Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
October 3, 2008

NYT Plays The Ayers Card

Ayers

Records of a school reform project suggest Barack Obama has played down contact with Bill Ayers, a founder of the Weathermen, but they do not seem to have been close.  — NYT article caption

With Obama opening up a strong lead in the polls, it’s hard not to feel The Times is either taking it upon itself to make the race more competitive, or adhering to some juvenile rule of parity in which each candidate gets whacked in turn, even if a front page article — raising all kinds of long hashed-over and discredited innuendoes — ends in the conclusion there is nothing there to speak of.

Nyt-Ayers Friday afternoon’s NYT.com front page features an image and article resuscitating feeble allegations — all then discounted — of some kind of professional, philanthropic or even political collaboration between Barack Obama and Bill Ayers, the article serving little more than a re-introduction of Ayers — and, by association, questions about Obama’s character and patriotism –  into the media sphere.

If you can hold your nose long enough to read the article, you’ll also notice how the author — by way of an interview with a Chicago Tribute columnist — also manages to reference Obama’s relationship with Jeremiah Wright, including the “God damn America sermon.”  But then, given the specter of a less competitive election in comparison to the orgy the media had over Reverend Wright, why should all the election fireworks fizzle out now?

Given the power of images to create connotations well beyond the most qualified of words, the NYT dug up this 2001 image of Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn to slap on the front of the on-line edition.  (I’m more than half expecting to see it on the front of Saturday’s print edition, as well.)  Besides offering you a screen grab of the digital lead, the image above is the expanded version of the pic from the article.  Not only are the former Weathermen staring down at us with self-righteous expressions, but Ayers could be seen as flipping us the bird.

I am typically a lot more high-minded in my conclusions, but frankly, this is right-wing enabling crap.

Nyt-Ayers1Update 1:  Well, whaddya know.  Here’s the front page of Saturday’s NYT print edition.  Check top of the fold, accompanied by a 26-year-old shot of the long hair.

Update 2: After the jump in the print edition, page A14 is full of large, accompanying images including the shot above, BA’s FBI wanted poster, and two screen shots from political ads by independent fly-by-nights attempting to tie Obama to Ayers.  (Click for larger size.)

Obama and ’60s Bomber: A Look Into Crossed Paths (NYT)

(image: Todd Buchanan for The New York Times, 2001)

  • R U Reddy

    The New York Times deserves to be exterminated from
    existence and wiped off the face of the earth.
    How much aggression against basic truth and facts will this Mouthpiece of the Corporate Plutocracy be allowed to commit before it is put to the death it so
    richly deserves? Judith Miller, Wen Hoh Lee, “Whitewater” (beating the fading stain where a dead horse used to be), and on and on and on…
    The New York Times must die that America might live.

  • desertwind

    Can’t say we (and Obama) didn’t see this coming.
    Obama should address this. It’s crap, but he should address this.

  • http://homepage.mac.com/rcareaga/diebold/adworks.htm Rand Careaga

    I particularly liked this classic piece of GOP projection:

    In a televised interview last spring, Senator John McCain, Mr. Obama’s Republican rival, asked, “How can you countenance someone who was engaged in bombings that could have or did kill innocent people?”

    Precisely, Ace.

  • bluinky

    “Yahbas!uh,it’s the peacesign,where yahbin?
    Down widdy middy, up widdy pinky: (Love) dem horns-”

  • mikejanavel

    It’s Whitewater all over again.

  • Books Alive

    When I read it last night, the headline was different, and the 1960 b&w photo was at the top. The front page link to the story had eliminated the “a” before the words “goal” and “street,” which was the author’s way of indicating two things that caused Obama to meet Ayers.
    The inflammatory impact of this headline, with “crossed paths” following “bomber,” creates a lot more anxiety, but I find the color photo less upsetting, and more in sync with the story of Ayers’ long-rehabbed life as an academic.
    It’s a story worth printing out for my file of Obama defense material, along with Hon. Abner Mikva’s explanation why Obama voted “present” in the Illinois Senate. I’ve read the story of how Obama’s work with a group implementing a long-term grant to improve schools in Chicago was his introduction to Mr. Ayers. Reading that the Ayers hosted a coffee for Obama during an early run for office is not at all unusual here in Chicago as that’s a favorite Democratic grassroots tool, and even something we did in Pasadena, California, for our school board races in the 1970s.

