Direct and unedited from The Carpetbagger Report..........
We’ve all seen Hillary Clinton’s “3 a.m.” ad. We’ve also seen Barack Obama’s response ad. And the parodies of both. It seemed as if, over the course of just two weeks, there wasn’t much else to say about the whole exchange.
But Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson considers the ad from a perspective I hadn’t considered.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.I’ve been tough on some of the Clinton campaign’s tactics of late, some of which have struck me as overly aggressive, needlessly divisive, and sometimes just plain ugly. But I’ve seen the “3 a.m.” ad a hundred times and I just haven’t picked up on racial undertones.
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. 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.
Finally, Hillary Clinton appears, wearing a business suit at 3 a.m., answering the phone. The message: our loved ones are in grave danger and only Mrs. Clinton can save them. An Obama presidency would be dangerous — and not just because of his lack of experience. In my reading, the ad, in the insidious language of symbolism, says that Mr. Obama is himself the danger, the outsider within.
Patterson is an accomplished scholar who’s forgotten more about racial symbolism than most of us will ever learn, but this criticism strikes me as wildly off-base. The ad is premised on exploiting fear, but not racial fears. “Birth of a Nation”? Seriously?
I can think of a few too many examples, most notably Geraldine Ferraro a few days ago, of Clinton campaign officials and surrogates playing the race card in troubling ways. But to say the “3 a.m.” is one of them is a stretch.
But you know its always wise to remember "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar".