Media Malpractice

By now we are all familiar with this photo created by the same person who did the famous Obama “Hope” poster:
The Protestor
I learned something very interesting about the new “Protestor” graphic a few days ago. Since then I’ve been conducting informal questioning of my friends about it. So, take a moment and be straight up honest about what it signifies to you, think about what your first thoughts are, you immediate, gut reaction is, then come back to this post.

Here’s what everyone has said about:

“The photo looks like an Arab Spring protestor.”

“Reminds me of the Middle East.”

“Looks kind of like a terrorist.”

Everyone I have asked has answered in some variation on that theme. Those are pretty much identical to my reactions. I immediately and instinctively thought the graphic was referring to a generic Middle Eastern protester.

Then I show them the photo which inspired the graphic.

So what do you think of the graphic now? My thoughts after the jump

Sarah Mason is a 25-year-old Occupy activist. She was photographed by LA Weekly’s Ted Soqui while she stood in a protest, arms linked on November 17 at Bank of America Plaza, for it’s cover.

The original ‘meaning’ of the photo, if that’s what one calls it, has been fully distorted in the Shepherd Fairey version, the same artist who created the famous Obama “Hope” poster. Sarah’s original photo had meaning in a very specific American context, with 99% scrawled across the bandana covering her face (which was soaked in vinegar in case she was pepper-sprayed), the light colors of her headwear. But in Fairey’s version she takes on menacing tones and colors with a very clear Middle East, terrorist subtext. A clear case of media malpractice.

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Sean Paul Kelley

Traveler of the (real) Silk Road, scholar and historian, photographer and writer - founder of The Agonist.

3 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I think the genericization of the photo makes it more effective. The protestors in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya (among other nations) had far more effect and more far-reaching effect than OWS.

  • …the cover that didn’t somehow connect to the Arab Spring movement, I’d be embarrassed. Knowing that it has an OWS genesis weakens it significantly for me. Far from connecting to terrorism this strikes me as appropriating the voice of those facing ball rounds, which doesn’t strike me as terribly cool.

    In combat one should be very suspicious of painless moral choices. When you are confronted with a seemingly painless moral choice, the odds are that you haven’t looked deeply enough.” ~ Karl Marlantes

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