July 12, 2012

Facing an Unfriendly Crowd Vs. Creating One: Romney at the NAACP


No matter how much anybody (or any one image) ascribes acrimony to that NAACP audience yesterday, most accounts testify to the politeness and willingness to listen that Romney was afforded up front — not to mention, the courtesy bestowed upon conclusion.

But though he paid respect to black civil rights, Romney made no attempt to find common ground, sticking instead to his conservative-friendly stump speech knowing his blanket attack on government programs and, particularly, his negation of the health care law (yes, it’s law) would be sure to antagonize.

The two image sequence below from the Houston Chronicle gives perhaps the best rendition of Romney’s effect on the audience in that city yesterday, polite deference turning — with the woman in the background picking up Romney’s drift much quicker — to sting.


Here, according to the caption:

Debra Edwards reacts as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney delivers remarks at the 103rd NAACP National Convention.

And here, Karolyn Thompson reacts as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney delivers remarks at the 103rd NAACP National Convention.


A bit more complex and telling is this Getty image, giving us the chance to see these two women — otherwise completely attentive,  in the shift, as well — registering a mixture of surprise, disbelief and dismay.


And if this picture has been circulating as an example of a hostile crowd, these people didn’t get here on a dime. It’s worth noting, as well, that these expressions are more characteristic of defensiveness, extreme awkwardness and alienation, as opposed to vitriol.


This Evan Vucci photo published by the NYT is also interesting. Of course, it makes it seem like audience members are forced to hide their eyes from the affront, or playing with their cell phones to tune Romney out. But it’s more just the practical response as he goes on and on while leaving them out.

Romney NAACP

And in the end, in spite of the monologue as opposed to dialogue, and the arrogance to boot, the audience, upon conclusion, still mustered a respectful applause.


(photo 1, 4, 7 & 8: Eric Kayne/Getty Images. photo 2 & 3: Michael Paulsen / Houston Chronicle.  photos 5 & 6: Evan Vucci/AP.)

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Michael Shaw
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