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September 8, 2005

More Shame

Bushandfirefighters

Not only did Kos have a devastating post on Tuesday regarding FEMA’s employment of firefighters as PR props during Bush’s Katrina visit, he also presented the visual smoking gun.  Although the photo is damning enough, I was further interested in the emotional cost of Bush’s interference on the responders themselves.

Billmon expanded on the story with this link to the Salt Lake Tribune. 

Femafrustration

In the Salt Lake piece, this shot (with caption) couldn’t be more illustrative of the frustration caused by FEMA’s inanity.  What else would you expect when men — who were desperately needed in NO — are forced to sit in a conference room in an Atlanta Sheraton and undergo training as “community-relations” officers?

Ff2    Ff3



Ff5    Ff6

Going back to Bush and the firefighters: if I was specifically skilled in responding to a disaster, and I was turned into a human prop, I’m sure — whether out of embarrassment, shame, frustration, passive protest or some combination — I wouldn’t be able to look up either.

Ff1

Of course, the impression of Bush is also curious to consider.  Unfortunately, there’s no way to read into it accurately.  He could be bored and annoyed.  But he could just as easily be overheated and breathing hard. 

Beyond just evidence of exploitation, however, the overall photo of Bush and the firefighters has some interesting dynamics.

What seems most unique about this shot is that the entourage is “between photo ops” and Dubya isn’t aware of the camera.  Given that Bush’s public persona is built around the theme of solidarity and utter compassion, I believe the most honest (and revealing) element of the photo is how completely disconnected Bush is from the other men.  It’s as if the picture was divided by that tree between Bush and the fireman in the yellow hat, and we were really looking at separate images.

If I didn’t know the back story, I might argue that the firefighters just happened to be walking ahead.  Knowing the politics of the situation though, it seems reasonable to assume they were feeling had.

(image 1: REUTERS/Larry Downing. Biloxi, Mississippi.September 2, 2005. At YahooNews.  image 2: Leah Hogsten/Salt Lake City Tribune.)

  • mugatea

    What is it with Utah supporting the President in this way? Would all firefighters allow themselves to be pimped out like this? This must have been an awful day for those men. When the uniform becomes a costume … jeezum crow.
    I hope everyone takes the Bag link to KOS and reads this entry. It’s just wrong and people need to know about it. Reporters should look for these five firefighters and get their stories about this photograph and the day they were forced(?) to participate in.
    Thank you BAG for keeping this story above water.

  • hauksdottir

    I just noticed that the road is sloping and the men really are off the shoulder. This (and his elevator shoes) makes Bush look taller and commanding. Subtle positioning!
    The guys behind Bush are standing and talking, not walking, like filmcrew on a live action set. It’s as though a command was given to the actors to “walk towards the cameraman and roll up your sleeves as though you are going to do something hard”. Bush has his head up and his eyes focussed not on the business at hand, but upon that all-powerful lens. The honest men are ducking out of identifiability: their faces are all shaded. They are past the age of blushing, but not one is facing the camera. Normal fans will look at the camera, so they can send the pictures to family and friends. These guys are not radiating their good fortune in being chosen to stand next to His Excellency. They don’t appear to be shuffling, but heads and shoulders are down, down, down. The second man from the right has his pants open in front, too.
    That guy in front will undoubtedly get reprimanded for taking off his officially-issued FEMA shirt and stuffing it. Some of the firefighters from Oakland (my city) managed to avoid FEMA and just go into the neighborhoods and work. We taxpayers are paying these good folks to go in there and help, and FEMA is simply strangling them with bureaucracy… all to support the puppet-in-chief.
    One of the unseen problems with these photo ops is that they get in the way of REAL work and assistance. When Bush flies into an area, the surrounding airspace is closed. That means nobody can pilot a rescue mission or drop a sandbag into a levee until he leaves again.
    These manufactured scenes are like stage sets, and real humans resent being cast as dolls for Rove to move around for the cameras. Military personnel have no choice. If the Coast Guard or Army says to stand at attention, they are stuck. Private citizens, however, are starting to be less awestruck by reflected glory of the Presidential Office. Some are denying the opportunity to help prop him up. A few, a brave few.
    In “Ghost in the Shell 2″, little girls are saying that they don’t want to be made into dolls. Perhaps some adults don’t want to be made into dolls, either!
    Carolly

  • khanum

    Commander in Chief rolling up his sleeve like he is ready to do the job himself! How do you keep a shirt so white?

