Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
March 19, 2006

Lacing The Sugar


(expand window)

Last Sunday it was Mark Warner. This Sunday, it’s Obama.

Is the NYT systematically looking to depreciate the “new” Democrats?  What’s particularly duplicitous about this Week In Review article/multimedia piece is that it’s The Times hoisting Obama onto the pedestal at the same time they’re warning of a fall.  And what’s with the dart board, or that “Perils of Perfection”  tag line on their loaded Obama slideshow?  Simply, The Times is lacing the sugar.


This latest fuss and bother comes about as a result of the the recent Washington Gridiron dinner.  Even Bush hopped the bandwagon that night, comparing Obama to the Pope.  Give credit to the Senator though, who acknowledged the press this way:

“I want to thank you for all the generous advance coverage you’ve given me in anticipation of a successful career.  When I actually do something, we’ll let you know.”

Obama will have to remain artfully self-effacing if he is going to play down all the overdrawn and outsized comparisons.  The two black-and-white slides above (expand window for full view) ran back-to-back in the NYT’s “send ‘em up” AV show.

(illustration: Rodrigo Corral; Photograph: Karin Cooper/Face The Nation via AP. March 19, 2006. image 1: Charles Rex Arbegast/A.P. image. March 19, 2006.  2: Cornell Capa/ICP Collection. March 19, 2006.

  • ummabdulla

    They like those toothy grins, don’t they? Not that his picture looks like Mark Warner’s.
    I read the article, and my reaction was that they mentioned nothing of substance about him at all. Except that he smokes cigarettes, I guess.
    What is with the dart board? Who’s supposed to be throwing darts at him? (The press, Republicans, other Denmiocrats?) The way it looks is that so far they’ve missed him, but if he’s a target, he can’t avoid being hit forever…
    Is this how the journalists are covering him – i.e., just waiting to see what’s going to bring him down? Without even really giving him a chance to show why he should be up on the pedestal in the first place?

  • lytom

    Seems that diversions to bring other small issues is working out successfully…
    Interesting how the small size protests and larger polls against the war in Iraq are pointing out to a long stay in quagmire. The genocide of Iraqis seems to matter little, the threats to Iran are perceived in muteness and the people are tranquilized by sounds of dying democracy.

  • Cactus

    Whenever I’ve heard Obama’s words directly from his own mouth, he sounds reasonable and modest. That is not how he is portrayed in the ‘liberal’ press, however. In fact, he’s pretty much getting the treatment afforded any politician who is not republican.
    The accompanying article is riddled with snarky disingenuousness; pointing out that certain pols ’stumbled’ and never recovered, but ignoring the press’ harping that made recovery impossible. In typical “set ‘em up and knock ‘em down” strategy, she posits the demigod aspects, then quotes various ‘authorities’ on the fall of past demigods. The fact that Obama did not participate in the article shows he still has some common sense.
    The top photo is actually pretty good; typical of politician addressing a crowd. I don’t get the connection to the JFK photo, unless by way of the JFK mentions in the article.
    And that illustration is, sorry to say, racist. Obama probably does look like that when laughing at a joke (told by other than Geedub), but to make it a poster conjures up the old images of “them darkies eatin’ them watermellons.” (I can be just as cynical about race relations as everything else.) To say that this was not intentional, is to stretch the imagination. Besides, any focus from under face level upward is not flattering. Are the darts a warning to Obama that they may not always miss? Would they have put Wellstone on a dart board? Or Feingold?

  • TrueBlueCT

    Everyone should know that Obama is coming to Connecticut, ten days from now, for our JJB Dinner, –as Joe Lieberman’s “special guest”.
    Obama has kissed the Clintonistas’ ring, but has he really sold out? Time will tell. But along with all of you, I will continue Paying Attention!
    Feingold– I love you man!

  • futurebird

    Who is throwing the datrts??? I just don’t get that. For some reason he reminds me of tiger woods.

  • readytoblowagasket

    Have I mentioned recently how much The New York Times SUCKS?!!
    Much like the Mark Warner article, this article about Barack Obama has almost nothing to say about its professed subject. The result of weak editorial copy is that the illustration of Obama and the cover photo of Warner therefore carry *all* of the editorial weight, whether the illustrator or photographer intended it. And the message in both cases is clearly negative.
    Thanks once again, NYT “reporters,” for sitting on your overpaid asses and reporting nothing. Cake job.

  • Esoth

    Other than the questionable demented grinning dartboard photo, the photos are pretty good. I really like the main one. But the whole “perfection” premise is screamingly inane, given that the man’s name is “Barrack Obama” and oh, by the way, he is half black. This is certainly part of what makes the Senator’s story so compelling, but if we were playing god and drawing up the perfect candidate, Barrack Obama, he would not be called, nor would he be black. The more relevant story would be how well and/or whether his gifts will translate across the red states.
    Of course, it would make better sense to give the guy a chance to learn and grow into a leadership role. If Obama is to be a true leader, he will necessarily have to depart from a “perfectionist” course, which is just another way of saying someone who is afraid to offend anyone. By setting up the “perfectionist” meme, the Times can snidely bracket his career thus far, and also going forward if he doesn’t take obviously false or unpopular steps. But if he does take a principled and perhaps unpopular stand (the very definition of leadership), the Times will have the “fall from grace with god” meme already in the can. If Obama increasingly comes under fire from Republicans and increasingly becomes the target of NY Times subversionary tactics, it will be a good sign, because it will mean that he has grown in stature and presents a challenge to the current orthodoxy.

  • MadtownWonk

    The dartboard shouldn’t be a shock. Anyone in public life is a target. What may be shocking is that someone taking a shot at Obama, who has positioned themself to be a face of the Democratic Party, has yet to hit their target. Even people in supervisory roles of the lowest level are considered to have “targets on their backs.” Criticism, fair or not, is normally pointed at those that are most visible.

  • MadtownWonk

    The dartboard shouldn’t be a shock. Anyone in public life is a target. What may be shocking is that someone taking a shot at Obama, who has positioned himself to be a face of the Democratic Party, has yet to hit their target. Even people in supervisory roles of the lowest level are considered to have “targets on their backs.” Criticism, fair or not, is normally pointed at those that are most visible.
    Edit: themself should have been himself

  • readytoblowagasket

    Madtown Wonk, you’re right about the bull’s-eye on the heads of public figures, but in this case, the illustration has nothing to do with the article. The article is not a story about criticism of Obama; it’s not about Obama, period. It’s a piece about William Jennings Bryan, John Edwards, JFK, Bill Bradley, Bill Clinton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mitt Romney, Mark Warner, and Mario Cuomo. It’s about Anne E. Kornblut’s ability to use quotes from Doris Kearns Goodwin, Mario Cuomo, Darrell M. West, and Robert Dallek. Wisely, “Mr. Obama did not return a call seeking comment.” Could be he was too busy. Or it could be that he’s not interested in an article about nothing. Or maybe he’s not interested in being compared to JFK, whose life came to an abrupt, early end, a parallel the Times seems to be wondering about.
    The Times has editorial meetings about how to illustrate articles. I bet that they discussed how they *couldn’t* make an illustration of Obama in the crosshairs (which would be too obvious an association with JFK’s assassination, even if they only wanted to talk about “character” assassination). So, given the illustration has nothing to do with the article in the end, what *is* the NYT *saying* here? I think whatever it is, it’s irresponsible editorial.

  • Cactus

    RTBAG: Very perceptive.

  • Alopex Lagopus

    The b/w picture is a message to Obama: don’t get too successful, JFK’s balloon got popped, yours can too.

Refresh Archives

Random Notes