Is That A Mote In Your Dog's Eye?

This is a story about when stupid jokes stop getting stupid and start getting real. If you think I've used the word stupid too many times already, get used to it because I'm just getting started.

I'm not a Mitt Romney fan for all the reasons a liberal would not be a Mitt Romney fan. Accordingly, I've had a great deal of fun with the Saga of Seamus, the Romney family dog who was strapped to the roof of the car for a family trip. It has everything you want in a profoundly stupid story: it fits certain useful narratives (a robotic candidate acting soulless and the vulture capitalist who is even mean to his dog), the candidate can't respond to the story without sounding stupid (Mitt said that he wouldn't put a dog on the roof if he knew people would get upset, which is exactly the wrong answer, and just what you'd expect from a flip-flopper) and it prominently features diarrhea. For all of these reasons it has had remarkable staying power in the public imagination, via sites like Dogs Against Romney, for example, even if it rarely makes it into the mainstream media by anyone not named Gail Collins.

But, like I said, it is a really stupid story. Ann Romney finally went on the offensive, claiming that Seamus loved riding on the car roof and that he loved going on vacation with the family because it beats being in the kennel. And you know what? I've assumed that all along. A trip on a car roof is no different from a ride in the back of a pickup truck and every time I get a few miles outside of the city limits, that's what I see. And when I see a dog in a car in the city… he's sticking his head out of the window. The Seamus meme generally maintains that the dog got diarrhea because he was terrified during the ride; Ann says no, that he ate turkey off the counter and… well, that's probably too specific but I'm willing to accept that Seamus got the shits because finding the worst possible time to have gastrointenstinal difficulties is basically what dogs do. Hell, taking a long family trip in a station wagon with five kids and a dog is literally the only human behavior I've ever seen attributed to Romney.

(This whole line of attack is more like the Swift Boating of Kerry than anything else with the caveats that (a) nobody is lying about whether Seamus was on the roof whereas there is no real evidence that Kerry lied about his injuries and (b) it would have been a huge, non-stupid deal if Kerry had lied about his injuries, so basically it is like Swift Boat in that it is pure political nonsense that is impossible to respond to without having the principal effect of prolonging the story.)

Alas, every stupid story attacking one side has to have an equally stupid story in response. Today, the Daily Caller found the perfect one: on page 37 of Dreams From My Father, President Obama offhandedly noted eating dog as a child in Indonesia. If strapping a dog to your roof is bad, eating dog is worse. And, though there are obvious reasons why this is silly (he was six; he didn't choose his diet; if your culture doesn't keep dogs as pets, meat is meat (we'll get back to this one)) kudos to Jim Treacher for sussing out a great joke and really hammering it home. On his post, Treacher keeps jabbing at Obama, implying that Bo is not safe with Obama around. This led to a million jokes about Obama eating dogs on Twitter none of which bothered me. It is a stupid joke playing out the string. Obama ate dog; if we can't joke about that why bother telling jokes.

Sadly, here's where the record scratch comes and I stop sounding like someone who has a sense of humor. That I have let the word "diarrhea" do most of the heavy lifting so far, humor-wise, isn't making much of a case for me either, I admit.

It didn't take much time for the joke to get out of hand. #Obamadogrecipes was, to me, the death of the Obama-ate-a-dog joke. The brainchild of Iowahawk, the Obama Dog Recipes hashtag exploded. But, seriously, this is gross and kinda racist. Not racist against Obama but once you've hit the realm of "dog recipes" the joke isn't really about Obama anymore. It is about weird cultural practices that other people have and we don't. Substitute "Obama" with "Korean" or "Indonesian" in the hashtag and see if that doesn't make you a little uncomfortable. Even Iowahawk admitted that he was a little uncomfortable about it.

As stupid as the Seamus story is, the joke never turned into something about Mormons or even vulture capitalists. It was just a joke about a guy who hosed off a dog that was shitting itself on the roof and then stuck him back on the roof and kept driving. When Obama eating a dog jokes are about Obama, I have to admit that all is fair in politics. When the joke shifts to everyone taking an old racist standby about foreigners for a few laps around the track… ick.

Stop it. That's the entirety of my point, despite how long it took to get here. Stop it.

I can't believe this is what I came back to the blog for. I'm going to go pet my cat.

Last 5 posts by Charles


  1. ttl says

    I just think it is telling that these dog jokes get way more attention in media and twitter land than COPS SHOOTING DOGS for no fucking reason. sorry for being OT.

