Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
January 31, 2007

Bush On The Other Hand

Otherhand

Now we’re talking.

Last week, I isolated Jim Webb’s use of a family photo during the Dem’s State of the Union resonse.  The picture, showing the Senator’s father on duty near the end of World War II, helped the Senator fuse together a family’s long military record, intense patriotism and the  responsibility of challenging the President’s Iraq campaign.  My point was that opponent’s of the war needed to go further in forging that message, more economically and emotionally, into a single picture.

The latest VoteVets.org ad, slated to run in states with Republican Senators on the war fence, is a good example of what’s involved.

Watch it first, then read the rest….

What makes this so powerful is not just the visual impact, but the perfect blending of rhetorical and somatic metaphor — hands and hands.  As the cadence builds, you keep waiting for the “other hand.”  And when you get it, you don’t exactly expect the singular, offsetting comparison with the President.

But it goes further than that, psychologically.

Notice how Loria raises his stump, moving it back and forth as he says the President’s name.  Beyond driving home a point, the gesture — for just an instant — creates almost an anthropomorphic association with the President.  With the extension obviously part of Loria’s body, but visually alien too, at the intonation of the President’s name, our sense is to wonder (just like in puppetry or in a magic show) if this object and the President have a more literal connection.

As a result, we not only think (intellectually) Bush caused this stump — we get the near-physical sensation that Bush, himself, is part of that stump, and/or he now exists where that arm doesn’t.

(still: votevets.org/Wesley Clark via youtube.com. January 2007)

  • Miss Led

    It’s 7 am here. It made me cry.

  • Unbreathless

    The subtle use of “Left” and “Right” also struck me right off the bat. I found the messages mixed because of the interchangable nature of “left” and “right” based on perspective.
    All of the vets use their right hand to emphasize their words, but this appears on the left side of the screen for us. Some of the “lefties” seem slightly awkward and forced in their use of that particular hand.
    Loria’s left hand is on our right, the right side of our view amputated. The right caused this, and the right suffered (from our perspective). From his perspective, the actions of the Right affected his left hand.
    Finally, our last person, Horne, uses neither hand to emphasize his words. His hands are not even visible in the frame. As if this is not a choice between left or right. He may not even HAVE hands, we don’t know. But we assume that Left or Right… there is no choice.

  • Thirdeye Pushpin

    It is a concise video and brings one to the point
    Bush=Shrub~Stump
    which has harmed us, does not care about us, is still endangering us.
    very powerful messaging

  • tina

    There are 25,000 or so of these pictures possible, some much more horrible than this. Let’s see them and get the truth out.

  • Gasho

    Just one month after Congress has changed hands and the political debate is finally begining. With momentum on our side, 2, 4, 6, 12 more months of this and we should be able to grind the president’s agenda into pulp.
    I think this would be a good start to the “No Confidence” campaign. Look at all the statements and assumptions. Look at all the results. Look at where he wants to take us now — I vote: No Confidence !!

  • readytoblowagasket

    Wow! I find it psychologically unsettling that this post uses the following words to describe Robert Loria’s arm:
    1) “stump”
    2) “it”
    3) “anthropomorphic”
    4) “alien”
    5) “this object”
    While Loria’s arm may be innocuously termed a “stump,” it’s a word that skews pejorative in the context of so many *nonhuman* associations: alien, puppetry, magic show, object, it. Not to mention, the definition of “anthropomorphic” is “ascribing human characteristics to nonhuman things.” In the rush to make a point about Bush, Loria has become a casualty once again. But I’m sure that people with visible physical handicaps are used to clumsy, dismissive language.
    Just so happens Loria has plenty of experience with being dismissed as a human being, particularly by his own government:
    “His hand had been blown off in Iraq, his body pierced by shrapnel. He could not walk. Robert Loria was flown home for a long recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he tried to bear up against intense physical pain and reimagine his life’s possibilities.
    “The last thing on his mind, he said, was whether the Army had correctly adjusted his pay rate — downgrading it because he was out of the war zone — or whether his combat gear had been accounted for properly: his Kevlar helmet, his suspenders, his rucksack.
    “But nine months after Loria was wounded, the Army garnished his wages and then, as he prepared to leave the service, hit him with a $6,200 debt. That was just before last Christmas, and several lawmakers scrambled to help. This spring, a collection agency started calling. He owed another $646 for military housing.”
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/13/AR2005101302166.html

  • monsieurgonzo

    Re: “There are 25,000 or so of these pictures…”
    …actually, there are 50,000+ American wounded :
    Agency Says Higher Casualty Total Was Posted in Error
    The 50,508 figure caught the attention of the Pentagon when Prof. Linda Bilmes of Harvard mentioned it in an opinion article on Jan. 5 in The Los Angeles Times
    …unlike the 3,000+ death tally, which includes all KIA’s, including “those by non-hostile actions” eg., vehicle, accidents, etc., while on active duty within the WarZone ~ the Pentagon has been altering wounded reportage such that only those wounded, maimed, psychologically driven mad as a direct result of ‘enemy action’ are included in the lower, 25,000 reported wounded figure.
    further, neither Killed nor Wounded figures regularly reported in the media include thousands of non-military, American contractors ~ from truck drivers to security guards to food servers; nor do we report “our partners in The Coalition;” nor do we report the killed or wounded IRAQI allied forces, where the brunt of our losses have occurred.
    One ~$500 million dollar BUSH LIBRARY = 10, ~50 million dollar veteran hospital/recovery centres: i suggest this alternative as a much more appropriate architectural Presidential legacy :-/

  • lima

    Giving with one hand, taking with the other.

  • http://www.theunapologeticmexican.org nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez

    great writeup.

  • KingElvis

    Wow. That is amazingly powerful – totally frank – no ’spin’ needed there.
    It’s heartening that veterans have awakened to the fact that throwing good blood and treasure after bad is not just irrational – it’s evil.

  • http://www.highcontrastcomedy.com boxcar

    Is this the best we can do, really? Is this much different than manipulating us with fear? This is an ad to manipulate us with guilt and sympathy.
    I know that facts aren’t sexy. But all of these ads, and the new round of political campaigns that are set to scatter the thoughts that have only started to settle after last November are just as sickening. All this ad really shows is that it in no way intends to educate people into doing what each individual thinks is right, but rather Manupulating the individual through cheap but proven madison avenue advertising techniques into doing and thinking and feeling the way they want you to feel.
    Information, not manipulation is the only salvation.
    box

  • japandrew

    I think this is a very powerful antidote to the manipulative use of the troops in Iraq. The logic that “supporting” means doing whatever Bush decided to do has been used relentlessly and ruthlessly by this administration and its enablers. Having real live vets speak in their own words puts a human face on the “troops” that has been absent. The final gesture with a hand that is no longer there is incredibly powerful. To gesture with an absent hand and speak of Bush is to point to his many moral, intellectual and factual absences.

  • lima

    Manipulation means handling…derivative of hand.
    Loria has to live with his missing hand. I don’t see how an everyday reality (for a man who has lost part of his body in a war that has been a complete lie from the very beginning) fits the description of “manipulation” per boxcar. Loria has all rights to demonstrate why this war has to stop.

  • Darryl

    I saw it on TV and when Robert came on I said “OH SNAP!” out load. My wife looked up and was like “SHIT DUDE!”
    It’s a great commercial because it’s so damn viseral. I’m sure it will mess people up some, as well it should.

Refresh Archives

Random Notes