Update: A Representative of the Flinn Campaign has reached out to me with the original image featured in the mailer discussed below.
While the image that appeared on the mailer was altered (de-colorized, contrast levels boosted for dramatic effect, and squished horizontally), it does not appear to have been for a specific anti-semitic effect.
That said, images tell stories.
It is common practice for political campaigns to portray their opponents in an unfavorable light. Great care must be taken to ensure there is no undercurrent of stereotypes or accidental playing of those stereotypes.
So while the Flinn campaign may have been blind to the possible negative stereotype in the portrayal, there is no specific evidence they intentionally altered the image, or facial features of the image for a specific effect.
A full retraction and apology to Dr. Flinn and his campaign can be found here.
George Flinn, the radiologist, radio station owner, and perpetual GOP candidate, is once again seeking the nomination from Tennessee’s 8th district.
This time, he’s on the attack.
Flinn has unleashed a reported $2.7 million of his own money to try and beat out incumbent David Kustoff.
I don’t live anywhere near TN-08, but I’ve heard the incessant radio ads. Those ads are, quite frankly, misleading at best.
But that’s politics…accentuate the negative about your opponent…especially when the chips are down.
And considering that Flinn has never won a single contested election, chances are, the chips are down.
Yesterday, a longtime reader contacted me about a mailer they received from the Flinn campaign. That mailer is here to the left.
The mailer features a photograph of Flinn’s opponent David Kustoff.
Kustoff, a former federal prosecutor, and longtime GOP political operative has been accused of conspiring with the enemy…in this case, suspected “terrorists” being held in Guantanamo Bay.
I don’t know if any of these allegations are true. The text is pretty standard attack ad material. But I want to draw your attention to the photograph of Mr. Kustoff.
The image, which is poorly photoshopped, appears to have also been altered to accentuate Mr. Kustoff’s more prominent facial features.
I’ll admit, when I first saw the photo, I didn’t really see what the reader was seeing. Then I looked up an unaltered photo of Kustoff. That’s when it became clear.
Here’s a side-by-side of the picture on the mailer, and an unaltered picture of Kustoff.
While they’re clearly not the same photo, they both are close enough to show what’s been altered.
In the mailer, Kustoff’s head has been enlarged. His nose has been made more pointy than it is naturally. His teeth, especially the front two, have been made more prominent. Kustoff’s teeth on the Flinn mailer look like rabbit teeth. His chin has been made more pointy. Finally, the smile lines have been exaggerated to make Kustoff look more sinister.
And all this might be ignored, except that these ugly alterations play off negative stereotypes of Jewish people. David Kustoff is Jewish.
George Flinn ought to be ashamed.
Playing on Negative Stereotypes
As I noted yesterday, playing on negative stereotypes is standard operating procedure for GOP candidates. So maybe the Flinn team doesn’t see anything wrong with this. But make no mistake about it, this is intentional.
I’m not sure what it is about the GOP that makes this kind of attack ok. But they seem to trade in this kind of trash so frequently it can slip right past the passive observer.
And that’s a big part of the problem. When someone trades in racist, antisemitic, or other negative stereotypes of people they need to be called out early and often.
For Flinn, who has done a lot of good in his medicine practice over the years, this is a stain on his honor…something I once though he valued more than he apparently does.
No one who’s willing to push this kind of trash has much connection to honor.
I’m not one to dip my toes into the internal machinations of GOP politics. And from a purely political standpoint, I’m not doing that here.
But anytime anyone seeks to use hate, or hateful stereotypes to depict their opponent, it needs to be called out. It doesn’t matter how you might feel about that opponent. Anytime you allow that kind of hate oxygen, it grows.
George Flinn just fed that fire a tank of oxygen.
Flinn should be ashamed. Flinn needs to personally, and publicly apologize to Kustoff. But that probably won’t happen. There will either be a no comment or a blanket denial.
More than that, the people of US House District TN-08 need to reject that kind of hate by once again rejecting Flinn.
Don’t feed this beast. We have to be better than this.