Obama supporters playing the race card

There’s been some ridiculous race baiting by some left wing blogs and Obama supporters accusing the Clinton campaign of darkening Obama’s skin on one of their ads. They say it’s Clinton playing the race card. This is of course absolutely wrong and unsubstantiated. It’s actually the Obama supporters playing the race card. Below is an article that debunks their false claim.

Here is the original link from Newsweek.

Factcheck.org: Did Clinton Darken Obama’s Skin?

Some Obama backers cry “racism.” We find the accusation to be unsubstantiated.

By Emi Kolawole and Justin Bank | factcheck.org
Mar 6, 2008 | Updated: 9:36  a.m. ET Mar 6, 2008
Summary
Obama supporters on the Internet are agitated over the apparent darkening of Obama‘s image in a Clinton attack ad. Our video team took a look. Our conclusions:The Obama frames from the ad do appear darker than other video of Obama from the same event.

However, the YouTube copy of the ad, on which the bloggers base their conclusions, is darker overall than other copies of the ad.  We obtained a digital recording of the ad as it actually appeared on a Texas TV station, and it is lighter.

Furthermore, our analysis of the Obama frames, using Photoshop, shows a fairly uniform darkening of the entire image including the backdrop. It is not just Obama’s skin color that’s affected.

Also, nearly all the images in the ad are dark, including those of Hillary Clinton. And dark images are a common technique used in attack ads.

Others will speculate about the Clinton campaign’s intentions and motives, as they already have. But without further evidence to the contrary, we see no reason to conclude that this is anything more than a standard attempt to make an attack ad appear sinister, rather than a special effort to exploit racial bias as some Obama supporters are saying.

Analysis
A March 3 post by an Obama supporter on the liberal blog site Daily Kos framed the question starkly in its headline: “Is the Clinton Campaign Now Engaged in Intentional Race-Baiting?” A March 4 follow-up by another blogger on AMERICAblog.com asked, “Why is Obama’s skin blacker than normal in Hillary’s new attack ad?.” The blogger concluded that the image had been intentionally darkened, going on to charge that Clinton is “using racism to win.” Both of these posts have attracted hundreds of comments and have been re-posted on other widely-read Web sites.

The ad they refer to is “True,” a 30-second spot that the Clinton campaign started running in Texas on March 3. The campaign also posted it on its YouTube site that day. The ad includes a clip of Obama from the Feb. 27 debate in Cleveland. We noticed nothing amiss about this ad when we first saw it, but in light of the widespread accusations from Obama supporters, we’ve taken a closer look.

The first thing to note is that the version of the Clinton ad that appears on YouTube, which prompted comments on the blogs, is darker overall than other copies of the ad that appear elsewhere.
YouTube Version Is Unusually Dark
Here’s one of the frames from the YouTube version:

Here’s nearly the same frame as posted on Clinton’s Web site, which to our eye is noticeably lighter.

And here’s a high-quality version recorded by the Campaign Media Analysis Group, a unit of TNS Media Intelligence, as it appeared at 5:27 p.m. March 3 on station KCEN in Waco, Texas:

The CMAG version is lighter still. We’ve made no color corrections nor otherwise manipulated these images. We simply took freeze frames directly from each video in its original format.

Ad Versus Debate
All of that said, when we compared the video of Obama in the Clinton ad (any of the versions above) with the video of the debate as it appears on YouTube, there are pronounced differences in color.

Here’s the YouTube version of the debate clip:

However, Obama’s skin tone is somewhat darker in MSNBC’s streaming version of the debate on its Web site.

Our conclusion: Had the bloggers compared the CMAG version of the ad to the MSNBC version of the debate, they would have a far less compelling case for intentional darkening in the Clinton ad. To our eye the Clinton ad has a noticeably less reddish hue, but whether it looks darker or not depends on which version of the ad is being compared to which version of the original debate footage.

Why the Differences?
Without access to the project files of the editor who produced this ad, we can’t measure precisely what color manipulations were performed. However, we can offer some observations based on our own experience, if you’ll bear with a brief interlude of techy nerd-speak.

Some of the differences may be due to video compression required by YouTube, which encodes video to Flash format and re-sizes it, using its own required parameters before posting. The Clinton camp may have had one color scheme in its original video and ended up with a slightly different one after YouTube’s processing.

In our experience posting videos to our Just the Facts feature, conversion to Flash format drives up contrast and reduces the mid-range color values that are frequently found in flesh tones and facial detail. We’ve noticed that Obama, and other candidates, appear drained of a bit of their color in some of our videos after they’ve been processed for posting.

Still, the Clinton ad makers may have darkened the Obama images intentionally, to some degree. When it comes to video editing, the possibilities are overwhelming. But that doesn’t necessarily mean their motives were racist. We note that the entire ad is cast in dark tones and even Hillary Clinton herself appears in shadows, as though she were working late into the night.

