Thursday, September 25, 2008

Part III: Mother Jones

This cover requires little analysis to decode its meaning. In the Wizard of Oz scenario presented, Bush is depicted as the doomed "Wicked Witch of the West" as Obama and McCain look on as Dorothy and The Cowardly Lion, respectively. The double asterist next to McCain indicates "No, we're not calling him a coward," and directs the reader to page two where a quotation from the film appears: "As for you my friend, you're a victim of disorganized thinking... You're confusing courage with wisdom." The implication being that McCain lacks wisdom despite his courage.

Perhaps equally as obvious and only slightly less drastic is the photo of President Bush on page 71 (see right) standing among African childeren with his hand over his mouth in a gesture that gives him the appearance of foolishness or embarassment. The accompanying article is critical of the mistakes made in administering to the Millenium Challenge Corporation and the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief and this is dramatized photographically from the start.

It's worth pointing out that this technique - capturing an awkward expression or posture - is commonly employed in the photography of partisan publications. An equivalent example from the previously discussed edition of The Weekly Standard (see previous post) depicts Al Gore describing an anti global warming intiative with a captured gesture that makes him appear crazed or insane (below). Gore's outstretched arms imply that his proposal is large and wasteful. The article goes on to describe it in those precise terms.

A more subtle technique was employed in the photograph for the "Exit Strategy" article (p. 35) of this month's edition of Mother Jones (see below).

The photograph depicts President Bush walking off stage after a speech. His head is bowed, his eyes are closed, and a shadow covers his face. The caption beneath is a summation of criticism that the magazine has aimed at the president, and the full title above reads: "Exit Strategy: Time to start putting our country back together."

The latent message of the page is twofold. First, by using the title "Exit Strategy," the editors simultaneously refer to Bush's leaving office and his legacy of the war in Iraq. Second, the photo is heavily laden with obvious symbols for shame, defeat, and the end of Bush's presidency. Among these are the following:

  1. The photograph (literally) shows President Bush stepping down off the stage where he was presumably speaking a moment before. This is a rather obvious symbol of the end of his administration.

  2. His bowed head and closed eyes read as symbols of defeat and shame.

  3. The shadow cast over his face employs expressionism to further emphasize the defeat and shame present in his posture and facial expression.

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