Monday, March 31, 2008

Why we did it and what we learned: The Obama Assassination Story

This has been an interesting few weeks. Our Obama Assassinated storyline has been our most popular post, while simultaneously being our most surprising. A few weeks ago, we (being Chauncey) and Gordon had a conversation where we reflected on how everyone seems to be saying the same thing, but no one has the nerve to really engage it. In the NY Times, on NPR, in conversations with friends and family there was a clear worry, and in the major news outlets more of a subtext actually, of anxiety regarding a black man running for president. Folks were thinking, "hell the brother may be killed" but no one would bring the issue to the forefront. I understand this worry-- this is only a blog and my entries were the amongst the hardest things I have ever written, professionally or personally. In formulating the storyline things came pretty easy. We had to set up the event. Put ourselves in that horrible place, and then in both literary and metaphorical terms, pull the trigger. The rest came surprisingly easy.

What did we learn? Well, from talking to friends and family who read the blog they were on the fence. On one hand they were like, "damn, that could happen," but that was mixed with, "well, if you write about it that isn't really cool." We expected that. But, what was really surprising was how the storyline was like one hand clapping in the wind (did you know that is how Buddhists describe the "sin" of masturbation?) in that there was lots of attention, but few posts. Even more interestingly, was not how the traffic was an obvious response to the keywords "Obama" and "assassinated"--it was "link-bait" which we expected--but that how many repeat, unique visitors came back to follow each installment, yet didn't post a comment. Now, we had some crazy anonymous posts which ironically said Obama would never be killed as "we" are past that (yeah right), but we also had a few that were very critical of Obama and which captured the real vitriol and hostility that is against him as a candidate. The final lesson learned, and the post that received the most traffic ironically, was that you don't mention conservative television or radio programs, or dare to broach the idea/fact/probability that they would find a way to spin the story such that Obama got what was coming to him...never, ever, do that.

Ultimately, the moral of the story is that folks like to read about their anxieties made real, but don't want to talk about it. The second moral is that one can write about a hypothetical plot against Obama all they want, but don't dare to ever, and I mean ever, speak ill of Fox News!

Alas, we will be back this week and next with our usual tomfoolery, satire, insight, and (relative) genius. This was an interesting and surprising exercise that we would repeat again if given the choice. A final thought: one of my best friends asked the pointed question, "what is the race of the assassin? Is he black?" I replied that I won't say, and does it matter? But, of course I do have an answer. What do you all think? What race was Mr. Roybock? And does it matter? Would the assassin's racial background shape how the public would respond to Obama's murder?


Anonymous said...

This gave me a headache. I found your site from another blog; didn't know what was on it.

The hispanic lady I work with prays for Obama everyday because she is worried that he will be assassinated. I hadn't given it thought until she told me her concerns. Now I hear about all the time.

I really have a headache. I think I'll join my co-worker in prayer.

Cyril Crozier said...

I have to admit, I simply assumed Roybock was white, but in hindsight, just maybe you left us some clues that indicated otherwise (Thomas Sowell in Roybock's library?)

As to the other question, the race of the assasin would definatley influence public reaction. A white Roybock would create an atmosphere in which the act would be mediated through the phenomena of the "angry white man" and the aftershocks of the 90s culture war and rightwing terrorism that occurred in that decade. I think a black assasin would just be shocking and would seem a bit absurdl to the point of being suspicious, to a lot of people.

Interesting, though concerning Roybock's reading - I actually think Obama is more of a Lockean/Adam Smith (which is much different from unfettered, "new economy capitalism) capitalist than either the Right or the Left would like to believe - for different reasons, of course. But I am probably preaching to choir on that one.

Anyway, dark, but interesting.

Lady Zora, Chauncey DeVega, and Gordon Gartrelle said...

We hadn't thought about the conspiracy angle--you are right, if a black man did kill Obama it would probably be rejected as a plot of sorts. And yes, there are other clues, but I will stop there lest I give it totally away.

chauncey devega

gordon gartrelle said...

It's widely known that Malcolm X's killer was black, but people rarely discuss the fact that King was stabbed by a black woman in '58. It doesn't fit the larger (and accurate) narrative of King living under contant white threat.

Anonymous said...

this reminds me of a coversation I had with a asshole back in a high school when I was a senior, and we were talking about presidential candidates, he supported Guiliani, I Obama, and this punk said that Obama is a muslim and will get shot. This made me snap, I jumped across the table and tackled his ass, I would have kicked his ass if the teachers hadn't intervenned. What really pissed me off is that I know this could happen.