Maybe A Little Tint?

« February 2012 »


The art of the political advertisement is a delicate one. You want to get your point across in a way that will get people's attention and really focus their anger on your opponent, but if you step too far over the line, the attention can end up focused on you and your ad, and not what your ad is trying to say. It's a tightrope, a balancing act that requires delicacy and, yes, restraint.

Unless you're Pete Hoekstra, in which case you climb up to the tightrope, set yourself on fire, and leap into the crowd.

Hoekstra, who's running for Senate in Michigan, makes his third appearance in this column. The first two were from his days as a Congresscritter, when he tried to paper the Capitol steps with the health care bill, and when he turned over hundreds of pages of Iraq war documents to the wingnutosphere so they could cherrypick fake evidence justifying the invasion. But I'm a little shocked he's only shown up twice in eight years, because his latest ad indicates the kind of thinking that would make him a regular. ACTUAL AD COPY TIME!

"Thank you, Michigan Senator Debbie Spenditnow. Debbie spends so much American money. You borrow more and more from us. Your economy get very weak. Ours get very good. We take your jobs. Thank you, Debbie Spenditnow." - Ad copy read by a Chinese woman riding a fucking bicycle down a fucking rural fucking road, for fuck's sake.

Let's set the blatantly racist broken English aside for a bit. It's the easiest target, and Hoekstra's defense is ridiculous, but this ad is awful in at least two other distinct ways that I'd rather cover first.

See, Hoekstra is running against incumbent Democratic senator Debbie Stabenow. See what he did there? He turned "Stabenow" into "Spenditnow"! Because she wants to spend money now! Even if this ad was read by a non-stereotypical Canadian man, largely devoid of even an accent, talking about how deficit spending would lead to more jobs in Toronto, the "Spenditnow" thing would be a fucking crime against language and comedy. It's a double stretch - the medium stretch from "e" to "it", and the giant fucking leap from "Stab" to "Spend". It's just clunky and awkward and lands in the ears like a turd in a punchbowl. And the turd being dropped from several stories up.

And to compound things, Hoekstra shows up AFTER the racist bit to dub himself, by way of comparison, Pete Spenditnot Hoekstra. Now here's where I almost empathize with the man. You can't make a joke out of Hoekstra*. I tried to think of one for this column and couldn't. You could maybe start doing a Ren and Stimpy thing with the Hoek, but that's almost as big a stretch as Spenditnow. But to take the already criminal Spenditnow, change the last letter to a T, and appropriate it as a nickname? That is roughly the equivalent of saying "It's not REAL child porn if it's computer-generated" just as every other conversation at the party hits a simultaneous lull.

But it gets worse, because again, racist portrayal aside, the fact is, these horrible nicknames are in service to a shameful and completely bullshit attempt to stir up some old-fashioned Yellow Peril. So let's run through it again. China doesn't own most of the U.S. debt. They're not going to buy us out or repossess America. They're not going to take us over. And don't even try to figure out some other way government spending would lead to more American jobs going to China, because that way lies madness.

Lest we forget, thirty years ago, Japan was going to own America. Remember that? They were going to take us over, they were taking all our jobs, and only Michael Keaton could save us? Yeah, how did that turn out? At best, they've managed to semi-dominate kids' cartoons, in exchange for which we get to pretend they're all insanely kinky.

OK. On top of all that, the ad is fucking racist, and I can prove it in two quotes. First, Pete Hoekstra, telling us the ad isn't racist.

"Well It’s not a stereotype at all. This is a — you know, through the creative — this is a young woman in China who is speaking English. That’s quite an achievement... There’s nothing in here that has a racial tint at all. But the bottom line is, when Debbie Stabenow and them can’t defend their record, what they’ll typically move to is they’ll move to the race card."

Boom. That's three signifiers of racism right there. First, that he's actually portraying this woman in a positive light because she can speak any English at all. Why not just call her "articulate" and be done with it? Second, "racial tint". Sigmund Freud called, and he wants your mother's penis back. And third, accusing his accusers of "playing the race card". Of course they played the race card! Your ad said, and I reiterate, "Your economy get very weak, ours get very good." They didn't so much play the race card as magically find it after you put it back in the deck.

Here's the other quote.

"People that are concerned about a racial implication of some sort are missing the point entirely. This is about the results and consequences of public policy choices. I think that Hoekstra is doing a terrific job at defining that.” - Lou Dobbs.

And if anyone would know about having their reasoned public policy discussions incorrectly thought of as racist, it's LOU DOBBS. Of course, I seem to recall that the last time Lou Dobbs thought someone did a terrific job at defining something, he thought Lou Dobbs did a terrific job at defining the number of Mexicans with leprosy sneaking across the border to infect us all. And to be fair, Dobbs was only off by being completely fucking wrong, so there you go.

When Lou Dobbs says you're not being racist, just honestly reporting the threat differently... tinted countries pose to the United States, then it's time to schedule your hood and robe fitting.

*The name, obviously. The man is perfectly able to make a joke out of himself.