Mark Oxner’s ad is a marvelous example of right-wing propaganda; it is carefully crafted and rich with provocative imagery. For example, in keeping with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus’ recent suggestion that President Obama’s leadership is akin to Captain Schettino’s (the captain of the capsized Italian cruise ship Costa Condordia, on which 17 people were killed), Obama is depicted as irresponsible and negligent, abusing the child slaves who are forced to row the mighty vessel.
It is important to emphasize the choices made by the producers of Oxner’s video. They decided to use a colonial-era vessel driven by wind and powered by slaves, as opposed to a modern cruise liner, a steamship, or even an airplane. They chose to cast the children as slaves who are monitored by a whip-carrying overseer. And Oxner’s ad was designed to feature one image above all others—that of children, most of them white, being abused by a gleeful and indifferent black man. The inversion of the expected image, one where a person of color enslaves whites in their own version of the Middle Passage, reinforces the idea that something is unnatural (and inherently wrong) about this relationship of domination and subordination.