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Rape of Lady Liberty Cartoon – Choose Your Weapons Carefully

Posted on April 3 2010 3:48 pm
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Amid all the high-fives and atta boy’s that have attended Jenn Q. Public’s recent post Rape of Lady Liberty I feel compelled to raise my hand, kind of like that annoying kid at the back of the class, and ask exactly what good we did ourselves here.

To be sure there are several things to agree with in the post, foremost among them that people are really, really angry and the Left is really, really stupid. Where I get off the bus  is the implication that either of these self-evident truths somehow justifies the use of a cartoon which by any objective standard is over the top.

In the highly unlikely event you haven’t seen the cartoon yet, it is reproduced below.

Just to pre-empt any baby-bath water confusion, I fully understand the anger that prompted this cartoon, as anyone foolish enough to have broached the subject with me over the water-cooler will attest. I fully agree that Obama has violated his oath vis-à-vis the Constitution, and that’s the kindest way to characterize it. That said I don’t think we do ourselves any favors by presenting that anger in a manner that hands our opponents a ready-made talking point and pretty much guarantees the more substantive message will get lost in the noise.

Jenn writes:

The imagery is unquestionably disturbing. Sexual assault is an atrocity, and the sight of the world’s most recognizable symbol of freedom and democracy sobbing in the aftermath of rape is unsettling.  Some people think it goes too far.

Um, yes, I would be one of those people.

But really, that’s what makes the cartoon so effective. It’s jarring. It’s shocking. And it reflects what Darleen Click and millions of other Americans feel: that Obama failed to obtain the consent of the governed before violating our most fundamental American principles with the stroke of a pen.

Again, no problem with the intended message, now let’s talk about the execution. I think we need to make a big distinction between what is emotionally satisfying and what is effective in terms of communicating the point.

In that regard I don’t think shock value enhances the effectiveness of an argument at all. Shock numbs the senses, it doesn’t heighten them. It draws attention to itself and not to the point it is trying to make. It becomes the story, just as the Obama-as-Rapist cartoon – and not Obamacare – has become the story. Covering your message with a fright-mask does not make your point, it buries it.

And no one is more grateful for this kind of high-impedance rhetoric than our friends on the other side.

A good part of Jenn’s post is devoted to the carefully rehearsed outrage of the Left, including their altogether predictable foray into racism charges. While I take a back seat to no one in my appreciation of the Left’s ability to miss the point, the feeding frenzy itself is hardly surprising. To the extent the minions of the Left pray at all, they burn whole baskets of incense praying for a gift like this. In their single minded pursuit of the “angry-crazy-Right” narrative this cartoon is more than they could have asked or imagined.

I know, I know, the Left will misrepresent us no matter what we say, so who cares what they write? Not me especially, but at least I think we should make them work at it. There is no need for them to fabricate distractions when we’re offering up images like this that come with the distractions built in.

Nor should our disdain for the Left make us forget that all sorts of people read from both sides of the menu, including those in the mushy middle. It’s worth asking how this played in Peoria. Was the first reaction, “yes, I agree that Obama has violated the country” or “um, maybe the Right is a den of sputtering rage?” It seems to me in the current war for the hearts and minds of people who may just be waking up to the theft of their Republic, an Obama-as-Rapist cartoon might not be the optimal vehicle of moral suasion.

If Darleen Click’s cartoon was offensive, good, because that was the intent. We should all be offended by any assault on the principles that make America exceptional.

Yes, we should. Again, the question is:  does Click’s cartoon help us get there or do we just never make it past our initial revulsion at the image?

Once we give up the high ground in the debate, and make no mistake cartoons like this fairly scamper down the hill, we are reduced to variations of the “you did it first” argument.

And let’s not forget, the feminist Left is perfectly comfortably using lies about rape to advance a political agenda. Anyone remember the Duke lacrosse case?  What about the false allegations that Sarah Palin forced rape survivors to pay for their own rape kits?  Or the Republicans for Rape smear campaign inspired by Senator Al Franken?

Rape imagery as a means to a “progressive” end is encouraged and embraced, so spare us the breathless pearl clutching over a symbolic depiction of rape on a conservative blog.

I would agree the Left is capable of breathtaking hypocrisy (an admission that won’t exactly send any of our readers into a swoon) but I fail to see how this justifies Conservatives’ use of the same type of imagery merely because our intentions are better. I’m not sure using the Left’s playbook, however obliquely, is a road we want to go down.

I don’t doubt Darleen Click’s passion or commitment, nor do I doubt she has made, and will make, important contributions. Within the narrow scope of this one cartoon, however, I think there are more effective ways to communicate the message. Accordingly, this is less a critique than an exhortation from someone in the next foxhole to consider using another gun.

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