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December 12, 2017

No Moore: Have We Reached the Cowboy Tipping Point?

@jabinbotsford — @washingtonpost/Instagram. Caption: GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore rode his horse to the polls on Tuesday like he’s done in past elections to cast his ballot in the U.S. Senate race. Moore, who expressed confidence that he will win, was accompanied by his wife Kayla Moore, and voted at a rural fire station in the northeast Alabama community of Gallant.

I wanted to highlight this scene that dominated the visual media on election day in Alabama – one shot out of who-knows-how many other that were circulated. It shows Senate candidate Roy Moore mosying up at the polls on his horse. At that moment, of course, there was no way to know if this fanatical candidate, this “horse of a different color,” would actually prevail in a contest that had gripped the nation. All we knew before Moore was narrowly defeated by Democrat Doug Jones in an upset of historic proportions is that the man was more of a crank, and one enormous pawn in America’s increasingly despicable political and culture war.

My question is: what is it about this country that sensationalizes and showers attention on such oddballs? What made Moore’s alarming professional and personal baggage, including his dismissal of civil law prompting multiple dismissals from elected judicial offices, and the highly publicized and well-documented exploitation of young and underage women, just more color? What is the fascination with damaged, hateful and thoroughly dramatic and performative characters such as Moore, or Bannon, or Trump?

jimwatsonafp/Instagram. Caption: Republican Senatorial candidate Roy Moore (R) ties his horse to the fence while reporters try to get photos as he arrives to vote at a polling station in Gallant, Alabama.

The picture that really puts this problem in context for me is this second shot, by Jim Watson of AFP. It captures the frenzied media scrum jockeying to document Moore’s theatrical, Gipper-like entrance at the polling place yesterday.

But yes, Moore lost.

So I ask, is it possible Moore’s defeat (finally) strikes a blow for character, substance and real qualifications? Is the public–perhaps, in spite of the media’s blind obsession with political celebrity– saying “no” to audacity? Might America actually be growing tired of “so-called” leaders playing to the TV?

Photo 3 Brynn Anderson/Associated Press. Caption: Nov. 26, 2017 Jones speaks to the media about his role in the prosecutions of two Ku Klux Klan members charged in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham in 1963.

If you want a contrast between a crazed pedophile on a horse and a public servant, I like this shot of Jones in front of display detailing his prosecution of KKK members who bombed a Birmingham church in 1963. By the way, I’m not trying to draw a distinction here between blue or red, left or right, progressive or conservative. As Moore himself said in his closing argument to a state full of voters who otherwise elect conservatives by overwhelming margins: “If you don’t believe in my character, don’t vote for me.”

To me, at this lowly point in America’s political culture, last night was just as much about substance over spectacle. It was about recognizing reason, as boring as that might be.

— Michael Shaw

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(Photo 1: Jabin Botsford — @washingtonpost/Instagram. Caption: GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore rode his horse to the polls on Tuesday like he’s done in past elections to cast his ballot in the U.S. Senate race. Moore, who expressed confidence that he will win, was accompanied by his wife Kayla Moore, and voted at a rural fire station in the northeast Alabama community of Gallant. Photo 2: Jim Watson/ AFP/Instagram. Caption: Republican Senatorial candidate Roy Moore (R) ties his horse to the fence while reporters try to get photos as he arrives to vote at a polling station in Gallant, Alabama. Photo 3 Brynn Anderson/AP. Caption: Nov. 26, 2017 Jones speaks to the media about his role in the prosecutions of two Ku Klux Klan members charged in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham in 1963.)

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