Judging Annie Leibovitz By Her Cover
By Rogers Cadenhead
Wednesday, April 02, 2008 at 11:06 AM
In a column this morning for TownHall.Com, David W. Almasi calls me a "race-monger" for pointing out the racial implications of the LeBron James/Gisele Bundchen Vogue magazine cover. Annie Leibovitz's photo was a recreation of a famous World War I military recruitment poster, with James in the role of the woman-lusting gorilla and Bundchen as his prey. People who see King Kong in the cover are not far off the mark.Citing Chris Rock's Saturday Night Live character Nat X, Almasi, the executive director of the right-wing National Center for Public Policy Research, races to this conclusion:
Rather than judging James -- and, by extension, other blacks -- by the content of their character, skills or intellect as Vogue intended, the race-mongers instead seem more interested in bringing things down to the lowest common denominator. There never seems to be a party where they don't want to be a skunk.
After all, Nat X said that's what we wanted to see.
I contacted Almasi last week after his think tank issued a press release declaring there was "no racial double-meaning" in the cover. I wanted to see if his opinion would change after he saw the poster, which Leibovitz was clearly referencing in her shot.
As you might expect of a person who makes his living holding a rigid ideological position, Almasi didn't budge an inch. He scoffed in email at the notion there's anything racial going on, since the poster's gorilla is a German kaiser.
Surely Almasi knows that the portrayal of a black athlete as a simian is a racially provocative statement. Less than a year after Howard Cosell called an athlete a "little monkey" on Monday Night Football in 1983, a comparison he made previously of other non-black athletes, he was gone from the program. Less innocently, racists have often compared blacks to monkeys and apes.
If Leibovitz had not worked directly from an iconic gorilla/woman poster, we could have the argument Almasi wants to have about how controversies like this are drummed up by people seeing racism in places it doesn't exist. I think he'd still be wrong -- the black journalists who first spoke out against the Vogue cover have a right to find it offensive -- but it's more open to debate.
Instead, Almasi finds himself in the position of pretending there's nothing racial going on when Leibovitz intentionally cast LeBron James in the role of a gorilla.
To paraphrase Nat X, that's what she wanted us to see.
I don't know why you'd bother contacting David Almasi, of all people. I mean, this is the Project 21 guy. Who can take him seriously? Come on, he's part of an "initiative" with a goal of convincing black Americans that they should think like the rich, white conservatives who would own them if they could still get away with it. The guy pretends to speak on behalf of black Americans on a regular basis. I prefer my racists to be open and upfront about who they are; snakes like Almasi are the more dangerous breed of bigot.
And of course he's getting defensive, sir. White racists - and make no mistake, because Almasi absolutely is a member of that club - hate it when anyone outside their clique catches on to the subtleties of their in-jokes. They enjoy being able to give one another a wink and smile over things like this, and when someone calls them out over it, they feign ignorance. "Huh? What do you mean? Racist? Oh, how could you possibly think that?" Here he is again, pretending to speak for black America, by denying the imagery right before his eyes even exists. "Nothing to see here. Move along, please."
Any attempt to engage in discourse with a man who's made a career of intellectual dishonesty will always be an exercise in utter futility.
I thought we had an agreement: Anything posted on Townhall was the equivalent of Faux News minus the goosestepping. You come to expect the Fucking Clueless to say shit like that.
For those who might not know, Almasi is, in fact, white, not black. A fact that has surprised many over the years, given that he heads an organization that bills itself as "The National Leadership Network of Black Conservatives."
That a white man heads an "initiative" of an extremist conservative group like The National Center for Public Policy Research , an initiative that targets blacks, should no longer be surprising in the 21st century world of deliberate confusion and phony grassroots groups designed solely to further a political agenda.
That Almasi's piece manages to leave out the fact that you contacted him in response to a press release from his group, making it sound instead like you simply solicited his opinion, is pretty sleazy.
The fact that his piece says that Project 21 is "a group with which I work," but omits the fact that it is a group "which he heads" is pretty sleazy.
