Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
July 14, 2005

Hate Head

Economisthatecover

I was out for dinner this evening with a few friends and I brought a copy of this image along.  As it turned out, a lively debate ensued. 

One camp felt that this was an image of the suicide bomber.  The other camp was just as sure that it symbolized Europe.  The “bomber” group saw it as possibly having an outline more akin to a Pakistani.  The “European” people thought the features were more generic, making specific reference to the pink color.  The “bomber” side thought that the hate was coming from inside the person’s head.  The “Euro” folks disagreed, saying that the “hate” extended below the head and that the figure represented Europe being defaced or marked. 

When I saw it for the first time, I assumed the figure was the bomber.  But then, the “skin color” and generic features gave me pause to think that oppression, and the hatred it spawns — whether political, religious or economic  —  is typically two-way.  Maybe the image intentionally pulls for a broader reference.  Certainly, people the world over can look at this and feel that they are in the midst of a place, time or situation where  overflowing resentment is in no short supply. 

Assuming this image does illustrates what’s inside a bomber, I have some questions about all the hate.  I don’t think that “hate” is always a single motivation for a bomber, and I assume there are cases when it isn’t the motivation at all.  I would expect other motivations might include: meaning; respect; immortality; recognition; notoriety; approval; destiny; and also an early rendezvous with the virgins. 

By framing these attacks in terms of a singular (and completely blind) emotional reaction, doesn’t The Economist divorce these unspeakable acts from any more complex consideration of what causes them, and simply encourage “us” to hate back?

What do you pull from this?  And, do you see a bomber or do you see something or someone else?

REVISED 7/15/05 7:52am PST

(Thanks to Chris, Susan & Sara)

(Cover. The Economist Magazine.  July 16, 2005.)

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