Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
February 20, 2015

Seven Years into a Presidency, What Lurks Beneath the Laugh Track

“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America,” Giuliani said during the dinner at the 21 Club, a former Prohibition-era speakeasy in midtown Manhattan. “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”

— from: Rudy Giuliani: President Obama doesn’t love America, 2/18/15 (Politico)

Yes, some people just lose it when they’re that surprised. And sure, the good citizens are enjoying it immensely. Still, it’s highly doubtful the White House News Photographers Association would have honored this photo as the third best “political portfolio still of the year” if that hug was administered by a Bush or a Romney.

What’s brilliant is the way the photo, on the surface a textbook example of political celebrity on steroids, also taps into America’s racial polarization. If America fancies itself as either living in harmony or colorblind, the President more purposed as “everyman,” the year in domestic news photography was otherwise dominated by racial violence and racial protest spawned by the fear engendered by the black male.  You could say that the sign, recalling the stratified ’40’s or ’50’s, plays more than a supporting role. If that expression is reminiscent of a woman, back in the day, encountering Elvis, the look of shocked surprise is indistinguishable from terror. A good time indeed.

— Michael Shaw

(photo: Gabriella Demczuk/The New York Times via the White House News Photographers Association Eyes of History Awards.)

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