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vol 1.

1 the art + science of seeing

Is the visual political?

volume 1 issue 1 the art + science of seeing


Glimpse is an interdisciplinary journal that examines the functions,

processes, and effects of vision and vision’s implications for being,
knowing, and constructing our world(s). Each theme-focused journal
issue features articles, visual spreads, interviews, and reviews span-
ning the physical sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities.

Copyright and Acknowledgements

Glimpse acknowledges creators’ copyright, and encourages contributors

to consider Creative Commons licenses for their works. Many of the
images used in this issue are Creative Commons licensed images from
Flickr.com members, and others are public domain images courtesy of
Boston Public Library, or private collectors. The font used in this issue
is Tuffy, a freely available font.
Glimpse Is the visual political?

4 Presidents of the USA

David Kish, illustrator

5 Ugliness: Visibility and the Invisible Prejudice

Dr. Anthony Synnott, Concordia University

8 Musings on a Master Race: The Drawings of Hannah Barrett

Carolyn Arcabascio interviews Hannah Barrett, artist

14 Grandpa Lenin and the Crimson Love

Nadej Giroux

16 Politics, Vision and Democracy: Access Equality for the Visually Impaired
Matthew Murray, D.Phil. candidate Cardiff University

24 Third-Term Panic, 1874

Thomas Nast, illustrator; courtesy of T.J. Michalak

24 Political Symbols
Andy Hughes

26 Mirroring People: Neuropolitics

Dr. Marco Iacoboni, University of California, Los Angeles

32 Dilemmas of Claiming Ownership in an Epidemic

Louise Moana Kolff, Ph. D. candidate, University of New South Wales

36 Society of the And

Roemer Van Toorn, Berlage Institute; Introduction by Heather White, Boston College

42 Media, Race, and the Marketplace

Dr. Robert M. Entman, The George Washington University

51 Hugo Juarez 2008

Nicholas Munyan

52 Politico-Religious Dimensions of Chaco Canyon Pottery

Dr. Stephen Plog, University of Virginia

56 Flags, Color, Symbol, and National Identity

Carolyn Arcabascio interviews Dr. Karen Cerulo, Rutgers University

58 (Re)views
Andy Hughes

61 Is the Visual Political?

Dr. Thomas Kaplan-Maxfield, Boston College

68 Political Agenda
Ryan Sullivan, illustrator

web-only Electing the President: How American Elections Work

Steve Hickey, graphic designer

web-only Framing Documenta: The Local Politics of High Art in Kassel, Germany
Jeffrey Andreoni + Daniel Stein, Bezdomny Collective, Rome
From the Editor

Tea m Vision is arguably our most immediate and mysterious means of receiving information.
It is the carrier of great subtleties, can extend or heighten our emotions, override our
Megan Hurst logic, but can also serve to amplify our reason or intuition. Formally uncodified, vision
Founder, Managing Editor
differs from our more conscious cultural engagement with spoken and written lan-
guage. It is deeply, biologically embedded in our cognitive framework, but often in
Christine Madsen
Co-Founder, Editor (Europe) ways we do not recognize or understand.

Matthew Steven Carlos Long thought to reveal the truth, as with the old adage “Seeing is believing,” research
Editorial Advisor now reveals vision and memory to be more porous than we may have once understood.
Advances in brain imaging indicate further intricacies to the “problem” of vision. How
Nadej Giroux
reliable is human vision as it relates to our understanding of the world? Is what we
Editorial Research, Copy Editing
see influenced by more than just our physical sight of that which is before us? Are
Dane Wiedmann there things “in plain sight” that we do not see? As we begin to understand more
Editorial Research about vision, the brain, and cognition, more complexities are revealed. These ad-
vances have implications for societies and cultures as well.
Jamie Ahlstedt
Logo Design, Layout, Graphics
Issue 1 of Glimpse, focuses on the question, “Is the visual political?” The obvious
answer is “yes”. Presented in this issue are many answers to support this thesis,
Nicholas Munyan
Design + Layout, Image Research
ranging from the persuasiveness of satirical political illustrations to the cognitive
processes of political affiliation; to the transmission of sociopolitical information
Carolyn Arcabascio through color, pattern, and form in ancient pottery and contemporary national flags;
Interviews, Editorial + Image Research to the physical logistics of how we participate in democracy through sight. Additional
sub-themes emerge among these works relating to the exchange of visual informa-
Heather White
tion- the roles of producers and of receivers, and varying levels of consciousness in
Features, Editorial Research,
Relationship Development the construction and receipt of that information.

Andy Hughes The front cover for this issue is green, black, and orange—an homage to optical tricks
Reviews, Editorial Research
that reveal a red, white, and blue image after staring at a fixed point in the first image
for 30 seconds, then shifting one’s gaze to a white surface. The American assemblag-
Jean-Pierre Leguillou
Design Consultant ist Jasper Johns riffed on this phenomenon in the mid-twentieth century. We offer it
again here as a reference point for contemplating the emotional and political power
Sarah Wharton and biophysics of what we see, how we see, and how we understand what we see.
Copy Editing

And so, with a generous group of contributors from diverse disciplines, and a tal-
ented and resourceful volunteer staff, we launch Glimpse. We extend an open invita-
tion to scholars, researchers, learners, and the generally curious to use Glimpse as a
ISSN 1945-3906
sandbox and a soapbox for their questions, experiences, discoveries, and theories
about seeing, and vision’s many implications for being, understanding, and construct-
ing our world(s).
PO Box 382178

Cambridge, MA 02238
Megan Hurst

Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com

by David Kish
Ugliness: Visibility and

volume 1.1 Is the visual political?

the Invisible Prejudice
by Dr. Anthony Synnott (Concordia University)

U gliness is repulsive. In a democratic age, this is not fair, but there

it is. The U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) affirms
in Article 1: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and
human rights.” Article 2 rejects discrimination on any basis “such as
Image Courtesy of Otis Historical Archives National race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or
Museum of Health & Medicine social origin, property...” and it continues. But there is no explicit
(Opposite): Original Illustration by David Kish ©2008 mention of appearance or aesthetics. The discrimination and prejudice
for or against people because of their looks is ignored. “Looksism,” as it
has come to be known, is invisible.

Looksism has two components: beautyism, which is a relatively new term

for the positive prejudice and discrimination in favour of beautiful people
regardless of merit, and uglyism, which may be a term first coined here,
for the negative prejudice and discrimination against ugly people.

A well-known study on personal appearance found that “less attrac-

tive” people were believed to be less “sensitive, kind, interesting,
strong, poised, modest, sociable, outgoing and exciting” than more at-
tractive individuals, and also less “sexually responsive.” The
researchers dubbed this the “horns effect,” as opposed to the “halo
effect” of attractiveness (Berscheid and Walster, 1972: 42-3). An
entire battery of later research indicates that they are less popular in
school, tend to achieve lower grades, have fewer job opportunities, and
elicit fewer helping behaviors. (Patzer, 1985).

Appearance impacts not only attitudes, but also incomes. A Canadian

study of the relation between income levels and attractiveness found that
the homely or less attractive individuals earned 75% less than the attrac-
tive individuals, and 57% less than the average, with each of the three
groups consisting of about one-third of the sample. The less
attractive individuals were also judged to be less sincere than the attrac-
tive ones: 59% compared to 75%. Similar findings have been reported by
Biddle and Hamermesh, and Hamermesh and Biddle (2000, 1993).

Beauty is relatively simple. The models and the film stars and starlets,
male and especially female, tend to look much the same, and indeed are
hired within a rigid set of criteria. Ugly, on the other hand, is multiple. The
ugly may be so defined because they are fat, short, facially or corporeally
disfigured, physically disabled, etc. Every part of the body, especially the
face, is subject to a calculus of scrutiny. The assessment of ugliness or
beauty applies to both sexes, but more especially to wom- These definitions are reflected in our everyday conver-
en, perhaps since men are visual. Beautiful women attract sations. We say, “She’s as ugly as sin,” “You look like hell!”
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com

the alpha males, ugly women do not, generally speaking. or “You look like the devil!” The physical ugliness and the
moral demonization are one. Conversely, we also say,
Charles Darwin was intrigued by this matter of beauty, “Oh! You look divine!” “You look like an angel!” or we
especially in birds, and he wondered about its evolution- simply describe someone as “good-looking.” The same
ary function. “The Descent of Man” was subtitled “and word, good, can mean both physically attractive and mor-
Selection in Relation to Sex.” In the chapter “On the ally virtuous. To be attractive is, by definition, to attract.
influence of beauty in determining the marriages of To be lovely is, by implication, to be lovable and to be
mankind,” he suggests that in “civilized life man is large- loved. To be unattractive is to repel. The ugly body is
ly, but not exclusively, influenced in the choice of his wife thought to symbolize the ugly self. The exterior is thought
by external appearance” (1981:2:338) and vice versa, he to reflect the interior. This is a function of our language,
added later, pending the males’ triumph by what he called and both expresses and re-creates our beliefs and our
“the law of battle.” Thus beauty becomes a prime factor practices. This is a supreme advantage for the beautiful,
in sexual selection, contributing to “a greater average but a supreme disadvantage for the ugly. No doubt most
number of offspring,” (1981:2:369) and thus to human people are somewhere in the middle, but both the advan-
evolution. Conversely, “the weaker, poorer and lower tages and the disadvantages persist.
members of the same tribes” would have fewer offspring
– as would the uglier. The chapter could equally well have The Ugly Mystique

been titled: “On the influence of ugliness in determining
the marriages of mankind.” he “ugly mystique” goes back to the Greeks. In the
Iliad, Homer describes the treacherous Thersites as
In today’s language, we would say that the attraction to “the ugliest man that had come to Ilium. He had a game
beauty and the repulsion from ugliness are hard-wired foot and was bandy-legged. His rounded shoulders
and genetically determined. We might add, too, that they almost met across his chest; and above them rose an egg-
Image Courtesy of Flickr are also learned behavior and culturally determined. In- shaped head, which sprouted a few short hairs.” (Bk 2;
Member Smabs Sputzer
deed, Darwin devoted an entire chapter to the cultural 1983:45) He looked bad; he was bad. Appearance and real-
relativity of beauty. ity were one. This was perhaps the earliest expression of
uglyism, yet the tradition from Thersites, Cyclops, Satan,
Our cultural products, including literature, film, and art re- the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Captain Hook, Long John
flect our linguistic norms. The Concise Oxford Dictionary Silver, Richard III, Mr. Hyde right up to Dr. No is that the
defines “Ugly” as follows: “unpleasing or repulsive to sight, ugly and the deformed are evil. The invisible is visible.
morally repulsive, vile, discreditable, unpleasant, unpleas-
antly suggestive, threatening, unpromising.” The applica- The same convention of evil being ugly and outer re-
tion of this adjective to any individual carries a flecting inner is clear in film as well. Horror movies are
considerable semantic, emotional and evaluative load. The the prime exemplars of these conventions. Monsters
word is not simply a descriptor of visual appearance, but are uniformly horrific, whether dinosaurs, gorillas, aliens
also a moral evaluation. Conversely, “Beauty” is defined as of various styles, or whatever. The evil is symbolized by
follows: “a combination of qualities, as shape, proportion, the horrific appearances of the evil doers.
colour, in human face or form, or in other objects, that
delights the sight... combined qualities delighting the other The ethos of art replicates literature and film, as might
senses, the moral sense, the intellect” and examples are be expected. This is most obvious in the portraiture of
given. But as with the definition of “Ugly,” we can see the the Madonna and the devil. Not only is the Madonna
same identity between the physical and the moral—the uniformly beautiful and female, but the devil, Satan, is
same confusion of different orders of reality. uniformly ugly and male.
This is the Christian view. Almost the entire secular corpus reality as well as in our literary, film, aesthetic and
of Judaeo-Christian culture has articulated the worship of imaginative realms. What we fear is ugly and evil — evil

volume 1.1 Is the visual political?

