Radicals’ Love Affair With Symbolism

I live in a small town of 12,000 people that has a very inviting and walkable downtown. I strolled to the bank yesterday and noticed that a couple of young people had set up a Lyndon LaRouche “Impeach Obama” table directly across the street from the town’s busiest restaurant.

As I passed their table, the young woman who seemed to be the brains of the pair asked me, “Do you want to save the United States?” I told her that indeed I do, but that following Lyndon LaRouche’s nostrums hardly seemed the way to go about it. “Besides,” I said, “it’s obvious from your portrait of Obama with the Hitler moustache that you’re not here to convert, only to provoke.”

She was from Marin and agreed that the extremity of her presentation was bound to persuade few, if any, that Obama is, as she put it, “leading the country into fascism.”

So I asked her why she had planted her flag in such hostile territory with little or no expectation of success. She shrugged her shoulders and ask me for a donation.

Later I got to thinking about the obsession with symbolism that seems to characterize radicals: The LaRouchites with their silly Obama = Hitler visual; the Obamaites with their ludicrous Caligulan pillars and halo effects; the Democratic-led Ku Klux Klan with their pointy hoods; aliterate college students dressing up as Disney characters to protest against regents voting for tuition increases (California); leftist cartoons depicting Jews as fanged baby eaters; Code Pink’s wizened skanks subliminally evoking the color of young women’s labia; the clichéd, oversized, grotesquely rendered puppets at “progressive” parades representing the bogeyman du jour.

Where does this fascination with imagery come from? Is it spillover from Halloween? A vestige of the 60s when “look-at-me!” dress and epater le bourgeois were in vogue? The result of too many fine arts grads looking for too few jobs and having to retreat to pottery barns to produce art for “social justice?”

It goes without saying that the imagery moves few, and for any thinking person shows an inability to see the world in anything but crude symbols. So what is its purpose? Is it simply to enrage (or in my case, inspire fleeting pity)? What does it say about the person who makes it? That he is creative and insightful? That she has bravely surrounded herself with like-minded people?  That he will finish the day ranting at somebody other than the choir?

Probably the symbol that amuses me the most–although the people who present it are clueless that it is even there–is when anarchists hide behind black masks. How can the bravest, baddest young men in the hood act so scaredy cat in the face of despised authority? “People of the world, were here to liberate you! We’ll let you know who we are just as soon as we overthrow the system!”

Another symbol that has been devalued, like denarii under a corrupt Roman emperor, is the Nobel prizes. Obama’s win of the Peace Prize in 2009 not only was cynical, it was racist. Contrast his life, devoid of struggle or principle, with that of a far worthier recipient, Martin Luther King, Jr. Whereas King received the prize in recognition of genuine courage and accomplishment, Obama received it as a pat on the head from white men who saw him as a magic Negro, the perfect patsy on which to load their resentment of the United States while showing their post-racist bona fides.

Then there is Paul Krugman. The man is a disgrace to logic and civility. But he has been a tireless advocate for the Euro bureaucrats’ ideal of a state run by all-knowing functionaries who can fine-tune an economy with regular injections of hot air from the present and IOUs to be paid by children from the 2030s. For his loyalty to that statist vision, he earned his doggie treat.

Symbolism is also a Rorschach test, both for the creators and consumers. Early in Obama’s regime there was the guerilla art poster of The One made up to look like The Joker. Conservatives immediately got the double jape: not only a narcissist careening out of control but also a greatest practical joke in American history gone awry–a clown had somehow won the presidency. Liberals immediately resorted to their one-arrow quiver and declared that the poster was racist. Never mind that defaulting so quickly to that explanation exposed liberals’ own always shallowly hidden racism.

The one mash-up of symbols that leftists are particularly fond of is the Star of David and the swastika. This harkens back to the LaRouchites’ facile Hitler mustache on Obama. By juxtaposing two incompatible symbols, the artists attempt to prove their great powers of insight. That the pairings come off as just plain stupid to almost any normal person who sees them doesn’t occur to them at all.

What does this rant symbolize? Only that Marin County is undergoing one of its routine sieges of summer fog. It should burn off by mid-afternoon, and then I’ll be free to cavort in the sunshine. In the meantime, I thought I’d post a “What’s up with that?”