  2. ttl says

    From my perspective the judgement to be made about Obama dog recipes is are they funny. Offense or lack of culture awareness on the part of twitters or whatever is of no concern to me. Some Americans think it is odd/;funny that other cultures eat things we consider pets. Whatever.

  3. Old Coot says

    For legal reasons, your cat should be advised that cat meat is considered a delicacy in some cultures.

  4. says

    I refuse to be offended by jokes at my expense. What is wrong with people that they have to be victims and offended at everything? The joke is quite funny and its always funny when a joke meme gets beaten to death over and over.

  5. a different phil says

    A minor difference: a dog riding with his head out the window or riding in the back of a pickup generally has the option to get out of the wind if he wants to. A dog in a crate on top of the car, not so much.

    Other than that, your point is well-taken.

  6. Boyd says

    What's racist about the fact that many Asian cultures use dog meat in their food, or the fact that Americans find that more than a little odd?

  7. says

    I'll freely admit that at least one of my contributions to the hashtag crossed a line.

    But the best part of the joke last night was when folks on the left suggested that it was based on a lie from the DC, which then let people point to the words in Obama's own book.

    Shockingly, there were few responses after that information got shared.

  8. Mercury says

    Sorry, but the dog-recipes-are-racist argument is absurd and typical of the kind of cultural and ethno-masochism the Left likes to indulge in.

    In fact, the term “racism” itself is quickly being drained of all rational meaning by self-righteous claims like this. Weirdly, Popehat posts more than it’s share of sympathetic dog mistreatment stories but now we are being reminded that such concerns are only appropriate up to the edge of the Pacific Ocean. The “When in Rome…” guideline does not apply here and I assure you that Asians do not generally play by Popehat rules either (is making fun of the Pope’s hat racist too?).

    That some other culture somewhere else in the world accepts or endorses a practice which Western Culture finds abhorrent should not (always) shield it from our opprobrium or ridicule. Western Civ. happens to have developed a special practical, emotional and reciprocal relationship with canines that has generally served both humans and dogs very well for many thousands of years. I believe the shorthand for this is “Man’s best friend.” Defending values like this (which is what making jokes about dog-eating…ummm….boils down to) is a display of perfectly healthy (although perhaps not always pretty) behavior for a self-confident culture that knows what it’s about.

    Cultures that are so uncomfortable in their own skin that they shift around nervously when their deepest values are displayed, however indirectly, with anything resembling pride or seriousness are doomed. This is why “multiculturalism” beyond a very limited point will always result in the death of the culture that adopts it. “E pluribus unum” isn’t a marketing tag line, it’s (or was) a successful business model. And yes it is ironic in this context that Asian cultures like the Chinese, Japanese and Korean understand this best and (for better or worse) are among the most culturally chauvinistic peoples on Earth. And no, the kind of wimpy whining penned by Charles here vs. the aggressive ethnic nationalism of 1930s-40s Nazi Germany are not the only two available options.

    Are child rape, female genital mutilation, slavery, incest and soccer also off-limits to our disgust, shame casting and pointed jibes simply because some culture or exotic ethnic group approves of them? Have some spine man.

  9. says

    Step 1: Put dog on roof.
    Step 2: Dog demonstrates distress.
    Step 3, Normal Human Being Version: Remove dog from roof.

    Step 1: Put dog on roof.
    Step 2: Dog demonstrates distress.
    Step 3, Romney Version: Keep dog on roof.

    That's his story and I'm sticking to it.

  10. different Jess says

    I generally agree with the sentiment that jokes about eating dogs (or horses, or snails, or feces, or tofu, or whatever) are perfectly acceptable. I don't think I can go as far as Mercury, however, and leave the impression that eating dog meat is in any way equivalent to FGM. Your feelings for your dog are important to you but aren't morally binding for anyone else. Dietary restrictions say more about the people who have the restriction than about others who don't. (C.f. dogs and horses in USA, cows in India, pigs in Muslim countries, Coca-Cola for Mormons, etc.)

  11. Lago says

    I agree with mercury, and to be weird and anal about it, I have a firm belief in an intelligence gauge for cruelty. This is completely hypocritical, but basically the more intelligent the animal is, or maybe the more human it is, the more close to home anything bad that happens to it feels. So eating dog or cat for instance is just a no-no. Dogs aren't on the same level as cows, it's not okay to eat them unless under the most extreme circumstances perhaps. Might as well say it's okay for aliens to come eat humans, it's just a cultural difference right? mooo

  12. Joe says

    Ken thanks so much for a good laugh today. And Patrick great one liner follow up. The whole story sorta gives new meaning to the term scared shitless – um that is after the "accident". I've also seen those kennels attached to the back of cars and vans. I imagine a dog riding in one of those has it worse than on the roof given all the car exhaust and the honor of getting to be a doggie sandwich if the car behind them fails to stop in time. I have a cat who was in his carrier for 2 hour trip with us as we relocated. We thought he had done his business before leaving the house – we were wrong. Nothing and I mean nothing will evacuate the human riders out of a car faster than the smell of cat poo.