  • Diane

    My heart is breaking for us all. The shrub will finally have to pay everybody off (disaster victims, politicos) with our tax dollars to keep himself from being impeached. It’s the only thing that will do it. The different investigations proposed by dems and republicans might have the government tied up and tearing each others’ throats out by next year. A civil war without guns?

  • http://taleswapper.blogspot.com taleswapper

    I thought at first that it looked like Bush was rolling up his sleeve, but then I started to think it really looked like he was having a heart attack: gasping for breath, pain radiating down his right arm.

  • http://simplychimpy.blogspot.com/ SC

    Just found your blog today, and I’m glad that I did. Fascinating work decontructing these orchestrated events that only the most idiotic among us would be suckered by.
    Bush needs to be surrounded by uniforms for some strange, unfathomable reason. Perhaps he thinks the authority they represent is subtly (or not) transferred to him. Perhaps they represent his own authoritarian nature. Whatever it is, his sociopathic mind will be rich fodder for generations of psychologists.
    I think the most telling photo of the Bush presidency is his standing on a pile of smoking death with a bullhorn after 9/11 – no respect for the victims whatsoever. Just another photo-op, just like the firefighter shot you discuss – no respect for the dead, no respect for the living firefighters who could be saving lives, no repect for the intelligence of the American people who saw the truth with their own eyes last week.

  • sadja

    When you look at the small close -up of Bush… he looks as though he has horns. and if that isn’t the face of a demon, the expression I have seen in many of my art history classes, there is one painting in particular…very famous painting of demons pulling people into hell – can’t think of the name of it or the artist. will look it up. He is a demon.

  • PTate in MN

    It’s a brilliant photograph, worth 1000 words. It evokes 9/11–with the tired firefighter/heros trudging in to help the victims. And there is that caring guy, our Prez, striding along with them, his shirt sleeves rolled up, head up, ready for action.
    And the whole thing was staged, a lie, just a photo-op to prop up support for the Prez. And 90% of the people who see this will not comprehend the political masquerade. They know something is deeply wrong, but they’ll choose reassurance over truth.
    Another national catastrophe? Time for SuperPrez! He’s not part of the problem, oh, no! HE’s part of the solution! Forget that picture of him with the guitar.
    Nice analysis, btw.

  • foreigner

    I was waiting for you to pick this one!
    As you mention, the separation between Bush and the firefighters is so obvious that at first glance I though Bush was photoshopped into the frame.
    My first thought about the way the firefighters look down is that reinforces the theory about local authorities failing to perform their duties. Now they are ashamed in front of Bush, who comes to the rescue, rolling up the sleeve, ready to take control and show them how things are done. He is the problem solver, next door guy ready to jump into action. The effect is reinforced by the obscured faces of the firefighters in contrast with the iluminated face of the president.
    This photo op takes a new direction from the previous ones, Bush in some hangar, in from of pristine helicopters, surrounded by federal staff, listening to some technical explanation, detached from reality in a sanitised environment. Now he is all “boots in the ground”.

  • fotonique
  • George Myers

    It was reported in the Canadaian press that their “search and rescue” people got in five days before the US Army did to help people out in New Orleans according to a Louisiana legislator. (Reuters Canada) Two large Russian cargo planes flew to Little Rock, Arkansas with 50 tons of humanitarian aid yesterday (Mosnews,though prior, three had been reported prepared). Other aid from other countries, like Sweden, has been held up over permissions (Reuters). Apparently the President likes black faced wrist-watches and maybe has an ache in his elbow, or maybe he’s going to flip his arm at us. Years ago Dr. Birdwhistle, one of the fathers of kinesiology (study of movement) filmed and analyzed frame-by-frame the diapering of infants with “safety pins” and the reactions in infant behavior. Someday we will have a President in the White House who was not “safety pinned” is my prediction, or nostalgia might put one back in at least maybe one that “hanging chads” didn’t put in.

  • George Myers, Jr.

    About that watch, it’s not black at all. I don’t know why I thought it was. And maybe he just got a shot against infection instead of gesturing. I once had HAZMAT training in Elmsford, NY Training Center, 5 stories, Scott air-packs, fit-test for a mask, to do archaeology in EPA sites and I feel for these guys, too, when they can’t even use the water everywhere to fight a fire without jeopardizing their health by aerosolising whatever is in the water.

