Caesar comes to the Capitol
subtly mind-manipulating photographs conveying an alienated, leftist view of America, the New York Times
is tops in the field, and its photo
of the triumphant Barack Obama greeting people at the U.S. Capitol yesterday, by Doug Mills, is one of the Times’
Note the artificially dim light, like one of those prime time TV dramas where all the scenes, including in courtrooms, hospitals, and the Oval Office, are in half darkness. Notice how virtually every person in the photo looks nonwhite. Notice how the photo centers on Obama, with all heads turned in unison toward him, giving him an image of mysterious power. In fact, it doesn’t even look like a photo of the United States of America. It looks like a photo of some nonwhite dictatorship. Which is what, in their heart of hearts, white liberals desire.
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Also, as the Times reported, Obama, who is a U.S. senator, spent a half hour in the U.S. House of Representatives shaking hands and greeting his supporters. Normally congressmen do not enter the Senate, and senators do not enter the House, except in special, formal circumstances, but Gaius Julius Obama was walking around the House as though he owned the place. See excerpts from the Times article below (after the comments).
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Stephen T. writes:
That’s a brilliant analysis of the NYT Obama photo.
I’m interested in how presentation of the candidates is manipulated by the media and you hit it right on with this one. You have a keen eye indeed for all that is latent in that one shot. (Maybe you have a background in the visual arts?) That’s why I read this blog.
The Times specializes in photos with not-very-subtle subversive messages. I’ve only rarely written about this and should have done so more often. If you go to their main page (or look at the front page of their print edition) regularly, you’ll soon see what I mean.
One of their themes is homosexual subtexts. But calling them subtexts doesn’t sound right, as they are very obvious. They had a photo of U.S. soldiers in Iraq a few weeks ago with the shot composed in such a way that gave it an obvious homosexual message. American media would never have had photos like this in the past. Now they are common.
Another specialty is creating a sense of alienation and oppression in America, the feeling of life overlaid with a sinister, dehumanizing force. The tremendous irony of all those prime time lawyer and doctor dramas in half darkness, so that you can barely see the characters’ faces, even in a lawyer’s office or the White House (and I can’t imagine how people could stand watching such a show), is that the protagonists are themselves liberals. But they’re still in shadow because they’re part of America. Liberals want to be in charge, they glory in their power, but they are in charge of a county that is still quite evil, so everything is drenched in cheap moral ambiguity. Think of Michelle Obama, wife of a winning presidential candidate, calling America a “very mean” country.
No, I have no background in visual arts.
Paul K. writes:
I agree with you about what the photo is meant to suggest, and I am a professional artist.
There’s an odd thing about that photo, though. Of the people on the right, only the first few rows appear to be looking at Obama. The people behind them, whom Obama has passed, are not looking at him, but upward and to frame left in a state of rapture, as if glimpsing the shining city on a hill that Obama promises.
That’s absolutely true. The ones whom he has passed are all looking up in the same direction with the same blissful expression. Having been touched by Obama’s charism as he walked by them, they are now receiving the Spirit which is descending upon them.
Paul K. continues:
The light striking the upturned faces of the people on the right adds to the impression that they are gazing into a golden future. Also, what you call dim light, which resembles natural light from a single source, makes the photograph resemble a Renaissance painting. (The fact that there is an actual mural in the background adds to this effect.) The fact that so many great paintings of that period have religious themes adds to the subliminal religious effect.
Notice that two children at the lower right have their hands extended as if hoping to touch the hem of the Messiah’s garment.
The photograph also communicates subliminally by nature of being an upshot, which is inherently heroic, and that all perspective lines point directly to Obama’s face.
Yes, amazing. What is that business with the outstretched hands?
And another thing. Obama’s extreme skinniness has always made him look too youthful to think of as a president. But in this photo his skinniness has vanished. The darkness around him conceals the edges of his suit jacket and makes his upper body look much wider than it really is, so that he appears broad shouldered and powerful. His posture is that of the victor or leader condescendingly yet affably shaking the hand of a follower. The handshake, and his dominating yet gracious posture, also reminds me of the final scene of The Godfather (both book and movie), in which Michael Corleone’s wife, having just received Michael’s solemn assurance that he had nothing to do with a certain murder, turns around and sees through the door of her husband’s office his henchmen kissing his hand as he proudly stands receiving the signs of their allegiance.
