Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
October 26, 2014

American Ebola: Visual Highs and Lows of the Week

If Ebola itself is no domestic health crisis, could it turn into a political one? Bio-Bengazhi, anyone?

Mindful of the thought, the administration’s visual PR machine — mired in mundanity for most of this year –made its presence felt again this week over a large, if completely simple “reassurance-op.” In most other circumstances, the President’s antagonists would have gone straight to photoshop heaven playing the fidelity card (In this case, on the other hand, “I certainly did touch that woman!”), Obama’s well familiar and comfortable in the role of “Father-in-Chief.” Of course, hugging the American nurse who recovered from the E-word (a round of applause here to American Pharma) is reassurance from the top. At the same time, it’s also a free PSA to (at least try and) reinforce that you can’t get the disease from a bowling ball or a President.

As for those shots of the NYC policemen tossing rubber gloves and masks in a public garbage can, never mind how the Mail article, in two places, strongly suggests that the officers hadn’t even been inside Dr Spencer’s apartment. A sober reaction to those sidewalk images would recognize media taking advantage, as well as a need for the nation — with a lot more real things to worry about (when does the climate change panic start?) — to more realistically weigh the response with the threat. Unfortunately though, that’s not how people play in the sandbox. In this case, those tabloid photos are going to look to the vast number of American bodies already afflicted with the hysteria as: coming to a trash can, a glove then a bed linen near you!

(photo 1: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times.  caption: In the Oval Office President Obama hugs Nina Pham, a nurse who was infected with Ebola while caring for a patient in Dallas. Ms. Pham was declared virus free and released from the hospital on Friday. photo 2: Roy Renna/BMR Breaking News via Daily Mail  caption: Is that where that goes?: The NYC police officers marking off the area around Dr. Craig Spencer’s apartment in Harlem earlier this afternoon.)

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