I'm in no way suggesting that Barack Obama has any similarities at all with Hitler or Stalin. His politics don't match. He's too smart a campaigner for that. Besides, the Barack Obama campaign has no official contact with the people making these videos. None. Zilch. Nada. (Right?) Though the campaign did tap Shepard "Obey" Fairey for posters. And Fairey's work makes an appearance in the video. Ahem: "The Obey campaign attempts to stimulate curiosity and bring people to question both the campaign and their relationship with their surroundings. Because people are not used to seeing advertisements or propaganda for which the motive is not obvious, frequent and novel encounters with Obey propaganda provoke thought and possible frustration. ... "
Fairey knows exactly what he's doing; he's a student of the form. And if his enthusiasm for Barack Obama gets the better of him, if it has him sort of blurring the lines between the intended message of his art (compare and contrast) and some of the inspirations, then so be it.
And let me be extra clear. For targeting the youth vote, for getting an edge in the Democratic Primary, these efforts are brilliant, bordering on genius. The first video is still piling up the views. This video -- which also seems to be tweaked to target Black and Hispanic voters -- will do the same. The posters are amazing. Hell, I'd hang one up in my house! But if I'm a savvy Republican campaigner, I'm going to make an issue of these. You can bet your butt that if John McCain -- who's old, cranky and has a military background -- started putting up these posters, there'd be a huge outcry. (But you can also bet there's someone on the McCain side saying, "Man, I wish we could get away with that!")
It also brings into question Obama's over-ardent supporters and what appears to be historical or political ignorance (I know such ignorance is a fine American tradition). I don't expect pop stars and starlets to know much about anything other than singing or acting. And I can forgive them for making fools of themselves in their glossy-magazine interviews. But to have Jessica Alba -- who undoubtedly has her one-millionth men's magazine feature suggesting this is the year she'll quit taking crappy roles and turn into a real actress (but until then, here are some half-naked shots) -- say anything to anyone about politics is a bit much. To have her saying anything about politics while a maddened crowd shouts "Obama, Obama, Obama" in the background is entirely too much.
What really gets my goat (and, really, I'm down to my last goat, so please stop), is that Will.i.am seems to be slightly ignorant of pop history as well. I'm not the first to make this comparison, but didn't he see Living Colour's video for "Cult of Personality"? (Thanks, Sony, for not allowing us to embed that one.)
But maybe it's just this sort of chanty, fascist-appearing (and sounding) messaging is hot right now. After all, Under Armour's Super Bowl spot -- from the chanting, to the whiff of genetic superiority, to the red and black colors -- looked like little more than something from the History Channel's 1932 reel with a multicultural cast thrown in.