Optics

Mitt Romney is far from being one of my favorite presidential hopefuls, but I agree with Jim Geraghty that this Newsweek cover, portraying Romney as a dancing lunatic, is fairly appalling.  Geraghty says that the article itself is very fair, but that doesn’t matter.   Roughly 99% of the people who see this cover will never read the article.  For better or worse – and almost certainly worse – our politics are dominated by optics.  The story is secondary to the substantive issues.

One of my grad school professors, Mark Rozell (now at George Mason) liked to talk about an evening news report done on Ronald Reagan’s economic policies during the 1984 campaign.  I don’t recall which network it was,  but the report just decimated Reagan on the economy.  It was a voice-over piece, and most of the images were of Reagan in various settings, mostly in places like Yellowstone or other grand settings.  After the network aired the report, the head of the news division was contacted by a member of Reagan’s staff, and was thanked for the report.  Why was this network being thanked for a hit piece?  The images.  The text of the story didn’t matter.  What would stick in viewer’s minds were the images, and these were images of the president in majestic settings, showing off the trappings of power.  Many viewers would tune out the content of the story and instead focus on images that were greatly favorable to Reagan.

It’s human nature to focus on imagery, and so I don’t necessarily fault those who ignore the broader context of such stories.  That being said, I’m sure Newsweek didn’t choose this particular photo by accident.

8 Responses to Optics

  • Dale Price says:

    But, yeah, that’s pretty ridiculous. I’d be curious to see the last time NW put a Democratic presidential candidate in a ludicrous picture.

  • Mandy P. says:

    Yeah, that photo wasn’t chosen. It was shopped. It’s pretty obvious they cut and pasted Romney’s head onto the body in that ridiculous pose. I’m not what I would call a Romney fan, but what they’ve done in that picture is appalling.

  • Paul Zummo says:

    Dale: true, although that kind of bolsters my point. No one reads the thing anymore, but plenty will see the pic while in line at the grocery store.

    Mandy, I believe it is a photo shop, and in fact it’s using a publicity shot from the Book of Mormon musical (or at least someone suggested that in the comments to Geraghty’s post).

  • Art Deco says:

    The one good thing is that it was Newsweek, which is dropping below Utne Reader in subscription levels and news impact.

    The Utne Reader is the most engaging of leftoid publications. It is a pity it has not exceeded Newsweek in circulation.

  • Jasper says:

    Yea, all of the liberal media will be doing their best to discredit Republican candidates. Mitt should take the Palin approach and just ignore them and not go on their outlets.

    abc, nbc, cbs, cnn, msnbs, pbs, nytimes, nw, washington post

  • Jasper says:

    oh, btw, In Massachusetts, when the state tried to force Catholic Charaties to allow homosexual partners in their adoption program, Cardinal O’Malley objected and held a press conference. Who was standing next to the Cardinal at the press conference? Catholics Ted Kennedy and John Kerry? No, it was Mitt Romney.

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