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October 16, 2011

The New Frankness

While people are busy debating the mid- and long-range prospects of the Occupy movement, it’s evident to me that it has already shifted the visual tone, tenor and menu within the editorial environment. All of a sudden, I’m seeing quite a bit more pictorial coverage of poverty and economic schism in the traditional media — and in those images, I’m also seeing more rawness, more bite.

Regarding the example above, if the progressive media is still bearing down on much the same set of issues and political dynamics that have been on the table for some time, I also sense — in the phrasing and visual analogy — a sharper and harder edge. Like most other granular observers of FUBAR Washington (too often described in milquetoast terms — such as “gridlock” — that I’m hoping to see go out the window), I wasn’t shocked at all to see Obama’s jobs bill go down in flames last week. What did shock me a bit, though, was how the event seemed to hardly register in the midst of this tonal shift after 44 had invested so much fresh capital in it. Just like the passivity and the public’s “make-like-a-lemming” instincts are coming off now in the streets, editorial photographers and political illustrators are picking up the beat. To that end, the representation of “killing,” the depiction of head down thuggery and the conjuring of drowning the government in a bathtub in not just reflective of “the new frankness” but helps to convey, more by way of the gut, that violence being perpetrated on our democratic systems and mechanisms is hardly a metaphor.

(Illustration: Tomer Hanuka)

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