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January 31, 2006

Why The Long Face

Kerry-Long-Face

Look familiar?

For what it’s worth, Monday night’s Senate vote on the Alito nomination seemed to actually hold some meaning for the Democrats.  With the loss a foregone conclusion (41 votes were required to mount a filibuster), 24 Dems still voted to to extend debate, including several (such as Feinstein and Mikulski) who were leaning the other way.

I had some questions about the photo coverage, however.  Following the vote, many of the Democratic Senators gathered in front of the cameras.  From what I could tell, the mood was combative and serious, not defeatist.  In spite of the fact, the coverage once again yielded too many glum shots of Kennedy and Kerry — in contrast to, say, Democratic women (such as Feinstein, Stabenow, Murray) , or fresher, more eager faces (such as Obama, Feingold, Bayh).

Throughout the ‘04 election, I documented repeated instances in which I felt the visual media tended to physically distort Kerry or portray him as a sad sack (example 1, 2).  In this shot, notice how Kerry’s head is distended, and the person on his left is so shadowed as to evoke an ink spill.  The other tendency of the visual press is to depict Kerry as a depressed loner.

Having spent a good chunk of time researching Kerry, I believe his nature does tend to the dysphoric and solitary.  Still, I believe the photo media, playing into a bastardized sketch of Kerry conceptualized by Rove and his Swift Boat accomplices, seem almost trained to unconsciously look for the chance to turn Kerry into a caricature of himself.

Alito-Elevator

Another theme of the evening’s photo coverage had to do with elevators.

Many of the members coming off the Senate floor were heading up or down, and we’re depicted in transit.  Although taken earlier in the day, this shot of Alito fit well in the same YahooNews thread.  I found this image quite evocative, however, especially in contrast to the Kerry shot (which I worry, can be interpreted by the broader audience as also representative of the blue party).

To me, this shot makes reference to the almost total lack of access to the real Scalito.  I think it also reveals something of the shamelessness the right wing exudes but manages not to completely flaunt.  It’s like Alito gloats: “You can’t touch me!”

(image 1 & 2: Jason Reed/Reuters.  January 30, 2006. Capitol Building, Washington.  Via YahooNews.)

  • Asta

    For some really weird, probably psychotic, reason, when I saw the second image of Alito in the elevator, my first reaction was that he was framed by a pair of thighs. Shiny silk stockings. Probably lots of Freudian symbolism in that.
    Kerry looks how I feel — in mourning over the death of democracy.

  • lemondloulou54

    Alito is happiest behind bars; he lives in fear all of the time. He’s a wannabe country club Republican, the kind of person who needs all sorts of conventions and conformities in his life. I would bet that he and the missus live in a nice “association” where there is no chance that he or any family members might come into contact with someone not of his social class. That’s what he, and his father before him, were fighting so hard to protect in the redistricting business. They wanted “safe neighborhoods,” which is code for no blacks. Thanks to his brains and hard work, he’s no doubt left the ghetto he grew up in for a privileged ghetto.

  • Mad_nVT

    BagMan’s analysis of the media’s treatment of Kerry and Bush during the election was a real wake-up call for me. It was, as is, an extremely important contribution to the discussion of what our nation is. And what it is becoming. I hope that BagMan’s election series can be revisited and more widely distributed.
    The photo of Kerry fits right in to that pattern, as BagMan notes. Plus Kerry is feeling blue because he was so totally stupid as to make his “brave” rallying call for a filibuster from Davos, Switzerland, where he was mingling with the high and mighty. The man is out-of-touch. Just like the photo suggests.
    The photo of Alito is an excellent symbol of the doors closing on women’s rights.

  • Tara

    The picture of Alito in the elevator is also a reference to the “up or down vote” buzz-phrase.

  • Tara

    The picture of Alito in the elevator is also a reference to the “up or down vote” buzz-phrase.

  • Chris Hodges

    Your analysis is brilliant. You may be on to something. I believe that the reason Democrats lose is NOT becasue their policies and ideology are out of sync with the majority of America, but because of distorted photo shoots or because of the conspiracy by the right wing media establishment. Continue your fine work! Have Democrats not change one iota of their message and ideology!
    Signed:
    Karl Rove …err I mean Chris Hodges

  • itwasnt me

    “Kerry looks like I feel”. I second that, Asta!
    BAG has put together two pictures that together say volumes about America’s view of winning and losing. Is there any other way of looking at these two pictures besides that? Are winning and losing the only choices? Victory and defeat are temporary conditions, and these “snapshots in time” illustrate that. Both men now go on, after this moment, to other hard work that will become the history we read about.
    I don’t know exactly what I’m trying to say.

