November 21st, 2005

The Power To Impress

I've written before about how reporters and editors at publications like The New York Times seem to go out of their way to avoid giving George W. Bush the courtesy of cleaning up quotes. Instead of making him sound more Presidential by covering over the hesitations that almost everyone makes in spoken discourse or fixing the syntactical infelicities that he is particularly prone to making, they often appear to opt for direct transcription. I'm all for making the President look as bad as his policies, but I do think such deviations from standard quote handling are worth noting.

Today I came across this Joshua Roberts photo of Vice President Dick Cheney from a few days ago:

The caption informs us that it was taken during Cheney's speech to the Frontiers of Freedom Institute 2005 Ronald Reagan Gala in Washington, D.C. on November 16, 2005. Although the image is powerful on its own, the fact that it derives from "the sharpest White House attack yet on critics of the Iraq war" gives it added force. As much as I appreciate it, though, I have to lump it together with newspapers' decision not to clean up Bush's quotes. The angle, the tight cropping, the stars in the background all make Cheney look like the villain in a Frank Capra movie on acid. And I don't think it was an accident either that the photographer took this particular shot or that Reuters distributed it widely in the internet and print media. The fact that Cheney sort of is the villain in a Frank Capra movie on acid doesn't alter the fact that the objectivity of this photograph is about as objective as the objectivity in Neue Sachlicheit portrait paintings from the Weimar Republic. That's fine with me, provided we acknowledge that, at least in instances like these, the supposed bias of the "liberal media" isn't totally the invention of the right-wing talk show and weblog circuit.
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