Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
July 7, 2008

McTownhall Versus McTeleprompter


Back in early April, if you recall, we took a look at McCain’s visit to his old high school.  The key feature of the WAPO’s lead image was McCain reading off a teleprompter.  The BAG’s take at the time had to do with how robotic such an otherwise personal and emotional situation turned out to be.

In the intervening months, culminating with a NYT piece this past Sunday (McCain Battles a Nemesis, the Teleprompter), it’s clear this device has become a central symbol of McStrain’s campaign.  More specifically, the use of the rolling script has become a painful and dreaded tool that McCain, otherwise a completely loose cannon, cannot avoid.

In spite of the WAPO shot last April, the visual media has mostly bypassed scenes of McCain in tortured tether to his gaffe-prevention, large-type babysitter.  If you check the newswire, however, the examples are not hard to find.  This shot, taken in New York at a window distributor a week after the school visit, is a particularly blatant illustration.  The crowd is tiny, the screen is close, the cameras are many and the eye contact with the machine is, well, like glue.

The problem at this point, however — as the NYT chronicles — is that McCain’s ineptness on the stump (out of a  resistance to scripting, and thus, the machine) is proving almost as toxic as what comes out of the mouth of McTownhall when whoever-the-campaign manager-of-the-moment-happens-to-be just lets McCain be McCain.

McCain Battles a Nemesis, the Teleprompter (NYT)

video: John McCain’s Presentation Gap (NYT)

(image: Chris Hondros/Getty Images. April 10, 2008. Brooklyn, New York.)

  • mdhatter

    This post falls far short of the quality of analysis I am used to here. Right up there with the Barack Hussein Obama BS. Do better. You usually do.

  • mdhatter

    let me clarify that: namecalling? really?

  • Some Guy

    Nice catch. That is really not an impressive image. As someone who has taught public speaking many times, to have such a huge device providing him text is just weird. For a crowd that size, written notes would be the right thing, but of course he would read them like a telephone book too only staring at the podium. In a large crowd a teleprompter can fade into the scene IF the speaker can manage to look away and around the screen. You know, using it as a “prompt.” Wow, I am saving that one.

  • black dog barking

    You’re probably wondering, my friends, why I called the dozen or so of you together today. Well, you see, I’ve got to start using one of these infernal speech-ifying contraptions and my new handlers thought it would be best if I practiced a few times, worked the kinks out in front of a small group that doesn’t really matter. (Smiles broadly and inappropriately, chuckles. Waits for applause.)

  • catfood

    Looks like he is hanging onto that lectern for dear life to avoid sliding out of the picture, literally and figuratively.

  • Gasho

    You know, Black Dog, you might be onto something there. Notice that there is a large tele-prompter screen with visible text but there is also one of those angled glass tele-prompter reflector screens in the foreground. What would be the point of using them both unless he was practicing or choosing a preference?
    Oh, and Mdhatter – I don’t share your anger, but I’m glad you called the Bag out for using slanderous nicknames. We should leave that to blogs like this: WTF is it now??. They do a GREAT job of coming up with the funniest darn names!! The Bag should hold itself above such foolishness – but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for it…

  • donna

    Turn and face McStrain….
    Look out, you rock and rollers!

  • C. Franco

    Great picture. Did you see that Obama will be giving his DNC nomination speech outside in front of 76,000 on the same day as MLK Jr’s “Dream” speech.

  • stevelaudig

    It must be a “mcpain” for McCain to use the teleprompter. He’s not having it “his way.”

  • steve

    Funny thing about the name calling – ‘Republican Senator John McCain’ is the most derogatory, demeaning, and defeating without the whimsical embellishments.
    In a way you were being kind to him.

  • Puka

    Sorry for the ignorance, but I assumed every public speechmaker (short of William Jennings Bryan) used a TelePrompTer. Of course, needing one when you’re crammed into someone’s basement storage room, next to the screens, furnace filters, and storm windows, is a bit much.

  • Chris

    I wish there was a way to hack those teleprompters remotely. It would be so much fun to wait until the speaker has gained some momentum and slip in a key phrase like, “I promise to give the order for withdrawal immediately after I’m sworn in.”

  • Gasho

    Chris – do you have any hacker friends??? GET ON IT.

  • Megan

    Men! Men everywhere! So many men! Three, maybe four tiny women in that room full of black-suited men. You’ve shown us this three or four times now, pictures of Sen. McCain campaigning with men filling the picture. Seriously. Are there women at his events?

  • itwasntme

    I’m getting the vibe here that McCain isn’t even present when he is there – filtered by one or more screens, he’s removing himself from being fully present anywhere he actually is. I can’t wait for the debates. I imagine I’ll be laughing at, and crying for this man at the same time. I used to like the guy.

  • Karen

    Knowing what little I know about McCain’s biography, I’m stuck by how over his head he always seems. Overwhelmed by technology, uncomfortable at his position, not quite sure he is up to the task. No certainty staining his ego. I don’t get why this man is running for president or why he’s been trying for the job since the 80s.

  • Joe Clark

    Can you please start behaving like your blog is a blog and not a journal article with footnotes? Namely, can you start putting links inline in your text and not appending them at the bottom like some Gawker wannabe?
    Do you not understand how the Web works? It doesn’t work the way you think it does.

  • Puka

    So, what’s the matter with a journal article with footnotes? Does the Web work only one way? Can one not be a Gawker wannabe? And what is that, anyway?

  • judd

    He reminds me of the cartoon Mister MaGoo. You expect his eyes to get real big and his feet to fly off the ground, every once in a while, when reality actually manages to impinge on him.

Refresh Archives

Random Notes