  • mugatea

    Asta, you’re not alone with really weird, probably psychotic reasoning … I looked at the elevator doors and saw buttcheeks, leaving Alito to look like an …
    It’s really a unique photo and I’m surprised Bag had access to it. It seems like a picture that should not have seen the light of day. Digital photography makes us all take and keep photos that in the past were not valued.
    I second Mad n’s comment regarding the election coverage here @ BNN.

  • readytoblowagasket

    Mad_nVT said: “The man is out-of-touch. Just like the photo suggests.”
    Yeah, that’s exactly the conclusion I heard on NPR the day Kerry called in his filibuster — which was the day *before* this photograph was taken, I believe. So, the photograph in fact *confirms* an editorial opinion already voiced in the media, NOT anything the photographer thought of for himself. So now it’s fact: someone said it and someone took a picture to *illustrate* what was said.
    I think Kerry looks tired, end of story. Could it be jet lag perhaps?
    Chris Hodges: Thanks for your knee-jerk contribution. You’re a fucking genius.

  • weisseharre
  • rMatey

    did someone comment that Alito got the elevator and we got the shaft?????

  • jt from BC

    I thought Woh, finally they have sunk The Bismark with this porno shot of the judge and now his sweetie will have something to really weep and wail about…damn elevator’s, warping my mind and wishes, oh well there’s always a second cup of coffee.

  • azurnoir

    Photo of Alito looked like someone waking-up from a bad dream and looking through their fingers see a demon staring (possible subject of dream) at them.
    Melodramatic, maybe but he does look demonic to me.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/aog/ Annoying Old Guy

    Kerry looks how I feel — in mourning over the death of democracy.

    I would be curious to hear your definition of “democracy”, Asta. Apparently it doesn’t mean the the party that wins elections gets to implement its policies.

    I would bet that he and the missus live in a nice “association” where there is no chance that he or any family members might come into contact with someone not of his social class.

    Unlike, of course, Senator John Kerry (D-Davos).

  • Asta

    Democracy: A political order is a democracy when there exists elected officials, free and fair elections, inclusive suffrage, the right to run for public office, freedom of expression, the right to alternative information and associational autonomy (the right to form interest groups).
    But AOG, you and your ilk are not interested in this form of government. Your way of thinking and your actions promote and support corporate fascism, and I truly hope you and your fellow sociopaths enjoy the police state you will find yourselves living in. Enjoy!
    So sad, you are the cooked frog, you just haven’t figured it out yet.

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/vicfitz82 Victor F

    I tend to read pictures literally first, and figuratively second. I didn’t think the Alito picture looked suggestive in any way until I thought about the technical aspects of the photo itself. There’s more light outside the elevator than inside, so Alito is emerges from a shaft of darkness. If there were more light in the elevator than outside, the doors would be darker and Alito would seem to appear in a shaft of light. But I think Alito buried in darkness is a better read, for me anyway. He is ascending (or descending) the bowels of the government (now I see the buttcrack reference, finally!). He is a seed of darkness penetrating light. It’s very dark. Pictures of people through cracks in doors certainly evoke interesting interpretations about their character or the circumstances of their portrayal.
    I don’t mind that Kerry gets distorted in his visual depictions in media. I never really liked him. Of course, I liked him more than Bush, but over the last few years I’ve really begun to think of him as exemplifying the tactics Democrats use that lose them favor among voters: whichever way breeze of public opinion blows, Kerry tries to stay downwind. Windsockery. I still think he was a smarter and more capable administrator than Bush, but that’s not saying much.
    Yes, he looks depressed. I would say that’s appropriate, too. If the editor could have seen him ready for political battle, maybe a more confrontational picture might have appeared. Instead, this is probably the face he was wearing.

