Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
March 1, 2016

The Christopher Morris Assault and the Incitement of Violence

Christopher Morris in the hands of security at Trump rally in Virginia.

What is the main takeaway from the choking of Christopher Morris by a Secret Serviceman at Monday’s Trump rally?

Simply, many of the GOP candidates, their rallies and their photo ops are fostering an atmosphere of violence. Combine the commotion of African-American protesters marching through the assembly with one of the most seasoned and esteemed campaign photographers caught eighteen inches outside the photographer’s “pen,” and the result is no surprise.

Because it’s not so clear (not in any way like Morris’s eloquent slow motion campaign movies), Chris’s blurry face is goulish as he’s slammed down by the neck (lower-middle of the frame) by a Secret Service agent. (You can see the assault a lot better in the full version at Giphy, and more background at Mashable.)

If you only saw photos and video clips of the beat down, though, you would have missed all the context. And the photos, including the one leading this post of Morris being taken off by security, in no way captured the venom, xenophobia and racial hostility Trump was spewing yesterday (“Are you from Mexico? Are you from Mexico?”) which escalated the tension and atmosphere of hate between the Trump crowd and the protesters marching through.

Certainly, you would have missed “the red hat boy.” Notice in this short clip how hysterical this kid becomes shouting at the black protesters just seconds before, and just a few feet away from where Morris was attacked.

Studying the campaign imagery every day, there have been dozens and dozens of exceptional photographs from Morris and his colleagues that capture this atmosphere and illustrate the mentality. Because this attack happened just as were compiling our edit for our Campaign ’16 salon later this month, the following are just some of the examples right in front of us:

The conventional wisdom this campaign season is that the electorate is angry. We hear a lot less about is how the GOP candidates are stoking it. Natalie Keyssar captured this shot of Mike Huckabee and his wife campaigning at the shooting range in January in Iowa. Campaigning in such a venue might be standard fare, but the photo-op and the resulting photos, with their glorification of killing and the vigilante vibe, are truly chilling.

Law enforcement officers escort a man from a campaign event for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in Worcester, Mass. November 2015. Steven Senne/AP

There is one thing we should be clear about in this photo from a Trump rally in Massachusetts last November as well as the attack on Morris in Virginia. Any confrontation that occurs at a Trump rally is not because blacks or Muslim chose to crash the party. The presence of protesters and the ensuing tension is the result of Trump’s race-, religion- and gender-baiting. (Here, by the way, is the ugly backstory of this Massachusetts event, the story also calling out the containment of the press “in a pen.” The event coincided with Trump’s proposal to banish Muslim immigrants from the country.)

Landon Nordeman for TIME. caption: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump backstage at a campaign rally in Sarasota, Fla. Nov. 28, 2015.

And, as we wrote back in December:

Here, [Landon] Nordeman offers an unvarnished look at Trump’s brass knuckles, the muscle behind the curtain. Like skinheads, these are the guys who have been tossing out reporters and roughing up or just dragging away protesters. Beyond the quaint red hat that the mogul fits in place, the accent that makes him red, white and blue, everything else about Trump and his proxies is pretty black-and-white (or, black-and-blue.) And if you compare the eyes, the glare captures the true face of the Trump campaign — of viciousness and paranoia.

In these incendiary days, witnessing these tinderbox events, there’s a world of difference between a broken political system and the exploitation of it.

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Please join us March 20th for the next Reading the Pictures Salon: A Look at Early Campaign ’16. Our fabulous panel will be taking a close look at the key photos of the campaign so far. More info and register here.

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(photo 1: Source: Steve Helber/AP. photo 2: Natalie Keyssar for TIME. caption: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and his wife, Janet, campaign at the Crossroads shooting range in Johnston, Iowa on Jan. 30, 2016. photo 3: Steven Senne/AP. caption: Law enforcement officers escort a man from a campaign event for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in Worcester, Mass., on Wednesday. photo 4: Landon Nordeman for TIME. caption: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump backstage at a campaign rally in Sarasota, Fla. Nov. 28, 2015.)

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