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December 4, 2008

Media’s "Big Three" Morality Tale: Shaming Detroit (While Wall Street Walks)

WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 04: Richard Wagoner Jr., chairman and CEO of General Motors (L), wipes his eyes as he awaits the start of a Senate hearing on the auto industry December 4, 2008 in Washington, DC. Leaders from the three major U.S. automakers are scheduled to appear before members of the Senate today to discuss proposed bailout legislationm for their industry. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 04: Richard Wagoner Jr., chairman and CEO of General Motors (L) wipes his eyes as he awaits the start of a Senate hearing on the auto industry December 4, 2008 in Washington, DC. Leaders from the three major U.S. automakers are scheduled to appear before members of the Senate today to discuss proposed bailout legislationm for their industry. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 04: Richard Wagoner Jr., chairman and CEO of General Motors (L) wipes his eyes as he awaits the start of a Senate hearing on the auto industry December 4, 2008 in Washington, DC. Leaders from the three major U.S. automakers are scheduled to appear before members of the Senate today to discuss proposed bailout legislationm for their industry. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 04: Richard Wagoner Jr., chairman and CEO of General Motors (L) wipes his eyes as he awaits the start of a Senate hearing on the auto industry December 4, 2008 in Washington, DC. Leaders from the three major U.S. automakers are scheduled to appear before members of the Senate today to discuss proposed bailout legislationm for their industry. Also pictured at right is Ron Gettelfinger, president of the International Union, United Automobile (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

What was completely predictable, if thoroughly heavy-handed, was the way the visual media shaped this morning’s “The Return Of The Auto Executives” into a classic morality play.WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 04: Robert Nardelli, Chairman and CEO of Chrysler LLC speaks to members of the press while arriving for a Senate hearing December 4, 2008 in Washington, DC. Top executives from the three major U.S. automakers are scheduled to appear before members of the Senate today to discuss proposed bailout legislation for their industry. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)Cast in their previous Hill appearance as “The Three Stooges,” Wagoner, Nardelli and Mulally were intent on putting the most chin-up, positive spin on things, all sporting plans that now cannibalize their businesses in a “Change Era” direction. That notwithstanding, however, the visual theme from the media was all about shame. An ABC reporter, even tracing the land-bound route of the executives from Detroit to Washington in his own vehicle (stopping in Lordstown, which is dominated by a GM factory, as if a station on the cross) actually labeled the journey: “Highway to Contrition.”

Because politics = entertainment (and we’ve been in something of a lull in that regard), Hollywood must be served. Above, for example, we can see what a telephoto lens and an quick, innocent wiping of the eyes can do to GM CEO Richard Wagoner, labeled in the AFP caption as one of the “contrite bosses” of the Big Three. (And then, the inset image — which you can click to expand — is Getty’s contrition shot of Chrysler CEO Richard Nardelli arriving in D.C. as if about to drop to one knee.)

I should emphasize, it’s not that these men aren’t feeling contrite in returning to Washington with their hats in their hands.

It is fascinating, however, to witness these men literally getting hell beat out of them by the media and Congress while the Wall Street honchos — the crew who Henry Paulson has fed billions to over the past few weeks without next-to-no accounting, accountability or demand for modifying their business practices — remain out-of-sight and out-of-mind.

Update: The write-up above previously cited the Wagoner “contrite bosses” caption as coming from Getty. I stand corrected. It was supplied to YahooNews by AFP.

(images 1-3: Chip Somodevilla/Getty-AFP. image 4: Win McNamee/Getty-AFP)

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