beauty and the dislike of ugliness, and the equations of the and ugly. And we love beauty, even though it is so often
physical and the metaphysical, the visible and the invisible a mirage. ■
(Synnott, 1993 :73-102). St. Thomas Aquinas, (1225-74)
the premier theologian of the Catholic Church, defined References
beauty as “id quod visum placet”—that which pleases—and
Aquinas, Thomas. 1981. Summa Theologiae. Vol. 19. Blackfriars.
asserted that “the beautiful and the good are identical in
Berscheid, E. and E. Walster, 1972. “Beauty and the Best.” Psychology
reality” (1981: Vol. 19 :76). Ugliness, therefore, is that Today. 42-6, 74.
which displeases, and ugliness and evil are identical. Biddle, Jeff and Daniel S. Hamermesh, 2000. “Productivity and Dis-
crimination: Lawyers Looks and Lucre.” NBER. Working Paper No.
Yet philosophers since Plato have been fascinated by beau-
Darwin, Charles 1981/1871. The Descent of Man. Princeton, N.J.:
ty, by the idea of beauty anyway. Plato loved beauty, and Princeton University Press.
argued that the contemplation of a beautiful boy led one Hamermesh, Daniel C. and Jeff Biddle. 1993. “Beauty and the Looks
Mystique” NBER Working Paper No. 4518.
several steps up the heavenly ladder to Absolute Beauty,
which is Love and the Good (Symposium 211; 1963:562-3). Homer, and Colin W. MacLeod. 1982. Iliad: Book XXIV. Cambridge:
By implication, the contemplation of an ugly boy must lead Cambridge University Press.

down the ladder to Absolute Ugly which is Hate and Evil. Patzer, Gordon. 1985. The Physical Attractiveness Phenomenon. New
York: Plenum.

Plato, 1963. The Collected Dialogues. Edited by Edith Hamilton and

Our attitudes and behavior towards the ugly may be unfair, Huntington Cairns. Bollingen Series. Princeton, N.J. : Princeton Univer-
sity Press.
but they are not entirely surprising: they are embedded and
Ranfurly, Hermione. 1998. The Ugly One: the childhood memoirs of the
audible in our language, legible in our literature, exemplified Countess of Ranfurley, 1913-1939. London: Michael Joseph Ltd.
in our biographies and autobiographies, visible in our films,
Synnott, Anthony. 1993. The Body Social. Symbolism, Self and Society.
and rationalized by philosophers. The consequences of ug- London: Routledge.
liness and beauty have been researched by social scientists
- uglyism is more visible than it once was. None the less, Bibliography
this is an adversity which afflicts millions of people, and American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 2008. Report of the 2007 Sta-
receives nothing like the attention of some of our other tistics. www.plasticsurgery.org

adversities specified by the United Nations. It is so wide- Cash, T. F., B. A. Winstead and L. H. Janda, 1986. “The Great Ameri-
can Shape-up.” Psychology Today; 19: 30-7.
spread, deep-rooted, and normal that it remains largely in-
De Beauvoir, Simone. 1953. The Second Sex. New York: Knopf.
visible save to those affected, such as the English woman
who entitled her memoirs “The Ugly One.” She starts by Eco, Umberto. 2007. On Ugliness. New York: Rizzoli.

saying: “I started life as a disappointment—because I wasn’t Friday, Nancy, 1996. The Power of Beauty. New York: HarperCollins

a boy. I continued being a disappointment —because I was Greer, Germaine. 1971. The Female Eunuch. London: Paladin Books.
ugly. My older brother was handsome; my younger sister Joanisse, Leanne and Anthony Synnott, 1998. “Fighting Back: Reac-
was handsome; and my little sister was our baby and people tions and Resistance to the Stigma of Obesity” in Jeffrey Sobel and
Donna Maurer (eds). Interpreting Weight: The Social Management of
always say babies are beautiful even when they are hid- Fatness and Thinness. New York: Aldine de Gruyter:49-69.
eous” (Ranfurly, 1998:1). Kaczorowski, J 1989. The Good, the Average and the Ugly: Socioeco-
nomic Dimensions of Physical Attractiveness. M.A.Thesis. Department
of Sociology. McGill University.
In sum, the conventional wisdom that the physically ugly are
Murphy, Robert F. 1987. The Body Silent. New York: Henry Holt.
also evil, and that the evil—the mass murderers and serial
killers—are also ugly is widely symbolized in popular culture;
Montagu, Ashley. 1979. The Elephant Man. New York: E. P. Dutton.

Synnott, Anthony 1990. “The Beauty Mystique: Ethics and Aesthetics

but it is not justified by reality. Adolf Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, in the Bond Genre.” The International Journal of Politics, Culture and
Charles Taylor, Slobodan Milosevic, do not look ugly. They Society. 3:3:407-26.

look normal, average. The “ugly mystique” is false, unfair, Wan, Nathalie. 2003. “’Orange in a World of Apples’: The Voices of
Albinism.” Disability and Society. 18:3:277-96.
dangerous, and silly; yet it is alive and well and lives on in
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com

One Body Naturally Considered

Musings on a Master Race:

The Drawings of Hannah Barrett
by Carolyn Arcabascio

A series of faces peer out, defying the confines of their two-dimensional surfaces. Their eyes
connect two worlds, but bespeak bemusement and skepticism. These are standoffish and wary
characters, but unmistakably curious ones. About us. About the strange, judgmental creatures we
are. I imagine their expressions mirrored my own as I took in the confused and disjointed bodies,
anatomies exposed in bizarre, fantastical landscapes. Everything foreign and new, save for the
familiar furrowed brows, lined lips, and spots of mustache that I recognized as the borrowed and
mingling features of Queen Elizabeth and Adolf Hitler.
“I think in images,” Hannah Barrett explained, sorting though draw- values, that stubborn system of compartmentalized prin-

volume 1.1 Is the visual political?

ers of collaged “digital sketches.” So the image of Queen Elizabeth, for ciples. Perhaps here we’ll find guidance on how to feel.
whom the Boston-based artist admits a strong affinity and fondness, Disapproving? Acceptant? But our archetypes of virtuous
offered a steadfast starting point for a new body of work. The monarch and villainous are all but inapplicable - in the hybrid we find
fixed herself, poised and patient, in Barrett’s mind and waited for her the image of fairness and the face of evil singularly em-
male counterpart whose features would ultimately meld with her own. bodied.
This process of selection and juxtaposition is one that Barrett knows
well. Just take a look at the work that spans her career and you’ll With the convergence of dictator (male, loathsome,
become witness to a parade of hybrids – a ragtag array of eccentric- past) and queen (female, good, current) comes a
ity and sexual ambiguity. The new series at hand would follow suit, but total collapse of boundaries – of our dear categories.
it had to do more than just satisfy previously established, radical cri- Forced to surrender the biases that inform our gender
teria. And for Barrett, every candidate for combination was falling flat. roles and goad our self-righteousness, we’re left with
They were too small, there was no tension, none were commanding no choice but to look at these figures
enough to share a body with the Queen. Until Hitler’s face entered the without pretense . They boast anatomical land-
spectrum of potentials. He was certainly big enough, recognizable scapes, dubious and rare. So entrenched in the present
enough, detestable enough to serve as the perfect visual and concep- reality on this side of the picture plane, our thoughts
tual foil. But Barrett met the notion of working with the dictator’s wander to a counterculture of bodies and orientations,
visage with justifiable reluctance, and her extensive academic back- the likes of which are largely inconspicuous on the
ground and personal interest in German studies and culture only mag- mainstream cultural horizon. But Barrett takes this new
nified her discomfort. Still, the image remained. Nagging, expectant. figure, crowns it, and so thrusts it to the forefront of
our sociological and political awareness. The artist illu-
While perusing an old Christie’s catalog, a frequent source of reference minates these modern taboos that perhaps a later, more
material and inspiration, the artist found HIM - Maurizio Cattelan’s sophisticated era will greet with amity and honesty.
photorealistic sculpture of a miniature Hitler, kneeling in prayer. The
thing is provocative, of course, recalling atrocity and inciting pain that In the meantime, we wrestle with our preconceptions,
generations of time haven’t dulled. Yet the scale is shifted, the gesture trying to rebuild our comfortable and illusory barriers.
vulnerable, and the dynamic between us and it—changed. Barrett re- And all the while, horsebacked hermaphrodite and friends
approached her hybrid, suspended mid-thought, with new resolve. By go about their business. They water flowers and contem-
continuing to shy away in her considerable distaste, she’d be “honoring plate (something) over tea, in spite of us. But the chron-
these taboos by scrupulously avoiding them.” So she executed the in- ic uncertainty of this paradoxical place is unshakable and
sistent idea—several times over—and manifested a Hermaphro- frustrating and I demand to know: What kind of leadership
dite Master Race. can be offered here and where do my stereotypes apply?
What of the aggression of masculine leadership, the di-
One member of the new breed sits regally on horseback, clothed in a plomacy of feminine? Where are the absolutes to shape
dictator’s getup and accessorized with a monarch’s jewels. The figure my ethical character and how can an entity of opposites
looks past us, imparting a misdirected royal wave. Barrett places the new keep from self-destructing? A representative of the
and improbable person in her rendition of Erastus Salisbury Field’s Garden master race looks out (eye-contact this time) from Bar-
of Eden – humanity’s biblical birthplace where God breathed life into Ad- rett’s imitation Hitler watercolor. Folded hands rest on an
am’s nostrils and made Eve, the divine afterthought, to assuage his lone- ornate table, decorated with the Queen’s Fabergé egg,
liness. Now, the loaded sequence of humankind’s creation is subverted, nudged conscientiously to the corner.
beaten by a body both man and woman. Our gender-directed prejudices
lie dead and irrelevant somewhere. Craving direction, we appeal to our Perhaps s/he can answer my questions.
Talking (Sexual) Hybrids
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com

Carolyn Arcabascio (CA): Why are you so drawn to the concepts of

hybridization and distortion?

Hannah Barrett (HB): Well, let’s start with the hybridization. I’m
trying to show a new figure that I feel is there, and I know is there
in a way. People are changing their bodies and you can get plastic
surgery. I come from a queer community with a lot of people going
trans. So I wanted to show these new things that are going on. Not
just the surgery, but also how people are thinking about themselves
as not necessarily so polarized male or female. But I needed to do
10 it in a way that was symbolic and explicit and that would
come out of the materials. Like, if I went and drew a trans person,
I don’t think it would mean anything in a way, because it would just
look like a man or a woman. So the hybridization allows me to make
this really overt connection of
a combination of male and female. And then as I went along, I
started experimenting with it. I found that how people respond
to it varies and is broader than if I just showed something that
broke boundaries - a trans person, or an old woman and a young
Fidi Defensor man having sex or something like that. When I first started, I was
doing hybrids of my parents, so people started to relate to them
from the point of view of marriage, which wasn’t anything I even
thought about. I’ve been thinking of things like people
coming out of each other . That starts to happen
whether you’re in a really close relationship, or even a working
relationship. You can have issues of somebody who’s dominant or
somebody who’s more passive and people sort of come out
of other people. So I felt that the hybrid portrait had potential to
show this whole new gender that was happening, and it’s also an
encapsulated narrative. You can suggest a whole story about a
person that’s not like a straight-ahead portrait.

The distortion is related to the hybridization because that’s just

a natural bi-product. And I always want it to be clear that it’s a new
person that comes out of sources. The whole point for me is for it
to not look like a real person. It takes a lot to maintain that seam
- that sense that it’s a collage.
CA: The sexual ambiguity in your work has been described as bizarre,

volume 1.1 Is the visual political?

and by some, even unsettling at times. What do you think is so visually
powerful about this breakdown in sexual categorizations?