A Page from the Attack-Ad Playbook
A standard technique used in attack ads is to portray the opponent in black and white while showing the person being supported in glorious, flattering color. And attack ads often use dark images to convey a sinister tone to the message. As the University of Pennsylvania’s Kathleen Hall Jamieson (who is director of our parent organization) stated in her 1992 book Dirty Politics:

Dirty Politics (p. 51): Quick cuts, use of black and white, dark colors, shadowed lighting, stark contrasts, videotape, the voice of a seemingly ‘neutral’ announcer, and ominous music are the techniques associated with ‘oppositional’ production spots.

And in fact, when we compared the frames in the ad to frames from the debate video using the “eyedropper” tool in Photoshop image-processing software, we found that the frames in the Clinton ad are uniformly darker. We found no pronounced difference in the degree to which Obama’s skin, as opposed to his tie, his shirt, or the backdrop was darkened.

We’re not mind-readers, so we can’t say whether or not the makers of this ad intended to engage in “race-baiting” or were “using racism to win” as some Obama partisans are claiming. Based on evidence at hand, we find those claims to be unsubstantiated. And the many potential differences between source footage, encoding manipulations, and other variables only make it less likely that any such attempt could be proven.

A final note: The last time we became aware of any clear example of digital manipulation was two years ago, when the Republican National Committee posted a Web image of Howard Dean with a hint of a little Hitler mustache. And charges of foul play were confirmed when the RNC posted a revised version, without the apparent mustache.

Update, March 6: We received several e-mails about our article that attempted to further the discussion. The two Kos bloggers who originally posted the story contacted us separately with thoughtful e-mails arguing generally that the matter deserves serious discussion but not
challenging the substance of our article. Both said they found no fault with our conclusions about the charges of racism. Troutnut said he didn’t “contest [our] assertion that the netroots’ accusation of race-baiting is ‘unsubstantiated,’ ” and Jeff Cronin admitted the
“Race-Baiting” headline on Kos “was phrased in starker terms than I would have liked.”

Another blogger who posts under the handle Berni_McCoy on DemocraticUnderground.com falsely accused us of having “POSTED A DOCTORED VIDEO” of Clinton’s ad. Since his mistaken claims are attracting some notice in the blogosphere we will point out his error here.

He compared the Windows Media video of the ad posted on our site with a QuickTime version of the ad that he obtained from Clinton’s campaign Web site. He then displayed frame shots from these two versions and stated “the difference is clear.” He concluded that we are “completely wrong” or “directly falsifying the ‘facts.’ ”

McCoy, however, falsely said that our Windows Media video is derived from the Clinton QuickTime version, which it is not. Our video is a copy of the high-quality video recorded by CMAG as it appeared on the air in Texas. So what McCoy imagines is evidence that we “doctored” video obtained from the Clinton Web site is actually evidence that supports
what we said in the first place: Versions of the Clinton ad from different sources show different shadings, and the YouTube version on which the “racism” claim rests is the darkest of the lot.

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2 comments

  1. Marc Andreessen, the co-founder of Netscape, is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the technology world…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marc_Andreessen

    Out on his blog I noticed that he has some comments on Barack Obama…

    http://blog.pmarca.com/2008/03/an-hour-and-a-h.html

    An hour and a half with Barack Obama

    Mar 3, 2008

    I’ve tried very hard to keep politics out of this blog — despite nearly overpowering impulses to the contrary — for two reasons: one, there’s no reason to alienate people who don’t share my political views, as wrong-headed as those people may clearly be; two, there’s no reason to expect my opinion on political issues should be any more valid than any other reader of what, these days, passes for the New York Times.

    That said, in light of the extraordinary events playing out around us right now in the runup to the presidential election, I would like to share with you a personal experience that I was lucky enough to have early last year.

    Early in 2007, a friend of mine who is active in both high-tech and politics called me up and said, let’s go see this first-term Senator, Barack Obama, who’s ramping up to run for President.

    And so we did — my friend, my wife Laura, and me — and we were able to meet privately with Senator Obama for an hour and a half.

    The reason I think you may find this interesting is that our meeting in early 2007 was probably one of the last times Senator Obama was able to spend an hour and a half sitting down and talking with just about anyone — so I think we got a solid look at what he’s like up close, right before he entered the “bubble” within which all major presidential candidates, and presidents, must exist.

    Let me get disclaimers out of the way: my only involvement with the Democratic presidential campaigns is as an individual donor — after meeting with the Senator, my wife and I both contributed the maximum amount of “hard money” we could to the Obama campaign, less than $10,000 total for both the primary and the general election. On the other hand, we also donated to Mitt Romney’s Republican primary effort — conclude from that what you will.

    I carried four distinct impressions away from our meeting with Senator Obama.

    First, this is a normal guy.

    I’ve spent time with a lot of politicians in the last 15 years. Most of them talk at you. Listening is not their strong suit — in fact, many of them aren’t even very good at faking it.

    Senator Obama, in contrast, comes across as a normal human being, with a normal interaction style, and a normal level of interest in the people he’s with and the world around him.

