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Samsung’s crass use of the President

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POSTED April 5, 2014 12:37 a.m.

Bravo, Mr. President!

Barack Obama obviously believes there is a certain amount of dignity and respect that the office of the President of the United States should have.

The White House legal team wants Samsung to stop using the selfie that Boston Red Sox player David Ortiz snapped of himself with the president on Tuesday as advertising for their smartphone.

Ortiz asked the president to pose for a selfie with him after he presented him with a game jersey from the World Series champions during White House ceremonies.

Ortiz, the World Series most valuable player, happens to have an endorsement deal with Samsung.

Within hours, Samsung sent the selfie photo to millions of its followers on Twitter.

It’s not the first time that Obama’s image has been used in commercial advertising without his consent. Weatherproof Garment Co. plastered a huge image of Obama on a billboard in New York City’s Times Square with what appeared to be one of the firm’s coats photoshopped on him.

The president’s image is fair game for political commentary, news coverage, and such. But using his image – or anyone’s for that matter – for pure commercial gain isn’t legal without permission. As it is, there are images out there that presidents, or any public figure for that matter, can’t control that lampoon them to various degrees on things that have commercial value such as T-shirts.  But making them look like a spokesman for a firm or hawking a specific product is definitely over the line.

As it is, advertisers often have little if any respect for images of former presidents who can’t defend themselves. The worst offenders are auto companies using the images of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

On a scale of things that deserve attention and/or outrage this falls somewhere on the scale of pressing needs between declaring mosquitoes an endangered species and the need for warning labels on mattresses. But still it shows a serious lack of respect.

This past February, Honda and Toyota used hipster images of both the man that not only led the effort to secure our independence but set the tone for American democracy and the man who kept the union together and paid for it with his life to hawk cars. It’s not just Japanese automakers who arguably degrade what Washington and Lincoln did by reducing their images to ad flacks during Presidents Day sales. They just happened to be the most high-profile advertising campaign this time around.

It has to make you wonder what the reaction would be in Japan if Chevrolet used the image of Yasuhiro Nakasone to push the sale of the Cruz in the Land of the Rising Sun? Nakasone is widely regarded as one the most revered prime ministers in post World War II Japan.

Or what the reaction would be if Apple had gotten a Japanese baseball player to snap a selfie with current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and then immediately sent it to its Twitter followers?

Americans – especially those who identify themselves as Christian – tend to be amazingly thick skinned when it comes to such nonsense.

Mock a leader of some nations in a political cartoon and you’re liable to incite a riot that ends up with the closest American or Westerner getting beaten or killed.

Use the image of Mohammed in a fashion that is considered disrespectful and watch the body count mount. Do the same thing with a likeness of Jesus Christ, and if you even question the appropriateness of it, get ready for being chastised as reactionary or for being closed-minded.

If someone burns the Koran expect someone to be killed.  Drop a crucifix in a bottle of urine and label it art and you get a check in the mail from Uncle Sam.

By the way, if separation of church and state is supposed to play out as some contend, shouldn’t we be demanding that “artist” Andres Serrano return the $15,000 he received indirectly from the taxpayer-funded National Endowment of the Arts? Surely, if the government can’t look as if they are supporting a religion they certainly can’t trash one either.

It’s funny how political correctness swings only one way whether it is using a country’s leader for crass advertising, trashing a religion, or reducing revered figures to glorified ad pitchmen.

That said, perhaps in this age of high-tech corporations being revered and everyone seemingly equating freedom of expression to having equal time perhaps Apple can get Justin Beiber to take a selfie with the president.

If not, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford might do.

 

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209.249.3519.

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