Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
February 3, 2006

Your Turn: Drawing From Fable

Economist-Aladdin

(illustration unattributed. The Economist. February 4, 2006.  Cover.) anit-bush.  defeat Bush.

  • ummabdulla

    Well, that “m” looks more like an “n”, but anyway…
    The genie has been let out of the bottle, and the sky is green (as they say in Palestine because of all the Hamas flags waving).
    The more democracy in the Middle East, the more the secular leaders (propped up by the U.S. usually) will be replaced with Islamists. I’m not sure if the administration realizes this yet. I did read that Condi is having the State Department do an investigation to see why they didn’t predict that Hamas would win in the Palestinian elections. But they have a long way to go before they understand anything around here.
    They did come out in support of the Muslims in the Danish cartoon controversy (long after Bill Clinton had already done it). If I was one for conspiracy theories, I might wonder whether those cartoons were initiated by the Lincoln Group…

  • blabby

    My feeling was that the wispy “democracy” in green was at least a little insulting to mideast folks, particularly Palestinians. If the word had been about democracy in the USA, for example, it would have been written with a marble-like font, i.e., something dignified. But all the Palestinians appear to rate, however, is green smoke from a brass lamp.

  • http://cheetahmaster.livejournal.com/ PMMJ

    Democracy is a fairy tale? Thin, like smoke, that it might blow away at any moment in a stiff breeze?
    Or democracy is the genie that, once loosed from the bottle, can’t be put back in?
    I’m actually curious as to what the story is about, since this cover has conflicting messages.

  • lytom

    Illusion, no substance,
    Perverted idea,
    Trick,
    Color red and not green!

  • Jeff K

    The democracy genie has been released from its bottle – that’s clear. But it’s not a friendly genie – it’s a noxious one. That kind of lamp as a symbol for the Middle East is something I’ve only seen in cartoons. It’s also archaic.
    Considering all the alternative symbols that could represent the Middle East and democracy, why the lamp+genie? That the cover story is also about Bush’s democratizing fantasies, so why isn’t the US also part of the imagery?
    Finally, a major justification behind the Iraqi invasion and the resulting democratizing influence was WMDs. Has democracy become its own form of a WMD?

  • http://profile.typekey.com/richsodergren/ rchsod

    the myth of the genie in the bottle and the myth of democracy in the middle east? i would hope that if there is to be democracy in the middle east that it would be more lasting than green smoke. is that what the design team was saying? or have they been watching reruns of “i dream of genie”

  • black dog barking

    That shiny lamp is nifty bit of technology for extracting light from oil. The magazine cover’s explicit message is based on examining fumes rising from the fuel, not using the lamp for its intended purpose. These fumes are potentially toxic but are sometimes sampled as a gateway to an altered reality.
    Of course, the mythic underpinnings of the image recall Aladdin, evil sorcerers, genies, the power of magic rings and lamps. It’s a tale of trial and triumph as the low born, street-smart Aladdin capitalizes on dubious opportunity and a lot of plain old magic to improve his lot, eventually marries into the highest class.
    Not sure how any of this applies to Bush.

  • blueelm

    It looks so ominous. So.. democracy is a fairy tale with a double edged sword? Be careful what you wish for, Middle East.
    I find this image confusing. Especially if you consider that the icon is a western one. As I understand the djinn (sp?) of Islamic tradition are actual spirit beings, like angels with free will. They can be benevolant, or demonic. What they saying about democracy?

  • lytom

    Taking another look. This time to the message:
    “The one thing Bush got right.”
    That is puzzling since the implication is bush got right “democracy.”
    That seems to be greatly exaggerated. The push is for control and oil through the force and not through anything else. The “democracy” bush offers is a farce.

  • Ron F

    I’ll leave analysis of the imagery to the experts, but will say the message from the right-wing Economist is complete nonsense. Elections in Iraq were not initially on Washington’s agenda, installing Ahmad Chalabi was. That they happened is down to Shia protests initiated by Ayatollah Sistani. Lebanon has had many broadly democratic elections, admittedly with Syrian forces present. But the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq didn’t hinder claims that it’s election was democratic.
    Palestinians have had elections before, too, and the recent ones weren’t a gift bestowed from President Bush.
    Egypt? Their election was a total sham, with opposition voters turned away at gunpoint from many polling booths. And the dictator Murbarak is still propped up with U.S. largesse.
    No sign of free elections in Libya, where our new best friend Colonel Gaddafy still rules with an iron fist.
    Kuwait? Nope, the same family on whose behalf we kicked out Saddam’s army are still in complete control, despite some liberalisation.
    Saudi Arabia? Still a million light years from being a democracy.
    Where does that leave? I suppose, at the risk of upsetting geographers and common sense, you could include Afghanistan in “the Middle East”. But if you look at the campaign strategies employed (like threats to cut off water supplies) by the narco-warlords, jihadists and, yes, Taliban that got elected it’s a real stretch to talk of democracy.

