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June 28, 2007

Who Do You Think You’re Looking At?




Once again, the unraveling of the Cheney/Bush Administration has proven too messy for the visual press to dirty its hands, newsprint and electrons on.

I’m referring specifically to Monday’s coverage of the EPA Director’s Congressional testimony.  After initially trying to dodge it, Christine Whitman finally appeared before a House Judiciary Subcommittee attempting finesse the agency’s negligence in addressing the health dangers of the 9/11 attack.

Although most mainstream media sites featured isolated images of a combative or over-rationalizing Whitman, I was interested in shot number #1 above, which actually earned a small, side-column spot in an AP feed at (the day before The Times ran their own story led by the more “typical” finger-waving Whitman).

So, what’s the difference?

Well, the “fighting Christie” images the MSM mostly wrapped its coverage around abstracts the damage itself, transforming the story into one more ho-hum report of political/Administration bluster and denial.  The image above, on the other hand, blows right past the obfuscation, the excuses, the covering-up to situate Whitman smack alongside the wrongdoing itself, and its consequence.

I say “consequences” because this image contextually breaks new ground — for a primarily political report. Outside of stories dealing specifically with environmental fallout, these 9/11 “plume” images have been mostly used to relay (and, to scare the pants off people as to) the dangers of terrorism.  In this instance, however, the photo takes new shape as “in your face” evidence of tons and tons of particulate matter.

What this image also does (enhanced by Mark Wilson’s next two images — which remain for sale, but, I’m pretty sure, will largely go unsold by Getty Images) is to more honestly flesh out a political assassination … and a political suicide.

As I remember Whitman, she was as a moderate Republican Governor who was, at least, more friendly to the environment.  In selling her soul to the Cheney Administration, however, she has not only been left holding the bag for an “eyes closed,” “just-make-it-go-away,” instant clean-up of Ground Zero and lower Manhattan, but ultimately, she destroyed her own reputation through her blind opportunism.

It is this back story that is so plainly elaborated by Mr. Wilson’s series of photos.

Beyond all the MSM images of defensive bluster, we have something here that is far more genuine.  We have Whitman’s proximity and obvious inattention to the human fallout; Whitman’s pain and suffering (first and foremost, for herself); and also Whitman’s anger over getting played — not to mention, her fury (in this instance, directed at this one photographer) for actually actually being seen.

(Now, if we could only get that Congressional panel, photographer Wilson and Mr. Giuliani in one place….)

NYT testimony video here.

(images: Mark Wilson/Getty Images. June 25, 2007. + Getty Images)

  • 11dvn

    As governor of NJ Chritie Whitman was not friendly to the environment. As an NJDEP employee, we watched staff and hours be reduced, inspections decrease, regulations be gutted and/or overlooked. Business came first. Not only that, she balanced her budget using our pensions, which have still not been replaced. “More friendly” that the Bush administration? Perhaps–but that’s not saying much.

  • tekel

    If she was ordered to whitewash the aftermath of ground zero, and she knew that it was unsafe for workers but she lied anyway, she should be liable for section 1983 “acting under the color of law” civil claims against her.
    How much is not having lung cancer worth to you?

  • Dean

    Whitman’s pain and suffering (first and foremost, for herself); and also Whitman’s anger over getting played — not to mention, her fury (in this instance, directed at this one photographer) for actually actually being seen.
    Well you talk a good photo. But all I see is another Repub/Bot, that(if given the opportunity) would do the same thing again, and again, and again (see also Colin Powell, Arlen Spector, etc.)

  • arty

    Why does it always seem that when the royal “we” takes over, things get very slippery?
    “We” seem to be pretty sure that Whitman is giving the hairy eyeball to photographer Mark Wilson. It sounds so heroic, makes “our” judgements so vital, and feeds on our paranoia. If “we” let out some air, and look perhaps at another photo,, from the same hearing, “we” might see that perhaps Ms. Whitman is just squinting at a monitor, as explained in the AP caption.
    Oh wait, my god, she’s s-s-staring at “us”! And so on.

  • Kitt

    We might, arty – but it’s not the same photograph.

  • readytoblowagasket

    I hope the photographer saw how the 9/11 mushroom cloud of debris looks like a thought bubble.
    This set of three photos is an accidentally genius portrait of Christine Todd Whitman. Besides capturing her exquisite self-righteous belligerence (as only a true WASP can successfully pull off when completely cornered; I wonder how many times in her life she’s hissed How dare you at someone), notice how the mushroom cloud photo looks crooked in the first frame? That’s because it is crooked (see the next two frames for comparison). It looks like the 9/11 photo is being set into position for viewing, as if on an easel labeled “Exhibit A” (in my imagination, anyway).
    And what does Whitman do when Exhibit A is set up? She looks away. A perfect unconscious reflex of guilt. And, she is furious about being accused in a public forum, and desperately blames someone else. She blames the terrorists (of course!) for the air quality “issues” in lower Manhattan after 9/11. “There are indeed people to blame,” Whitman said. “They are the terrorists who attacked the United States, not the men and women at all levels of government” blah blah blah. There are indeed people to blame, Whitman being one of them.
    As I remember Whitman, she was as a moderate Republican Governor who was, at least, more friendly to the environment.
    Huh? I don’t know where this misconception comes from, except that it gets repeated over and over. Or maybe I don’t know what the words “moderate,” “friendly,” or even “environment” mean anymore because everything has become so completely skewed that I need a post-9/11 dictionary for American English. While Whitman may not be evil incarnate, she is despicable. She is not, however, moderate. Unless we now think Reagan was moderate. My clear memory of the endless Reagan years was that he was extreme. But maybe “moderate” now means you are capable of ruthlessly gutting and deregulating everything that actually benefits the populace.
    If we give Whitman an inch, everything slides a mile.

  • Cactus

    It’s not her ‘pain and suffering’ that is exposed in these photos. It’s her shame and anger at getting caught being a loyal bushie, now that that meme has lost its glamour and cache’. What she wants is to make some nicey-nice apologies without actually doing a mea culpa, and go home. But we, in the person of Mark Wilson, have seen her and we’re not buying it. Like all of this crime gang, she is angry at us and at getting caught, not at herself for doing anything wrong!
    Perhaps one could be forgiven for thinking she was a ‘moderate’ republican since that is what ALL the media was calling her back then. Then, again, perhaps that is part of her anger, her adoring press has left her.

  • PTate in FR

    I’m crossing topics from one thread to the next, but I couldn’t help observing the important role of her hand in the finger-pointing pic of Whitman.

  • Legalpad

    But what must top the interpretation of this imagery is what has now become entirely obvious: 9/11 was AN INSIDE JOB. Who can’t see that now? For the unitiated, start your wake up with or or
    They knew exactly what they were doing, and when they’re about to get caught, they’ll do something like it again.

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