HB: It’s hard to do anything these days that’s disturbing to begin

with. Not that that’s the point where I start from, but there aren’t
that many images out there that show that. And this is a really
contemporary idea. Maybe this is the first point when things
have been as open as they are. I don’t understand why more people
aren’t doing it because it’s a frontier, an opportunity, in
a world that’s constantly bombarded with images. And everything
is so tired and has been done. This is something that is totally
relevant, is totally contemporary, but it’s not really being done.
So for me it’s like, why wouldn’t I do it? I guess some people could Garden of his Heavenly Will
say it’s unsettling.

CA: How has your own personal perception of gender influenced your

HB: Well, I might not notice these things that are going on if I was
not immediately affected by them, if they weren’t in my immediate
vicinity. And it’s sort of been a part of my art education as well.
When I was in art school in the 80s, and I was trying to learn to paint,
to draw, I was studying with this old man, Barney Rubinstein at the
Museum School. All my friends were in video and photography. There
were no queer people trying to learn how to paint - they were all
doing new media, photo, performance. And so I’ve always been re-
ally aware of how these worlds are really separate, and that my point
of view is a little different. I live in the queer community in Boston,
so I see things differently from, for example, the housewives that I
was painting with Barney Rubinstein. I’ve gone to dinner parties
where I’m the only woman there who hasn’t
had a sex change. So for me, that’s my reality.
CA: What role does humor play in your work?

HB: When you do collage, humor is kind of inherent. You almost

have to watch out for things becoming too slapstick with collage.
And with the distortion, it’s funny because things have big noses or
they have little hands or whatever. I could eliminate all of that.
They could have a totally different look, and I could make them
more conventionally beautiful, but then to me, what would be the
point? So the humor I think is partly the collage, and
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com

partly just how my personality runs. It also brings

them to life in a way. If there’s no humor, then
there’s a distance.
all these people doing inane things - digging up weird objects and
CA: The humor makes it accessible. holding them up. On the one hand, you could say that’s because this
is from East Germany and this is what they were doing for years.
HB: It’s an involuntary thing, laughter. If people feel They had a fake gross national product for fifty years and then in
like they can laugh and spend time with something, 1989 everybody woke up and discovered, oh, actually, all these
then this mix of stuff will start to factories and all these things that we thought we were doing - it’s
permeate. That’s how I look at things. So even just play. So you could say it means that - that’s what these things
though my work is really overt and literal, it’s still symbolize. On the other hand, somebody wouldn’t even have to
ambiguous on a certain level. But if people have know anything about East Germany and could just see them as
something that they want to look at and that they something that goes on with everybody - you’re looking for some-
feel engaged in because of the humor, because of thing, and you come up with this thing, and it’s an absurdity. I think
the detail, that’s what I’m trying to do. his work would lose a lot if it were more related to a specifically
East German idea. And it’s important that it can mean something
CA: Do you consider yourself a satirist? broader than that.

HB: I never thought of that. Maybe. I can think of Current events are happening so fast now, I think it’s hard to keep
people who are more satirical. There’s a kind of for- up with something that’s relevant. That’s probably part of it too—
mality to satire; offhand I can think of people who how people read imagery now. By the time you’re done with the
have satirical elements to their work, but I can’t re- thing, the news has changed.
ally think of somebody I would call a
satirist. It’s a really interesting question, because CA: Most of your work deals with the manipulation of the historical
visually I think it’s kind of out of fashion. I don’t image - whether you’re working from a collaged family portrait,
think it’s out of fashion in writing, or in theater. But historical photographs, photos of political figures. What is the
it has to do with how people read visual importance of the alteration of history in the context of your work?
imagery now. I don’t think people read it in a
way where satire really operates anymore. When I HB: I went into painting because I’m very attracted to the craft, and
think of contemporary images today, and I think as my sensibility, I’m a very craftsman-like person. So I’m really in-
of people who work with very overt and specific terested in the old crafts and old paintings - studying these things,
imagery like I do, or people much more famous than practicing them. But at the same time, I’m a very contemporary
myself like Neo Rauch or Dana Schutz, there’s person. So for me there’s always a weird split that goes on. I’ll be
always ambiguity there . So even if poring over all the auction magazines from Christie’s for old master
something seems like it’s being satirized, it’s still incredibly religious paintings, in-
paintings, and they’re all
general. For example, in Neo Rausch’s work there’s credibly misogynist . I don’t see myself in that. So I’m attracted
to the craftsmanship, the beauty, the color, the surface of those
things, but because of what they stand for, there’s always something
that reminds me that I can’t have that. I’m interested in how those
things look and feel, and that’s why I go back to them. If something’s
far enough away, it’s a sort of realm of rediscovery because you
don’t know about it any more than you know about what hasn’t hap-
pened yet.
CA: Since you mostly see these images as fragments while you work,

volume 1.1 Is the visual political?

and since that’s the nature of the kind of image that you generally
work with, does this influence the way you see things in everyday
life? Do you pick things apart and fragmentize?

HB: I know that how people optically perceive things in the world is
directly linked to how they work. You know, people who have
a broader vision stand back farther, use big brushes. I guess I do
tend to see things in a more detailed way than some people.

CA: Do you feel that, in general, people interpret visual information

as political in one way or another?

HB: Yeah. They do. I think lay people politicize two-dimensional work
much more than artists do just because art’s not in the schools
anymore, people don’t do it, don’t practice it. When my grandparents
went to school in this country, everybody did drawing. My grandpar-
ents could do pretty good drawings - that was sort of average. Now
nobody does it and I feel like, people think today, you have to have
a really good reason that you’re going to do a drawing. And I don’t
feel that way. I feel like you can just draw to draw. And people also
feel like everything has to mean something because they don’t un-
derstand visual meaning. You know, they’re trying to match some-
Joyous Entry
thing that they see, instead of looking at it in terms of it’s own
language, because they don’t know that language. So the farther
people get from knowing visual language, I think the more politicized
it becomes. ■

Swastika (Nazi Party)

Before it was made infamous as the banner of the Third Reich, the swastika was a common symbol, dating back to
ancient Greek and Hindi societies. No one is sure exactly of the symbol’s origin, but scholars have confirmed that the
name derives from Sanskrit and signifies a lucky object. One such scholar, P.R. Sarkar, went further in examining the
word’s etymology and interpreted it to mean “good existence”. On Navajo and Druidic artifacts, in French cathedrals
and symbols of the Chinese Tang Dynasty, the swastika seems to have been a widely recognized image and was
incorporated in positive and spiritual ways that seem surprising now.

Specific graphical differences between the Nazi style of swastika and the ancient icon have been noted by scholars
so as to distinguish them and avoid confusion. Sarkar has also been sure to point out the significance of the swas-
tika’s positioning: when the line at the top points to the right, it is a positive expression, representing ultimate vic-
tory. When reversed, it indicates destruction and extinction.

As inseparable as this symbol is from the evils of World War II and the Holocaust, there are still cultures today that
recognize the original values of the swastika. A website, www.reclaimtheswastika.com is currently leading a campaign
to promote the positive values of the symbol and separate it from its political associations.
Grandpa Lenin and
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com

the Crimson Love

by Nadej Giroux

I felt he always was a part of my family, this man I

never knew. None of us knew him, actually. And yet,
there he hung on a wall of every institution: from office
attendance was a must (or else your boss would have a
word with you later on, say, the subject of your social
uninvolvement) and a volunteer would take a roll call to
buildings to grocery stores to hospitals, always beaming make sure that everybody came with mandatory glee.
on with his strong eyebrows and a far away gaze to the
“beautiful future”. For all of us he was just that—the Communism in the mid-eighties was certainly not what
good old gramps. it used to be in the days of its dawn. Grown-ups
14 frequently made subtle passing jokes in regards to “Oh,
As we woke up from our afternoon nap, all the kids you don’t have it as bad as we had it” and my mother
would sit in a circle as the teacher made us memorize was genuinely happy (though would never admit it in
the poems that made him ever so endearing, but it is public at the time) that kids in the eighties had a far
precisely then that I started questioning why this lesser degree of indoctrination. The amount of com-
strange man somehow sneaked into my heart and made munist art produced in that era pales in comparison to
me so fond of him. The grown-ups considered his the previous decades and it started to gain more of a
mummy in the Moscow mausoleum to be a sacred place, kitschy, half-serious character. It was like a secret,
but the idea of a mummified man, exposed for all to side-ways route by which we phased out the ideology
see struck me as something beyond creepy. But this is we no longer believed. All the symbols and all the red
precisely why Lenin remained our constant family mem- turned into the background, much like incessant bill-
ber: he never died, his body continued to live on in board advertising. People became disillusioned by the
physical space, where hundreds of people would venture self-perpetuated dream of a perfect future, when all of
daily as if to see a relic of the old Saints. In fact, most us communists would be “free”. Back in those days
said that dead Lenin was so “hot”, you’d have to bribe though, we didn’t know that “free” would still mean
people in advance to get the tickets. having no money, even with access to the goods.

Many things in my childhood were crimson red. It But shades of crimson still brought happiness to a
seemed like “red” was the stock color, associated with young child like myself, mostly because it was bright
everything eternally good, festive and patriotic. Red and very few things were vibrant in my childhood.
banners flew over many buildings and “krasnyj” I remember being astonished the first time I saw a set
(being the word for “red” as well as “beautiful”) flew in of Play-Dough sold in America, particularly because of
woman’s dresses, cars and shiny balloons during the the colors it contained: “Wow, pink and purple and such
many parades of my childhood. The Soviets loved rich green. This is certainly unheard of!” In the kinder-
parades in a quaintly harmless, exhibitionistic way we garten they always asked us to make the Play-Dough
loved to show ourselves how really great we were and sculptures and the colors were always brown, beige,
people collected massively to celebrate our idealistic white and black. Sometimes you were lucky to get
dreams. More often than not, however, the parade a green but they were all dark and depressing colors in

Image Courtesy of Flickr Member Brian Fitzgerald

volume 1.1 Is the visual political?
the end. I wonder if that is precisely the reason why
reds made me happy—the only color that never faded.

When communism finally fell apart, most people sighed

with relief. Suddenly creative expression exploded, as if
people held on to their ideas for ages and suddenly had
the opportunity to get them out there. Most of
it was anger and over sexualized images that became 15
so pervasive and socially unrestricted that they flooded
every corner of the country. While, possibly, elsewhere
this would cause public discontent, we had already
learned to tune visuals out and it just wasn’t much of a
shock. I even remember sometime in the late eighties
people would come on trains during long stops and sell
from under thick jackets cards with naked girls and
icons of Christ—both pocket-sized and discreet, both
taboo and an altogether strange mix of the sacred and
the profane.

And then of course, grandpa had to come down.

Hundreds of Lenin monuments, with his long stone/
marble/granite/bronze jacket waving in the wind and his
arm pointing to an/the ever disappearing bright future,
were dismantled. No, it wasn’t like the Saddam Hussein
statue show, where people jumped on top of the cast
giant in fits of liberated merriment as the West watched
it happening, somewhere else as usual, glued to their TV
with a sense of pseudo-achievement. It was quite
different, much like getting a pink slip: “sorry, we’re
gonna hafta let ya go. Good times, though!” Nobody
made much fuss because we had no real reason to hate
him—none of us really knew him.

