Photo software hooligan annoys, confuses, upsets 5’7″ lady blogger.

You don’t know this guy, but you kiiiinda know this guy. You know his work. And if I have done my job appropriately as a leftist girlnerd broadcasting from apt. 302, soon you’ll join me in harboring hot, coursing THIS GUY frustration due to his actions as described below. This guy’s a 20 year old University of Illinois student named Firas Alkhateeb. One fateful night not so long ago, he was doing some PhotoShop-ish tinkering on his computer, “Joker”-ized President Dreamboat’s handsome face on the cover of Time, put it on his Flickr page, and was done with it.

Except, HOLLLLD UP and/or wait a minute.

Then here’s what happened. Somebody else took the picture from the Flickr page (without mentioning this to Alkhateeb), slapped “socialism” underneath it, and put it all over your city and my city to make an unoriginal statement about Obama being our very own Hugo Chavez, only better-looking and in a Hartmarx suit. AAHAHAHA. See, it’s funny, ’cause Obama’s a Socialist! Just like…uh…the Joker as played by Heath Ledger and brought to you by Warner Bros? OHWAIT. See, that doesn’t make one goddamn bit of sense. Also, it’s the opposite of funny and is most definitely not fresh or irreverent in its message. Also, the Joker was not a Socialist. Also, everyone having access to health care in the richest country on Earth is not Socialism. And this isn’t Gotham. So stop it.

(I have entertained the thought that the person behind the posters could be some wiseass dude with a CalArts degree who’s actually pro-Obama and is trying to give us all a big postmodern headache by forcing us to talk about the characterization of political figures as public creations, assigned meaning by members of the culture and then figuratively passed around like action figures. However, the fact is that the work depicts Obama looking simultaneously scary and foolish, and that in itself is a statement about the man despite any ironic interpretations.)

So again, my man Firas Alkhateeb, 20 years old, in college, just playing around with some software, created the “Joker” image innocently enough. The “socialism” addition came later, thanks to some unidentified person – so it’s not Alkhateeb’s editorial about the President you see in these posters. Somebody came in and adjusted his original picture a bit in an effort to express some political leanings. Lovely; I disagree with the message in this case but I support the concept. And what’s also lovely is that Alkhateeb himself supports the concept; your dude does not seem concerned at all with getting paid even though the popularity of the design would almost guarantee it (“It would be nice,” he says, “but it’s not that big of a deal”). Thus, public art as common medium, free-flowing between members of a culture. Lawrence Lessig game proper. I’m in.

HeightFiveSeven cannot support, however, passively dipping your foot into the shallow end of the pool when there’s a fucking game of Marco Polo happening in the pool right in front of you. Also, it’s your pool. And you’re just sitting there, watching.
(there’s a metaphor in there somewhere; lemme tinker with it a little more and get back to you).

I’ll back up. Alkhateeb is critical of President Dreamboat, as he thinks his performance so far has been underwhelming: “We don’t have to ‘hero-worship’ the guy,” he says. Sigh. Heeeere we go. That’s nothing this blogger hasn’t heard right-wing jerkfaces say a hundred times before; what can you do. But Alkhateeb goes on to say that he’s a Kucinich supporter.
(That’s the guy from Ohio who never stood a chance of becoming President because he was too much, um, like a Socialist. My mother the superleftist luuuuuhves Obama but still has not recovered from Kucinich’s defeat.)

So. Obama is too liberal, the poster tells you. Just look at the thing; blind man can see it, like James Brown always said. Even DJ Diabetic himself took a break from protecting his pristine brick from pesky graff writers to describe how succinct and clear the message conveyed in the “socialism” posters is (Obama is too liberal). It’s a message that’s pedestrian and lame and built upon falsehoods about death panels, but goddammit if it’s not a finely-distilled and clear message and that, no matter what the message, is the most important part of having a super tight street art game.