  • tracy

    The shot of Alito reminds me of the chase scene in “The French Connection.” During the car chase, Gene Hackman’s character, a detective, is able to outpace the elevated subway train in which the suave, French drug trafficker is riding. **Spoiler Alert, but hey, the movie was made in 1971** The detective runs up the stairs to the station and manages to get on the same train the trafficker is on. He chases the trafficker through the subway cars until at a subsequent stop, the trafficker, still several cars ahead of the detective, gets off. The detective scrambles off the train too, but at the last minute, just as the doors of the train are closing, the trafficker takes a step backwards into the train, and the doors of the train close in front of his face exactly as these elevator doors are closing on Alito. Of course, the detective, not to mention the audience, is as dejected as Kerry looks in this shot (although the look on Kerry’s face, it seems to me, has a lot to do with its literally long shape and the arch of his eyebrows). Alito is as happily smug as the trafficker, and the fact that Alito lied and dissembled (or “disassembled”) to obtain the position merely burnishes the victory for him, I suspect. It’s a sad day for America, but at least Kerry tried. And I don’t fault him for failing to anticipate that Scott McClellan, whose boss is always on vacation whether in Crawford or in D.C., would deride Kerry for calling for the filibuster from Davos, where Kerry was actually working.
    On the other hand, maybe we’re looking at Alito through Sen. Maria Cantwell’s legs:
    http://bagnewsnotes.typepad.com/bagnews/2006/01/your_turn_meet_.html

  • lytom

    I do not feel compassion for Kerry. Why such a long face? After all he was and is in line with the republican party and bush. After all the statements he has made about Iraq and support for the war there is nothing he can do to make an impact… just play a role of Kerry the loser. He is a failure and without spirit. When he was running he did not stand up and say BS to bush and to his policies. His stand is laying down and letting the republican party ride over him. This goes for the democratic party as well. Unless a new party is formed US will end up with “one” party system and not many choices. Some people have already given up and some seek other ways to change things and not through the “wimpy” party.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/aog/ Annoying Old Guy

    Asta;
    I agree with your description, which makes your comment about it dieing non-sensical.
    If you want to talk about threats to free speech, nothing is a bigger threat to than “Campaign Finance Reform”, something that could literally shut down weblogs just like this. Which party supports that? Why, the Democratic Party. And what group gets an exemption from those rules, giving them far disproportionate control of political speech? Big media corporations. And who are the money people behind it? Multi-billionares like George Soros.
    So go ahead and serve your super-wealthy masters. I just hope that I won’t have to endure the corporate fascism you and your ilk are trying to impose on this country.

  • readytoblowagasket

    Wow. And I thought Kerry and I were the only ones in a bad mood today. Seems like everyone is. . . .

  • http://relay2.crystalone.net:8006/listen.pls CRYSTALONE.NET
  • Asta

    AOG, I can always count on you to take an issue and warp it beyond recognition. I am quite aware of the ongoing negotiations regarding the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Law, the FEC involvement, and which Republicans/Democrats are for it/against it. And their reasons why.
    I noticed that you didn’t have any interest in picking a bone with the other aspects of Democracy:
    (1) elected officials, (2) free and fair elections, (3)inclusive suffrage, (4) the right to run for public office…
    I guess it’s kinda hard for you to attack me on those principals, seeing how your pResident is an interloper.
    Trolls. I guess they’re just some kind of weird mutation in the evolution…strike that….creative design of man.

  • http://areyoudressed.blogspot.com momly

    If you squint your eyes just right, Alito sort of looks like Hackman.
    I bet Hackman would do a smashing job portraying him in the movie since he does such wonderful sinister characters.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/aog/ Annoying Old Guy

    Asta;
    I don’t see those other things as being under threat, despite the obvious fraud in Washington State and Wisconsin. The Democratic Party is fading, so it’s a transitory problem, as that party is the primary obstacle to proper voting reform (think of all of the big city vote machines – all Democratic Party – that’s why we aren’t seeing reform).
    As for President Bush, it is beyond dispute that he received more votes than Senator Kerry, is it not? That would seem to put a strong upper bound on how “unelected” he could be. I have looked carefully at the standard accusations in this regard and find them extremely weak at best. I will leave it at that, as I suspect TheBAG would not appreciate fighting it in this comment thread.
    On the other side, I strongly oppose electronic voting, which tends to be a Republican Party effort. The security on those things are a joke, and that’s a professional opinion (my job is designing and implementing computer / network security software).
    — Annoying Old Troll

  • http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~smith60 Chuck

    “On the other side, I strongly oppose electronic voting, which tends to be a Republican Party effort. The security on those things are a joke, and that’s a professional opinion (my job is designing and implementing computer / network security software).”
    What’s both terrifying and sad is that so many people either a) don’t make this connection, b) don’t understand the techno-dork issues at hand, or c) just straight-up don’t care.
    Thanks for making that assertion, though. More credible folks doing that might at least make some noise, if not instigate some change.

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