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Creator of 'Joker' Obama image unmasked

Earlier this month, we covered the story of the "Socialist Joker" Obama poster, which was spotted around Los Angeles and as far afield as Chicago. By early August, the image had gone viral, enraging progressives and earning plaudits from conservatives. Now, thanks to some gumshoeing by the folks over at the Los Angeles Times, the creator of the portrait has been unmasked.

And guess what? He supported the liberal candidate Dennis Kucinich.

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"I abstained from voting in November," 20-year-old college student Firas Alkhateeb told the Los Angeles Times. "Living in Illinois, my vote means close to nothing as there was no chance Obama would not win the state." Still, he added, had he voted, he would have thrown his ballot to Kucinich, famously a punching bag for right-wing types.

Alkhateeb's original creation was a fake Time magazine cover. The image sat on Flickr for several months before a second, anonymous artist created the more familiar work, pictured at right. The portrait was intended to take Obama down a notch, Alkhateeb told the Times. "After Obama was elected, you had all of these people who basically saw him as the second coming of Christ," he said. "From my perspective, there wasn't much substance to him."

Reaction

Many found Alkhateeb's work to be particularly vicious. On the website of LA Weekly, Steven Mikulan wrote the following:

The poster, which bears a very superficial resemblance to Shepard Fairey’s famous Obama Hope illustration, has been pasted on freeway supports and other public surfaces. It has a bit of everything to appeal to the drunk tank of California conservatism: Obama is in white face, his mouth (like Ledger’s Joker’s) has been grotesquely slit wide open and the word “Socialism” appears below his face. The only thing missing is a noose.

Many commenters on this site agreed. On Aug. 3, for instance, "Murdock" wrote, "This is the typical hate-centered projection that the hysterical right is manufacturing. They are out of real ideas and all they have left is scorched earth. This represents their typical projection and emotes who they really are: jokers with the burned out eyes."

Others expressed interest in buying stickers or T-shirts emblazoned with the image. "[C]all me weird, I have the utmost respect for what Obama tries to stand for, I have nothing against him and certainly think he is quite a few steps up from Bush," another commenter wrote. "[I] like this picture, well done."

Editor's note: The original post named Alkhateeb as the creator of the image pictured here. In fact, Alkhateeb created a fake Time magazine cover with a"Jokerized" Obama, which was appropriated by a different – and as of yet unnamed – artist.

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