    We were able to have an actual, honest-to-God conversation, back and forth, on a number of topics. In particular, the Senator was personally interested in the rise of social networking, Facebook, Youtube, and user-generated content, and casually but persistently grilled us on what we thought the next generation of social media would be and how social networking might affect politics — with no staff present, no prepared materials, no notes. He already knew a fair amount about the topic but was very curious to actually learn more. We also talked about a pretty wide range of other issues, including Silicon Valley and various political topics.

    With most politicians, their curiosity ends once they find out how much money you can raise for them. Not so with Senator Obama — this is a normal guy.

    Second, this is a smart guy.

    I bring this up for two reasons. One, Senator Obama’s political opponents tend to try to paint him as some kind of lightweight, which he most definitely is not. Two, I think he’s at or near the top of the scale of intelligence of anyone in political life today.

    You can see how smart he is in his background — for example, lecturer in constitutional law at University of Chicago; before that, president of the Harvard Law Review.

    But it’s also apparent when you interact with him that you’re dealing with one of the intellectually smartest national politicians in recent times, at least since Bill Clinton. He’s crisp, lucid, analytical, and clearly assimilates and synthesizes a very large amount of information — smart.

    Third, this is not a radical.

    This is not some kind of liberal revolutionary who is intent on throwing everything up in the air and starting over.

    Put the primary campaign speeches aside; take a look at his policy positions on any number of issues and what strikes you is how reasonable, moderate, and thoughtful they are.

    And in person, that’s exactly what he’s like. There’s no fire in the eyes to realize some utopian or revolutionary dream. Instead, what comes across — in both his questions and his answers — is calmness, reason, and judgment.

    Fourth, this is the first credible post-Baby Boomer presidential candidate.

    The Baby Boomers are best defined as the generation that came of age during the 1960’s — whose worldview and outlook was shaped by Vietnam plus the widespread social unrest and change that peaked in the late 1960’s.

    Post-Boomers are those of us, like me, who came of age in the 1970’s or 1980’s — after Vietnam, after Nixon, after the “sexual revolution” and the cultural wars of the 1960’s.

    One of the reasons Senator Obama comes across as so fresh and different is that he’s the first serious presidential candidate who isn’t either from the World War II era (Reagan, Bush Sr, Dole, and even McCain, who was born in 1936) or from the Baby Boomer generation (Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Al Gore, and George W. Bush).

    He’s a post-Boomer.

    Most of the Boomers I know are still fixated on the 1960’s in one way or another — generally in how they think about social change, politics, and the government.

    It’s very clear when interacting with Senator Obama that he’s totally focused on the world as it has existed since after the 1960’s — as am I, and as is practically everyone I know who’s younger than 50.

    What’s the picture that emerges from these four impressions?

    Smart, normal, curious, not radical, and post-Boomer.

    If you were asking me to write a capsule description of what I would look for in the next President of the United States, that would be it.

    Having met him and then having watched him for the last 12 months run one of the best-executed and cleanest major presidential campaigns in recent memory, I have no doubt that Senator Obama has the judgment, bearing, intellect, and high ethical standards to be an outstanding president — completely aside from the movement that has formed around him, and in complete contradition to the silly assertions by both the Clinton and McCain campaigns that he’s somehow not ready.

    Before I close, let me share two specific things he said at the time — early 2007 — on the topic of whether he’s ready.

    We asked him directly, how concerned should we be that you haven’t had meaningful experience as an executive — as a manager and leader of people?

    He said, watch how I run my campaign — you’ll see my leadership skills in action.

    At the time, I wasn’t sure what to make of his answer — political campaigns are often very messy and chaotic, with a lot of turnover and flux; what conclusions could we possibly draw from one of those?

    Well, as any political expert will tell you, it turns out that the Obama campaign has been one of the best organized and executed presidential campaigns in memory. Even Obama’s opponents concede that his campaign has been disciplined, methodical, and effective across the full spectrum of activities required to win — and with a minimum of the negative campaigning and attack ads that normally characterize a race like this, and with almost no staff turnover. By almost any measure, the Obama campaign has simply out-executed both the Clinton and McCain campaigns.

    This speaks well to the Senator’s ability to run a campaign, but speaks even more to his ability to recruit and manage a top-notch group of campaign professionals and volunteers — another key leadership characteristic. When you compare this to the awe-inspiring discord, infighting, and staff turnover within both the Clinton and McCain campaigns up to this point — well, let’s just say it’s a very interesting data point.

    We then asked, well, what about foreign policy — should we be concerned that you just don’t have much experience there?

    He said, directly, two things.

    First, he said, I’m on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where I serve with a number of Senators who are widely regarded as leading experts on foreign policy — and I can tell you that I know as much about foreign policy at this point as most of them.

    Being a fan of blunt answers, I liked that one.

    But then he made what I think is the really good point.

    He said — and I’m going to paraphrase a little here: think about who I am — my father was Kenyan; I have close relatives in a small rural village in Kenya to this day; and I spent several years of my childhood living in Jakarta, Indonesia. Think about what it’s going to mean in many parts of the world — parts of the world that we really care about — when I show up as the President of the United States. I’ll be fundamentally changing the world’s perception of what the United States is all about.

    He’s got my vote.

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