But you know, I still have a soft spot in my heart for him.
Six years of my life I lived on the Lenin street, and when
they started to change the street names again to reflect
the new, non-communist life, they left my street alone
and I was happy about it. After all, he was a part of my
family and watched me wherever went. ■
Politics, Vision and
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com

Democracy: Access
Equality for the
Visually Impaired
by Matthew Murray (Cardiff University)

A fter many years of pursuit by the American

Council for the Blind, on May 20th 2008 the U.S.
Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
This inability to access these forms of visual communication lead to
social and political inequalities that stand contrary to the moral de-
mands of a democratic system of governance. In highlighting the inad-
ruled that the universal sizing and texturing of various equate provision of these media, I intend to show that the legal and
denominations the U.S. dollar was discriminatory to the moral standards for instituting reforms exist in present legislation in
visually impaired.1 The court ruled that the adaptations the United States. To conclude this article, I will pose a solution to
made previously to the dollar were not enough to bring rectify the current failings in media provision for blind/visually-im-
the currency into compliance to the Rehabilitation Act paired/dyslexic persons (referred to just as visually impaired), articu-
of 1973 that affords “meaningful access” to the handi- late how these reforms can provide the requisite access to visual
capped.2 Judge Judith V. Rogers stated in the majority forms of communication, and how this access empowers the visually
opinion, “Even the most searching tactile examination impaired to equally partake in the system of governance.
will reveal no difference between a $100 bill and a $1
bill.” This ruling affirms that currency having only To discern the moral duty and subsequent legal duty of the demo-
visual cues to disseminate its value, is discriminatory as cratic system of governance in the United States, it is important to
the visually impaired do not have equal access to the establish precisely what this system is meant to do, ideally speaking.
needed sensory input (in part or in full) to use the The federal representative democracy of the United States is intended
existing cues present on the dollar. Without this equal to respect population and territory proportionally while treating indi-
ability, the visually impaired are unable to discern the vidual citizens with equality in respect to their direct quantifica-
value of the currency and must rely on the charity of tion of one person, one vote. The ability to vote with equal quantifiable
others to inform them of the value of the money being power to all other individual citizens is the formal equality be-
exchanged. Without access to the medium of communi- stowed upon all citizens capable of registering to vote.3 Although those
cation used by the currency, the visually impaired can- unable to take part in this process still have protected rights, the abil-
not interact in what has been deemed a manner equal ity to take part in the political process through voting infers something
to all other individuals. This inequality means further. Being a registered voter both physically, through capability,
that the visually impaired cannot act equally in all cir- and formally, through recognized citizenship, means that beyond the
cumstances in the consensual transactions implied by formal rights protections bestowed upon all, the opinion of all these
capitalist justice. This inequality that the visu- individuals, including the handicapped, is deemed to be equal and wor-
ally impaired face runs contrary to the legal and moral thy of equal quantification in the processes of democratic governance.
commitments of the United States when such issues Individuals meeting these thresholds are deemed capable because of
have been remedied by other global currencies. their requisite membership in the polity and their ability to exercise
their opinions in the formal system of quantification.
The lack of access to visual information formats in our
society extends beyond currency to other visually-de- The formal parameters of citizenship in respect to voting continue to
pendent media. These visually-dependent media are emerge as the boundaries of who actually qualifies as a quantifiable
requisite to the ability of visually impaired persons to individual citizen have been questioned and amended historically. The
access information and make the social associations in parameters and provisions needed to procure the equal social condi-
which other fully-sighted individuals can freely partake. tions required to foster this formal quantification of equality are
volume 1.1 Is the visual political?
a matter of constant debate and revision as well. Economics, gender,
and race are just a few of the social issues that have also spurred
reform in the quantification processes of the State. The ability to
equally participate in society as a whole is requisite to the formal
protection of rights and the ability to freely associate. The ability to
vote in the absence of the ability to participate in aspects of society
would not only violate an individual’s formal right of association but
also would deny them the ability to access conceptions of the good
that would legitimize their electoral decisions.

The handicapped, including the visually impaired, are no different than

many of these minority or under-represented groups. The formal
ability to vote, for the handicapped who are able to register to vote has
never been denied but through the Americans with Disabilities Act
(ADA)4, requisite legal provisions were provided to allow the handi-
capped to participate as equally as possible in society, including voting
accommodations. Although the ADA acted broadly in providing the
legal mandate for physical access, employment rights and transporta-
tion provisions, the provisions for communication systems were mono-
faceted. Title IV of the ADA, deals specifically with telecommunications
and provisions for “hearing-impaired and speech-impaired individuals.”5
Certain intrastate mediums, which are administrated by the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC), were made accessible to hearing
impaired individuals. Without mandated standards for these mediums
of telecommunication6, a vast section of hearing-impaired individuals
were unable to access or unduly burdened in accessing these mediums.
Without the ability to freely partake in these important mediums of
communication and social association, these impaired individuals would
be formally free to participate in society and the democratic system of
governance but denied a vital associative tool of which all other citi-
zens could freely avail themselves.

One of the provision’s shortcomings was addressed in 1990 when

Congress passed the Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990 (TDCA)
pursuant to Title IV of the ADA.7 The TDCA allowed the FCC to

Image Courtesy of Flickr

Member Alexander Kaiser
mandate all televisions be capable of receiving a closed captioning (CC) these broadcast requirements even for privately held
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com

signal. This mandate first extended only to analog televisions but has media outlets as the actual medium, they were using
been extended to cover all digital televisions as well. The findings of was a governmentally regulated body. The regulation
the bill stated “to the fullest extent made possible by technology, deaf protects the broadcasting outlets from other private
and hearing-impaired people should have equal access to the television actors, who given an unregulated broadcast system
medium.”8 Furthermore, the findings stated “closed-captioned televi- would infringe upon one another and interrupt the abil-
sion will provide access to information entertainment, and a greater ity of either to broadcast. In turn, for protecting these
understanding of our Nation and the world to over 24,000,000 people outlets from the hazards of the medium that is the
in the United States who are deaf or hearing-impaired.”9 At the time, property of all citizens, the FCC acts to ensure that all
the hearing impaired had to privately supply receivers. These private- individuals who wish to receive these forms of com-
ly acquired receivers were only able to access the stations actually munication have the ability to do so, even if these out-
providing CC content. In accordance with the TDCA, the FCC was lets themselves are privately owned. Although the con-
given the power to mandate the form of CC and subsequently to com- tent itself might be privately owned and require private
18 pel TV manufactures to produce technology compliant with standard- compensation, like satellite or cable television, these
ized formats over time. The standardization and mandatory provision outlets could not discriminate against the hearing im-
of CC technology ensured that the hearing-impaired were able to ac- paired beyond the costs that are incurred by any other
cess the medium with most televisions10. enabled individual in accessing their content. Further-
more, by using publicly regulated mediums and infra-
However, merely standardizing and mandating the technology that re- structure they could be legitimately compelled to pro-
ceives CC on televisions would not be enough since privately owned vide the CC service in exchange for the protection of
media outlets would not be compelled to provide CC services. In 1996, their broadcast rights.
Congress gave the FCC the remit through the Telecommunications Act
of 1996,11 to enact what is today CFR 47 Part 79 (hence referred to These public policies formalized access to the federally-
as Part 79) for television broadcasters and distributors, pursuant to sanctioned TV medium, implied equal interactive capabil-
the TDCA.12 With few exceptions13, this portion of the FCC code man- ity for all, and realized this commitment to equality
dated the provision of CC signals in English and subsequently in Span- that further implied that such equalizing material provi-
ish, by all operating television outlets including cable and satellite op- sions could not be fairly foisted upon hearing-impaired
erators. As a regulatory body of the government which essentially individuals. The federal regulation through the FCC gave
permits the legal use of forms of broadcast, the FCC could compel the government recourse to enact bipartite reforms that

Image Courtesy of Flickr

Member Foxtongue Photo
compelled the provision of receivers while also ensuring the mandatory of equality leave squarely to all individuals. By

volume 1.1 Is the visual political?

provision of the CC signals that allow the hearing impaired to interact the same token, broadcast outlets may choose not to
with televised content. associate, through denial of service for private content
for, say, someone unwilling to pay for the service, but
It is important, if this argument is to be convincingly extended to they cannot make such distinction based upon the ac-
other mediums, to discuss precisely why “a greater understanding of cess needs present in an individual’s sensory capabili-
our Nation and the world” is a fundamentally important aspect of the ties. These outlets cannot discriminate based upon the
lives of hearing impaired in the United States. 14 Furthermore, we must physical accommodations required by morally/legally
discuss why these reforms to provide requisite access to the television equal actors, so although the content may be private,
medium accomplished this imperative. Television, much like other the access to it through the federally-protected media
forms of communication, is a medium for content that provides the must be universal.
context that individuals must be equally free to acquire/perceive. The
inability to proscribe how individuals may wish to associate and com- To coherently implement this moral impetus, the stan-
municate does not subvert the imperative that individuals must equal-
dardization of signal formats and decoder equipment
ly and individually be capable of associating and communicating in plainly follows. However, one might argue that this
order for their choices, both in their daily lives and in the polity, to be moral argument still isn’t enough to justify the universal
seen as legitimate in a democratic context. standardization of closed captioning equipment and sig-
nals, given that the role of the state is purely to provide
Although individuals can form conceptions of the good, arguably with- access to each given channel of the given broadcast
out social interaction, they cannot be denied equal access to the me- medium. Individual channels could provide access in any
diums that individuals use to interact and form their social conceptions, number of ways, all of which may be in different for-
because of the material needs of their disability. For the hearing im- mats and with different technological requirements. As
paired prior to the TDCA/Part 79, the formal liberty to receive and long as these outlets provided the service and technol-
associate with televised media was not denied to them, but the practi- ogy without added cost to the hearing-impaired person,
cal ability to access the format universally was denied, save the few it seems the moral duty to equality in a liberal
who were proficient lip-readers or fiscally endowed enough to have democratic society would be fulfilled.
programs disseminated alternatively. The hearing impaired may legiti-
mately choose not to watch television or to associate with any par- To explain the trouble with such an argument, let us say
ticular channel or broadcast entity, but that is a decision the confines each broadcaster provided free alternative access to
the hearing impaired in separate dissimilar formats,
whereas the hearing capable could freely interact with
any of these providers without such a process. Although
these suppliers are not denying access to the disabled
individuals, they would be placing an undue burden on
disabled individuals in order for them to acquire the
service with the same discretion other individuals can.
The need for an alternative format implies in itself a
greater material requirement but also greater effort and
skills for each individual to use the technological adap-
tations that allow him or her access. If each outlet only
provides access in their format of choice, given that
different skills and technologies are needed to access
each of these formats, the private entities would be
dictating the equality of access, not the govern-
ment. Providing universal access requires more than the
formality of providing an avenue through which the handicapped can
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com

procure the service- it has to be one equal across like services in order
for the selection process facing the handicapped not to be coercive.
The handicapped must be equally able to select like mediums with the
same opportunity set present to all other individuals or else their deci-
sion to use a particular service or channel may be made simply based
upon the ease of access given their embodiment status, which is pre-
cisely the inequality the provision of the format itself is in-
tended to avoid. For this reason, standardization enforcement of closed and communicate in ways all others may freely do and
captioning and decoder technology seems not only logistically appeal- is denied prospective that are intended to be equally
ing but also morally justified. quantified by the democratic system of governance.