  13. says

    Lago: So you don't eat pork?

    Mercury: differentJess beat me to the primary response to you (and Clark, above), which is that judging foreign cultural practice involves some line drawing just like EVERYTHING involves line drawing. I couldn't eat dog (or horse for that matter) but I recognize that, in the end, meat is meat and taboos are local. (If a vegan wants to make a dog eating joke, go ahead, I guess.) Our exclusions are no more or less silly than any other culture's, except that we are used to them.

    At the same time, from driving prohibitions to FGM, institutionalized sexism is a very different class of "cultural practice". They strip a class of humans of agency and full citizenship and involve considerable pain and physical damage. I wouldn't think that would need to be spelled out, but I guess it has to be because you think you gave me a thorough ass-kicking when instead you gave a full-throated defense to racism (I'll disagree with Clark's definition on his post) that used as its principle evidence that Asians are also racist. If it makes you feel better to think that my ass has been kicked, buy yourself a trophy to celebrate.

    Chris: There's no way I'd take a dog with diarrhea and put him in my car for the remainder of a 12 hour trip. Dog is only man's best friend until he sprays the upholtstery at hour 4.

  14. Lago says

    yeah I'll eat pork, but

    1) I measure my pig intake

    2) I'm a hypocrite

    3) I've spent more time around other people's pet pigs than I care to admit, and although their owners loved them, sure, there's not much connection. Pigs might be intelligent, but it's not a social compassionate kind of intelligence, not intelligent the way a dog is intelligent, which was what I was getting at, and that brings me to

    4) they have no feelings for anybody else. you can't train them with the threat of the guilt for being bad. they're nature's shamelessly self absorbed little assholes.

  15. ParatrooperJJ says

    I'll just point out that Kerry still has yet to release his military records…

  16. Mercury says

    My Dear Charles,
    Culture and race are two different things so, “culturalism” doesn’t equal “racism” (although I suppose racism can be considered a cultural value. Caribbean Hispanics for instance have a whole arsenal of words to express the hierarchy of lighter/darker skin tones and features).

    Of course I think FGM is more abhorrent than dog eating but you’re the one who essentially threw down the trump card that anything but the most finely tuned, deferential, cultural sensitivity is inexcusable, reprehensible behavior. Period. I merely used an extreme example to better illustrate the weakness of your argument. And I never called Asians racist or defended racism (there you go again with that BS).

    There’s an argument to be made that in this new era of non-stop, ubiquitous and instant communication where the “new normal” hasn’t yet been found, one should err on the side of caution in these areas. I’m cool with that actually but that’s not the tack you took. Since everyone seems to agree that some line drawing and context are applicable here I would like to point out that Mr. Romney is in fact running for the most powerful job Western Civilization has to offer, not for social chairman of the UN and it is expected that he will be assessed largely by the norms and values associated with the former.

  17. says

    You are boring, Mercury. You do not become less boring by trying to copy the style of letters from the front in a Ken Burns documentary.

    And while we're playing the "I didn't say that" game, "inexcusable" and "reprehensible" came from your keyboard, not mine. My emotions aren't binary. Are yours?

  18. Mercury says

    Jeeeez, I'm just trying to be lawyerly. I thought you guys were into substantive, well reasoned and articulate arguments.

    I'm afraid we'll just have to leave the slow-motion closeups, interior monologue baritone and verdict to the members of the jury.

  19. says

    I am forced to disclose that (1) I have previously made fun of Romney over his dog story, and (2) I found some of the eat-dog tweets last night very funny and clever, and was irritated that I couldn't come up with a good one.

  20. says

    Of course you made Romney jokes, Ken. It's impossible not to. I mean, this story absolutely begs for a Romney joke. My issue is with l'affaire Seamus morphing into an actual story/referendum on Romney's character.

  21. Joe says

    Well Ken, what did you expect. It's a dog eat dog world out there. I know groan.

    Anyway here is one you may or may not have heard:

    Two Scottish nuns have just arrived in the USA by boat and one says to the other, "I hear that the people in this country actually eat dogs."