  • BamaGuy

    I was upset to see this on the front page above the fold. Why not the article about Palin’s discredited smear against Obama? There better be something negative about Palin or McCain above the fold tomorrow (Sunday).

  • http://www.reachworkshops.org chrys rosen

    ARE YOU FRIGGING CRAZY…BYE BYE SUBSCRIPTION TO THE TIMES!!!!

  • http://www.scripting.com/stories/2008/10/04/johnMccainIsChannelingNixo.html Dave Winer

    I’m an Obama supporter, have given him lots of money and campaigned for him, but I think the Times was 100 percent right to do this and I’m glad they did.
    It’s a fact that McCain is making an issue of this, it’s certain to come up in the next debate and I want to know what’s going on with it.
    I lived through this, I was a Yippie, and I supported the Weather Underground. I don’t think we should re-litigate the culture wars of the 60s, but if we’re going to I want to know what the issues are.
    http://www.scripting.com/stories/2008/10/04/johnMccainIsChannelingNixo.html
    Dave

  • richard d

    Ayers and the “Weathermen” did a lot of damage to the anti-war and peace movements. Rehabbed? Where is the evidence of that? He still thinks violence was the right path. It’s amazing to me they “made it” in Chicago, of all places.
    Of course the linkage to Obama is so slim as to be meaningless. Thus the NYT is once again coming as close to fabricating a story as possible without making it up entirely.

  • Johanna

    As a candidate for the presidency, he should be free of these associations, however minimal they might have been. Staying in that church DOES go to the matter of his judgment — more than to trustworthiness — and the same with his friendship with Ayres.

  • http://home.comcast.net/~sfs73/index.html MonsieurGonzo

    The image is remarkable for its banality. They look like any other over-educated vestige of the Baby Boomer generation, now living in dying off in the Noe Valley neighborhood of San Francisco.
    They wear the blue-jean uniforms of ‘Americans’. She, not unlike most women in the Pacific NorthWest projects no gender, apparent; indeed she has that look of weathered resignation feature of post-Libido/-playfulness: she can love but is unable / does not allow herself to BE loved. otoh, He, all jaw-jut and chin-up down-nose point of view remains shame-less; Living in some elsewhere State remorseless, his relatively unweathered face still undefined, untouchable by any empathy for others.
    iow, These aren’t reactionaries — LOOK at them: they are penultimate conformists : They ultimately lost their sense of them selves in that full-bloom >BOOM!< bliss actualization of self-righteous anger. Is it any wonder, then, that the Black Liberation movement thought these "white fighting force" Weathermen ridiculous?
    They were, after all intellectuals who lost their moral compass and allowed their quite mad-bomber elders to become their teachers. By reaching backwards into judaic Old Testament “eye-for-an-eye” in kind dogma these kids became kindred spirits within their own cocoon of tribal perspectives, not progressives: fundamentalists
    …seeking ‘justice’ they became just “justly” demented; So filled with guilt they had no fun, on the run, when they were young.

  • mcc

    Statement released by Sarah Palin:

    There’s been a lot of interest in what I read lately. Well, I was reading my copy of today’s New York Times and I was really interested to read about Barack’s friends from Chicago. Turns out, one of his earliest supporters is a man who, according to The New York Times was a domestic terrorist and part of a group that, quote, ‘launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol. These are the same guys who think patriotism is paying higher taxes. This is not a man who sees America as you and I do – as the greatest force for good in the world. This is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who targeted their own country.

    Desperate.

  • http://www.woodka.com donna

    Hey, John McCain,
    Keating 5 much?
    Oh, and Sarah,
    about that Alaskan Independence Party…
    Talking Points Memo:
    “If Palin is going to say this, it is now perfectly legitimate to point out that she repeatedly courted a secessionist group founded by someone who openly professed hatred of the American government, cursed our flag, and wanted to secede from the Union. Sarah’s husband, Todd Palin, was a member of this group, which continues to venerate that founder to this day, for years.”

