Stage Management

This is Tom Spencer folks. Since my retirement a couple of weeks ago, Dave invited me to guest blog here whenever I wanted to.

I thought I’d take him up on it every now and then.

Everyone really should read this by Paul Vitello of Newsday.

Here’s a bit of it:

I am no photo editor. But this is the time when we begin to see roundups of the best news photos of the past year. And just running the loop of the year’s most memorable pictures in my head, a funny thing happens:

I keep seeing staged photos.

But between you and me, the most compelling images of the year have probably been the photos never taken – pictures one can only imagine, even if one might not actually want to see them.

There are no enduring photos, for instance, of the costs of the war in Iraq. I have seen some pictures of American soldiers killed. But usually these are met with angry denunciations by the public, and American newspapers are not publishing many.

There have been some pictures of killed and wounded Iraqi civilians, including children, but usually these too are met with angry denunciations by the public; and American newspapers are not publishing many.

The traditional photographing of flag-draped coffins descending from U.S. military planes, bearing home the bodies of American soldiers killed in the war, has been banned, for the time being, by the Pentagon.

We do not have these images engraved on us, as we do the images of the statue falling, and the president flying here and there.

But these are real pictures for me, and perhaps for you. I keep them in the photo loop of my inner eye, where they run every time I am told again that things are improving, or that 60 percent of the people of Iraq (according to a recent Zogby poll) are glad to see us.

OK, this is not about the Year in Photos. It’s about the country’s conscience.

Photo images – not the staged ones, but the ones that capture life unfolding in all its unpredictability and awesomeness – are among the most powerful informers of the national conscience. Without them, we are left making only choices that have been stage managed: To vote or not, to shop or not, to see or look away.


Now go read the rest of it.

And Vitello apparently didn’t know about the administration’s lies about the flight over to Iraq and the turkey itself when he wrote the column.

The way this administration has played the media and a distressingly large number of Americans for suckers through deft stage management is truly frightening.

We truly have reached the point in American politics where it’s all about the style and not the substance, haven’t we? Of course, American politics have really been largely about style for quite a while — ever since television started playing a major role in the late 1950s actually.

However, W and the boys really do excel at the photo-op presidency. The current situation in Iraq is a perfect example. They are quite capable of making it look like things in Iraq are progressing nicely to the average uninformed American. Meanwhile, outside the administration’s carefully constructed reality, everything over there is obviously falling apart.

Okay. That’s all. I hope you enjoyed it.