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Blowing the dog whistle

August 2, 2008

In a recently published article in The Guardian, Melissa McEwan talks about McCain’s strategy of dog whistling. The rhetorical technique involves dropping phrases that may seem strange to most people, but have significant meaning to a portion of the population. Bush used the phrase “wonder-working power” to invoke visions of God’s miracles and Huckabee couldn’t seem to stop with the veiled religious messages. Perhaps I’ve been oblivious to these tactics before, but McEwan’s article calls to light the covert racism in the juxtaposition of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears with Obama in a recent McCain ad that the senior Senator from Arizona claims to be proud of.

Instead of picking vapid, relatively talentless male celebrities, the McCain team chose two females of fame who are associated with airheadedness and promiscuity. To most, that doesn’t mean too much. To a select few, however, it calls to mind the black-man-as-hyper-sexual-deviant trope of so many Imperial art.

For a good portion of history (and many would argue that it currently happens) black men were ‘othered’ and views as sex crazed animals. Novels by Sam Selvon (namely The Lonely Londoners) have worked to bring this false stereotype to light and debunk the myth. Also, photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe (I would advise you to not research his work while you are at work) does a fantastic job of pointing to the overt hyper-sexualization and fetishization of the black man. Despite all the work to rid our society of this insidious racism, McCain sees fit to try to scare white voters away from Obama because he’s just a scary, over-sexualized black man.

Shame on you, John McCain.

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