Demonizing a President: The 'Foreignization' of Barack Obama.

Author:Persaud, E. Jerry
Position:Book review

Demonizing a President: The "Foreignization" of Barack Obama. By Martin A. Parlett. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2014. 253 pp.

Demonizing a President is a remarkable book for both scholarly and general readers. In it, Martin A. Parlett applies salient concepts to study the perception and treatment of President Barack Obama as a demonized foreign entity. As the book readily acknowledges, the forty-fourth president of the United States does not fit the norm; he is different. In the preface, Ted Nugent goes much further, lamenting that the nation allowed "a Chicago communist" and "subhuman mongrel"--a "gangster" named "Barack Hussein Obama"--"to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the United States of America" (p. ix).

Parlett is a researcher and political communication professional. He was also a 2008 campaign worker for candidate Obama and saw such perspectives from the front lines. This book's insider perspective thus exposes the raw and vile treatment of Obama as an outsider--among other views, as a threatening, communist foreigner who must be mistrusted.

To create and sustain this image, the president is demonized systematically. Parlett captures and conceptualizes the vortex of this foreignization through images such as "the Other," the communist, and the outsider. Additional conceptions serve to personalize the hatred for Obama. The proper noun Hussein--the president's middle name--transforms into "the Muslim Terrorist President" (p. 123), while others rely on derogatory creations, such as "Angry, Lazy, Stupid," the "Non-White President" (p. 75), and "the President from Foreign Soil" (p. 37). Many of these conceptions have deep roots in Western discourses and persist within American culture.

As its title indicates, Demonizing a President is specific to Obama's role as the first black president (i.e., the interracial offspring of a white American mother and a black, Kenyan African father). Parlett's chapter on the Other in American politics links ideas from the eighteenth/nineteenth-century philosopher G.W.F. Hegel with the 2008 Chicago polity, and Virginia's colonial debates on race and property with Edward Said's 1979 work on Orientalism (Orientalism [Vintage Books, 1979]). Parlett thereby recasts the Other to open his argument concerning how Obama became foreign, different, and strange. As the text notes, "Obama--an African American in the company of 43 white presidents--stood little chance against the ingrained...

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