Also, instead of wearing his usual “cool” violet tie he’s wearing a dark burgundy tie.
David B. writes:
Your post on the Great Obama’s procession through the Capitol shown in a darkly lit photo concurs with what I had seen, but not really understood. A few years ago, I watched the Law and Order TV show several times. When Sam Waterston as Jack McCoy was holding forth in court, the courtroom would be somewhat dark. It seemed like the City could not afford better lighting.
When you watch Court TV trials, the courtrooms are always very bright and clear. I did sometimes wonder if the Manhattan courts were different, as New York does not permit live coverage of trials. Last year, CBS’ 48 hours had a program on the trial of Paul Cortez, who was convicted of murdering his girlfriend, Catherine Woods. They had a brief video clip of the trial. The Manhattan courtroom was indeed very bright. I noticed that it did not look like the courtroom on Law and Order.
It’s not just Law and Order, it’s every single doctor, lawyer, military lawyer (JAG), president, etc. prime time tv show of the last many years. You would see a government official sitting at his desk in the middle of an important meeting in three-quarters darkness, looking like mafioso boss ordering a hit. I think it’s finally lessened a bit in the last year or two.
No one ever commented on this bizarre phenomenon. Viewers never complained. They kept watching shows in which they could barely see the actors’ faces.
I once pointed this out to a liberal who was a particular fan of The West Wing, and she had no idea what I was talking about and rejected it. She had never noticed that the president and White House staff were in deep shadow most of the time.
How to explain this? My theory is that the dark lighting, and the sense that it conveys that people in positions of power are sinister, evil (or, if they are well meaning liberals, they are still deeply compromised by being powerholders in America), is so built into the liberal mind that the people who watch these shows don’t even notice the strangeness of it. If a politician came on tv stating that life is evil, that America is evil, people, including liberals, would rise up in angry protest. But if the same meaning is conveyed through lighting, atmosphere, entertainment, they will swallow it without a thought.
David B. replies:
You’re right, it’s not just Law and Order, I too have seen on practically every show. It really stood out to me when I saw this brief clip of an actual trial in a Manhattan courtroom.
Spencer Warren, who reviews movies at the American Conservative Union website, writes:
This shot looks like it was composed and staged for a 1950s Universal movie! Note also the upward angle, taken from the lower steps as the hero descends.
Alan Roebuck writes:
It has always been my impression that the darkness of contemporary TV dramas is meant to convey the liberal idea (which is just a vague feeling rather than a consciously formulated position) that the cosmos is irrationally and mysteriously menacing. Liberalism has this feeling because of its formal denial of any objectively knowable meaning and order. Although they generally won’t admit it, this makes reality itself menacing.
In your first sentence you have stated the thought I’ve had on this for years, except that I had thought of it solely in terms of America’s being sinister, not the cosmos. But of course your idea that it’s about alienation from the cosmos is correct, as is your attribution of this feeling to the “denial of any objectively knowable meaning and order.”
Alan Roebuck replies:
And it occurs to me that, since the vast majority of people cannot think the abstract thought “denial of objectively knowable meaning makes reality itself menacing,” liberals must project their fear and anger onto something more concrete, such as America itself. (And parents, the police, the church, etc.)
Paul Gottfried writes:
I have never read a description of political propaganda that was so brilliantly put. And the comment about how white liberals yearn to live under a non-white (actually antiwhite) dictatorship is entirely on the mark. The Italian fascist iconography of the 1920s was more modest and certainly more tasteful than the antiwhite liberals’ depictions of their semi-black Savior.
Derek C. writes:
The photo struck me as a reproduction of a Maoist poster. Here’s some examples.
