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Campaign slander discussed

By: James Beltran

Posted: 11/4/08

Last Wednesday, David Pilgrim spoke about the offensive material that both the Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns have presented to each other during this year's election season in hopes of raising awareness.

Pilgrim, an applied sociologist, is the chief diversity officer at Ferris State University, and the founder and curator of the Jim Crow Museum. He gave a PowerPoint presentation in which each slide focused on specific negative images directed toward the presidential candidates from both parties. The first slide shown by Pilgrim called John McCain a "poodle" of President George W. Bush. The slide explained this metaphor further: "Most of the anti-Senator McCain objects question his political independence. This is a traditional political strategy."

Another slide, titled "Senator McCain Will Say Anything To Get Elected", noted that John McCain has been ridiculed for going against the Republican Party: "Senator McCain's willingness to vote against his party's leaders has earned him praise as a maverick and disdain as a political prostitute. " Pilgrim explained that people have considered McCain to be a political prostitute because he has had no independent views of his own. He then displayed a headline from Newsweek that read "No Country for Old Men," referencing that McCain was too old to serve as the next president.

A list of traditional male and female stereotypes was displayed on the screen. These stereotypes called men aggressive, rational, and strong, and called women passive or docile, weak, emotional, afraid and dependent. According to Pilgrim, the stereotypes suggested that Sarah Palin's candidacy for vice president was inappropriate for a woman.

The content of the slides grew progressively worse as the presentation went on. Several slides attacking the candidacy of Hillary Clinton were shown. One of the slides, titled "Senator Clinton Has No Identity Separate From Her Husband's", was intended to argue that because Senator Clinton married former President Bill Clinton she had no personal identity. Another slide, called "Summarily Dismissed", suggested that Hillary Clinton was not fit for president simply because she was a woman. "This [a design featuring Hillary Clinton and a donkey] says that no matter how accomplished a woman is her real assets are those that relate to sex."

There was also a slide which illustrated Hillary Clinton urinating while standing up, suggesting that Hillary possesses masculine body parts instead of feminine body parts. The slide serves as a reminder that women who took political office violated societal norms. "A woman who violates the society's gender expectations is sometimes accused of 'acting like a man.' This is reminiscent of the times when African Americans who violated the racial norms of the Jim Crow era were accused of 'acting White.'"

Barack Obama was also the subject of several derogatory slides. Notably, Pilgrim displayed images of Barack Obama as a terrorist sympathizer or a supporter of Adolf Hitler. This particular slide, entitled "Talking Pretty, Doing Evil," featured sketches of Obama and Hitler with the message "Hitler gave great speeches too..." Pilgrim expressed outrage that Obama was even compared to Hitler. ""Let us never again as a people compare Obama to Hitler," Pilgrim said. He continued that alluding Obama to Hitler only served to trivialize the lives of the people who died during the Holocaust.

Another slide of Obama depicted him as the Devil. The slide, called "Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid", suggested that Obama was the Antichrist. This, however, is not unique in political or social discourse. In fact, figures from Nero to John F. Kennedy have been depicted as the Antichrist.

There were also images in other slides which argued that Barack Obama was not fully acting as an African-American. One slide showed a caricature of Obama dressed in 'gangster' attire, implying that Obama was "too black" for many Americans. In contrast, another slide noted that Jesse Jackson accused Obama of acting "too White." The reason given for this remark, according to the slide, was because Obama failed to strongly condemn the white individuals involved in an incident called the Jena Six.

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