think it is.

At this point, we're arguing about what an image means, when the image itself is a mashup of so many other images (the original, sans "socialism" probably wasn't intended to be anti-Obama or even necessarily about race) that finding a rigid designation for the audience and the message is just a waste of time. Maybe it's a PR firm's work... but it's going to backfire, if so. Probably it's just pranksters and culture jammers. We don't know for sure.

Here's what we do know: the image offends. But it also provokes conversation and inspires criticism. Pater Aletheias, your original comment on the front page post was great! Thanks for that spot on repartee. And the same thing goes for the tremendously funny joke about Obama showing Glenn Beck how to make a pencil disappear. I mean... that's guffaw-worthy stuff. Unimaginable but also wish-fulfillment. And Mike Mungo pointed out what we as a community were missing: that not everybody is out to get us, that sometimes people make public art just for fun.

I'm going to try to quiet down about this, because I've been commenting too much in both threads. But one last thing (omigod I'm a stereotype!):

Obama won the election by allowing his image to become an icon. The famous Shepard Farley image looks an awful lot like Russian Orthodox images of saints, the original icons. Now, someone or some group has defaced the icon, just like the early Iconoclasts did. That's great work when it comes to reminding us we live in the real world, not a world of images, but it's offensive to some who still experience the world primarily imagistically.

Remember, all the parodying and destruction happens at the level of the image, and there's no call to violence or performative political work going on here. In a way, it's like the Obama New Yorker cover: too hyoperbolic to mean what it seems to say. But that's not the real point. The real point is that the Joker parody doesn't change who Obama is or what he's working towards. Some of the anxieties in these threads sound an awful lot like magical thinking, as if drawing on a picture of the President might actually harm him! That's not a very reality-based way to approach the world.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:34 AM on August 10, 2009


It may not make sense to you, because you actually have some idea what socialism means, and you understand that it's a little ludicrous to call either Obama or The Joker a socialist.

No, it makes sense to me precisely because I understand that it's ludicrous to call either Obama or The Joker a socialist. See, that's why it's the joker. It's a joke. You just ruined it by making someone have to explain it. Way to go.
posted by juv3nal at 10:37 AM on August 10, 2009


Let me recap: I don't think that the comment by mike mongo should be side-barred, because I disagree with his assessment of the work. I don't think it "works" as anything except heavy-handed and obvious race-baiting. I don't think it is hilarious or really well done. Thus, mike mongo's analysis misses the mark, as far as I'm concerned, and that is the reason his comment should not be on the sidebar.
posted by Mister_A at 10:48 AM on August 10, 2009


Holy shit, Mike Mongo was/is humannaire? Dang, I feel like I just walked into Mr. Wayne's garden party and accidently fell into the Batcave or something. Who the hell are you people anyway?
posted by The Whelk at 11:07 AM on August 10, 2009


I don't understand how it's racist.

But then, I don't really get the "Andre the Giant has a posse" images either. I suppose I'm just not with it.
posted by ODiV at 11:13 AM on August 10, 2009


And to answer your question, filthy light thief, I find the charicature hateful because it is too clearly tied to the imagery of the black minstrel shows. The person who created the image may not have been aware of this relationship, but the proliferation of these posters owes its popularity in large part to the "black man as buffoon" connotation of the image.
posted by Mister_A at 12:05 PM on August 10 [+] [!]


I don't think this is a reaction too many other people will have. I saw Bamboozled, too, and that image doesn't make Obama buffoonish at all. It makes him look scary.

I don't like the message, but it is a striking image that does work on some level for a lot of people.
posted by ignignokt at 11:26 AM on August 10, 2009


That's a bullshit, and I'm as reality-based as they come. The message here is all over the charts: there's nothing to distill. It pissed you off, no doubt. Me too! But that doesn't make it propaganda.

Gun ands ammunition sales have been going through the roof since Obama was elected. Who he is and what he stands for, or what he's thought to stand frightens some people. This black, liberal, socialist, and foreign government in disguise as America run amok and the destruction not only of the white, rural life style but its chereished values, which many perceive to be what 'real America' is.

Nah, isn't bullshit, this is fear personified and amplified, it's the first real salvo in the coming decimation of white majority rule in the United States and that keeps some people up at night. Finally, the know they aren't alone, others can see how bad this is for American and its cherished way of life.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:47 AM on August 10, 2009


Nobody cared when I called Bush a nigger, but now it's all racist to call Obama one?
posted by klangklangston at 12:33 PM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


man, I really had to sit and think about that statement in order to figure out what you were trying to say.
posted by shmegegge at 12:36 PM on August 10, 2009


klang, are you sure you're not "Heinrich," my "Free Mumia!" friend?
posted by Mister_A at 12:43 PM on August 10, 2009


Wouldn't the self-conception of being "reality-based" be an impediment to actually being based in reality?
posted by Burhanistan at 12:46 PM on August 10, 2009


Nobody cared when I called Bush a comic book villain, but now it's all racist to call Obama one?

