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Never trust an artard

I’ve designed publications for a living, too — magazines and brochures and stuff. I can tell you, when pictures are chosen, they are always the ones that best support the narrative.

I mean, duh, right? You run a story about Obama’s falling poll numbers, you’re going to run it under a picture of Obama looking all cross and grumpy. If you ran it with with a picture of him all sunny and happy, it would look stupid. Even if he was actually in a terrific mood when today’s pictures were taken, you have to comb through and find one where he’s blinking or looking down or something.

I know this isn’t a profound revelation. But it’s worth bearing in mind, because we react to images way down at the lizard level. Even when they aren’t actually meaningful.

Drudge ran the headline, “Thousands Riot in Afghanistan” or something with the picture above left. I count three guys, two of them are grinning like raccoons. The dude with the knife and the stupid red beard (no really — it was an awful henna job with gray roots) grabs our eyeballs and won’t let go, so we don’t see the smilies on either side.

When you look for it, it’s amazing how many people in these angry mobs look happy to be there. Most wire services ran the picture at right. Uncropped, I count ten men, about half of whom are smiling (a bit hard to see at this size, sorry). Yeah, you know why — that big white hand against that big black cloud. Pure sex to a photo editor.

I’m not suggesting angry third-world mobs are happy funtime carnivals. Or that thousands didn’t pour out in protest this weekend. Apparently they did, with some fatal results. But nobody seems to have gotten any good pictures of it, so they had to run with small bands of yoohoos (mugging directly into the camera!) and crop it to look like legions.

News photos like this aren’t wrong, but they’re often the most contrived, least informative part of the information we get.


Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: September 13, 2010, 9:50 pm

None more so than when used by the politicised broadcast media, such as the BBC and CNN. A tightly framed shot of chanting imbeciles that is gone in twenty seconds doesn’t allow for detailed analysis.

But it certainly gets the desired message across.

Comment from Scubafreak
Time: September 13, 2010, 10:11 pm

I wouldn’t be suprised to find out that half of them were paid to show up for the pictures…..

Palistinian street theater is becoming a worldwide event these days.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: September 13, 2010, 10:12 pm

Oh. OH! That reminds me — BBC is going on strike. Who knew state-run media could strike? And they’ve voted to make it coincide with the Tory party conference.

Oh, no partisanship THERE.

Comment from Scubafreak
Time: September 13, 2010, 10:40 pm

They probably needed the time off to put on their SEIU shirts (or whatever union fulfils that niche in the U.K.) and go beat the shit out of a few hapless schlubs at the conference…….

Comment from Monotone (The Elderish)
Time: September 13, 2010, 11:09 pm

don’t you LOVE pictorial misinformation? It’s like “where’s waldo” only with more extremists.

Comment from Scubafreak
Time: September 13, 2010, 11:51 pm

The only thing missing from these pics is Islamic Rage Boy with a Pancake on his head….. 🙂

Comment from Chef Mojo
Time: September 14, 2010, 12:02 am

Bearded rage guy on the left has a fab-U-lous henna job on the facial hair! I’m sure his goats swoon every time he he sashays by…

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: September 14, 2010, 2:15 am

It happens in radio too. I was listening to NPR news a couple of months back when they were reporting a battle in Afghanistan. As background to the report, I heard machine guns. However, there was no possible way that they’d gotten a sound clip out of the middle of God (and Allah et al) foresaken Afghanistan and some six hours later used it as background to that report.

They’d gotten a machine gun off the shelf and dubbed it in..

Improved reality – whata concept.

Comment from TimB52
Time: September 14, 2010, 3:08 am

Hell. I think the guy on the right IS Islamic Rage Guy!

Comment from TimB52
Time: September 14, 2010, 3:35 am

The guy on the right with the pointer on his head, that is.

Comment from Scubafreak
Time: September 14, 2010, 6:00 am

LOL… maybe Lady Gaga can show up at the next rally with her meat dress……..

Comment from David Bain
Time: September 14, 2010, 6:23 am

Are you telling me the meeja aren’t letting the facts get in the way of a good story? Tell me t’ain’t true . . .

(weeps pathetically but in a manly way . . .)

Comment from Mike C.
Time: September 14, 2010, 8:12 am

Actually, those bad henna dye jobs are very common over wide stretches of the Gulf, Pakistan, etc.

Comment from Bill (still the .00358% of your traffic that’s from Iraq) T
Time: September 14, 2010, 9:05 am

Saw a pic of a protest by the Aussie version of Code Pink back in 2005 — papers cropped it real tight, and it looked like the street was packed.

Tim Blair posted a montage of the whole deal — a dozen moonbats packed onto one streetcorner, and the photog crouched three feet in front of them, directing them.

Back in ’71, Jane Fonda took her FTA Tour to Ft. Dix to protest — NYT reported “thousands” of protesters. I was flying perimeter patrol — if there were more than 200 people waving signs and shaking fists the main gate, I’ll turn in my calibrated eyeballs.

Comment from Ric Locke
Time: September 14, 2010, 1:32 pm

Trouble (for the media) is that they’ve gone to that well just a bit too often.

Most of the people I know, semi-educated rednecks to a man and woman, pay little attention and less credit. Cleverly cropped exaggerations move no-one who isn’t looking at them, and many of my peeps look at that sort of thing and draw valid, if not precisely correct, conclusions, i.e. that something is wrong here.

PhotoShop has been a Godsend in that respect. The default assumption nowadays is that any image has been tampered with.


Comment from Mark
Time: September 14, 2010, 1:58 pm

For Chef Mojo:

His goats don’t swoon when he sashays by – it’s too dangerous. But they DO make sure they NEVER turn their backsides to him…

Comment from SCOTTtheBADGER
Time: September 14, 2010, 5:07 pm

BillT, you are wanted over at Lex’s place, to comment on the Boeing thread.

Comment from Bill (still the .00358% of your traffic that’s from Iraq) T
Time: September 15, 2010, 7:34 am

Thanks, Scott.

Comment from Bill (still the .00358% of your traffic that’s from Iraq) T
Time: September 15, 2010, 6:33 pm

%$#@! Server keeps timing out before I get to the end of the comments at Lex’s.

A fixed-wing driver plot, is what it is…

Comment from SCOTTtheBADGER
Time: September 15, 2010, 9:21 pm

Most likely, How Like Them.

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