I agree that the subtext(s) of this photo of Obama place it well beyond objective news reporting. In addition to the details noted here already, it is Obama’s countenance that gives the image its greatest impact. If he had only been smiling broadly, perhaps using both hands to touch a passerby, the connotation would be dramatically altered. Then he could be viewed as a man of the people and not a man above the people.
What you say reminds me of Obama’s victory speech in Iowa on January 3, when I discerned an arrogance in him I had not seen before.
Karen writes from England:
He’s a liberal Messiah and Redeemer bringing the Gospel of Liberalism to the unenlightened masses. It’s utterly pathetic.
James N. (who pointed out to me that the photo is in one of the public areas of the Capitol building, not in the House chamber as I originally thought) writes:
My son works in the Capitol, and I love the building. In the ’60s I was a frequent visitor, and I loved the freedom to roam around all the fascinating little nooks and crannies, the powder magazine in the basement, and the “secret” offices.
Beginning well before 9/11, our current degraded species of Members began the project of turning it into a fort, as if they were the government of Upper Volta, as if their own personal selves (rather than the sovereign which they represent) were the issue.
Now, unless you’re on a tour, you can’t get near the place. I wonder who set up the Obama photo op? It must have taken some doing, to put such a large nonwhite crowd together and to move them inside.
Anyway, I still love the building, and if the staircase is in fact on the House side (connecting the gallery with the Members’ floor entrance), I’ve been on it many times. The painting, unless it’s been changed, is “Westward the Course of Empire,” a mural of white men and women overcoming natural obstacles and savages to subdue the continent.
I don’t believe Obama can win, by the way.
James N. writes:
Here’s is the “Westward the Course of Empire”, which still hangs in the West Stairway of the House Wing of the U.S. Capitol.
That is the most spectacular painting I’ve ever loaded in my computer.
Gedaliah Braun, a long-time resident of South Africa and author of Racism, Guilt, and Self-Deceit
“Normally congressmen do not enter the Senate, and senators do not enter the House, except in special, formal circumstances, but Gaius Julius Obama was walking around the House as though he owned the place.”
I read this and, together with the photo, it sent chills down my spine. If you believe, as I do, that many traits of blacks seem to be nearly universal, on a world-wide scale, then it is very likely that Obama is, by nature, and will become even more so as president, an autocrat, someone who will brook no criticism, will deal harshly with anyone daring to “cross” him or “challenge” him. In short, a tyrant in one form or another. I’ve seen it over and over again in my years in Africa. This is the norm for almost any black who achieves even the most modest position of authority. The world has yet to see a black man in the most powerful position on the planet! And it really may become a matter of God help us! Blacks will of course be quite happy with this, since this is their natural state—being ruled by a tyrant. I don’t think whites have a clue what could be in store for them.
A reader writes (May 10):
This discussion is interesting for a while but goes over the top as it goes on and the Gedaliah Braun comment is an insult to read. It shouldn’t even be there. Talk about bigotry, prejudice, racism. It’s disgusting.
LA replies (May 10):
I read in yesterday’s New York Post that members of the Senate and House have the privilege of visiting the other body whenever they like. I think such visits mean going in to listen to debates, to talk privately with a member, and so on. I’ve never heard of a senator going into the House and, as Obama did, making himself the center of attention there for a half hour, campaigning, looking for votes, even going into the well of the House. The Post said that the rules are that a senator visiting the House must not campaign. After leaving the House, Obama was asked if he was campaigning there, and he said no. But the Post said he was heard cajoling individual House members to support him.
So the visit seems to have been highly unusual, it involved a very visible breaking of rules, and Obama apparently lied about it.
However, while it is true that autocracy is the norm in black societies, and while it is true that Obama’s visit to the House appears to have been unusual and improper, to say that his visit to the House plus the general tendency of black leaders to be autocrats makes it “very likely” that Obama is by nature an autocrat was going too far. To generalize from supposed “nearly universal” traits of blacks to conclusory statements about this one individual is not right. Also, of course, Obama is half white, which immediately cuts the force of Mr. Braun’s argument in half, even on its own terms.
