June 3, 2008

who has this job anyway?

So I cruised to cnn.com and saw the images below with their headline, and my first thought was this: "Who gets to pick which photos to display?"

OK, the photo of Obama looking happy and triumphant, even dare we say presidential... sure. No-brainer. But who decided on the photo of Clinton? Let's forget for the moment that they chose to leave her name from the headline and refer to her in a context of "she's not doing what she should be doing." Let's forget Dr. Lynette Long's claim that CNN is a bunch of chauvinists. (Dr. Long has not yet replied to my email, btw.)

These pictures are worth well more than 2,000 words. I mean, look at the Senator on the right. Face downcast. Eyes closed. A total look of "I've just been beat, but I have to keep my composure" on her face. My guess is there's a photo editor at cnn.com that's been holding on to this one for just this occasion. But who has that job? It's a job that has a huge amount of subtle power to it, the power to create context and connotation, to define an entire personality or event, to bias a reader in ways the reader is unlikely even to notice, let alone understand.

Even though the photo is, in truth, just one instant out of thousands in Clinton's day, the chosen image becomes what she is for millions of cnn.com readers. When they think of Clinton, that image will come to mind. And someone at cnn.com chose it over an image that displayed confidence, cheerfulness, courage, and, dare we say, presidentialness? (Presidentiality? Whatever.)

Every day I become more convinced that Media Literacy should be a required part of the public school curriculum no later than 6th grade, and continuing through high school. People should be aware of how they are being manipulated.

(PS for full disclosure: I've become an Obama supporter in the past few months, but I'd happily vote for Clinton in November if she had won instead.)


Precie said...

You make excellent observations about cnn's image choices...but don't forget--I'm sure cnn was also holding on to "reverse" images (presidential-looking Clinton and downcast Obama).

PJD said...

You're certainly right, precie, no doubt about that.

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

So true So true!!!

The way media manipulates the public is astonishing and disturbing.

Precie makes an excellent point but it still points to manipulation of the media to use these images and use their words to provide a certain message.

WriterKat said...

It is so true. We are controlled in almost every way daily from politics to soda.

My friend brought up to me a theory that the whole presidential race is controlled - having a Woman or an African American on one side of the ticket, to ensure a Republican win. I don't know if I buy that theory but it does cause me to think like the Church Lady, Hmmmm.

JaneyV said...

This entire Democratic Nomination Process has made me wise up hugely to the manner in which we are being manipulated. I have been appalled by the misogyny, particularly, that I have witnessed. I have read discussions online today about who should be Obama's VP. The crowds of people who shouted NOT HILLARY gave as their reasons
1) I don't like her but I don't know why
2) She's bug-eyed and ugly
3) Her face scares me
4) She's power hungry and would impeach Obama as soon as she got in
WTF????? HOW????

So tell me because I would really like to know are there any legitimate reasons why Mrs Clinton would be a bad idea as VP? I mean if they actually sat down and ironed out their differences so they were on the same page wouldn't this be the best thing for the party (it's pretty divided now), the country (they might win - Hilary can deliver the big states that Barack can't ) and the world (these are two intelligent, worldly, passionate people who might actually have a stab at restoring America's standing on the world political stage after the last disastrous 8 years)?

Just tell me am I missing something?

PJD said...

kat, your friend is way more cynical than anyone else I know. Wow. Claiming that the Republicans can win by selecting a black or female opponent?

jane: I don't think Clinton would be a bad idea for VP, but she would not be my first choice. The reason I came to support Obama over Clinton in the past few months because I believe Clinton is a divisive figure in the United States. She is smart, capable, and tenacious, and she would definitely be a good policy person and a strong president of the Senate as well as a good ambassador for the President's policies overseas. And she would bring a lot of the Hispanic vote that Obama probably will need.

But I think that she divides the US while Obama is trying to unite it. Not on purpose, of course, but because of the misogyny that you note and also because of the baggage she carries from her term as First Lady. I know of Republicans that would vote for Dennis Kucinich or Jimmy Carter before voting for Hillary Clinton, just because they hate her so.

Why do they hate her? I don't understand it either, but they do. And therefore Clinton cuts a divisive figure.

My first inclination is to hope that Obama picks John Edwards. I do not believe that any sort of latent racism or sexism drives me that way. I like Edwards' "two Americas" position and his focus on energy policy. Both he and Clinton have been through Presidential elections before in an active, supporting role.

But I don't actively oppose Clinton being selected as running mate. I think she'd make a fine Vice President, and I think she would probably win if she ran eight years from now, as the first Bush did after Reagan.

JaneyV said...

Thanks for the clarification Pete. I can see that she brings out strong feelings in people and how that could be damaging. As for Edwards - I like him a lot, (personally I don't begrudge him the $400 haircut - he's got great hair!) but I had heard that he was up for the Attorney General position and that his lack of policy-making experience counted against him at this time.

I'm learning a lot about American politics this time around. The great thing about this particular nomination contest is how it's fuelled interest on politics again.

Robin S. said...

Manipulation irritates me- and watching people BEING manipulated in theor happily oblivious states irritates me even more.

Media, politicians, quasi-talky-entertainer types, they all do it.

There should be a mandatory class in school at some level - exposing this crap for what it is.

writtenwyrdd said...

Amen to media awareness training. Add critical thinking to that and understanding of advertising theory and we might have a generation who thinks for themselves without being led by their noses.

writtenwyrdd said...

I have to add that I think the picture was chosen to make Ms. Clinton look like Ms. Crankypants, not downcast. She looks pissed, actually. At least to me.

WriterKat said...

Hopefully not to derail the topic but I thought janeyv's question was interesting.

I don't think Hillary would make a good VP simply because she likes to be on top. I love her, I wish she would have won, but Obama would have to manage her more than she would help him. For one thing, you can't trust her from mistruths (as the boss, obviously Bill got away with it so it might be forgiveable; as an underling, it's simply not safe and potentially sabotaging.) For another, she's impulsive, can switch on a dime and can be vindictive (my husband thinks this would have resulted in international demise, I think she'd be fine if she was the one driving the US car.) For third, Bill is a whole other force which seems at times to even backlash Hillary. There's just too much emotion in the mix, Obama would do better with a neutral figure as he tries to develop his own voice & experience with the company.

WriterKat said...

company, Hah! I meant country.

Unknown said...

Great observation - I like the way you think...