SOCIALISM is the tag line of a bizarre new campaign against President Obama. The word "Socialism" appears across an image portraying President Obama as Heath Ledger’s Joker in last year’s The Dark Knight. The Obama/Joker mash-ups have appeared on posters in Los Angeles, have gone viral on the Internet, and are available as t-shirts, mugs, and other political swag.
It seems that some elements of America’s fringe Right have become embarrassingly Freudian. This is a clear cut case of projection. The Right is the Joker, not President Obama.
Heath Ledger’s edgy, dark portrayal of the Joker was remarkable and disturbing precisely because it was rooted in irresistible chaos, not in tight control. If Obama’s critics are trying to claim he is a big-government loving, bureaucracy building, state-control planning mastermind then they could not have chosen a worse image than Ledger’s Joker.
Joker’s evil is banal, random, gleeful and almost effortless. "Do I really look like a guy with a plan?" he asks.
If the current political moment were mapped onto The Dark Knight script, it would be the right wing fringe of the GOP cast as the chaos-inducing Joker.
Conservative tactics of social divisiveness feel distinctly Joker-like. Elected Republicans and conservative talk show personalities like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck used the Sotomayor hearings and President Obama’s response to the Dr. Henry Louis Gates’ arrest to claim reverse racism, stoke racial anxiety, and suggest that some citizens are more worthy than others.
In the film Joker rigs two ferries with bombs. One carrying ordinary citizens, the other carrying convicted criminals. Joker offers a terrible choice,
"Each of you has a remote… to blow up the other boat. At midnight, I blow you all up. If, however, one of you presses the button, I’ll let that boat live. So, who’s it going to be: Harvey Dent’s most wanted scumbag collection, or the sweet and innocent civilians? You choose… oh, and you might want to decide quickly, because the people on the other boat might not be so noble."