Photographic manipulation

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Photographic manipulation as a tool utilized by propagandists is characterized by use of images to manipulate the minds of voters.

George W. Bush

James Donahue, in his article Herding the Sheep: Using Images Of Bush To Manipulate The Minds Of Voters, asks "Have you noticed the halos and orbs around the head of President George W. Bush in recent press pictures? ... You probably haven't because things like that are designed to be seen by the subconscious mind. And genius Karl Rove, the guy whose job is to make our president look good all of the time, knows just what buttons to push to keep his man in the White House."

"One of the more sickening tricks, and most obvious," he writes, "are the pictures emanating from the president's public relations office. Some of them are portrayed on this page for the readers to inspect. If you look at them closely, you realize that they are not accidental. They are staged and Mr. Bush is posing for them."

As he mentions, Donahue's article is accompanied by three photographs of Bush. Heading the article is one where the Great Seal of the United States appears as a golden halo encircling the President's head while he orates from the podium. The second, in the lower right-hand corner of the article, shows Bush with head bowed (in prayer?) and glowing in a fuzzy bright golden halo against a solid dark background.

However, says Donahue, "The picture of Bush posing before a lighted cross, under a crown and the word LORD is probably the most pretentious of the lot."

"Why," he asks, "would someone as elevated in office as our president stoop to such trickery? There is good reason. ... As writers Renee T. Louise and Ruth M. Sprague explained it: 'Television and movies have made us a nation, nay, a world that substitutes pictures for fact. We make stars of actors and heroes of those whose heroism exists only in their publicity releases. ... Every day we are shown pictures that the White House Republicans uses to influence our vote. A carefully constructed news item is released to the media knowing full well the pictures the TV outlets will run with it,' Louise and Sprague said."

Paul Martin Lester says that, "With digital hegemony, visual messages have reasserted their position as an important communication medium, but at the cost of not recognizing the combination of words and pictures as vital in communication." Unfortunaely, what is missing in Donahue's article is the context of the photographs and any text which might have accompanied them.

And, if web bloggers' reactions are any measure of the "success" of Bush's saintly photo ops, "disgusting", "disgraceful", "dispictable" "sacrilegious" and words to that effect top the list.

Bush-Iraqi Amputee Photo-op

"'Journalist' Who Arranged Iraqi Amputee Photo-Op Is A Bush Donor," Max Blumenthal, May 26, 2004:

Blumenthal writes that he's "been wondering how Bush found the 7 Iraqi amputees for his brilliant photo-op."
"According to an AP article posted on the Bush campaign website," he writes, "legendary octagenarian Houston TV personality Marvin Zindler 'helped arrange for their surgeries and publicized their story.' Early on, Zindler put Bush in touch with his own plastic surgeon Joe Agris, who has operated on Zindler 30 times, and Agris agreed to fit the Iraqis with new hands.
"Though Zindler is regarded as a 'champion of the underdog' for his investigative reporting on Houston TV news, he donated $1000 to Bush/Cheney 2000 and dropped a cool $2000 on Bush's 2004 campaign last summer. At the photo-op, Bush honored Zindler along with the Iraqis."

See background article "New hands, new start" by Hugh Aynesworth, Washington Times, April 29, 2004.

"War Veterans": Kerry & Bush

The cover of the May 3, 2004, issue of U.S. News & World Report caught the attention of Anthony Hecht at Slapnose, April 27, 2004:

"This may seem insignificant," he writes, "but take a look at the cover of the current issue of U.S. News and World Report.
"A couple things are notable about this image. Kerry -- a decorated war veteran who volunteered for incredibly dangerous duty -- is shown wearing a suit. Bush -- an undecorated Reservist who specifically declined war service, and faced military discipline for failing to report -- is shown in uniform. Bush is cast in cool stately blue, looking soldierly into the camera while Kerry is cast in commie red, in a picture of him arguing against the war in Vietnam.
"It may seem silly, but these kinds of things have a profound effect. Ask any psychiatrist, or watch some television commercials for a while. Images matter, and these images side-by-side betray an extremely unfair bias."

Hecht also points out on April 24, 2004, that Bush's "take" on the appropriate use of the image of military coffins is a bit "selective": [2]

"I think it's also interesting to point out, as Ted Koppel did tonight, that the one time recently that a similar image -- one of a flag draped stretcher being carried out of Ground Zero -- has been used in what most people agree is a disrespectful way was in a campaign ad for George W. Bush."
"The message? Using images of fallen heroes to inform the public and to illustrate their sacrifice and our respect for their service is disrespectful to their families. Using those images to further one's political career, that's okay."

Other "Memorable" Bush Photo Ops

  • 29 April 2004: Caption: "Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind., left, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., pose on the North Lawn of the White House after they were both promoted to the rank of colonel by President Bush during a ceremony earlier in the Oval Office Thursday, April 29, 2004, in Washington. Sen. Graham, who is an Air Force reservist, and Rep. Buyer, who is an Army reservist, were both exempt from serving in Iraq because they are congressmen, but plan to do their active duty on the home front. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)"
  • BuzzFlash Commentary: "Four Alarm Barf Bag Alert: Chickenhawk AWOL Bush Promotes Two Chickenhawk Republican Congressmen Who Won't Serve in Iraq But Make Believe They are Serving the Nation By Getting Dressed Up in National Guard Uniforms. They Let Other Young Men and Women Die."

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a picture plus words worth?

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