That's more how I see it. Maybe I missed the racist undertones (overtones? just regular tones?) of the joker's facepaint though.
posted by ODiV at 12:48 PM on August 10, 2009


The thing that does it for me is the exaggeration of the mouth/lips and eyes, which is very reminiscent of the racial charicatures from the bad old days, to me. The whiteface is a little more subtle–is it disturbing because it suggests a role reversal, with the black man now "on top" and lampooning the white man? Is it the idea of subterfuge, of dishonesty, of misrepresentation? Or is it just because it is the functional equivalent of, or harkens back to, blackface? In any case, the initial impression that I got was "racist charicature." That others here did not have the same impression does not change my goodwill toward them. I've been on the other side of this debate right here on MetaFilter, and I hold no grudges based on either of these cases.
posted by Mister_A at 1:22 PM on August 10, 2009


man, I really had to sit and think about that statement in order to figure out what you were trying to say.

The message was the medium. Let me put it even clearer: It didn't mean anything. The apparent message is ironic and counter-culture. In fact, it's not. The whole point is that propaganda is obvious.

Propaganda (and branding) is obvious. As I hear people say this new saying all the time now, it is what it is. But with regards to propaganda, that's right. It is what it is. There is no secret or mystery.
posted by klangklangston at 1:44 PM on August 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


oh my god, klang. my sides hurt.
posted by shmegegge at 1:57 PM on August 10, 2009


I've been on the other side of this debate right here on MetaFilter, and I hold no grudges based on either of these cases.

Well you better damn well believe I'm holding a grudge.

Lucky for you, it looks like a taco. *eats grudge*
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:00 PM on August 10, 2009


Mmmmmm grudge!
posted by Mister_A at 2:09 PM on August 10, 2009


My grudge was all soggy. I'll stick with my sandwich.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:44 PM on August 10, 2009


Perhaps we could deliver grudges via cannon, or underwater pipe.
posted by subbes at 7:42 PM on August 10, 2009


If you meant to say "In 30 minutes or less, else your grudge is free" then I'll answer that door.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:57 PM on August 10, 2009


What's moronic is that this guy Mike Mongo was the only freaking person in the entire thread with enough emotional detachment to stand back and look at an image and think about what the hell it meant without letting his assumption about who created it and why to rule his assessment of it.

As ever I am late to these incredibly weird conversations on AmericaFilter (you know, because of the time difference). I agree with the statement above and I was glad I saw the link to Mike Mongo's comment in this thread's OP.

Sometimes this place is really really crazy.
posted by awfurby at 10:34 PM on August 10, 2009


What I don't understand is why he didn't post as humannaire.
posted by Kattullus at 4:16 AM on August 11, 2009


What's moronic is that this guy Mike Mongo was the only freaking person in the entire thread with enough emotional detachment to stand back and look at an image and think about what the hell it meant without letting his assumption about who created it and why to rule his assessment of it.

I have no idea what this means. None at all. I guess my comments in that thread were useless because of my stated assumption that former NBA big man Ralph Sampson created that poster?

I tried to re-read the comment to get some idea what he was actually trying to say, but I stalled out at the faux-British faux-edginess of calling Heath Ledger a "wanker" for dying.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:15 PM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I thought it was a great comment. I didn't agree with every word, but one part of it stood out:

... it's kind of stupid in its simplicity.

The most effective propaganda is always 'stupid in its simplicity'. Propaganda involves being persuasive without actually mounting an argument. Someone upthread commented that the message of this piece is all over the place, and self-contradictory. But there is no message, no argument, in the piece. If you intellectualize over the meaning, poring over it as if it were a text to be deciphered, you'll miss the forest for the trees. This piece is not available to your intellect. Its payload is pure emotion. Mike did an excellent job of describing exactly how it works to bypass all argument and make you feel something.
posted by Ritchie at 6:02 AM on August 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Relatedly
posted by DU at 6:40 AM on August 13, 2009


posted by Durn Bronzefist Five minutes ago, I was saying: Who the fuck is Mike Mongo?

Don't know. Mongo only pawn in game of life.
posted by mattdidthat at 10:56 AM on August 18, 2009


Mongo doesn't socialize.
posted by The Whelk at 8:20 PM on August 18, 2009


Mogo. I fail at comics.
posted by The Whelk at 8:21 PM on August 18, 2009


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