September 21, 2012

F-ing With Your Mind: What Makes the Austin "Chair Lynching" so Brilliantly Hateful

I posted this on the Bag’s Facebook page yesterday not knowing how much the discussion and disturbance surrounding it would grow. As not just an analyst of visual politics but having done my doctoral dissertation on the psychological properties of effective metaphors, I wanted to explain in a simple way why this display is as manipulative as any other I’ve ever seen:

What makes this picture so insidious is how brilliantly novel and subliminal it is, baiting you to first and instantaneously call up your own mental image of the Eastwood performance, then immediately editing it together in your mind with a scene or a sense impression from your personal storehouse of lynching imagery,  and then “deeply getting” the result because you were invited unaware, in a millisecond, to not just conjure the components but to tailor-and-stitch the result on your own. Finally, bypassing reason for the gut, and doing so before there is any possible filter you can apply, the sickness is that you can’t help but finish off the compilation — you being the one (all these dots connecting like quick fire in your mind’s eye) to add-in Obama there. Someone could spent a whole life creating images of hate and never come up with something as manipulative or timely.

Backstory and photo via Burnt Orange Report –

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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