No Stranger than Fiction.

A good piece in Slate by E.J. Graff makes the point that the notorious New Yorker cover is dangerous, even though satirical, because it reinforces neural pathways in our brains that are predisposed to misgivings about Barack and Michelle, even if we “know better.” In other words, by visualizing deep fears, it may not lampoon them or dispel them, but instead strengthen them—even though this was not the cartoon’s intention.

But making things real can be a force for good, too. In fact, another case of it may well account for Obama’s candidacy.

I refer to the first three seasons of the Fox show 24. In that show, a central character was President David Palmer, who was black. Dennis Haysbert portrayed him as a man of considerable strength of character and intelligence.

When I saw the show, I thought, “Wow—what an edgy, daring, admirable and cool casting choice.” I also thought the show must be taking place in the year 2300, since it was inconceivable to me that we’d have a black president any time sooner than that.

Season 3 of the show ended in May 2004. Now here it is merely four years later, and what seemed like as if it could not happen for another three centuries is on the cusp of happening now.

I think it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that 24 made it happen. By showing it to us, it made the possibility of a black president real. Ironically, Rupert Murdoch may be responsible for electing Barack Obama president.


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