Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
May 6, 2007

"Together, Anything Is Possible!" (Add: No Eyes, No Mouth, Horns, Tail, Twirling Mustache)

Sarkozy-Poster

I’m feeling sorry this morning I didn’t do any coverage of the French presidential election, especially in light of The BAG’s reading of election posters.

My reaction was only heightened after discovering this very interesting piece by Patricia Alessandrini at Dissident Voice (“Image, Anecdote, and Reality: Why Sarkozy Really Is to Be Feared”) analyzing the candidate in terms of the multiplicitous ways in which his election posters have been embellished or impaired by people in the street.

The article begins: “I have yet to see a Sarkozy poster in Paris — or even just a sticker with his name on it — that has not been defaced within a few hours of being posted. “

As you might imagine, I was fascinated both by the methodological strategy and categorical differentiation Ms. Alessandrini brought to the populist guerrilla action.  The article calls out four different personality takes on Sarkozy based on four different types of graphic defacement, providing an anecdote and an analysis for each one.

You can read the article for yourself, but I can’t help recalling a couple:

The first take on Sarkozy, for example, is that of the authoritarian, or violent man capable of anything.  This is graphically characterized by the application of a Hitler mustache or (red paint for) dripping blood.  The second personality angle embodies the opportunist, propagandist or manipulator.  The graphic approach for this persona is characterized in graffiti by devil’s horns and tail, the word “liar” or the act of villainous mustache-twirling.  …And so on.

With this article fresh in mind, I was completely amused by the image above, leading off this election-day morning’s NYT on-line edition.  (Story link).

According to Alessandrini’s matrix, I would put this poster in category two, representing the opportunist, propagandist or manipulator.  To the extent this propaganda poster, and Sarkozy’s campaign demeanor, has been a play on the “I’m a uniter, not a divider” gimmick, this clever “defacement” — of a man capable of singeing the social fabric with his divisive language — calls out Sarkozy’s campaign-long make-nice, blind-and-dumb act.



(image: Sean Gallup/Getty Images.  Paris. published May 6, 2007.  nytimes.com)

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