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The Black Elephant in the Room

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The Black Elephant in the Room

Until a few weeks ago, the elephant in the room during this year’s presidential election wasn’t red—it was black. Barack Obama’s background has been dissected ad nauseam, but no one seemed to want to talk about how his race could affect the polls on November 4th. The Bradley Effect, the discrepancy between the number of white voters who say they’re going to vote for a black candidate and the number of white voters who actually do, is historically about 3%, which just so happens to be the net percentage disparity between many of Obama’s exit poll numbers and his official tallies during the Democratic primary earlier this year. In a close race, 3% can mean the difference between two vastly different worldviews, but Obama will likely overcome that statistic with scores of first-time voters—many of whom haven’t been counted in national polls because they’re not considered “likely voters” or because they don’t have a landline telephone. And the endorsement of former Secretary of State Colin Powell this morning will likely shore up support for Obama among moderates and independents who may have had some trouble picturing a black man in such a powerful government position.

Obama’s concern, then, should not be bashful or latent racism, but overt racism. Employing the same tactics that George W. Bush and Karl Rove successfully used against him in 2000, John McCain and his surrogates have taken to planting the seeds of fear into the American people by attempting to paint Obama as un-American, a foreigner, an “other.” It would be a faux pas to call attention to his blackness, so they’re doing the next best thing: likening him to a Muslim terrorist. The problem is, the closest thing they could find was a domestic terrorist from 40 years ago—and a white, middle-aged one at that.

Pundits and pollsters, even Obama himself, have claimed that voters are focused on the economy, that spurious accusations against the candidate have failed because people are more concerned about pocketbook issues. While that’s certainly valid, there’s a more obvious reason why McCain’s smears aren’t sticking. The goal of the McCain campaign is not to, as they claim, expose Obama as untrustworthy and unforthcoming about his past relationships, but to conflate him with Islamic fundamentalism. The Weather Underground was a revolutionary group whose primary point of contention was American imperialism—specifically, the Vietnam War. Their acts of violence against the U.S. government are difficult to defend, but they represented an extreme reaction to an immensely unpopular war and the group’s charge of imperialism is one that has been leveled against our current government for nearly eight years. That the American public, who are largely against the war in Iraq, wouldn’t fall for McCain’s tactic of trying to tie Obama to the Weather Underground, with or without a recession on the horizon and despite the mainstream media’s failure to fully research the topic, shouldn’t be surprising—even for the most cynical observer. The Weather Underground is not al Qaeda, and William Ayers—a baby-boomer professor and education reformer who, despite Tom Brokaw’s assertion on Meet the Press this morning that he said he wished he’d bombed more, believes that not enough was done to stop the biggest foreign policy blunder in our nation’s history…until the Iraq War—is not Osama bin Laden. Add to that the fact that the association between Ayers and Obama basically amounts to sitting on the same board of a nonprofit charitable organization and the whole thing doesn’t sound very scary at all.

Still, there are consequences to this slimy tactic. Invoking fear has been a hallmark of neoconservatism, and in his recent opinion piece “The GOP goes back to its ugly roots,” Salon’s Gary Kamiya eloquently observed: “The founding success of the modern conservative movement was that it convinced large numbers of Americans to reject ’liberalism’ and ’big government,’ even if they themselves benefited from both, because they were associated with social programs aimed at helping poor blacks.” He went on to detail how the party of Barry Goldwater “was able to conceal the fact that it was the party of the rich beneath a populist, race-tinged appeal to white resentment.” McCain has succeeded in conjuring the most dangerous and vile facets of the human psyche: By instilling the fear in his supporters that Obama threatens their way of life and all that the United States represents, and without ever using the word “black,” McCain has craftily summoned a lynch-mob mentality. They might as well be brandishing torches and nooses at his increasingly rowdy rallies, or yes, even wearing armbands emblazoned with swastikas.

McCain’s attempt to defend Obama during a recent rally in which a campaign volunteer, Gayle Quinnel, called Obama “an Arab” is telling: “No, ma’am,” McCain said, “He’s a decent family man.” It’s the same systemic racism, with “Arab” and “Muslim” being viewed as the antithesis of “decent” and “American,” that compels Obama to defend his Christianity whenever challenged on the topic. During his interview with Brokaw, Powell said it best: “The really right answer is, ’What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?’ The answer is no. That’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing he or she could be president?”