His main response to whether he finds the photo racist or objectionable is laughably absurd:
Nor was I aware of the recruiting poster until Cadenhead contacted me. Despite now being exposed to it, I don't think of James as an ape not do I hold him in the same contempt as I do Kaiser Wilhelm II and the German empire of nearly a century ago.
What the f*** does his personal opinion of Lebron James have to do with anything? The question is what associations the photo triggers, not whether people who view the photo somehow develop an opinion that James is an ape or just as contemtible as the Kaiser.
It's also pretty amazing how difficult it is to find out anything about Almasi's background by doing the usual web searches for that stuff. Is there some reason that none of his supposed "bios" really offers any info about him except his current position?
All that said, however, this subject seems overblown to me. It is theoretically possible that Liebovitz did not intend the image as a comparison of James to an ape, however likely it was that others would make that asssociation upon seeing the picture. It is also very possible that Liebovitz is getting the one thing that she wanted all along: free publicity and more notoriety.
I just don't think that this is worth the time, effort, and energy being spent on it, given all the other crap going on in America right now.
I don't know why you'd bother contacting David Almasi, of all people. I mean, this is the Project 21 guy. Who can take him seriously?
I wanted to see what he'd say, given the way his group expressed such certainty there was nothing racial about the magazine cover. He didn't disappoint. When pressed about whether a depiction of a black athlete in the role of a gorilla might be racially loaded, he responded with this bit of nonsense: "And you will make sure people know that Leibovitz has maxed out in donations to Hillary Clinton, right?"
I have no idea what that's supposed to mean. It's like his brain rebooted and the first thing that loaded was animus towards Hillary Clinton.
I somehow missed this gem from the Almasi editorial the first time I read through it:
Darryn "Dutch" Martin, a black conservative with Project 21 ....said in a press release: "....I believe critics are using this canard of racial stereotyping as a smokescreen to hide their true disdain for any images of interracial closeness or intimacy between black men and white women."
That's certainly a candidate for the lamest, most disingenuous pap I've seen in a long time--your concern over racism means that you are a racist.
Newspeak lives! Praise "Dutch" Martin to the skies. Hail the God of utter crap.
Frighteningly, Martin appears to have at one time been in the foreign service of the State department, representing the U.S. overseas. According to Zoom Info, Martin's bio on TownHall used to (as of 12/21/04) include the statement that Martin "is currently a foreign service officer for the U.S. Department of State." The site no longer seems to have a bio for Martin, and the Project 21 bio says nothing about the State Department.
In fact, a Darryn Martin is listed as the Political/Economic/Consular Officer to the Central African Republic on a 2001 State Department web page
Anyone developing a real affection for Mr. Martin should know a bit about him. On his National Center bio, it states that "His favorite conservative writers include Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele, John McWhorter, Walter E. Williams, Star Parker, Ann Coulter, and Mike Adams."
Can't go wrong there.
"Nor was I aware of the recruiting poster until Cadenhead contacted me. Despite now being exposed to it, I don't think of James as an ape not do I hold him in the same contempt as I do Kaiser Wilhelm II and the German empire of nearly a century ago."
Right: he holds him in a different contempt: the Kaiser was depicted in the original poster as essentially subhuman savage -- but he was white. So Almasi is telling the truth about his "different contempt," because his contempt for the Kaiser couldn't be based upon race.
As for the fact that challenging the comments of the intellectually dishonest and bigots is fruitless: one must anyway, else silence is assent, even consent.
"When pressed about whether a depiction of a black athlete in the role of a gorilla might be racially loaded, [Almasi] responded with this bit of nonsense: "And you will make sure people know that Leibovitz has maxed out in donations to Hillary Clinton, right?"
"I have no idea what that's supposed to mean. It's like his brain rebooted and the first thing that loaded was animus towards Hillary Clinton."
It's a wonder he didn't accuse Liebovitz of racism -- after all. she is Jewish, and Jews are on the white supremacist hit-list also. 'Course that would have been too close to admitting that the cover is about race and racism.