Wingnuts approximate “clever” while threatening the President

By Amanda Marcotte
Saturday, November 21, 2009 18:32 EDT
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Via Spencer, Gawker reports on a growing movement of Christians using religious “jokes” in order to call for the assassination of Obama. The “joke” is this T-shirt, citing a verse from the Bible that says, “May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership.” As Gawker explains, it’s surrounded by other prayers of enemy smiting, namely that his widow and children starve and live in poverty after his death. Gawker has other examples of right wingers thinking it’s cute to be coy—but in an unsubtle, stupid way that’s not nearly as clever as they think—in calling for Obama’s death.

The Psalm 109:8 gag is one in what’s becoming a long line of cheekily coded Obama death threats: There was the classified ad someone placed in a Pennsylvania paper hoping that he follows in “the footsteps of Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy,” all of whom were assassinated. And there was the gun-toting New Hampshire teabagger with a sign saying it is time to “water the tree of liberty”—a reference to Thomas Jefferson’s reminder that the tree of liberty must be watered from time to time with the “blood of tyrants and patriots.”

The most obvious thing about these coded messages is how thin the coding is—the wingnuts putting this together are either so dim they can’t see that these “jokes” aren’t as dense as they purport to be, or they assume their audience is so stupid that “jokes” have to be really obvious to be got. Or both. It doesn’t seem possible that they’re so dense that they think that these shirts and other non-jokes are so dense as to evade being understood by outsiders or law enforcement, and so I don’t think that’s really to point of using these codes to encourage violence against Obama.

No, I think they engage in these codes not because they’re effective protection or because they’re funny, but because they get a rise out of approximating what they think being clever might feel like. These codes may not be clever, but they feel clever to people who aren’t really used to exercising their brain cells. To understand these threats, your brain needs to take two admittedly tiny steps, but those are two more steps than these assholes are used to putting their brains through, so it feels like what they imagine it must feel like to be one of those people who are actually clever and use their brains all the time. These non-jokes also function as jargon, language that only the insiders of the wingnut tribe use, which helps create a group identity, the people Sarah Palin likes to call “Real Americans”. Which is dangerous, because we know how very little they’re willing to believe that outsiders are real people.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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