Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Images and Power

Picture day in middle school can be disruptive with students missing class to pose in the gym, but when the pictures come back it can get crazy. It’s best to distribute them at the end of the day. When I bring them out around dismissal time, students crowd around. Each package has a cellophane window displaying an 8X12 of a student’s face and some will grab at the package as soon as they see themselves. Then they rush to the periphery like a seagull with a morsel being chased by other students who want to get a look. Shy kids bite their lips as they wait on the fringe and then hide their package under their shirts as soon as they get it.

If I should ever take out a camera in front of any class, some students will stretch themselves toward the lens and ham it up while others will hide their faces. Human behavior changes when a camera is present. Some people get self-conscious, put on a stressed out face, and seldom produce a good picture. Tell them to smile and you get a grimace. A good photographer, though, can get the images he wants. He shoots what he likes and ignores what he doesn’t. In the edit room, the process is perfected.

Pictures are powerful. The image-makers can make people look good or make them look bad. I got an email recently called “Why Most Men Are Republicans” with attractive photos of Republican women like Peggy Noonan, Laura Ingraham, Bo Derek and Janine Turner and a few others. Below them is a set of very unflattering shots of Barbara Streisand, Helen Thomas, Susan Estrich, Janet Reno and several other Democrat women. It’s a very effective example of what selective shooting and editing portrays - not reality, but spin.

Weekly newsmagazines like Time and Newsweek are using fewer candid photos and more staged ones. It’s obvious that subjects are posed to portray a mood as they stare at the lens. Editors have a point of view on a given story, using photos that reflect it most effectively and the results display little evidence of objectivity. The Associated Press and Reuters use stringers in the Middle East who are anything but unbiased in what they shoot, how they shoot, or how they edit.

The most ubiquitous shots are of angry Muslims burning American flags and it’s obvious they’re playing to the camera. First they burn it, then they stomp on it while others shake their fists. A critical viewer can almost hear a director shout “Lights-Camera-Action!” before each scene. So what’s the point? Muslims hate the United States. We get it. But why indulge them? Why does our media play along and give power to it week after week, year after year?

And what about that CNN tape of an American soldier getting shot by an enemy sniper team with a rifle and a video camera? CNN’s Baghdad correspondent was in contact with terrorists who slipped him the tape. We heard the snipers talking and then saw the American soldier slump in his vehicle. Why would CNN show this? Whose side are they on? This is the prostitute news network that censored itself to remain in Baghdad after the first Gulf War. After one of their cameramen was tortured, they only released what Saddam would approve - all the while pretending their reporting was objective. Now this. It’s outrageous. “CNN - The Most Trusted Name in News.” Yeah, right.

Our terrorist enemies couldn’t manipulate our media unless it was willing. There’s a symbiosis between terrorists and media whores. When Israel, America’s greatest ally in the region, was attacked by Hezbollah and Hamas last summer, nearly every mainstream media outlet in the western world broadcast an outrageous story that Israeli warplanes deliberately fired missiles at two Lebanese ambulances performing rescue operations. Though it was almost certainly a propaganda stunt staged by Hezbollah, our media played it up big. The fraud was exposed by alert bloggers including Zombie (, but too late to affect the outcome of the war. Israel was forced to pull out before destroying Hezbollah. Iran and Syria have since rearmed them and fighting will break out again soon. My scheduled trip to Israel had to be postponed and will likely have to be postponed again.

We know “The pen is mightier than the sword,” but a camera can be mightier than an army. It has great power and power corrupts. Our mainstream media is drunk with it.


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Anonymous said...

Top columnists are consistent.

Your column about media abuse of the bombing of two Lebanese ambulances was excellent. I read the background info you provided and am disappointed that the truth never surfaced. Tough for Israel. Good job on your part.

Your "testosterone" tribute to pre-1950 life in the Bridgton News and the "good" wars we fought idealized that period as the time when men were men and we all had mega testosterone. Life was good.

You write well but put these two pieces side by side. In the ambulance piece you write like a syndicated columnist. Compare that to your testosterone column.

Bob Doucette