The TDCA/Part 79 provides a segment of the population the ability to Although I do not wish to infer that it is the only reform
20 interact with equal opportunity to other individuals with the televised elicited by the moral commitment of equality,
content of their choice. It also states that the liberty of the hearing text-based forms of communication are the most trou-
impaired to interact with media requires more than simply the ability bling. However, the solution for providing access to text
to access the content, but also the technology and format uniformity is plainly conceivable with modern technology and a
that equal access imply. In doing so the hearing impaired gain access realization of the need for equality in access.
to the content of their choice and have an equal ability to interact with The diversity of various text formats includes books,
perspectives this medium presents. From this follows the broader periodicals, web pages and newspapers. Text is a me-
statement that individuals in a democratic system of governance with dium for the social ideas and perspectives presented by
sensory handicaps must be given equal access to mediums of com- the respective authors. For the visually impaired, the
munication, when such access can be plausibly given, without undue inability to access this medium easily or at all would
burden relative to all other citizens who can access the medium with- infer they lack important associative capabilities that
out assistance. Such logic seems to be hardly controversial, but this de-legitimize the premise of equality that under-
moral impetus of equality that stands at the heart of the sys- pins the democratic processes of the United States.
tem of governance and justice in the United States is not wholly ful-
filled for the visually impaired. The Numbers

Adaptive technology and accessible mediums are everywhere from

large print and audio book sections in the local library to CCTV magni-
fiers to text to speech features on many computer programs. It is also
P recisely how widespread the inability to access
various text formats is remains a relatively vague
question, however any inability seems to infer a morally
true that visual deficiencies are as broad and unique as the individuals unacceptable inequality. Although some may
who have them and so the solutions that work best for certain argue this problem is limited, the Royal National Institute
individuals can vary broadly. However, as much as the hearing impaired for the Blind (RNIB) estimated this past April that 96
universally have difficulty accessing certain broadcast mediums of percent of books published in the United Kingdom are
communication, the visually impaired face these same barriers with never turned into alternative format accessible to the
forms of visual communication. If the visually impaired cannot access visually impaired.15 This statistic, although not directly
forms of visual communication without undue burden, then the stan- describing the availability present in the United States,
dardization that equalizes the way in which these individuals can ac- articulates well that the lack of visual formats is far from
cess these mediums must be provided. If these forms of communica- an isolated problem. Websites are not compelled to meet
tion are not universally accessible, these equally quantified individuals any formatting standards at all. With the use of image
will not have equal access to a form of communication used to dis- based links and visually driven interfaces, many websites
seminate social interactions that all others can freely access. Such are difficult for the visually impaired to access, if they
inability means that the visually impaired voter is unable to associate are accessible at all.16 Several libraries for the visually
volume 1.1 Is the visual political?
Image Courtesy of Flickr
Member Marcin Wichary

impaired, such as the Perkins School for the Blind and the Recording for varying degrees, access to some, but not all, forms of text-
the Blind & Dyslexic (RFB&D) library, provide Digital Accessible Informa- based mediums and no legal recourse to compel them. This
tion System (DAISy) and 4-track books for the visually impaired. As is an unacceptable inequality given the impor-
wonderful as these services are, they require equipment to use, employ tance of text-based communication in an equal and demo-
different formats, and in the case of the RFB&D (as a non-governmental cratic society.
organization) require special technology and membership dues that are 21
at the expense of the user. This is to say nothing about the potential This form of inequality and the need for format
limitations of the book selection, the time involved in transcription for standardization has been recognized in other democratic
needed/wanted texts, and the accessible formats only being on loan and societies18 and by the United Nations19. Even within the
not for permanent possession. Some popular titles are produced in large United States there have been attempts to legislate the
print and audio format directly by the publisher, but not all. Many jour- provision of text media standardization. However, these
nals, magazines, newspapers and even some books are provided on the particular reforms in the United States have focused pri-
web in various document formats but these materials are provided in a marily on the provision of educational resources for stu-
variety of audio and data formats, each with different security, copy- dents and not text media more broadly20. Such reforms
right, and adaptive features, assuming, of course, that an individual can
would not alleviate the moral burdens that the federal
navigate to find them initially. These formats then require different government bears in ensuring equal access to text ma-
forms of technology to access them respectively. The lack of standard- terials for all visually impaired individuals. The provisions
ization means that the visually impaired face the same sort of undue that exist at the moment, aside from charitable organiza-
burdens and lack of equality to access the visual medium of text tions that work admirably for the provision of text to the
that the hearing impaired faced with televised media prior to the TDCA blind, are largely though individual State/Commonwealth
and Part 79. The visually impaired cannot access the communicated commissions and agencies.
ideas in these various text resources with the same discretion as their
fellow citizens, if these options are provided at all. Instead, there is pres- These State agencies work through multi-level legisla-
ently a patchwork of solutions that are not working to comprehensively tion to provide resources, services and advocacy for the
fulfill the fundamental need for equal access for the visually impaired. visually impaired. State agencies provide the individual
social assistance needed for the visually impaired to be
At the moment there is no legal remit to compel the provision of acces- members of our society. They provide support and as-
sible forms of text in the United States outside of employment settings, sistance in everything from health care solutions to mo-
as the ADA focused solely on telecommunications. The provisions of the bility training and transportation, as well as adaptive
TDCA and Part 79 that worked to ensure all hearing-impaired individuals technology solutions that help specific individuals
could partake in the communication provided by broadcast television are access text mediums. But the burden to provide access
not extended to other mediums and other forms of sensory deprivation. to text mediums, through overarching formatting and
Even if there was a legal precedent directly addressing the provision of material provisions, should not fall on individual States.
accessible visual mediums in the ADA for the visually impaired, without State agencies may best administrate and procure
legal standardization of formatting and provision for the tools to access access to the end users, as they can individualize mate-
these standard formats, such as those present in the TDCA and Part 79, rial solutions and use state-specific legislation to help
the requisite effect would not be achieved. The visually impaired have, in specific individuals. In this way, state agencies are likely
the best apparatus to affect change but individual states cannot affect ally impaired to provide the technology needed to access
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com

the universal change and provision that text formats demand. Individual these alternative formats. This support can be based
states may legitimately institute standardizations and provisions that upon the information collected through the census and
are incoherent with the standards of other states. Individual states may federal taxation process for individuals who meet the
also provide unequal material or standard provisions to citizens who are threshold of legally blind or those tested and proven to
all equal federal citizens on mediums that are federally protected across be dyslexic. This would work to ensure equal citizens in
state borders. This infers that the provision for equal standards and the all states had equal technological provisions to access
material provision to meet these standards falls squarely on the federal the print medium.
government, as it must ensure the equality of all citizens regard-
less of what state they happen to reside in. In instituting these proposed reforms, the United States
would coherently mandate equal access to the text
In order for the federal government to pursue a coherent reform that medium in a manner sensitive to burdens of dissemina-
realizes the kinds of protections envisaged in the ADA and TDCA it tion. In doing so, it would fulfill the moral and legal duty
22 must create standardized accessible formatting guidelines, provide for to the visually impaired, to this point lacking within the
the material resources to access these formats, and lay out a coherent United States, in turn meeting the social equality
timetable for these reforms through some institution of government demanded by a democratic system of governance. The
with remit over the medium in question. Given the many forms of vi- instruments of measurement (voting) cannot be seen as
sual impairment, the diversity of individual provision and the demands equal if individuals do not have the equal ability, and
of administration that come from the provision of access to the me- hence, choice, to freely associate with information at
dium, I propose addressing these issues as two separate provisions. the disposal of other equal citizens to inform or influ-
ence their decisions in the democratic process. Although
The first aspect of these is the administrative provision. This would these medium-deprived individuals will have a legiti-
consist of the standardization, with the caveat of federal amendment to mate opinion of the world regardless of the information
these standards, as technology warrants, of alternative format provi- presented to them, the inability or extreme difficulty in
sions pursuant to copyright protection. Due to the different formats of accessing a medium of communication means that the
media, the standards would need to compel dually a provision of Braille corresponding political response cannot be seen as
(or Braille printable format) and a digital format capable of auditory equal compared to the opinions expressed by those ca-
translation and enlargement. These formats would also have to be made pable of passively accessing the medium.
available to the visually impaired individuals at no added cost or burden
for acquisition. These provisions would be applied to all text media pro- Equality is requisite to democratic processes
tected by copyright within the United States including print and digital because it is the assumption that all individuals are for-
media. These contingencies of copyright protections would be adminis- mally and equally represented in the system of political
tered through the United States Copyright Office. As copyright protects obligation. If morally equal individuals face physical bar-
the content conveyed through the medium of text across the jurisdiction riers that prevent their formal equality with their
of the United States, the U.S. Copyright Office has the legal remit to peers, their representation cannot be seen as equal.
make such demands of those receiving these protections. This would Democratic equality infers that all can freely and
institute provisions and administrative vestiges similar to those created equally socialize themselves, or not associate as the case
by the ADA and TDCA. Much like these acts, it is also advisable to pro- may be, and as such their subsequent opinions about
scribe a timetable for compliance and create a petition process through their political existence can be quantified through acces-
which potential exceptions could be adjudicated. sible and equal processes. The formal process is equal
with equal access, but in order for this process to achieve
The second of the needed provisions is technological. The standardiza- a legitimate outcome, individuals must be able to associ-
tion of accessible text is useless without universal provision of the ate and socialize as they wish within the constraints of
means to disseminate these alternative mediums. This implies a Fed- rights protection, and in doing so, form and amend their
eral provision of fiscal support to state agencies for the blind and visu- conceptions of the good with unilateral equal opportunity.
This realization of equality and material provision 9. Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990; Findings; Section 2; Subsection 3;

volume 1.1 Is the visual political?

National Captioning Institute Incorporated; http://www.ncicap.org/Docs/dcb.htm
has already been established through the ADA, TDCA
and Part 79 in regard to sensory disability. Expanding this 10. Reader’s Note: There were provisions for exceptions including TV’s below 13’
inches. Analog and Digital televisions had different timetable requirements as
to text mediums has in this way moral and legal prece-
well. Please refer to the Closed Captioning FCC Consumer Factsheet provided by
dent as well as being implied by the assumptions of the Federal Communications Commission at http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumer-
democratic governance. Furthermore, these reforms can facts/closedcaption.html .
be brought about through achievable administrative and 11. Telecommunications Act of 1996; Pub. LA. No. 104-104, 110 Stat. 56 / S. 652;
technological provisions. These provisions administered January 3, 1996; Library of Congress; http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/
through existing governmental structures can finally en- z?c104:s.652.enr ; Amending the Telecommunications Act of 1934; Sections 251
(a) (2) and 255; Please refer to the Federal Communications Commission; http://
sure the equality of the visually impaired through www.fcc.gov/cgb/dro/section255.html
access to the visual communications their embodiment
12. Federal Communications Commission; CFR 47 Part 79, http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/
denies them. ■ dro/ccrules.html

13. Reader’s Note: The FCC did allow for exceptions via petition and pre-rule pro- 23
gramming exceptions in specific circumstances. Please refer to http://www.fcc.
14. Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990; Findings; Section 2; Subsection 3;
1. Lennihan, Mark; “U.S. court: Dollars Discriminate Against Blind”; National Captioning Institute Incorporated; http://www.ncicap.org/Docs/dcb.htm
Associated Press; MSNBC; May 20, 2008, http://www.msnbc.
msn.com/id/24725916 15. Royal National Institute for the Blind; Press Office; “Right to Read Week 2007”
Press Release; Last Updated: April 8th 2008; http://www.rnib.org.uk/xpedio/
2. Public Law 93-112; 29 U.S.C., Section 791; 93rd Congress of groups/public/documents/publicwebsite/public_pr021107.hcsp
the United States of America; H. R. 8070; September 26, 1973;
Section 5, Subsection A, Part VIII; pg. 125. Full Text through 16. Reader’s Note: For an example of specific advancements and issues related to
the United States Department of Education http://www.ed.gov/ web media please refer to McAllister, Neil; “IBM Open Sources Web Accessibility”;
policy/speced/reg/narrative.html Yahoo News / PCWorld.com; July 9, 2008; http://news.yahoo.com/s/pc-
world/20080709/tc_pcworld/148149 and Schaefer, K; “E-space Inclusion: A
3. Reader’s Note: Some rights protected individuals are physi- Case for the Americans with Disabilities Act in Cyberspace”; Journal of Public
cally incapable of voting and pose interesting moral questions Policy & Marketing; Volume 22; Issue 2; American Marketing Association; Chicago;
of trusteeship for the State while others such as non-citizens 2003
and some ex-convicts are prohibited from voting which pose
human rights/representation issues for the State that are be- 17. Reader’s Note: These formats for print accessibility include but are not limited to,
yond the scope of this article. mp3, cd audio, wav, daisy (LOC and others), 4-track LOC, pdf, html, rtf, tiff, word
document, enlarged print.
4. Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990; United States; Publi-
cation L. 101-336; 104 Stat. 327; July 26, 1990; United 18. Copyright (Visually Impaired Persons) Act of 2002; The Office of Public Sector
States Department of Justice; Americans with Disabilities Act Information; The National Archives; London; http://www.opsi.gov.uk/ACTS/
Website; http://www.ada.gov/pubs/ada.htm ; (full text with acts2002/ukpga_20020033_en_1
editorial notes)
19. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO),
5. Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990; United States; Publi- “Kofi Annan: Make the Internet Available to Everyone”; New York; International
cation L. 101-336; 104 Stat. 327; July 26, 1990; Title IV; Day of Disabled Persons; November 15, 2006; http://portal.unesco.org/ci/en/ev.
United States Department of Justice; http://www.ada.gov/ php-URL_ID=23451&URL_DO=DO_PRINTPAGE&URL_SECTION=201.html
20. Reader’s Note: Please refer specifically to age issues, educational mandate and
6. Reader’s Note: These include Telecommunications Relay Ser- non-binding nature of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act
vices (TRS) that largely dealt with the provision of telephones of 2004 (IDEA) / H.R. 1350; Library of Congress; http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/
and telephonic alternatives and televised media. query/z?c108:h.1350.enr:

7. Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990; 101st Congress of

the United States of America; S 1947 / 47 USC 609; January
23, 1990; National Captioning Institute Incorporated; http://

8. Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990; Findings; Section 2;

Subsection 1; National Captioning Institute Incorporated;
Political Symbols

by Andy Hughes

I t’s hard to think of a better interaction between the political and the visual than political symbols. These images
used by political parties and institutions are meant to be long-lasting, and in some cases end up outlasting the
party itself. In the best scenario, a symbol acts as an instantly recognizable thesis statement and communicates
the essential values and message of that group. Over the years, various symbols have been adopted by (and at
times become inseparable from) certain political causes. This issue features a variety of political symbols and the
sometimes tumultuous and startling history behind each of them.
Third Term Panic” by Thomas Nast, originally published in 1874,
Courtesy of T.J. Michalak

Donkey/Elephant (Democratic/Republican Party)

volume 1.1 Is the visual political?

It might surprise enthusiasts from either of the major
American parties to learn that their symbols were meant
to be derogatory.

The donkey was first used in response to Andrew Jackson’s

election campaign in 1828. His annoyed opponents called him
a “jackass”, an image Jackson adopted and used in his posters.
A cartoon called “A Modern Balaam and His Ass” appeared in
1837, satirically depicting Jackson as Balaam, a biblical figure
who was cruel to his donkey until it miraculously spoke to him.
The cartoon makes a comparison between Balaam’s abuse of
his animal and Jackson’s abuse of his party (with a rod that
says “veto” on the side).

The donkey imagery continued to be used, perhaps most

famously by the Harper’s Weekly cartoonist Thomas Nast. 25
In 1870, he published a cartoon entitled “A Live Jackass
Kicking a Dead Lion”; the donkey used here did not symbolize
the Democratic Party, but instead the Democratic-inclined
press that Nast disagreed with. The image proved effective,
and Nast continued to use the donkey as an image for the
left-leaning media. A cartoon in 1870 saw the first use of
the elephant to represent the Republicans: lumbering, careless,
and headed off of a cliff.

Yet both parties have embraced these animals and

emphasized their positive aspects. Republicans have cited
the elephant’s supposed long memory and strength, while
Democrats consider the donkey humble and energetic.
Despite this acceptance, the two symbols are still widely used
in political cartoons to mock both parties.
Mirroring People:
by Dr. Marco Iacoboni
(University of California, Los Angeles)

Theories of Political Attitudes

Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com

n the late 1990s, Darren Schreiber,

then a UCLA graduate student in Image courtesy of Flickr member, Reigh LeBlanc

political science, now a political

science professor at the Univer-
sity of California, San Diego, ap-
of political attitudes. They “made sense.” For
proached the faculty of our Brain
instance, if one of these quickly replying sub-
Mapping Center with the idea of
jects expressed a “liberal” attitude on abortion,
testing certain theories about
the same subject would probably respond with a
how political attitudes are formed.
“liberal” attitude on education or gay rights.
At that time, the use of brain im-
However, another group of subjects required, on
aging for such a purpose was basi-
average, quite a long time to respond to the ques-
cally unheard of. Now, if not quite
tions, and their answers were not consistent. On
26 mainstream, it is not that unusual. A
some questions they would have the “liberal” attitude,
few labs are doing such research, ours in-
on others the “conservative” one. Nor was there any con-
cluded. Inevitably, of course, as Darren put
sistency within the group: the same question would elicit a lib-
his idea into action and other experiments followed, I
eral answer from some of the slow repliers, a conservative answer
began to wonder whether mirroring, and therefore mirror
from others.
neurons, play a role in all this. Typically, serious students
of politics have liked to believe that political thinking is a
Overall, the results from these surveys seemed to identify two differ-
highly rational process in which automatic mirroring
ent kinds of citizens. Was there any major variable that could easily
should not play a major role. However, we have seen how
differentiate between them? The answer seemed to be yes. The sub-
mirroring is a pervasive form of communication and so-
jects who knew a lot about politics were the ones who responded
cial interaction among humans. Given that a major com-
quickly and with consistent attitudes. The subjects who didn’t know
ponent of politics is affiliation with others with whom we
nearly as much took a long time to respond and then did so “inconsis-
share values and ideas about how society should be or-
tently.” In the 1960s, the political scientist Philip Converse wrapped up
ganized, I think that forms of mirroring are almost cer-
his analysis of this phenomenon by suggesting that political sophisti-
tainly involved in some aspects of political thinking.
cates had well-informed although rather crystallized political opinions,
whereas political novices had no opinions at all, and when responding
And exactly how rational is political thinking to begin
to political survey questions, they basically flipped coins. Perhaps this
with? That’s what Darren wanted to find out, because
summary sounds rather mundane today, but it started quite a contro-
data from national surveys had stirred a long-standing
versy in the political science literature. About ten years after Con-
debate in the political science literature. When citizens
verse’s proposal, another political scientist, Chris Achen, argued that
were asked a variety of questions on political issues, a
the political novices simply were not able to map their true attitudes
clear pattern emerged. With those subjects who re-
during these political surveys. Their seemingly inconsistent responses
sponded quickly, the responses were consistent in terms
were due not to a lack of political attitudes, but to imperfect, inade-
quate political surveys. And a third hypothesis was more recently pro-
posed by John Zaller (incidentally the mentor of Darren Schreiber
during his graduate studies) and Stanley Feldman. They suggested that
the novices’ inconsistent responses were not due to a complete lack of
a political attitude or to the artifact of imperfect surveys. They pro-
posed instead that while the crystallized opinions of political sophisti-
cates were based on an almost automatic retrieval of facts and prior
considerations, political novices retrieved information relevant to the
political questions as they went along with the survey. Only the more
salient information— generally speaking, the latest news determined
their answers. These novices do need a weatherman to know which

volume 1.1 Is the visual political?

way the wind blows! This is why they seemed to flip coins when an-
swering the survey questions.1
problem in neuroscience (and almost every other field).
How could we fund the project? Imaging is an expensive
If Zaller and Feldman’s hypothesis is correct, the difference
between political sophisticates and political novices is most-
scientific enterprise. Use of the MRI alone, without

taking into account overhead, salaries, volunteer fees,
ly due to cognitive differences stemming from different and so on, is typically about six hundred dollars per
levels of expertise, the same differences that would hour. Total cost for our imaging experiments varies

be noted between so-called sophisticates and from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of
novices in any field. Sophisticates are engaged dollars. Luckily, at UCLA we have a research funding
in a well-practiced task, the novices in a new
one. In fact, brain imaging data showing strik- however, opportunity called the Chancellor’s Fund for Aca-
demic Border Crossing, specifically designed for in-
ingly different patterns of activation between
a well-practiced task and a novel task have
had to (think) about terdisciplinary projects involving two professors
from different disciplines mentoring a graduate stu-
been around for years. 2
the dent who wants to perform interdisciplinary work.

In the summer of 2000 we applied for this funding.
Darren Schreiber set out to use brain im- Coincidentally or otherwise, we received the good

aging to look at all of these questions news on election day that fall. We thought this was
about political thinking. I thought he a good sign. Then the electoral mess in Florida
had a very clever idea, but I have to
so they dragged on and on, and we could only hope our
admit that my interest was also mo-
up experiment would proceed more expeditiously.
tivated by my research on mirroring. gea r e d
With politics, the sophisticates are
almost junkies. They’re hooked, for cog-ni-tion Mirroring and the Political Junkie Brain
thanks in large part to the end-
less opportunities provided by and
the Web. I wanted to find out
s h u t d o w n be useful
o maximize Darren’s chances of obtaining
an experimental effect, we thought it would
to select subjects at the two ends of
whether a political junkie’s the spectrum. Among the sophisticates, we
brain would produce higher the wanted those most knowledgeable on subjects
mirroring responses while in politics. Among the novices, we wanted to
watching politicians com- default network. recruit the most clueless individuals, who knew
pared with watching other nothing and were content with not knowing.
famous people. I believed that it would. Darren, his mentor John Darren got down to business and began recruiting sub-
Zaller, and I met several times over the course of a year to figure out jects in the early months of 2001. To select these indi-
how to set up a series of experiments that would address the various viduals, he had prepared an extremely detailed series of
issues we were interested in. We were venturing into the unknown. questions. His screening interview would take some
There had never been a brain imaging experiment on issues of political hours for each subject. To find the ideal sophisticates,
science. It took us a while to shape our interests and ideas into viable he interviewed stalwart members of the Democratic and
experimental designs. When we finally did, we had to face the standing Republican clubs on campus, and he quickly found the
“political junkies” we were looking for. These young men
and women were well-informed, and their political atti-
tudes were radical and crystallized. Darren’s sophisti-
cates looked like ideologues. The recruitment of the
novices was not terribly painful either. Darren adver-
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com

tised the study through the usual recruitment channels,

and I don’t suppose anyone will be surprised to learn
that lots of UCLA students did not (and still do not) On scan day, the subjects were simply asked to watch the faces while
know much about politics. Darren had plenty of novices we were measuring their brain activity with fMRI. We found what I had
to choose from. The subjects he chose were indeed predicted with my theory that mirroring indicates, among other things,
clueless and utterly without well-formed political atti- a sense of affiliation, of belonging to a specific community within the
tudes. They knew that Bush was the new larger community of our society. Politically sophisticated subjects had
president, they knew there had been higher activity in mirror neuron areas when they viewed the famous
some kind of problem on election day, political faces, compared with when they viewed famous nonpoliti-
they might even have responded to the
cal faces and unknown faces. The political novices did not
phrase “hanging chad,” but that was show any such difference in mirror neuron areas when
about it. (Today, they would also know they were watching political and nonpolitical
that Schwarzenegger is the governor got his faces. When we compared the results ob-

of California.) A secondary goal of the tained from the political sophisti-
interviews with the novices was to answer cates with the results obtained
gather the information necessary to in our previous study about imi-
design one of the imaging experi- tating and observing facial emo-
ments. One key for Darren’s design and c l e a r. tional expressions we found re-
was that the novices had to at least markably similar locations of
recognize the faces of the politi-
cians, even if they knew almost
The p-at-t-er-n of neurological activation. 3

nothing about them, so he explic-

itly asked his potential subjects
brain activation for This anatomical correspondence
suggests that even or the more ab-
whether they recognized certain stract types of mirroring I had hy-
faces. This is how we discovered
political ( sophisticate s
and pothesized to be the basis of these
the depth of the cluelessness on activations- the sense of belonging to

novices ) was quite

the UCLA campus. The face of a specific community- the mirror neu-

Joe Lieberman, who had been Al ron system still uses the basic neural
Gore’s running mate in the fa-
mous disputed election less
different— mechanism that also activates during
more mundane mirroring tasks.4
than a year earlier, was basi-
cally unknown among the mass
of students. We also factored NOT as we had expected... The experiment using the photographs to
look for mirror neuron activity among po-
in another variable, the con- litical sophisticates was one of two Darren
stant hot-button issue in American politics: race. The conducted with the same subjects. In the other one, he tested whether
whole experimental design thus comprised three differ- sophisticates and novices use different brain areas when thinking
ent kinds of faces: political or not political, famous or about political issues. His “expertise” hypothesis had suggested that
not famous, and white or African American. they do, because previous data from this kind of imaging experiment,
looking at novel versus well-practiced tasks, had shown brain activa-
tion in largely separated brain areas. The activations for the novel
tasks suggested that they are performed (because they have to be)
with a high level of cognitive effort, specifically with enhanced activa-
tion in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, an area known for its role in
the so-called executive functions. On the other hand, well-practiced
tasks seem to be performed mostly using information retrieved from
Image Courtesy of Flickr Member D.B. King
memory, using areas in the temporal lobe, an important brain structure

volume 1.1 Is the visual political?

