Every time I turn around people are still flashing the race card to anyone who accuses President Barack Obama of anything. They will claim that Obama is the only President ever ridiculed because he is black. Well, for one he is also white and second he is not the only President to be ridiculed. He just happens to be the only President who has spent his entire Presidency dealing with billions upon billions of people across the world that has the ability to speak publicly about the current President.
President George Washington did not deal with television, radio or the World Wide Web (www.) during his eight years as President of the USA. He dealt with word of mouth, handwritten newspapers, theatrical plays and public protests. Other than that he didn’t really know how the people felt about him.
President John Quincy Adams was the first President to deal with being photographed, but he was not photographed until 14 years after his Presidency. The first sitting President to be photographed was William Henry Harrison in 1841. Even then cameras were very bulky, produced smoke and made so much noise the photographs could be easily confiscated and destroyed if taken during an embarrassing moment. Instant cameras were not invented until the late 1940s and they were still bulky and noisy. Plus photographs could not be easily manipulated like they can today.
When it comes to film the first motion picture was in 1890 and did not include audio. As for the first President to be filmed, that would be Grover Cleveland in 1897, when he was swearing in William McKinley, but the video did not include any sound. Audio and video did not come together until the late 1920s.
The first sitting President to deal with public voice over the air radio was Warren Harding. However, public radio didn’t become more popular until the 1930s, during President Herbert Hoover’s candidacy. By 1941 audio and video came together to be viewed in what is known as a television set, making Franklin D. Roosevelt the first President to deal with being seen and criticized publically in audio and video in people’s homes. The invention of the radio and the television brought about the ability to communicate one’s opinions on a mass level, but still with limitations. Not everyone had the opportunity to be heard and their voice didn’t carry further than the shore line unless film or audio recording were physically shipped across the ocean, at least until 1962 when satellites were used to broadcast over the Atlantic Ocean. Many shows, music videos and songs were made that disagreed with the Presidents. In 1974 Phil Ochs protested Richard Nixon with a song that was put on audio and video for many people to see and hear. In 1975 Saturday Night Live (SNL) was born and made fun of numerous Presidents starting with Gerald Ford, the sitting President at the time. The only President to not deal with the ridicule of SNL from the start of his Presidency was Barack Obama. SNL finally included him in 2014, two years into his second term. The fear of being labeled racist may have been one of the reasons for waiting so long, but not including him would also be looked at as racist in a reversed sense. Some have said it was because they agreed with his actions, but SNL has been known to ridicule Presidents for minor reasons no matter their party affiliation. In 1982 an HBO series by the name of Not Necessarily the News came out making fun of numerous subjects including Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush the two sitting Presidents during the time span of the show. In 1986 the band Genesis made a hit song and music video called “Land of Confusion” making fun of Ronald Reagan and the political issues with Russia and other Nations. In 1988 the Austin Lounge Lizards made a song and video against Ronald Reagan named “The Balad of Ronald Reagan”. In 1999, 2Pac & the Outlaws created “Letter to the President” making their disappointment in Bill Clinton public. Television opened the door for many people to find a way to be heard; however, it depended on big media, building a huge fan base or any other method of making one’s name known to the public first. When compared to the population of the world only a select few had the privilege of being heard on a mass level.
President Richard Nixon was the first sitting President to deal with being criticized in the form of email. In 1971 mass communications reached a new level with the first use of email. Email allowed people to be heard by larger groups and without depending on big media to open the door. One had the ability to start a newsletter and build a subscriber list. When it first started it only consisted of text, but quickly gained the ability to set up HTML and add attachments, allowing people to move more information around the world. However, people who chose to spam their way to success put a huge dent in email. Spam guards were added to email services dumping not only true spam, but also tossing newsletters into a spam folder never to be seen by its subscriber. Email also had its limitations and people moved on to faster methods of communication.
President Ronald Reagan was the first sitting President to be criticized in text messages with the startup of IRC (Internet Relay Chat) in 1988, allowing people from across the globe to communicate with each other via text. Unlike email where a response could take hours or days until it was read and responded, chat was instant. People who were communicating with each other were both sitting at a computer having a cyber conversation with not just one person but in many cases one or more people within the same chat channel or also called chat rooms. Now most chat rooms are integrated into online gaming and social sites.
President George H.W. Bush was the first sitting President to be publically criticized on the World Wide Web. In 1991 the World Wide Web (www) was born, but it didn’t instantly take over the population. Personal computers were not cheap and the internet did not have near the speed it has today, or the number of websites to visit. As the years went by more companies started creating their own websites. The World Wide Web also opened doors individuals could utilize to create their own websites, blogs and online stores. However, the problem with websites and blogs is finding ways to get people to visit their sites. Building traffic was not as easy as people thought, and all the hard work to be heard by the masses did not always bring in promising results.
President Bill Clinton was the first sitting President to be criticized at a public social site. Six Degrees was one of or the first social sites that stuck around from 1997 to 2001. The site did bring in millions of members, but the internet was still somewhat new and not utilized by the number of people using it today. Bill Clinton was the last sitting President to enjoy the silence of the general public. The only time the public was heard was when the media felt it was worth reporting or someone had the ability to write a novel, a movie or a song about him.
President George W. Bush had the privilege of being the first sitting President to be criticized at some of the most popular social sites, where millions of people had the ability to publically post their opinions to millions of other people across the planet. MySpace came about in 2003; a year later in 2004 Facebook popped up, in 2005 YouTube supplied streaming videos and in 2006 Twitter opened its cyber doors to the world. People instantly started using their Paint and Photoshop programs to create one meme after another to either show their support or to protest. If his memes do not outnumber Obama’s it had nothing to do with race, it had to do with the number of people not only using the social sites, but able to create memes to begin with. Plus the listed social sites were not around during all eight years of his Presidency.
President Barack Obama is the first sitting President to enjoy the huge online picture book known as Pinterest who opened their cyber doors in 2009. President Barack Obama enduring a large amount of public criticism is not due to his racial background. It is due to the number of people who have the ability to make their opinions public. People no longer have to turn in a resume at a huge media network and hope they are hired or run for a political office hoping to be elected in order to be heard. People now have the ability to start their own blog, jump into chat rooms, create their own graphic work and so on. And yes, some of those non-black folk who are able to post their opinions publically are going to make rude and racist comments about Obama. Just like many non-white folk make rude and racist comments about George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and most likely every President as far back as George Washington. It doesn’t make any of it right, but unless one wants the government to step in and take away the people’s Freedom of Speech and their Freedom of Opinion, there will always be someone in the world that someone else does not agree with, and there will always be someone who is offended.
And with that said, President Obama may be the first President to endure a full candidacy with the People finding ways to be heard on a mass level, but he will not be the last. Future Presidents will endure the same pain as long as the People maintain their freedom of speech and their freedom to utilize the internet.