I apologize in advance for the redundancy. If I seem stuck on the Bush-Mahmoud show, it’s because I’m mirroring the obsessive telescoping of this week’s war drum concert by the traditional media.
If the press wasn’t so completely magnetized by star power and hysterical paranoia, I would be happy to feature the images of smaller, more dignified moments involving compelling world leaders who converged on the General Assembly from across the globe. Unfortunately, however, the event, its scope and even the basic ideal of communication and common ground seems completely lost on the host country.
As such, there was not much notice of neighbors Chilean President Michelle Bachelet or Brazil’s Lula da Silva, both perfectly charismatic and compelling figures. Even Nicaraguan President and former Sandinista head Daniel Ortega, fitting the bill as Chavez-stand in, general bad guy and bombastic speech giver, failed to generate much notice either because, well, compared to the level of evil ascribed to other players, Mr. Ortega wasn’t anywhere bad enough.
Instead, The Times left us with visual coverage of the General Assembly session in the form of three photos that led off the NYT Day in Pictures slide show yesterday, in this order:
First, of course, was the speech of America’s C.I.C., his influence seemingly so enormous, it required a sweep of the entire chamber. Represented in duplicate on giant monitors, the overall gestalt of lit backdrop and screen curiously appears like an enormous cross. (The intensity of war harangue seems to have also intimidated the press from taking a closer, harder look — in marked contrast to pot shots of recent years.)
Next, we have the Devil incarnate, surrounded by guards (not to mention, a passing figure in military uniform). As if all the protection was a foreshadowing technique, the trace impression is that the unshaved one needs every guard he can find. (Beyond reasons of composition, the height of the shot seems to also collude with the agenda to increase the man’s scale.)
Finally, because what good is the potential of violence without a little sex, we get a glimpse of emerging rock star, little Napoleon (shaking hands with the mostly unrecognizable host of the show).
UPDATE 9:41 AM PST: If The BAG can sometimes be overly focused on the trees, I’d like to include this comment, posted this AM by PTate, with a more razor-like take on “the forest.”
The choice of Nicholas Sarkozy may be more sinister than you suggest.
I think he may be pictured NOT because he has charisma, but because a couple of days ago he made a major foreign policy speech in which he said France would go to war against Iran if Iran didn’t stop flirting with nuclear power.
So the first three pictures of the NYTimes pictures of the day slide show can be “read” as follows:
1) Large official body being addressed by vision of disembodied US president who wants to go to war against Iran. The use of the projection screen works as an allegory for GWB’s “vision” as invisible, pervasive “competence in discernment” or “intelligent foresight.”
2) The evil leader of Iran. (I’m also interested that the picture includes the Ghanian delegation rather than being cropped to focus more on Ahmadinejad. Classic psych research on automatic, unconscious social cognition finds that observers primed by black faces respond with more hostility and aggression. So one predicts that including these innocent bystanders in the picture will unconsciousy prime observer hostility to the target, Ahmadinejad.)
3) Charismatic new leader of France, our reconciled ally, who opposes Iran’s ambitions just like the POTUS, suggesting world consensus for Bush’s vision.
(image 1& 2: Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times. September 25, 2007. New York. nytimes.com. image 3: James Estrin/The New York Times. nytimes.com.)