We said some time back, if it’s McCain vs Obama, the issue will be gender. Now we’ve seen it. In its most potent cocktail — the gender-race combo that tickles white male sexual terror. It was inevitable. And it ain’t over. Here’s the worst news… it can work. It has before. If McCain squeaks past Obama in 2008 after this dog whistle re-motivates white voters for a record turnout, the illusions of racial peace so coveted by sections of White liberal America will be shattered just at a time when the economy is plodding along the muddy bottom of the stagnant pond its fallen into. The bitterness of African America will be thick enough to stand up to a spoon.
Tweeeet tweeet… I didn’t hear anything, did you?
This is a lesson in how dog whistles work.
If you’re not familiar with the term “dog whistle,” as it relates to politics, here’s a quick primer: As a literal dog whistle emits a pitch that only dogs can hear, a political dog whistle sends a message that only a particular constituency will hear (or intuitively understand).
Bush has, care of his speechwriters, been dog whistling to his evangelicals for the past eight years; often, when we heathens think he sounds most nonsensical, it’s because he’s sending a coded message to his Jesus peeps.
Often, dog whistles are merely a covert shout-out to a particular constituency – but sometimes, they’re meant to be provocative, to quietly speak to subconscious (or conscious) biases and evoke a particular visceral reaction.
Such is the case with John McCain’s campaign advert conflating Barack Obama’s candidacy and person with Paris Hilton and Britney Spears (which can be viewed here). On its face, it’s an obvious editorial on Obama’s intelligence and competency, as his image is juxtaposed with two women alleged to be airheads while the voiceover intones: “Is he ready to lead?” And naturally there is an element of commentary on whether he is undeserving and entitled, with which Hilton and Spears are routinely charged. Famous for no reason, just a pretty face, the ad implies.
But loitering below the ostensibly substantive critique is something more nefarious. It’s no coincidence that it wasn’t the vacuous tabloid fixture Spencer Pratt or the “American Idol” punchline Sanjaya Malakar who appear in the advert – and it’s not…