The Corner

Postmodern Architecture

It’s getting loony, but then who is to say that the Leaning Tower of Pisa might not really be the Victory Column?

What was stunning about the NY Times’ Bob Herbert’s charge that the McCain campaign, in its satire on Obama’s messianic sense of self, had deliberately inserted clips of the phallic Leaning Tower of Pisa and Washington Monument to drive home a racist trope about black men and white women was not just his embarrassing ignorance of architecture, or his infantile pop-Freudianism, or even his preemptory efforts to tie all criticism of Obama to racism and thereby stifle dissent.  It was the sheer arrogance in the manner in which he persisted in his false points: “An image right there… of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and … the Washington Monument…. You tell me why those two phallic symbols are placed there…”.

If one listens to the clip, he asks rhetorical questions, and then in condescending fashion chides his bewildered panelists about their inability to fathom his own pseudo-charges: “You remember that! Alright!…Look at the beginning of that ad again! You tell me!…Pow! …I really wish someone would answer the question!…Run the ad again and take a look at it!”

There is never any sense of humility or self-doubt that he might just not know anything about the Victory Column or campaign ads. Instead, there is a very strong sense that all he has to do is evoke the charge of racism and, presto, all facts, details, and truth thereby simply are to disappear and skeptics are to cower. 

So here we are this summer: a messianic candidate, rebuked in his efforts to use the Brandenburg Gate as a campaign backdrop, then settles for the garish Victory Column, the 19th-century monument to Prussian militarism and conquest over its neighbors, and thereby provides fodder for his supporters to allege that when others use clips of his silly stagecraft they are really inserting phallic symbols in racist fashion. Orwell couldn’t have thought all this up.


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