Duel of the embattled visages


You know how news websites usually have a most-read stories box.  Sometimes, the Christian Science Monitor inexplicably has an old report at the number one spot.  Earlier this week, a January story critically probing Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital was on top.  The lead photo struck me as over the top in conveying the anti-business tone of the article.

Christian Science Monitor

From the side, a harsh light defines the subject’s face.  Squinty-eyed, she stares off into the distance, as if in the midst of a hardscrabble existence.  We know she’s not happy.  Maybe you can imagine the photographer coaching her, “No, not quite.  Try to look a little more . . . off-put.  Turn your head just a little more to the left.  That’s it.”

The photo surely recalls an iconic image from one of the more trying times of last century.

Migrant Mother, Dorothea Lange, 1936. Wikimedia.

I wouldn’t try to question the artistic merit of Lange’s photography.  But given today’s sensibilities, to stumble upon such a spitting facsimile of her work’s form and style ought to puzzle if not disturb us.  In Lange’s time, America was reaching, in ways more benign than in other parts of the world, its own totalitarian zenith.  Government drafted artists en masse to produce, well, propaganda.  And surely, that’s what Lange’s work is: biased, and with a story to tell.  This is not bad in itself, but in our jaded, post-Vietnam, post-Iraq culture, there’s a double standard at work.

It’s routine and accepted for journalists to play up poverty as grinding.  But they can’t allow themselves to show private sector success as uplifting.  Not alarmist enough, or in tow with liberal media execs’ worldview.  When we hear or read “Bain Capital,” we expect to see grizzled profiles rather than glowing families.  Such a sustained slant is pernicious to our way of thinking, and in turn to the way we live.  At least there are those who would straighten the record.

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About Lewis W
I earned an M.A. in Christian apologetics at Biola University, and occasionally write on ethics, truth, science and politics.

2 Responses to Duel of the embattled visages

  1. Grady says:

    While I admit that both the general media and the realm of art are overtly liberal, I do think a picture should tell a story. It would be pointless to pair an article with a picture that told no story, so I find nothing wrong with the pairing of an over-the-top article with an over-the-top picture. I have a much bigger issue with the continuation of the government-produced and influenced propaganda, such as the leak of the CIA double-agent recovering a bomb in Yemen and foiling an attack around the anniversary of bin Laden’s killing… a leak that turned out to be completely false to give credit to the Obama administration when it was foreign intelligence that foiled the plot and recovered the bomb, and the false leak put intelligence agents of our allies at risk all for a bit of political gain.

    http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/09/world/meast/al-qaeda-plot/index.html

  2. Yes, let there be bias! I just like readers to be mindful of what they’re consuming from mainstream sources, where journalists often claim a mask of neutrality. Thanks for pointing us to the Yemeni leak. Another distasteful political indiscretion.

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