In the weeks since renegade National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the U.S. government is harvesting phone and online data, a humorous series of Internet memes has been taking comic aim at artist Shepard Fairey’s famous “Hope” image of Barack Obama.
The parodies, which have appeared on numerous blogs and news sites in recent weeks, deconstruct Fairey’s image, giving it a biting, NSA-themed spin. In one parody, Obama is shown wearing headphones with the words “Yes we scan” emblazoned above him and with text circling his head that reads: “United we progress toward a perfectly monitored society.”
In another send-up, the “Hope” image is captioned with the text, “Yes, we can... read your emails.”
What does Fairey think of these subversions? In a statement sent to The Times, the L.A. street artist said he has no problem with people repurposing his “Hope” image to make political commentary.
“I have never been an unconditional Obama supporter or cheerleader,” he said. “So I’m pleased to see people subvert my Obama images as a way to critique him and demonstrate the wide gap between some of his promises and actions.”
Fairey noted that he subverted his own image during the height of the Occupy movement. “There are no sacred cows, and I agree that Obama needs to be called out on an NSA program that over-reaches to the extreme and shouldn’t be secret,” he said.
Here is Fairey’s full response to The Times:
“I originally supported Obama vigorously because his proclaimed policy positions aligned with my beliefs. I have never been an unconditional Obama supporter or cheerleader, so I’m pleased to see people subvert my Obama images as a way to critique him and demonstrate the wide gap between some of his promises and actions. Subversion of well known symbols and images for social commentary has long been a technique in my repertoire, so I’m glad to see it in the work of others. I have even subverted my own Obama image in support of Occupy. There are no sacred cows, and I agree that Obama needs to be called out on an NSA program that over-reaches to the extreme and shouldn’t be secret. We live in a remix culture and remix is a valuable form of communication when the re-configuration makes a strong statement.”
The artist used stronger language in a recent blog post he wrote in which he addresses the NSA scandal: “The extent of Obama’s spying is unacceptable and I feel sickened and betrayed by someone I dedicated a huge amount of time, energy, and money to support based on the way he presented his views as the antithesis of Bush’s.”
Here’s the artist’s full blog post.