Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
January 20, 2007

The Big Lie

President-Lie

I find the cover of the latest Atlantic quite important, signaling a new shift (and deterioration) in the perception of George Bush.

Initially, the justification for going to war, among other deceptive acts, was framed by mass media in terms of expedience and cunning.  Then, as the war slogged on and Bush was further revealed by the Katrina disaster, untruth was expressed as a more psychological phenomenon — as stubbornness or denial.

The layout here extends that line.  This conceptualization moves beyond pop-psychology, ushering in a more serious, black-and-white, moral/ethical (and even “that close” to legal) context in which to consider and judge this President and Presidency.

If accusatory, Bush’s license to lie (at least, up to now) keeps this cover a good arm’s length from Nixon territory.  Consequently, the magazine builds in a buffer by textually pulling its punch.  If the visual layout speaks to the world that BUSH is a LIE, the text has two apologist themes, one new and incredibly flimsy (“they all do it”) and the other regressive and incredibly offensive (it’s that “self-denial” thing again, but don’t worry — no matter how felonious the lying, the only one who got hurt was Bush).

Still, coming from a more thoughtful publication, I see this cover ushering in a much starker, more judgmental and also more official and actionable inspection of this Administration.  For a White House that has been talking legacy since the beginning, they can expect a lot more hard judgement spelled out in big letters.

(image: The Atlantic. Cover.  January/Feburary 2007)

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