for memory. According to Darren’s hypothesis— therefore, political
novices and sophisticates should show analogous patterns of activa-
tion: cognitive areas for the political novices, for whom thinking about ficult to interpret. By looking at certain physiological
politics would be cognitive work, and memory areas for the sophisti- parameters measured with PET (the now somewhat
cates, who already have their answers to political statements and have out-of-favor technique that uses radioactive material),
merely to retrieve them. In this setup, the subjects listened to a series Raichle and colleagues demonstrated that these regions
of digitally recorded statements, half of them political, half nonpolitical. were actually shutting themselves down during a vari-
The political statements concerned typical hot-button issues in Amer- ety of cognitive tasks. Thinking carefully about this,
ican politics, and the subjects were asked to agree or disagree with they suggested that these areas represented some kind
each statement. The statements were carefully crafted so that the of default state of the brain that is dominant when
initial phrase was always the same. For instance, the political state- there are no specific goals or tasks at hand, when the
ments started, “The government in Washington ...” The final part of the subjects (that is, we humans) daydream or “do nothing.”
sentence presented the novel opinion for each statement-for example, When certain tasks require attention, this “default state”
“should encourage adoption by banning abortion.” These loaded state- is overridden, and its network shuts down. This analysis
ments were relatively similar in structure to the questions Darren had ties in perfectly with the results from Darren’s test.
used to reveal the different patterns of behavior between political During the political questions, these “default state”
sophisticates and political novices. The specific and careful form of brain areas were activated in the sophisticates, who
presentation allowed us to deliver the critical part of the statement in think about politics all the time (their own “default
a relatively well-defined temporal window, which helped us look in a state”) and do not need to deploy attention to the po-
fairly precise way at the brain changes occurring from the presentation litical statements. They need only their memory banks.
of the important material to the response of the subject, which was The novices, however, had to think about the political
given by pressing one of two buttons. statements, so they geared up for cognition and shut
down the default network.6
Darren got his answer loud and clear. The pattern of brain activation
for political sophisticates and novices was quite different- but not as To judge by the brain imaging literature, increased activ-
we had expected. To everyone’s surprise, the results did not show the ity in these default state areas is extremely rare during
expected cognitive/memory distinction. The two areas that demon- any kind of task. As it happens, we had previously ob-
strated the striking dissociation between sophisticates and novices served one of the most robust, if not the most robust,
were the precuneus and the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex. Both belong increases in my lab. Very provocatively, this increased
to a neural system called the default state network, which had been activity in the default state network was paralleled by
discovered only recently by Marcus Raichle and his colleagues at increased activity in mirror neuron areas. And now Dar-
Washington University in St. Louis.5 The default state network is a ren’s experiment had picked up increased activity in the
peculiar set of cortical areas that have high activity while the subject default areas for the political sophisticates. Is there a link
is resting and doing basically nothing, and reduced activity while the between the results of these two experiments? More
subject performs cognitive tasks. This reduction in activity was sub- generally, what is the relationship between mirror neuron
stantially independent of the kind of cognitive tasks the subjects were areas and default state areas? Before we consider these
performing. All in all, this was a bizarre neural response that was dif- questions, let’s look at that prior study, which was unique,
even apart from its results, partly because the driving
force behind it was an anthropologist, not exactly the
kind of scholar who typically participates in a brain imag-
ing study.
social context surrounding the action, the context was composed only
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com

of objects, no people. Given our claim that mirror neurons were impor-
tant neural elements for social behavior, I knew it was important to
measure brain responses in mirror neuron areas in an experiment in
which the observed actions were highly relevant to human social rela-
tions. Talking with Alan about his idea, I envisioned an experimental
design for a study that could suit both of our purposes: the only task
Image Courtesy of Flickr Member Reigh LeBlanc for the subjects in the scanner would be the observation of social rela-
tions between people. Of course, we could not bring a bunch of people
Brain Politics

into the scanner room and stage various interactions while our sub-
lan Fiske is an anthropology professor at UCLA jects watched, so we prepared a set of video clips depicting everyday
who has performed a detailed ethnographic analy- social interactions. In order to simplify the experimental design, we also
sis of the Moose people of Burkina Faso, a West African decided to focus on only two of the four relational models of Alan’s
society. Drawing from this fieldwork and from scholarly theory. Once again, we were moving into uncharted territory. In these
work encompassing a variety of disciplines studying a cases, a relatively simple experimental design is highly advisable.
variety of cultures, Alan proposed a model of human
social relations, according to which we relate to each As in the brain imaging experiment on politics performed by Darren
other using four elementary forms of social relations: Schreiber, in which we picked subjects at the far ends of the political
continuum, we picked the two social relational models that seemed at
•• communal sharing, in which people have a sense of the far ends of a continuum. One was communal sharing, predomi-
common identity; nantly based on kindness and sharing, and the other one was author-
ity ranking, based on hierarchical inequality. The tricky issue was that
•• authority ranking, in which people relate to each communal sharing relations seem inherently positive, while authority
other following a hierarchy; ranking relations are typically perceived in a negative way, especially
by North American subjects. This was a “confounding factor” that we
•• equality matching, in which there is an egalitarian had to control for, if we were to achieve a pattern of brain activation
relationship among peers; and that truly reflected differences in the way we process social relations,
not differences in how Americans feel about authority figures! We
•• market pricing, in which the relationship is medi- ended up with thirty-six video clips, a fairly large set for such an ex-
ated by values that follow a market system. periment, half depicting communal sharing social relations, the other
half depicting authority ranking social relations. Some of the clips for
Alan contends that these four elementary relational each relationship clearly elicited positive emotions, the others elicited
structures and their variations account for all the social negative emotions, thus controlling for the “emotional valence” of the
relations among all humans in all cultures.8 clips. Each story was identically structured, introducing one character
for “baseline” purposes, then bringing in the second character for the
Alan published that work in 1991. Eight years ago interaction-the “relational” segment. The depicted situations were
(about a year before Darren Schreiber walked into my widely variable, from office scenes to basketball courts, from lovers
office), Alan contacted me about teaming up on an im- playfully interacting to judges ruling in court.
aging experiment relating to his well-known model of
social relations. I found the idea fascinating because he
made me realize that those of us in the lab were basi-
cally studying responses in mirror neuron areas, while
subjects were simply watching or imitating individual
actions. These actions were rarely surrounded by a so-
cial context. In the few instances in which we used a
Looking at the brain data of the subjects watching these scenes, we

volume 1.1 Is the visual political?

found robust activity in mirror neurons, as expected because the ob-
served characters were making all sorts of actions during the course of
the scene. Indeed, mirror neuron activity in this study seemed stronger
than anything we had previously measured, and this robustness was
especially high during the relational segment of the clip. This correlation
confirmed that mirror neurons are especially interested in actions that
unfold during social relations, probably because those actions are critical
1. Converse, P., "The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics,"
to our understanding of the relationship. Other brain areas also demon-
in D. Apter, ed., Ideology and Discontent (New York: Free Press,
strated fairly robust activity while subjects watched the social interac- 1964), 206-61; Achen, C. "Mass Political Attitudes and the
tion clips: particularly the default state network, which had been impli- Survey Response," American Political Science Review 69 (1975):
1218-31; Zaller, J. R. and S. Feldman, "A Simple Theory of the
cated in Darren’s experiment with political junkies answering political
Survey Response: Answering Questions versus Revealing Pref-
questions. My interpretation of these data is that while political junkies erences," American Journal of Political Science 36
think about politics all the time (it’s their “default state”), most people (1992):579-616.
think about social relations all the time (it’s our “default state”). Who am 2. Raichle, M. E., J.A. Fiez, T. O. Videen, et al., "Practice-Related
I? I am the husband of my wife, the father of my daughter, the son of Changes in Human Brain Functional Anatomy During Nonmotor
my parents, the mentor of my trainees, the colleague of my peers, and Learning," Cerebral Cortex 4 (1994):8-26.

so on. I am constantly defined in relation to other people. It seems that 3. Carr, L., M. Iacoboni, M. C. Dubeau, et al., "Neural Mechanisms
there is, in addition to the mirror neuron system, another neural system of Empathy in Humans: A Relay from Neural Systems for Imita-
tion to Limbic Areas," Proceedings of the National Academy of
in the brain— the default state network— that is concerned with both self
Sciences USA 100 (2003):5497-5502.
and other, in which self and other are inter-dependent.9
4. Schreiber, D., and M. Iacoboni, "Monkey See, Monkey Do: Mirror
Neurons, Functional Brain Imaging, and Looking at Political
In conclusion, while mirror neurons deal with the physical aspects of Faces," paper presented at the American Political Science As-
self and others, I believe the default state network deals with more sociation Meeting, 2005, Washington, D.C.

abstract aspects of the relationship between self and other—specifi- 5. Gusnard, D. A., and M. E. Raichle, "Searching for a Baseline:
cally, social roles. I am convinced that understanding the fundamental Functional Imaging and the Resting Human Brain," Nature Re-
views Neuroscience 2 (2001):685-94; Raichle, M. E., A. M. Ma-
connections between self and other is essential for understanding the
cLeod, A. Z. Snyder, et al., "A default Mode of Brain Function,"
human individual. By enabling one individual to simulate (or imitate Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 98
within their ‘self’) the action of another, mirror neurons fill the gap (2001):676-82.
between ‘self’ and ‘other’. However, this prompts a further question: 6. Schreiber, D., and M. Iacoboni, "Thinking About Politics: Results
why do we need to simulate in the first place? ■ from Three Experiments Studying Sophistication," paper pre-
sented at the 61st Annual National Conference of the Midwest
Political Science Association, 2003.

“Mirroring People: Neuropolitics” is excerpted from MIRRORING PEOPLE: 7. Iacoboni, M., M. D. Lieberman, B. J. Knowlton, et al., "Watching
The New Science of How We Connect With Others by Marco Iacoboni, Social Interactions Produces Dorsomedial Prefrontal and Me-
published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. Copyright © 2008 by Marco dial Parietal BOLD fMRI Signal Increases Compared to a Rest-
Iacoboni. All rights reserved. ing Baseline," Neuroimage 21 (2004):1167-73

8. Fiske, A. P., Structures of Social Life: The Four Elementary

Forms of Human Relations (New York: Free Press, 1991).

