Pete Hoekstra’s Racist Superbowl Ad

I hadn’t paid a visit to Phil Yu’s blog, Angry Asian Man – which the Washington Post called “a daily must-read for the media-savvy, socially conscious, pop-cultured Asian American” – in some time. In a recent post titled This Hoekstra Campaign Ad is Racist Bullshit, he points to this video:

Michigan viewers were “treated” to this ad run by Pete Hoekstra’s campaign to unseat Debbie Stabenow as United States Senator for the state during the Super Bowl.

The ad’s straight out of the old Charlie Chan serials, from the pentatonic “ching-chong” music (which has every stereotypical element except for the “Oriental Riff” and closing gong) to the rice paddy to the young woman speaking fake broken English. I’m surprised she doesn’t say “Me so horny for Amellika to fail! …and oh yeah, me put pee-pee in your Coke, too!

The rice paddy is one image of China, but it’s no more representative of the country than say, a Nebraska cornfield is of the United States. Equally representative is this picture, which is of a city you might not have heard of, despite its being one of the five major cities – Chongqing:


If you go to the website that accompanies the ad, you’ll see the stereotypes continue with its graphic design, which apes the best fakety-fake Chinese restaurant aesthetic. Reading it, it’s 1985 and I’m eating at Ruby Foo’s in Montreal again:

debbie spenditnow screencaps

Here’s FOX News’ “analysis” of the ad and the response to it. The “expert opinion” they bring is none other than Lou Dobbs, whose mantra is “a racist is a conservative who’s winning the argument”, and he rolls his eyes so hard that he’s almost risking injury by doing so:

Here’s what other, more legitimate, news outlets have to say:

One of the questions that should be asked is “Can you make a political ad where there theme is competing with China without resorting to stereotypes and racism?” The answer is “Yes…and it’s been done!” It’s called the “Chinese Professor Ad”, and I show it below:

I’m impressed with this one: well done, it gets the message across and it doesn’t do any of the “ching chong wing wong” stuff that Hoekstra’s ad does. The ad would’ve been made the same way if the competitors were blonde and blue-eyed.

The only thing wrong is its premise that the U.S. is falling behind China because of stimulus spending; China’s is a big central planning-style government that pretty much stimulus spends all the time (when it’s not covering up its shoddy human rights record).

For a better picture on why a lot of money’s going to China, see the New York Times article How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work. Hey, America – you want to win, bro? Don’t hate; innovate!

One reply on “Pete Hoekstra’s Racist Superbowl Ad”

My first encounter with this ad: I was working security at a church-youth-group Super Bowl party (how my atheist self ended up in this role is another story). In the third quarter the AV guy handed me a TV remote, and told me that if he killed the monitor in the large room, I should kill it in the small room – apparently the youth pastors were concerned about the kids seeing too much T&A. Scantily-clad woman bending down in a city street – ZAP! Women in lingerie sitting on a couch – ZAP! Man teasing woman with a spoonful of yogurt; woman head-butts man to get her bite – no zap (violence is apparently okay). Oriental woman on a bicycle riding toward the camera – no zap. Immediately at the completion of the ad the AV guy said to me – “We should have killed that one.” It was by far the most offensive of the ads aired in MI during the game. And on top of the cliche racist images, it turns out that Hoekstra had voted nearly as often for bills like those that he was maligning Stabenow for supporting. Bad Republican! Bad! (And as an aside – my “accidental censor” role did not sit well with me. I am confident that the kids watching the game had already been exposed to much more in the way of sexual images prior to the airing of any Super Bowl commercials. And anyway, the level of sex and violence in the Bible far surpasses anything that broadcast media would allow during prime time.)

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