And Firas Alkhateeb is busy being 20, attending classes, going to Stereogum and checking Facebook 4 or 5 times a day, doing everything he should as a collegiate guy. And all the while the image he created is being co-opted to provide some striking, memorable as all hell, and visually persuasive material for the guys on the other team. Therein lies my concern. The situation’s like somebody boosting the image of my body up at the top of this page, adding “GIRLS SHOULDN’T LISTEN TO STEVIE WONDER” on the bottom, making it into a paste-up all over the metropolis, and me not really minding so much that my image is being used for the campaign against girls listening to Stevie Wonder. And then me reiterating my belief that girls don’t listen to enough Stevie Wonder in my interview with the LA Times.
(Please smack me in the mouth if I act like this; thanks in advance)

Firas can certainly be a 20-year-old in college who wants to sit this one out. I get it. We all have self-determination. He didn’t slap “socialism” under the Joker’s chin and didn’t ask to join the discourse; I get that too. I’m an understanding soul. But he’s still THIS GUY and you know it. There’s no fire on his part, no anger, no showing and no proving. You’re allegedly so Kucinich, Firas. Lemme see. Simon says, according to Monch, gettthefuckup.

I can’t say it as well as 1994 can say it, and I damn sure can’t say it as well as representatives from the state of Georgia can say it. So even though this song lyrically pleads for you to stop fuckin around and stop smoking so much goddamn weed and for you to get your head right, in keeping with the theme of this post I have co-opted the art of another party for the purpose of spreading my own message:



3 thoughts on “Photo software hooligan annoys, confuses, upsets 5’7″ lady blogger.

  1. Anonymous

    How come americans have a problem with Obamas health care reform? And why do you guys call it socialism? It has clearly nothing to do with socialism. I live in Sweden (you know, the country FOX and O'Reilly refers to as socialist) and i get frustrated when you, the richest country on earth, can't provide a decent health care for everybody. What is up with that? When Cuba have better health care, it's time to think again. But the stubborness of some people make it hard. And who's the one getting hurt by all this: Yes, poor people!
    To sum up: America hates poor people.

    Socialism yay!

  2. Drew

    As an artist, I believe that we all have the right to free-speech. You can make images you want to make. Sometimes artists make things just to be controversial or spark discussion. And sometimes they make uniformed statements with their art. But you have to understand how they will be used or interpreted.

    As a graphic designer, I know one messes around just to learn a program or execute a concept. I could see he was probably just playing around when he made this. And when you're a designer, you're on the computer all the time, and much of your life is there. So why not post the image you made on the internet..?

    The problem is, as you've pointed out, Logan, is that he is not owning up to the image – claiming it, denouncing or approving it's use. He's just idling. Which only adds to my belief that he created this image with no clear intention beyond slapping one face on top of the other. And as a result, he comes off as not understanding what the juxtaposition of the two figures means in any sense.

    On one hand, you have, Obama: left-leaning Democrat, President, charismatic.

    And on the other, Joker: ANARCHIST (as the movie iteration of the character clearly states “Let's introduce a little Anarchy”, and is described as “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”), criminal, murderer, scary, (played with charisma).

    They're both appealing people, but the Joker is only appealing because he's not real. If he were, he'd be viewed as something between a John Gotti, Charles Manson, and a Timothy McVeigh… with a bit of Dee Snider or something. Not very likable. So what Alkhateeb isn't thinking about is that one is a public figure, and one is a make believe character, and the only place where the two intersect is due to the fact that the Joker is being played in a movie (his charisma).

    So really, the image itself just doesn't make sense, because the two have no commonality. And on face value, those who already harbor fear of Obama, now have an image that not only supports their view, but aligns him with a fictional character, who is, essentially, a terrorist.

    This sits just fine with his opponents, but they take the half-baked concept a step further by adding “SOCIALIST” to the bottom. Which is just stupid, because if that's what the image was obviously saying, they wouldn't need to put the word underneath it. If this image was actually saying that Obama was a Socialist, that would be the equivalent of showing a picture of bread, and having the word “BREAD” underneath it. It's only because people's main reaction to the image is confusion, that the word “SOCIALIST” has to be put underneath it at all.

    (Aside: The mash-up makes about as much sense another Batman reference: R. Kelly's “Gotham City” song. Lyrics state: “It's a city of peace/a city of justice.” … That song by itself, not to mention R. Kelly's endless other goofs, may be worth a write-up some time, Logan.)

    In the end, the whole thing is half-baked. And it's evident that Alkhateeb doesn't even care in the first place. And as you are saying, that's what makes you frustrated.. he made this thing with no real informed opinion, and then doesn't care enough to do anything about it when it is misappropriated. It's just all… silly.


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