  • http://www.miketidmus.com/blog/ Mike Tidmus

    I too bookmarked the page on Friday afternoon. The title then was: A Goal and a Street Linked Obama and ’60s Radical.
    That’s certainly less sexed-up then the revised headline: Obama and ’60s Bomber: A Look Into Crossed Paths
    And, surprise!, Sarah Palin makes CNN attacking Obama for associating with terrorists. CNN duly notes that there was nothing to the association. Palin, of course, will make no retraction.

  • bystander

    Not only are the former Weathermen staring down at us with self-righteous expressions, but Ayers could be seen as flipping us the bird.

    I dunno, Bag. Yeah, on the surface, maybe. But, I keep coming back for another look. Could be I’ve looked too long, and now I’m superimposing what I want to see, rather than seeing what’s there. Anyway…
    Yes. This couple is positioned above the camera, ergo, they are looking down on the camera lens. Their choice?
    Bernardine Dohrn’s expression seems more or less “neutral” to me. Neither engaging, nor rejecting. Neither daring, nor defensive. It simply says, This is who I am. You will think what you want.
    Bill Ayres does seem to be leading with his chin. And, yes, there is an extended middle finger, but that’s not the only one extended. I see tension in his hands. They might have been folded or relaxed before the shutter closed, but the camera caught tension in hands that might have been closed with fingers interlocked only moments before. If I look beyond his chin (which seems defensively thrust), to his eyes, I see Ask me. Ask me why. His eyes engage me. Were I to happen on him sitting on that stoop as a passerby, his hands and his chin might warn me off, but his eyes ask me to linger.
    Just, MHO.

  • ErinSiobhan

    I think this a pre-emptive strike on the part of the NYT. It is pretty much a given that McCain will now go very negative because he has absolutely nothing left to lose. This election is over barring a terrorist attack or a major shift in the narrative that has been created. So we may be hearing a lot about Wright and Ayers in the next few weeks.
    The article does a good job of exploring the real relationship between Obama and Ayers and, ultimately, concludes that there isn’t much there.

  • jean

    ‘A similar sign was used in protests against the Vietnam War (and subsequent anti-war protests) and by the counterculture as a sign of peace, including the sense of not war. Because the hippies of the day often flashed this sign (palm out) while vocalizing “Peace”, it became popularly known (through association) as the peace sign.[23]‘ Wikipedia: The V sign

  • Helen

    Monsieur Gonzo, your sexist and ageist meanderings are of no interest here. Dohrn’s fuckability or the lack of it is not a measure of her worth or lack of it. Go and read FHM if you want women to look like babes all the time and the sight of a (gasp) older woman without (gasp) makeup offends you so much.

  • Denise B.

    Ayers is clearly making the “Peace” sign.

  • Tina

    Sarah is so patriotic she supports a secessionist movement her husband is a member of…..
    But then everybody else has to see America as “perfect”.
    Or is it only blacks who cannot criticize America?

  • ShirleyaHilFan

    John McCain is just being himself. He folds under pressure and gives in to his urge win at any cost. In a Vietnam prison, he folded, confessed, and became a mouthpiece for the VietCong; He folded on his wife with affairs and a beautiful young hieress; He folded by taking large donations and favors from Keeting; He folded when he went to conservative leaders like Jerry Falwell hat in hand gave up his Episcopal religiion to become a Southern Baptist; he folded on his support for the troops by voting against the GI Bill and and now he is folding on himself and his so-called principals again . He always apologizes later if it suits him but can we trust him not to fold again. I don’t think so. This is a man with very little character.

  • cargocult

    the Ayers association has been a line of attack since the primaries.
    This article talks about the use of Ayers images, but what I’ve noticed (and maybe i’ve missed something) is that the people trying to associate Obama with this “dangerous militant” have left it to the audience to imagine what ayers looked like (1)because images from Ayers in his miltant heyday look dated (2)recent photos of Ayers look like a typical aging boomer and (3) ayers is white.

Refresh Archives

Random Notes