  • Marquis de Barrabas

    «I just noticed that the road is sloping and the men really are off the shoulder. This (and his elevator shoes) makes Bush look taller and commanding. Subtle positioning!»
    I noticed this right away as well.

  • erthsister

    Another thing about the clothing. Louisiana is hot. And humid like a damp rag out of the microwave. Why wear a dark blue (FEMA) shirt in that kind of heat while doing physical labor with the sun beating down? It wouldn’t be practical.
    And Bush is rolling up his sleeves and looking …? stressed. Hot, I’d say. Walking around in high humidity in dress clothes is hard work! Bush may be used to the heat in Texas (well, except for Cindy Sheehan), but I’m sure it’s nothing like the humidity of Louisiana.
    Bush seems to be acting as if he’s part of the group. He’s acting all purposeful as if he’s one of the guys doing the hard work, but they are not having any of it. The split screen effect only emphasises that the firemen are not accepting him as one of the guys. They know he’s the jerk boss who will lead them around to make a point. They are aware he’s just making a show.
    In fact, the postures of the men remind me of kids having to be dragged around by an authority figure when they know it’s senseless and hypocritical, but they can’t say so. Like when your boss wants to take half an hour to give you a lecture about being efficient with your time. heh But unfortunately they can’t say, “excuse me mr. president, we have a lot of work to do, and you’re wasting our time seeing the sights.”

  • Mad

    Bush is walking on the high and dry, but he is crowding these guys over onto the shoulder and in to the crap at the edge.
    Basic Omega-Male-acting-as-Alpha-Male kind of dynamics. And the guys know it and understand it. Basic, you know.
    These guys look pretty disgusted. Are working people finally understanding that they are being shoved in to the crap by the Bush Administration?
    We used to see Bush photo ops with grinning worker-bees, just euphorically happy to be standing next to the President that God talks to. Now we may start to see that these people realize that they are being used and abused.

  • molly

    “But unfortunately they can’t say, “excuse me mr. president, we have a lot of work to do, and you’re wasting our time seeing the sights.” ”
    Well why the hell NOT????
    These guys had a job to do. If that were Saddam strutting along side of them, I could understand their reluctance. But this is STILL America!! This is a democracy, isn’t it?

  • mugatea

    Lifted from Froomkin’s WP column:
    Spencer S. Hsu writes in The Washington Post: “Five of eight top Federal Emergency Management Agency officials came to their posts with virtually no experience in handling disasters and now lead an agency whose ranks of seasoned crisis managers have thinned dramatically since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
    “FEMA’s top three leaders — Director Michael D. Brown, Chief of Staff Patrick J. Rhode and Deputy Chief of Staff Brooks D. Altshuler — arrived with ties to President Bush’s 2000 campaign or to the White House advance operation, according to the agency.”
    A New York Times editorial , citing a Sept. 7 Chicago Tribune story by Andrew Zajac and Andrew Martin , notes: “Mr. Altshuler and Mr. Rhode had worked in the White House’s Office of National Advance Operations. Those are the people who decide where the president will stand on stage and which loyal supporters will be permitted into the audience – and how many firefighters will be diverted from rescue duty to surround the president as he patrols the New Orleans airport trying to look busy.”

  • Hopeangel

    Now I know GOD is helping non-christians toooo. I thought in the past maybe he was helping just True Christians but now that I’ve seen your picture how wrong can I be! Well, in Jesus’s day there were True christians, so why not today? Now I also know that he helps non-christians too. We R All His People.
    Anyway, with that picture and the exact moment in time that you took it, I thought GOD sure helped you to take a perfect one that showed the exact Truth of it all!! Perfect. Ya, one of the demons, no doubt about it! I didn’t think humans could look like demons! How wrong I was.
    I also didn’t think that a person could look like a demon. Well, now I know better! That picture will go down in History!
    So when I heard the pResident cut disaster relief I was really floored. What a heartless thing to do when he “has” tons of $$$ to give to his gangster friends!!! Especially, was I just outraged when I heard of Condilisa Rice spending YOUR taxpayers Money to buy a 1000.00(s) worth of SHOES?? When People were starting to starve to death and babies too and they were thirsting to death and have no showers etc.!!! etc. My grandmother was an American and so I’m part American and I am Proud of that!
    In British Columbia, Canada it is starting to go the same way! But now it seems a bit better then the States because at least it hasn’t got worse anyway. But it will, I know that. One of his cronies came up here and was telling one of the Canadian royal mounted police how to do his business(bullying) and guess what?? He bullied a regular police officer and then he went and complained to superiors. Yeah right???
    I have someone bothering me. I go to the police. Of course they say theres nothing they can do. But they sure were following one day as a warning to me because I put a sticker up on a bus bench about bush’s thugs -the coke company!!
    http://www.killercoke.org
    Wasting gas, when there vans or Suv could relocate me somewhere away from these Abusing Phony demented b.s.’ers!!!
    I Hope Everyone stays O.K.! Poor sweeties, those firemen, hey? I guess its time to go get another job!

