Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
April 5, 2006

Under Fire

Newsweekillegals-1

Isn’t that funny.  I cancel my subscription partly because of covers like this.  Then, I have to actually go out and buy it to offer it up ….

The thing that really gets me is the “ILLEGALS.”  I don’t know if you caught the wonderful piece the Sunday before last in the NYT Week In Review.  Titled “Kiss Me, I’m Illegal,” it discusses the immigration fight in terms of the battle over semantics.  The Lakoffian thesis is, whoever ends up framing the language has the big advantage.  Along these lines, the central terminological question here involves what to call immigrants without legal status.  From a social justice standpoint, the most electable term is: “undocumented.”  For the Minuteman crowd, of course, the coinage is, and always will be: “illegal.”

So, compared to the softer and more nuanced cover of TIME (notice Liberty’s left eye), I’d call the example above decidedly more reactionary.  I don’t say this exclusively based on one word however.  It’s also …

… because there are 12 million undocumented workers in the U.S., many of whom have been here for years — many of whom have children born here — and yet Newsweek would have you think they all just crossed the highway last night.

… because the bold red “UNDER FIRE” (perfectly lined up — in the original — with the top of the sign) seems solicitous of hostility. (As in: there’s the target, go practice!)  Also, the right-to-left motion of the figures, as compared with the movement of our eye tracking down the left column, almost emulates a hit-and-run.  (Still another take would have this family running into a fire.)

… because the image is so grainy, creepy, dark and common, it cheapens the whole issue.  I mean, how easy is it to objectively consider the cause of people who are criminally branded and then reduced to extras from your last driving test?

Obviously, I’m only scratching the surface here.  Be my guest.

(image: James Whitlow Delano/Redux.  San Ysidro, California.  Newsweek Magazine.  April 10, 2006.  Cover)

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