October 1, 2005

The Signs Are Obvious


(for the "full effect," click image)

Although it tosses in a few token lines to appear even handed, the piece in today’s NYT Week In Review (The War Against Tom DeLaylink) is a classic smear job implicating the left wing for bringing down Tom DeLay.

Essentially, Anne Kornblut’s article blames a conspiracy of "activists and liberals, clean-government advocates and legal experts" for operating "a cottage industry" to undermine Mr. Delay.  Among the laundry list, she names specific targets such as George Soros; MoveOn.com; Democracy 2; Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW); the Public Campaign Action Fund (and its so-called "zealous Ahab" leader, David Donnelly); and Campaign for America’s Future.

Although the article claims the anti-Delay movement was larger than just left wingers, also naming the National Review editor, Rich Lowry, and the Wall Street Journal editorial board as Delay antagonists, the article intimates that the left derived more sadistic pleasure from the hunt, stating that "(N)either The Journal nor Mr. Lowry seemed to enjoy themselves as much as the anti-DeLay groups."  Equating DeLay’s foes to the reverse of what Hillary Clinton used to called: "the right wing conspiracy,"  the story also relays Delay’s accusation that the Democrats are working in concert with Ronnie Earle.

What I was particularly drawn to, however, was the way the photo complements and colludes with the attack.

By suggesting that DeLay was largely brought down by left wing
political advertising, the photo functions as Exhibit #1 of the
indictment. Because the billboard names two different funding groups,
this is supposed to reinforce the evidence of left wing "piling on."
Even the caption is falling over itself to point a finger. It reads:

Democracy for America, started by Howard Dean, put up this billboard in May in downtown     Houston.

"Started by" Howard Dean?  As the right wing’s poster boy for left wing hysteria,  I guess it never hurts to drag Howard Dean into this, even if he has only a historical link to just one of the two groups identified on the sign.

What’s most clever about the photo of the billboard, however, is how it functions to enlarge and blow out of proportion the role of the left in the fall of DeLay.  C’mon, how often do you see a billboard in isolation at such close range?  And that goes for print, as well as real life.  If you didn’t see the VIACOM logo, or the slight edges of building and sky, you might think you were looking at a magazine ad. (Like one of those big ones MoveOn tends to buy!)

The left-wing did not bring down Tom Delay.  Tom Delay brought down Tom DeLay.  But to appreciate the fact, you would need to put the peripheral role of the liberal interest groups in a larger context, just like the actual effect of this billboard could only be appreciated in context.  But to do that, the Times would have had to photograph it the way it presented itself from a moving car from several blocks away — not how it would look under a magnifying glass.

(image: David J. Phillip/AP.  October 2, 2005.  Downtown Houston.  New York Times Week In Review, p. 4 + nyt.com)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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