  • Hopeangel

    Now I know GOD is helping non-christians toooo. I thought in the past maybe he was helping just True Christians but now that I’ve seen your picture how wrong can I be! Well, in Jesus’s day there were True christians, so why not today? Now I also know that he helps non-christians too. We R All His People.
    Anyway, with that picture and the exact moment in time that you took it, I thought GOD sure helped you to take a perfect one that showed the exact Truth of it all!! Perfect. Ya, one of the demons, no doubt about it! I didn’t think humans could look like demons! How wrong I was.
    I also didn’t think that a person could look like a demon. Well, now I know better! That picture will go down in History!
    So when I heard the pResident cut disaster relief I was really floored. What a heartless thing to do when he “has” tons of $$$ to give to his gangster friends!!! Especially, was I just outraged when I heard of Condilisa Rice spending YOUR taxpayers Money to buy a 1000.00(s) worth of SHOES?? When People were starting to starve to death and babies too and they were thirsting to death and have no showers etc.!!! etc. My grandmother was an American and so I’m part American and I am Proud of that!
    In British Columbia, Canada it is starting to go the same way! But now it seems a bit better then the States because at least it hasn’t got worse anyway. But it will, I know that. One of his cronies came up here and was telling one of the Canadian royal mounted police how to do his business(bullying) and guess what?? He bullied a regular police officer and then he went and complained to superiors. Yeah right???
    I have someone bothering me. I go to the police. Of course they say theres nothing they can do. But they sure were following one day as a warning to me because I put a sticker up on a bus bench about bush’s thugs -the coke company!!
    http://www.killercoke.org
    Wasting gas, when there vans or Suv could relocate me somewhere away from these Abusing Phony demented b.s.’ers!!!
    I Hope Everyone stays O.K.! Poor sweeties, those firemen, hey? I guess its time to go get another job!

  • Hopeangel

    Please delete one of these posts. I must of hit the Post button twice. Thank you.

  • Hopeangel

    Now I know GOD is helping non-christians toooo. I thought in the past maybe he was helping just True Christians but now that I’ve seen your picture how wrong can I be! Well, in Jesus’s day there were True christians, so why not today? Now I also know that he helps non-christians too. We R All His People.
    Anyway, with that picture and the exact moment in time that you took it, I thought GOD sure helped you to take a perfect one that showed the exact Truth of it all!! Perfect. Ya, one of the demons, no doubt about it! I didn’t think humans could look like demons! How wrong I was.
    I also didn’t think that a person could look like a demon. Well, now I know better! That picture will go down in History!
    So when I heard the pResident cut disaster relief I was really floored. What a heartless thing to do when he “has” tons of $$$ to give to his gangster friends!!! Especially, was I just outraged when I heard of Condilisa Rice spending YOUR taxpayers Money to buy a 1000.00(s) worth of SHOES?? When People were starting to starve to death and babies too and they were thirsting to death and have no showers etc.!!! etc. My grandmother was an American and so I’m part American and I am Proud of that!
    In British Columbia, Canada it is starting to go the same way! But now it seems a bit better then the States because at least it hasn’t got worse anyway. But it will, I know that. One of his cronies came up here and was telling one of the Canadian royal mounted police how to do his business(bullying) and guess what?? He bullied a regular police officer and then he went and complained to superiors. Yeah right???
    I have someone bothering me. I go to the police. Of course they say theres nothing they can do. But they sure were following one day as a warning to me because I put a sticker up on a bus bench about bush’s thugs -the coke company!!
    http://www.killercoke.org
    Wasting gas, when there vans or Suv could relocate me somewhere away from these Abusing Phony demented b.s.’ers!!!
    I Hope Everyone stays O.K.! Poor sweeties, those firemen, hey? I guess its time to go get another job!

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