Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
July 29, 2012

Newsweek's Wimp Romney Cover

Newsweek Romney Wimp cover 450

Wimp: a weak, cowardly, or ineffectual person — Websters

Wimp: a weak, ineffectual, timid person. —

If you’re going to take as large and as low a shot as Newsweek does, you’d better be sure that your personality description counts for as much or more as your audacity.

In this case, the name calling is a hostile and imprecise attempt to get a rope around qualities in and about Romney that are terribly awkward. Unfortunately, Newsweek only makes itself look petty and desperate — and certainly doesn’t do the perception of the media any favors — by missing the target.

Romney is a lot of things but a wimp isn’t one of them. A stranger to deference and defiant of opinions that happen to differ from his, he isn’t timid at all when it comes to sharing whatever comes to his mind (or just spontaneously changing it). When you assume that everyone around you is less effectual than you are — in managing a business, a government, an Olympics, your problem falls into a class categorically different from cowardice or weakness. That shortcoming has more to do with hubris.

If the photo, and the laugh, captures the weakness of Romney, what it frames is not timidity, but myopia. Timidity implies you possess certain qualities you’re just hesitant to express. Like the character Chauncey Gardener in the film “Being There,” however, Romney’s more fundamental problem has to do with capacities, not courage — specifically, the lack of sensitivity paired with the absence of self-consciousness.

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