    "That’s odd," her companion replies, "but if we shall live in America, we might as well do as the Americans do."

    Nodding emphatically, the mother superior points to a hot dog vendor and they both walk towards the cart. "Two dogs, please," says one.
    The vendor is pleased to oblige, wraps both hot dogs in foil, and hands them over the counter. Excitedly, the nuns hurry to a bench and begin to un-wrap their ‘dogs’.

    The mother superior begins to blush and, then, staring at it for a moment, leans to the other nun and whispers cautiously, "What part… did you get…?"

  22. says

    SPQR: You can take it as a given that I thought no real point was being made. I explained why I thought the hashtag (as opposed to the Obama jokes) was uncomfortably racially charged.

    The link to the book is a non-sequitur; starting a hashtag about dog-eating isn't a conversation about race. THIS is a conversation about race. And we're having it.

  23. Crissa says

    dog recipe jokes are generally racist. It's not really associated with Obama or any of the culture he is ascribed to. I won't doubt that many of the people passing them are a bit racist, tho.

    It would be similar to doing a #bourdaindogrecipes, you know, Anthony Bourdain and his trips around the world.

  24. says

    Charles, my apology – I forgot you were the author of the post and not a random driveby. And it sounded my witty in my head than typed out.

  25. says

    However, dog recipe jokes are not "racist", Crissa, but as has been pointed out they are bigoted against culture. The association here with Obama is that he wrote a book ( … or had a book written for him … ) that related that he was fed dog meat.

    But deciding that everyone relaying a dog eating joke is racist is typical of the overloading of the term. Something that got old long ago with respect to Obama.

  26. FarmerJimbo says

    I must admit extreme dissapointment that there is not a single "on the gripping hand" joke in the article or comments.

  27. AlphaCentauri says

    My Chinese friends don't get bent out of shape when people are shocked at what they eat. They have a saying, "Chinese people eat anything with 4 legs except a table, anything with 2 legs except a human, and anything that flies except an airplane." Check out "Beijing food street" on Google images to get an idea of what they're talking about.

  28. Mercury says

    I’m sorry AlphaC but that’s not good enough. Only an expert third party can determine whether or not one person or group has harmed or acted inappropriately toward a second person or group. And yes, the first person/group can be held to standards by said third party that the second would never hold themselves to. Trust me, those are the rules.

    If this sounds to you like some sort of grievance trolling akin to the way lawyers dream up ways to put together class actions for personal gain…you are mistaken. Your behavior is being supervised by serious professionals with advanced degrees in inappropriate laughter who are also qualified to invoke magic words that will make you wish you kept your mouth shut.

  29. says

    I’m sorry AlphaC but that’s not good enough. Only an expert third party can determine whether or not one person or group has harmed or acted inappropriately toward a second person or group. And yes, the first person/group can be held to standards by said third party that the second would never hold themselves to. Trust me, those are the rules.

    I am trying really hard to figure out if you are kidding, or if you really think this…

    If you are joking, very well played.

    If you actually believe this, then you are amazingly stupid.

    It is, perhaps, one of the dumbest fucking things I have heard this week.

    If this sounds to you like some sort of grievance trolling akin to the way lawyers dream up ways to put together class actions for personal gain…you are mistaken. Your behavior is being supervised by serious professionals with advanced degrees in inappropriate laughter who are also qualified to invoke magic words that will make you wish you kept your mouth shut.

    a) Those "serious professionals" are fucking twats, and they can slurp my taint.

    b)I'll wish I'd kept my mouth shut? Sorry, bucky, but that ain't happened yet, and I suspect it won't ever happen. The act of trying to shut me up just makes me worse.

  30. Tom Maguire says

    "I'm going to go pet my cat."

    Just keep it away from Jimmy Carter, who shot his neighbor's cat.

    OK, who wants "Presidents And Pets" for $300?

  31. Crissa says

    Racism not different than being biased against culture. The latter is often shorthand for the former, and vice versa.

    Being all pedantic about it just leave you arguing while everyone else thinks you're being an apologist for racists.

  32. Cliff M says

    So the upshot is that it's raaaaacist to talk about Obama eating dog. Here, have a snickerpoodle, and give it a rest.

  33. Jess says

    Making dog eating jokes RE an entire culture or group of people (i.e Koreans, etc.) I would consider racist. RE Obama – nope that's just plain funny. Better yet Charles mix yourself up a Salty Dog or two or three to go with that snickerpoodle. Sometimes enlightenment can only be achieved when one is sufficiently schnookered.