Clout: Obama mania: Is this 2008 ... or 1984?

Posted: April 04, 2008

U.S. SEN. Barack Obama's critics have called his presidential campaign a cult of personality.

His glassy-eyed supporters are enraptured. The media are docile. Hollywood stars make music videos about him.

"There is something just a wee bit creepy about the mass messianism," Joe Klein of Time magazine has observed.

But we ask you, does the campaign poster on this page remind you of a totalitarian cult?

Wait, don't answer that.

The Soviet-style heroic Obama, the use of a single word "Hope," do make the SEPTA bus shelter posters a bit reminiscent of George Orwell's "1984."

Its more direct antecedent is John Carpenter's 1988 paranoid totalitarian fantasy flick, "They Live." Replace the word "Hope" with "Obey" on that Obama poster and tell us what you think.

The poster was designed by urban street artist/skateboarder Shepard Fairey, who enjoys a successful career as an artist and designer in Los Angeles.

Fairey gained fame with a couple of viral street-art campaigns in the 1990s, including "Andre the Giant has a Posse" and "Obey Giant," which resulted in thousands of small posters and stickers appearing on lamp posts and walls (and everywhere else) in urban centers around the nation.

The question is why the Obama campaign endorses artwork that makes him look like Big Brother.

"The posters are very distinctly Shepard Fairey, and anybody who sees this and is familiar with Shep's work will know it's his work," said Yosi Sergant, an L.A. publicist working with a group of young professionals for Obama.

Sergant doesn't think the Big Brother look will cost Obama votes.

"The type of person who's making a connection between these posters and Russian propaganda is probably set in their ways and has already made up their mind," Sergant said.

It's a generation thing. The kids know Fairey's work, old-timers don't.

"This is a big deal in the youth/arts community," Sergant said. "Go on Facebook or MySpace and you'll see a signifcant number of people using that image as something they embrace."

The posters were created by Fairey as his way of endorsing Obama. A different poster, by the artist Munk One, is also displayed on SEPTA bus shelters.

Sergant said that the ad space - on about 40 shelters - was purchased by Obama supporters and not coordinated with his campaign.

"I can't ever remember a time when the artist community has come together in support of a candiate like this," Sergant said.

Rendell: Not an idiot

With the Pennsylvania primary in the national spotlight, Gov. Rendell's been getting a lot of face time on TV.

But when he told Fox News that it "has done the fairest job, and remained the most objective of all the cable networks," it caused MSNBC yakker Keith Olbermann to go ballistic on Monday. Olbermann called Rendell "an idiot" and bestowed "the worst person in the world" award on him.

We asked Rendell spokesman Chuck Ardo if his boss is an idiot and the worst person in the world.

"There are a lot better reasons to believe Ed Rendell is the worst person in the world than [what he said about] Fox News," Ardo said.

Would he like to list those reasons?

"No," he said. "Look, Keith Olbermann is an entertainer and his job is to attract an audience. He has no fundamental commitment to either accuracy or rational thought. Given that lack of accountability, Keith's comments have to be taken in stride."

Blackwell: Obama's lesson

If state Rep. Tommy Blackwell is looking for someone to blame for getting knocked off the Democratic primary ballot, here's a nominee: Barack Obama.

Obama's political career got off to a jumpstart in 1996 when he ran for the state Senate and challenged the nominating petitions filed by all four of his Democratic rivals. He won the challenges and became the Democratic candidate by default.

At the time, Obama was teaching constitutional and election law at the University of Chicago. One of his students was Somerton native Adam C. Bonin.

Fast forward a dozen years. Obama is running for president and Bonin, now 35, is a lawyer at Cozen O'Connor. A friend recommends him to Vanessa Brown, a West Philadelphia community activist trying to unseat Blackwell. Brown thinks Blackwell's nominating petitions look suspect, and Bonin takes the case. A couple of weeks later, a state judge throws Blackwell off the ballot.

The Wright stuff

We've found a silver lining for Obama in the firestorm over the hyperbolic comments of his former minister, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

It is this: Although his church may have had a flamboyant controversial minister, it was a church, not a mosque.

Obama's enemies have deluged the Internet with the rumor that Obama is a Muslim who attended a Muslim school.

The canard gained such currency that an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll taken just before the Wright flap broke showed that 13 percent of those polled thought Obama was a Muslim.

Thanks to Wright, we're guessing that number goes down in the next poll.

Bill George: Fencing a metaphor

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO chief Bill George, a Democratic superdelegate, says that if generational issues are playing out among voters, they're also evident in the media.

George, who gets daily calls from campaigns and reporters interested in whom he's backing, says he's keeping his powder dry (and hopes people know what that means).

He insists he hasn't decided. While being photographed for a New York Times story recently, he literally climbed onto a fence.

"The Times photographer didn't get it," George tells us, "even after I said, 'I'm sitting on the fence.' The photographer never heard the expression."

And the election? George says he expects the Democrats to go without a nominee to the convention, where he hopes to be the 2,025th delegate to vote.

"I wanna break the tie," he said. *

Staff writers Gar Joseph, Bob Warner and John M. Baer contributed to this report.


Have a news tip? Gossip? Suggestion? Contact Gar Joseph at clout@phillynews.com, call 215-854-5895, or fax 215-854-5910.

|
|
|
|
|