August 18, 2008

Russia Resurgent: One Side Of The Same Coin


Time-3 3 03

I’m not making excuses for the Russians, but I am interested in double-standards.

The first cover is from this week’s Economist.  The second is the March 3, 2003 TIME cover preceding the U.S. invasion of Iraq.  The main distinction here is that the TIME cover, in spite of what Hans Blix had to say, completely overlooks any ramifications of a massive invasion and occupation of a sovereign Persian Gulf nation, the only tension in the illustration involving whether the man incarnated as Uncle Sam feels like doing it or not.

On the other hand, in a wonderful example of visual hyperbole, TIME The Economist depicts Putin unleashing the full weight and force of the Russian army (notice the buildings on the lower left) based primarily on damage to two apartment blocks in the Georgian city of Gori.  (And then, when it comes to visual balance, I don’t think anyone got to see where these ended up after the Georgians fired them into South Ossetia.)

It is instructive to note the role of the visual media in dramatizing the trauma around the two Georgian structures, using different camera angles — as well as the emotional quality of the color pink — to create such a sense of cataclysm that the structures actually might merit juxtaposition with the attack capability of the entire Russian military.

You’ll notice The BAG itself was drawn to this dramatic imagery showing French foreign minister Kurshner in front of one of the damaged pink structures.  Joining the parade was also the LAT, The Guardian, The NYT, The Telegraph, ABC, and AOL (video), among others.


I have to emphasize, I’m not condoning the Russian aggression in Gori, especially given the abandonment of the city, and the death of a handful of people, including a Dutch cameraman.  What I am doing, however, is calling attention to the hypocrisy and gross asymmetry between the Russian behavior in Georgia and American’s staggering incursion into Iraq.  I mean, isn’t the contradiction itself largely responsible for the Russian muscle flexing in the first place?

Of course, to really put the Gori shock-and-awe in perspective, one could always compare it with the March 31st, ’03 TIME edition of this popular American fireworks show.

(h/t: Miles)

(image 1 & 2: unattributed. image 3: Ramzi Haidar for TIME)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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