Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Kanock, Kanock

McConnell Unseats Skip - The ESPN Troll 
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R - Kentucky, said, following the election of Barack Obama, that the single mission of his party was the failure of an Obama presidency. He has been faithful and resolute in achieving this sick-minded goal for the past six years, much to the detriment of the country.
Now facing his own reelection, McConnell has unsurprisingly released a loathsome and disingenuous campaign ad.  Bookended by short clips meant to evoke the pride of Kentucky—a waving American flag, horses racing under harness—are a few seconds of black-and-white footage, from 1960, of Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay), in Rome, wearing the Olympic gold medal that he won in boxing. In the clip, Ali stands between two other American boxers, Eddie Crook, on the left, and Wilbert (Skeeter) McClure, on the right.
It is the mark of the flattening effect of time, and of the years that Ali has battled Parkinson’s in relative silence, that the fiercely outspoken boxer—a draft protester, civil-rights advocate, and Muslim—could be recast as a bland signifier of Kentucky pride in a campaign spot for a Republican senator who recently was seen waiving a vintage rifle above his head. Yet, to the makers of the ad, with its vague celebration of ethnic diversity and patriotism, the Ali clip may have seemed like a perfect fit: an African-American son of Louisville proudly representing his country abroad. But the story of Ali’s 1960 gold medal is a complicated one. In Ali’s autobiography, from 1975, ghostwritten by Richard Durham, the medal became the central object in a heroic but apocryphal tale about Ali’s angry civil disobedience:
I came back to Louisville after the Olympics with my shiny gold medal. Went into a luncheonette where black folks couldn’t eat. Thought I’d put them on the spot. I sat down and asked for a meal. The Olympic champion wearing his gold medal. They said, “We don’t serve niggers here.” I said, “That’s okay, I don’t eat ’em.” But they put me out in the street. So I went down to the river, the Ohio River, and threw my gold medal in it.
The McConnell ad, meanwhile, is divorced from all reality—it appropriates Ali for a message entirely at odds with his own history. As Ali's image appears, we hear McConnell boasting: “We will govern with the understanding that the future of this country depends on our success, and the same old socialist notions that never pan out will finally be put to rest.” It’s important for a political ad to get its sports right, but turning Muhammad Ali into a Tea Party icon is far more ridiculous than mistaking.

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