In light of the fact that the public at large doesn’t seem to be buying into either the trumped-up Ayers “controversy” or the Muslim paranoia, the McCain campaign is hedging its bets with old-fashioned voter suppression. Obama couldn’t contain his laughter during the final presidential debate last week when McCain alleged that the voter registration fraud by community organizing group ACORN, in which employees added bogus registrants like Mickey Mouse to their rolls in an attempt to meet quotas, perpetrated “one of the greatest frauds in voter history” and threatened “the fabric of democracy.” The notion is indeed laughable, but McCain’s strategy became clear when, on the following day, it was leaked that the F.B.I. is investigating ACORN. The objective is not to stop ACORN from registering Disney characters, but to incite paranoia and clamp down on voter registration logs across key battleground states, the victims of which will likely be minority (read: Democratic) voters. (For much more on this story, check out The Swamp.)

Not only could hundreds of thousands of names be purged from voter logs, but the very idea that that could happen diminishes voter confidence in the exact people Obama needs to win. Three percent of the voting bloc switching their vote to McCain at the last minute is surmountable. So are smear tactics that simply aren’t sticking. So is a little bit of voter suppression. Combine them, however, and you’ve got a recipe for a very long election night, which is exactly what the Republican party wants.

This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.

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Watch: The Long-Awaited Deadwood Movie Gets Teaser Trailer and Premiere Date

Welcome to fucking Deadwood!

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Deadwood
Photo: HBO

At long last, we’re finally going to see more of Deadwood. Very soon after the HBO series’s cancellation in 2006, creator David Milch announced that he agreed to produce a pair of two-hour films to tie up the loose ends left after the third season. It’s been a long road since, and after many false starts over the years, production on one standalone film started in fall 2018. And today we have a glorious teaser for the film, which releases on HBO on May 31. Below is the official description of the film:

The Deadwood film follows the indelible characters of the series, who are reunited after ten years to celebrate South Dakota’s statehood. Former rivalries are reignited, alliances are tested and old wounds are reopened, as all are left to navigate the inevitable changes that modernity and time have wrought.

And below is the teaser trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAcftIUE6MQ

Deadwood: The Movie airs on HBO on May 31.

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Watch: Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Gets Teaser Trailer

When it rains, it pours.

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Photo: Columbia Pictures

When it rains, it pours. Four days after Quentin Tarantino once more laid into John Ford in a piece written for his Beverly Cinema website that saw the filmmaker referring to Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon as Tie a Yellow Ribbon, and two days after Columbia Pictures released poster art for QT’s ninth feature that wasn’t exactly of the highest order, the studio has released a teaser for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The film was announced early last year, with Tarantino describing it as “a story that takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippy Hollywood.”

Set on the eve of the Manson family murders, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tells the story of TV actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), as they try to get involved in the film industry. The film also stars Margot Robbie (as Sharon Tate), Al Pacino, the late Luke Perry, Damian Lewis, Dakota Fanning, Emile Hirsch, Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell, and Bruce Dern in a part originally intended for the late Burt Reynolds.

See the teaser below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Scf8nIJCvs4

Columbia Pictures will release Once Upon a Time in Hollywood on July 26.

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Watch the Stranger Things 3 Trailer, and to the Tune of Mötley Crüe and the Who

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence.

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Stranger Things 3
Photo: Netflix

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence. On Friday, Jeff Tremaine’s The Dirt, a biopic about Mötley Crüe’s rise to fame, drops on Netflix. Today, the streaming service has released the trailer for the third season of Stranger Things. The clip opens with the strains of Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home,” all the better to underline that the peace and quiet that returned to the fictional rural town of Hawkins, Indiana at the end of the show’s second season is just waiting to be upset again.

Little is known about the plot of the new season, and the trailer keeps things pretty vague, though the Duffer Brothers have suggested that the storyline will take place a year after the events of the last season—duh, we know when “Home Sweet Home” came out—and focus on the main characters’ puberty pangs. That said, according to Reddit sleuths who’ve obsessed over such details as the nuances of the new season’s poster art, it looks like Max and company are going to have to contend with demon rats no doubt released from the Upside Down.

See below for the new season’s trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEG3bmU_WaI

Stranger Things 3 premieres globally on July 4.

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