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A look at the 'Obama Special' controversy

Chickening Out

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Dave Mustaine can finally breathe a sigh of relief. Those reported explosives the FBI found on the Megahed touring bus, well, truth be told, they were nothing more than fireworks.

But what about earlier reports from law enforcement officials that the man behind such hard-rocking insurgency classics as "Symphony of Destruction" and "Holy Wars/The Punishment Due" may have been planning some sort of terrorist attack? (As if his schizophrenic warbling on "Sweating Bullets" didn't already constitute an attack on the eardrums.) Well, it looks like the Feds got it all wrong. Peace sells, but who's trying?

Now whether or not the shred-meister intended to use the "explosives" to take out the singer-guitarist of a more successful band, one whose very mention makes Little Miss Mustaine tear up like Hillary Clinton the day before a major primary, is something we may never know. Cthulhu forbid, it's something I hope we never find out.

OK. The joke's gone on long enough. My apologies. For those of you who got it, man, that warms the heart like a heating pad warms this old headbanger's strained neck. For those of you who didn't, well, that's cool; I'm not going to quit writing this column with some 400 words to go like I'm a boo-hooing Bill Belichick with one second left to go in the Super Bowl. That's the way comedy works. Some jokes just fly right over your head like a hawk with a field mouse in its sights while others fall face-first into their own puke like Jeff Conway on his first day of rehab. More often than not, jokes fail. At least when they don't involve bodily functions and kicks to the groin.

Speaking of a joke falling on megadeaf ears, what about the case of the "Obama Special"? Oh, you haven't heard about it? (Damn you, Mustaine.) That's quite all right. Here's a refresher:

Bruce Pierson owns the Bullseye Big Chicken Restaurant in Aiken. And in front of the fried fowl biz there's a sign. It's one of those white billboard types with the black arrow on top that advertises the restaurant's specials and the like. And on that sign, it read, "Obama 2PC Mixed, $1.99." At least it did until NBC Augusta (Ga.) broke the story about the so-called Obama Special.

According to an NBC Augusta report with the tagline, "What does it really mean?," the station first found out about the Barack bargain when it received "a picture from a viewer who wanted to know if there's hate behind the words." It's a question NBC Augusta reporter Michael Buczyner asks with a microphone in hand, and it's one that Pierson, an old white guy, answers: He's not an Obama hater; he's a supporter. (And this is neither here nor there, but he has two biracial grandchildren.)

Questions of Pierson's motivations aside, it seems to me that the question that needs to be answered is the one NBC Augusta initially posed: What does it really mean?

According to an AP report, Aiken NAACP President Rev. Brendolyn Jenkins calls the sign either "the most insidious form of racism imaginable or the most gross error," but in the article he never explains exactly what is particularly racist about the Obama Special — is it that we're talking about fried chicken and black folks or that Barack had a white mom and an African dad? And neither does NBC Augusta reporter Buczyner. The assumption is that we all clearly see the sign for what it is — a horrible racist joke. There's no need to discuss it any further.

Of course, I would argue otherwise. After all, we have a man's reputation and livelihood at stake here. If NBC Augusta feels it's necessary to thrust a microphone in a man's face and more or less accuse him of being a racist, it must first address what is racist about the sign in the first place. And apparently, that was something that the Augusta news team was unwilling to do. They chickened out. If they had, then Buczyner and company just might have been forced to mention that despite the controversy, the sign in question probably wasn't a racist frak-you at all, but a relatively harmless joke about Obama's racial background.

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