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December 4, 2008

Media’s “Big Three” Morality Tale: Shaming Detroit (While Wall Street Walks)

Waggoner 1.jpgWagoner2.jpgWagoner3.jpg Wagoner4.jpg

What was completely predictable, if thoroughly heavy-handed, was the way the visual media shaped this morning’s “The Return Of The Auto Executives” into a classic morality play.

Nardelli Contrite.jpgCast in their previous Hill appearance as “The Three Stooges,” Wagoner, Nardelli and Mulally were intent on putting the most chin-up, positive spin on things, all sporting plans that now cannibalize their businesses in a “Change Era” direction. That notwithstanding, however, the visual theme from the media was all about shame. An ABC reporter, even tracing the land-bound route of the executives from Detroit to Washington in his own vehicle (stopping in Lordstown, which is dominated by a GM factory, as if a station on the cross) actually labeled the journey: “Highway to Contrition.”

Because politics = entertainment (and we’ve been in something of a lull in that regard), Hollywood must be served. Above, for example, we can see what a telephoto lens and an quick, innocent wiping of the eyes can do to GM CEO Richard Wagoner, labeled in the AFP caption as one of the “contrite bosses” of the Big Three. (And then, the inset image — which you can click to expand — is Getty’s contrition shot of Chrysler CEO Richard Nardelli arriving in D.C. as if about to drop to one knee.)

I should emphasize, it’s not that these men aren’t feeling contrite in returning to Washington with their hats in their hands.

It is fascinating, however, to witness these men literally getting hell beat out of them by the media and Congress while the Wall Street honchos — the crew who Henry Paulson has fed billions to over the past few weeks without next-to-no accounting, accountability or demand for modifying their business practices — remain out-of-sight and out-of-mind.

Update: The write-up above previously cited the Wagoner “contrite bosses” caption as coming from Getty. I stand corrected. It was supplied to YahooNews by AFP.

(images 1-3: Chip Somodevilla/Getty-AFP. image 4: Win McNamee/Getty-AFP)

  • jean

    Yep. It’s a f**king class war is what it is. White collar against blue. Can the Dems change the narrative?

  • d

    Driving to Canossa? (sorry for the obscurity of that: I’m a historian.)
    A classic morality play indeed. Which drags us to the seemingly-inevitable (judeo-christian) ending: we will now have to “forgive” the prodigal son his misdeeds. ( with a $30 billion check.)
    And I really like your point about the Big 3 taking the public beating, while Wall Street quietly took the money and ran.
    Part of it certainly is the visual evidence (or lack thereof):
    There was a photo of the auto execs arriving in their learjets.
    But there’s no photo of AIG misdeeds. Hell, how do you SHOW insurance fraud? I couldn’t even “see” it on a balance sheet…
    Bankers, insurers, and most Wall Street types work anonymously behind closed doors, moving numbers around. They always have: The Big Bankers are almost anonymous by tradition… for their dealmaking is behind-the-scenes. Very different from the Titans of Manufacturing who have to demonstrate their productive prowess to the world.

  • Leo B. Zayac

    I have to agree that the banks get 700 billion without so much as a sigh and a large domestic companies need help they make it almost impossible to get anything this country takes care of everyone else but its own people trillions have been spent on the Iraq war and still nothing has came out of it. I believe that all of this against the auto companies is a ploy to divert everyones attention away from the real reason this countries financial problem and that is George Bushes exuburant spending the last 8 years. Maybe we should be looking at him and Chaneys direction instead of bashing the auto companies. Besides the auto companies are only asking for 35 billion not 700 billion like the banking industries and the auto companies are willing to pay it back are the banks gonna pay back 700 billion with interest?

  • stevelaudig

    I suppose that’s what they get, in a world drowning in irony [err, I mean hypocrisy] for actually producing something [cars] rather than nothing [bankers].

  • wagonjak

    This coverage of the networks on this was pathetic…it was the people against Big Auto, when in fact it was aholes like Senator Shelby declaring “We should let them go into bankruptcy” which means, then they can move to my state which has the “Right To Work” law and low wages and no benefits for workers. Same for that little Lindsay “Miss Piggy” Graham, and both were the most quoted on cable afterwards. The corporate bias of the media always astounds me…

  • harrier

    I’ve got to admit to not being a political junkie; after the election I needed a big time out.
    However, the phenomenon of Paulson pouring cash into Wall Street makes me long for one of those photos of duffel bags filled with US currency which were hauled into Baghdad right after its occupation. So what if nobody counted them, or kept a log… it was an emergency!

  • subwayman

    Of course it’s shortsighted, but the media knows that Joe Blow pays for mostcable and watches those wretched cable news programs. besides, most people don’t drive a multi-billian dollar hedgefund. But who hasn’t driven a crap Ford lately?

  • Victor F

    I agree that the bankers mostly avoided the media stoning the Big Three are getting. Even though the US auto industry is getting pummeled now, I think they should still feel ashamed of their situation. For decades, they refused to be innovative and adapt, and look where it’s taken my home state of Michigan. Frankly, I don’t think many people in Michigan are happy about their bailout. I think we should all be ashamed at our country’s recent period of selfish business practices and dinosaur acting.
    Anyway, if Obama gets a New Deal going, I can look forward to laying railroad tracks or filling potholes on the interstate for a few years. As it is, the only work I can find is overseas.

  • lytom

    Before some here will feel too sorry for the car moguls and before the politicians will vote to save the “workers” of the auto industry to keep their jobs so they can keep on producing polluting products without much consciousness of the effects on our planet…, I suggest that we look at other conditions in the world which threaten much more of the world population than the car makers going bankrupt.
    World hunger and spread of diseases.
    Increase in military spending and cutbacks in education.
    Refusal to stop the nuclear armaments and to control destructive arms like cluster bombs.
    Spread of the US expansion of military bases all over the world.
    Continuous effort to militarily control occupied countries – Iraq and Afghanistan.
    Attempts to threaten other countries with military might unless they march to the tune of the empire…

  • NoContest

    A telephoto close up of a quick innocent wiping of the eyes? A misread of a moment taken out of context and exploited. What else has any still shot ever done. I agree with the Republicans on this one, despite possible motives. Detroit is water over the dam. Fold the tent and start over.

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