  • SEAS

    As for so many of Bush’s “victories” acheived through application of dogma and determination, I’m reminded of the old saying “Be careful of what you ask for, you may get it.” Bush is stuck relying on democracy to justify our occupation, since he refuses to rely on the more forthright reason of controlling the energy source, and we all know about the other justifications originally claimed that didn’t really work out too well. Instead, democracy in Iraq is more likely to lead to a generations long government built on enmity toward us (and our economic interests) and set backs for the rights of women and religious minorities. Bush has demonstrated the success of religious polarization as a democratic electoral tool. Should we be surprised that the same approach works in the model we are trying to cram down Iraq’s throat?

  • http://areyoudressed.blogspot.com momly

    The use of genies and lamps to suggest the Middle East is about as subtle as a cartoon.
    Full disclosure: one of my favorite episodes, so that doesn’t say much for me!

  • Jerry Holtaway

    Wait, they’re saying Bush got one thing right? That’s one two many… Or are they referring to the arrest of Cindy Sheehan at the State of the Union Address? Democracy goes up in smoke?
    I agree with SEAS above – “Be careful what you wish for…” came immediately to my mind…

  • Jerry Holtaway

    Sorry, that’s one too many…

  • Mad_nVT

    Not sure of details, but wasn’t that a democratic election in Iran that brought in their new leader—- America’s newest worst enemy?
    Now the US and Israel are debating the benefits of nuking them back to the Oil Age.
    If Bush has been sniffing the green gases from the oil lamp, it’s probably gone to his head, made him dizzy.

  • Thor Likes Pizza

    Folk here are overanalyzing.
    This is the economist, remember? There is no nuance here. The lamp is a symbol of mideast shit, the smoke is what comes out of the lamp.
    That this rag hilights ‘the one bush got right’ shows that this rag has one purpose – to prop up the dauphin.
    No more, no less.

  • mugatea

    The only “thing” in the illustration is the lamp.
    The “democracy” in smoke is not a thing, it’s an illusion …
    and like Ummmabdulla observed it looks like “denocracy” which has no meaning.

  • mugatea

    ummabdulla, sorry for the extra m in your name.
    We’re making coffee and I was thinking of it while typing … mmm, coffee.
    ; )

  • ummabdulla

    No problem, mugatea. (Maybe that should be mugacoffee?)
    This might be relevant: Robert Fisk: The Problem with Democracy
    And yes, jinn are part of Islamic beliefs. If you tell a Muslim about Whitley Streiber and others who claim to be visited by aliens, or clairvoyants, etc., they’ll probably say nonchalantly, “Yeah, those are jinn”. They were described by Islamic scholars a long time ago in terms that would be familiar to anyone who’s heard about these alien encounters. They don’t come out of a lamp and give you three wishes, though.

  • v.weld

    What’s interesting here is the contrast between the two text choices. Whereas ‘The One Thing Bush Got Right’ is written in big, white, bold, letters – conveying the certainty of the statement – ‘democracry’ is written, quite literally, in smoke. The image is forcing a nexus between Bush’s being “right” (morally? politically?) and his conviction that “democracy” would flourish in the Middle East. But democracy, here, is a product of Bush’s ‘making it so’ by, presumably, rubbing on the genie’s lamp. But the image also suggests that this ‘rightness’ is hazy, fragile & dangerous: the ‘democracy’ unfolding from the genie’s lamp has a toxic, radioactive quality. The image makes us question Bush’s ‘rightness’ as illusory more than convince us of its historical fact.

  • Hauksdottir

    That is an OIL lamp. The economist knows the value of OIL.
    Drawing democracy from OIL is indeed an illusion: a whiff of a fairystory told to young executives sitting at the feet of the elder OIL barons.
    Cheney a few years back spoke to an energy conference, and complained that God hadn’t put the oil under the soils of the democracies of this world. With a wave of the hands and a letting go of disbelief, the charlatan can convince anyone that Iraq would not only pay for its own restoration, but provide profits to the privateering firms.
    What has the belief in this fairystory cost us? Our own democracy is being blown away in the smoke of unending war.

Refresh Archives

Random Notes