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The Red Phone And The Super Racism Decoder Ring
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March 11, 2008, 12:43 PM
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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.[The Red Phone in Black and White, March 11, 2008]

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?