At the same time, when we remember specific things about Obama himself, his stunningly prejudicial statements about white people which he has not retracted, his devoted 20-year membership in a black racist church, his repeated bald-faced lies about his relationship with the head of that church, his wife’s openly expressed animus toward America which Obama has done nothing to silence, his wife’s message that whites are fearful and bad unless they vote for her husband which he has also done nothing to silence, his messianic posings and posturings as a candidate (“We are the change we seek,” meaning “I am the change we seek”), and the messianic theme that simply by electing Obama America will make itself right, these things do add up to the reasonable conclusion that Obama, underneath his benign demeanor, which is the only thing about him that some white people see, is a bad person, a deeply dishonest, anti-American, anti-white black man with clearly messianic and possibly autocratic tendencies—tendencies we can reasonably predict will come to the fore if he becomes America’s first black president and the most powerful black man in history.
Alan Levine writes (May 9):
Your comments on the Obama photo and the unnatural darkness in which most TV shows are shot were most thought-provoking. I think you are right about the Obama picture, but I am not sure that the strange darkness of so many television shows is an expression of distrust of authority, since I’ve seen the same thing in shows (CSI, for example) in which you are supposed to like the protagonists working in these dim settings. I would venture to guess that it is a less politicized, but nevertheless revealing expression of a basically bleak and depressive view of the world.
That it is a false picture of the way such places are lighted I can testify myself. I spent two weeks in the hospital earlier this year and the place was too brightly lit even late at night, making it very hard to sleep!
No, I’m not saying that in the “dark” shows you’re supposed to dislike the protagonists. The protagonists of these shows are mostly liberals, the viewer is supposed to like them. But these liberal protagonists are functioning as professionals—White House staffers, crusading lawyers, harried physicians—in a society that is deeply morally tainted. And this reflects the liberal viewers’ own view of themselves. They think VERY highly of themselves, but they also feel tainted by being successful inside this deeply morally questionable society.
Just think of the Clinton administration (and to a lesser extent the Bush administration), representing America and putting it down at the same time.
It’s basically the ambivalence of the radical mainstream that’s at work. In its mainstream aspect, it must appear to affirm the society, while in its radical aspect it undercuts the society.
Charles T. writes:
Could this photo have been put together in photoshop? The crowd of people in the upper right hand of the photo are not even looking at him. Their faces are turned up and away from BHO. Their gaze seems to be up and behind him. It does not look natural.
Agreed, it is exceedingly strange. But remember, Obama was not my main target here, but the New York Times for the way they presented him.
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Here are excepts from the Times story (the discussion thread is above):
… Mr. Obama made a celebratory return to the Capitol, where he received an enthusiastic reception on the House floor in an appearance staged to position him as the party’s inevitable nominee….
Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 09, 2008 09:03 AM | Send
Mr. Obama’s very public arrival in the House chamber on Thursday morning underscored the fact that the most important front in the Democratic nominating fight was suddenly Washington, where many of the superdelegates were milling around on the House floor voting on amendments to a housing bill.
And it was in marked contrast to Mrs. Clinton’s private meetings near the Capitol the day before as she sought to convert undecided lawmakers. Aides to Mr. Obama said they saw his visit as an opportunity to create an image of Mr. Obama as the soon-to-be-nominee. Elated members on the floor seemed to share that view.
“I think he is feeling comfortable and confident, and he should,” said Representative Ed Perlmutter of Colorado, an Obama backer. “My colleagues are beginning to really see him as the candidate. The consensus is that he is the nominee.”
Mr. Obama created an uproar as he worked the chamber for more than half an hour, accepting congratulations for his primary showing Tuesday, shaking hands and sharing hugs with Democrats in his camp, some in Mrs. Clinton’s camp and even some Republicans. He did a little curtsy before Representative John M. Spratt Jr. of South Carolina, chairman of the Budget Committee and one of the sought-after uncommitted superdelegates.
Mr. Obama made his way into the well of the chamber, at one point stopping by Representative Yvette D. Clarke of Brooklyn, who showed him a copy of The Daily News from Wednesday, which ran his photo on the front page with the headline “It’s His Party.”