9. Iacoboni, M., "Failure to Deactivate in Autism: The Co-consti-

tution of Self and Other," Trends in Cognitive Science 10
(2006):431-33; Udin, L. Q., M. Iacoboni, C. Lange, and J. P.
Keenan, "The Self and Social Cognition: The Role of Cortical
Midline Structures and Mirror Neurons" Trends in Cognitive Sci-
ence 11 (2007): 153-57; Lieberman, M. D., "Social Cognitive
Neuroscience: A Review of Core Processes," Annual Review of
Psychology 58 (2007):259-89.
Dilemmas of
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com

Claiming Ownership
in an Epidemic
by Louise Moana Kolff
(University of New South Wales)

A Political Epidemic

T he complexity of HIV/AIDS means that it is difficult

to speak of one unified “epidemic”. Rather, there
are multiple overlapping and ever-changing “epidemics”
gay community, African Americans and people living with HIV/AIDS.
The campaigns have been criticised for resorting to culturally insensi-
tive tactics by subscribing to the notion that the ends justifies the
influenced by factors such as geography, gender, race, means. The campaigns were by one blogger labelled “friendly fire”,
sexual orientation, policies, social status, economics, because “while trying to shoot down the ‘enemy’ – AIDS – these social
medical advances, public opinion and access to treat- marketing campaigns also cause some collateral damage by either re-
ment. These factors mean that the “cultural construc- inforcing negative stereotypes or creating an environment that makes
tion” of HIV/AIDS – the meanings that are assigned to people not want to acknowledge that they are at risk”.3
images, language and metaphors —is inherently linked to

politics at international, national, community and grass- The two campaigns discussed below have both generated a
roots levels. The fact that the groups most affected by political debate in an attempt to stand out from “traditional” HIV/AIDS
HIV/AIDS are often already marginalised minorities, campaigning, and focus awareness on issues often left out of public
such as gay men and people of colour in the United discourses. In doing so they have divided opinions into those who be-
States, contributes to the politicisation of the issues. lieve prevention graphics must generate controversy in order to at-
tract attention, and those who believe such campaigns are counterpro-
In an “invisible” epidemic, where the virus cannot be ductive and even destructive.
seen by the naked eye, and people living with HIV/AIDS
often show no visible signs of illness, prevention cam- Reaffirming Risk Groups

paigns can be viewed as the “face” of the epidemic,
through which a visual image is constructed, opinions he social marketing campaign Own It, End It was commissioned by
formed, and knowledge generated.2 The role of the the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, as a reaction to what
organisations and designers creating campaigns, there- the organisation sees as a “de-gaying” of the HIV/AIDS crisis.4 The
fore, becomes crucial in shaping the sociocultural course slogans “HIV is a gay disease” and “Own It, End It” aimed at encourag-
of the epidemic(s). They are faced with the dilemma of ing debate and calling the gay community to action in Los Angeles,
engaging the attention of the target audience, which, in where 75 percent of people with HIV are men who have sex with men.
the case of the gay community, has been exposed to The organisation believes that the current presidential administration
prevention messages for more than 25 years, while has allowed homophobia to affect funding for prevention efforts tar-
staying within the boundaries of cultural taboos dictat- geting the gay community5— a view shared by other organisations and
ing which representations are deemed socially accept- researchers, who are critical of the fact that, though the domestic
able. While politics mostly remain internal throughout epidemic in the United States is the worst in the developed world, the
the design process, the graphics become political in the public, political, and financial focus has shifted to the international
public arena when these boundaries are crossed. epidemic. As Rowena Johnston from the Foundation for AIDS Research
puts it: “For Bush and many Americans, the image of African women
Recently, a number of controversial social marketing who get HIV/AIDS from their unfaithful partners, then pass the disease
campaigns launched in the United States have been along to their innocent babies, evokes more empathy than the faces of
criticised for contributing to the stigmatisation of the those who comprise the domestic epidemic.”6 This means that though
the gay community is still greatly affected by the epidemic (it is esti-

volume 1.1 Is the visual political?

mated that in the United States 25 percent of white and nearly 50
percent of black men who have sex with men are living with HIV)7 there
is less focus on the problem in public discourse and within the com-
munity itself.

The question of who “owns” the epidemic creates a dilemma for the
groups most heavily affected. To generate funding and create aware-
ness, attention must be focused on the severity of the problem. How-
ever, the consequences of declaring “ownership” may be further stig-
matisation of already marginalised populations. This dilemma is
illustrated in the debate surrounding Own It, End It. The creators of the
ads aimed to empower the gay community. However, the campaign was
heavily criticised for promoting a false sense of security in other pop-
ulations and for reverting public discourse back to a time when homo-
sexuals were blamed for the epidemic, and the common perception was
that only gay men could contract AIDS.8

The strong reaction to the campaign must be seen in the context of Image Courtesy of Own It, End It. © Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center and Better World Advertising,
the political history of HIV/AIDS in the United States. Soon after the 2006

identification of AIDS in 1981 “risk groups” were defined in an attempt

to locate the new epidemic outside of the white, heterosexual popula- would cause controversy, the main aim was to create a
tion. In the United States the Centre for Disease Control compiled a list discourse and renewed consciousness about HIV within the
of high-risk categories, originally called the “4-H list” (homosexuals, gay community.13
hemophiliacs, heroin addicts, and Haitians);9 while AIDS, initially given
the acronym GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency), soon became Targeting the Target Population

known in the mainstream media as “the gay cancer” or “gay plague”.
The gay community, which had throughout the 1970s fought for the he question of ownership similarly causes dilemma
same legal and social rights as heterosexuals, was once again placed in the African American community, which is dispro-
in the historic role as sexually deviant and pathological. Having long portionately affected by HIV/AIDS. Though African
fought for positive visibility within mainstream society, gay men now Americans only make up about 12-13 percent of the U.S.
became visible through negative images of death and disease.10 population, they represent 47 percent of Americans liv-
ing with HIV.14 In calling attention to the problem, the
In response to the inaction of the government (President Reagan did not community risks reinforcing prejudice and negative ste-
publicly address the AIDS crisis until 1987, by which time more than 20,000 reotypes, while a failure to address the issue will poten-
people in the United States were known to have died of AIDS),11 grassroots tially lead to further rises in new infections. Again, the
organisations and activist groups came together to present a different dilemma should be seen in the context of “risk” group
perspective and offer alternatives to the information and images generated categorisations, which exclude the white, affluent, het-
by the mainstream media. During this period in AIDS activism one of the erosexual, non-drug-using population, and have, since the
main slogans was “Silence = Death”.12 While critics of the Own It, End It identification of Haitians as part of the “4-H list,” linked
campaign feel that claiming HIV is a gay disease undermines the long fought HIV/AIDS with skin colour— a categorisation which con-
battle against stigma and prejudice, the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center nects racial stereotyping with a historic labelling of the
believe that a dangerous new kind of silence within the gay community itself black body as hypersexual, irresponsible and immoral.15
leads to disempowerment and an acceptance of the growing epidemic as a
community norm. Though the organisation was aware that the campaign As previously mentioned African American men who
have sex with men are particularly affected, with an esti- promote attacks on both black men, who are often the victims of gun
mated one in two living with HIV. These men belong to a violence, and gay men, who may be subjected to hate-crimes.18 An-
minority within a minority, as homophobia is widespread in other critique from the Black Gay Men’s Leadership Council was the
many parts of the African American community. A recent implied role of HIV positive men as murderers aiming to infect HIV-
study found that issues such as incarceration, racial dis- negative partners. The organisation blamed the creators for using an
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com

crimination, and family disapproval greatly affect risk be- ineffective ‘band-aid’ fear-based approach, instead of addressing the
haviour within the group.16 The complexity of the issue, as root cause of the problem such as low self-worth, homophobia, rac-
well as the risk of feeding into negative stereotypes when ism and economic inequality.19
portraying black men who have sex with men, make preven-
tion efforts extremely difficult. Strategic Controversy

An example of this problematic can be seen in the Have You

Been Hit? campaign, launched by the Philadelphia Department
of Public Health in an attempt to encourage testing for HIV.
T he nature of HIV/AIDS means that prevention campaigns will
inevitably risk causing controversy when dealing with socially and
politically sensitive subjects such as sex, sexuality, race, and illness.
The posters, website, TV commercial and bus ads depicted Issues which are closely connected to cultural taboos, as well as
faces of young black men in the cross hairs of a sniper’s rifle historic stereotypes and present problems of discrimination.
with the slogan ‘HIV. Have you been hit?’. The design firm
34 responsible for creating the graphics carried out focus test- The two campaigns discussed are examples of prevention efforts which
ing among the target population ‘to ensure in an attempt to address difficult questions caused heated debate about
development of the most communicable, memorable and ef- the role of social marketing and the boundaries of appropriate design
fective campaign.’17 However, after extensive pressure from tactics. Les Pappas, director of Better World Advertising – which
local community groups such as the Black Gay Men’s Leader- designed Own It, End It and a number of other controversial HIV/AIDS
ship Council the campaign was pulled from public viewing. campaigns—argues that successful social marketing should demand
attention, even if the graphics disturb and shock people.20 In this sense
The graphics were criticised for being culturally insensi- both campaigns could be seen as successful. However, the two
tive by stereotyping African American men as ‘trigger- campaigns had different agendas.
happy’ and only capable of understanding the language of
guns. Furthermore, the campaign was launched at a time The goal of Own It, End It was specifically to spark a renewed
of record breaking gun murders in the city, leading to debate within the gay community about HIV. Controversy was part of
fears that the images would further glamorise guns, and the strategy. As the creators write: ‘Whatever you feel about the
campaign, the time is now to do something. Raise your voice! Talk to
“Know HIV” ad campaign. Image Courtesy of Flickr Member Kate Mereand
your friends! Post your comments on www.OwnItEndIt.org.”21 This was
followed by an invitation to attend a public community forum. The goal
of initiating discussion was achieved, whether the debate that followed
did in fact provoke people to act, or just discuss the campaign and
the role of social marketing.

The aim of Have You Been Hit? was to encourage the target audience to
get tested. The creators of the campaign claimed that because the target
audience was hard to reach, fear was the most effective tactic. However,
critics argue that the short sighted sensationalist tactics did not address
underlying root causes such as heterosexism, stigma, homophobia and
racism, and would therefore not change behaviour in the long run.22 In
attempting to navigate the complex issues surrounding black men who
have sex with men, the creators of the campaign chose to use images too
closely connected to other interrelated social and political problems.

Within HIV/AIDS prevention the use of social marketing—described as

‘the blending of traditional public health methods with contemporary
Rainbow Flag/Pink Triangle (LGBT Pride Movement)

The rainbow has had many connotations throughout history: with hope, with
heaven, with illusion, with leprechauns. Its most lasting association for modern culture
has to be its use as a symbol of the gay pride movement. Like the best political
symbols, it fills a niche and encapsulates the best qualities of the movement it stands for.

San-Francisco artist Gilbert Baker created the flag in 1978 to be used in the local Gay Pride
Parade year after year. The rainbow image was made to fit the current situation, with each of
the six color stripes representing a positive element of gay culture That was the year of
openly gay city supervisor Harvey Milk’s assassination, and the six-color flag was a key

volume 1.1 Is the visual political?

component of the gay community’s response, displayed everywhere in solidarity.

The pink triangle has a more uneasy history. It was, of course, originally used by Nazis to
identify homosexual men (homosexual women were given a black triangle), who were then
sentenced to imprisonment, castration, and death in concentration camps. This was one of
many colored triangle badges used to mark enemies of the Third Reich.

The 1970s saw the reuse of the triangle as a power symbol, and its status was cemented as
gay pride movements developed through the 1980s. The triangle is sometimes pictured
reversed, so as to subvert the shame and hatred of the original image and forge a more
positive identity.

marketing and advertising techniques’23—has sparked a counter-move- Movement “Newness”,’ Social Problems 36, no. 4 (1989): 351-67.

ment fuelled by the recent wave of controversial campaigns. Grass- 12. Douglas Crimp, and Adam Rolston, AIDS Demo Graphics (Seattle, 35
root groups such as RealPrevention have formed in an effort to pro- WA: Bay Press, 1990).

mote ‘science-based, sex-positive education’24 and have organised 13. Lorri L. Jean, ‘Own it, End It’ (opinion piece, L.A. Gay & Lesbian
community forums to discuss the future of prevention. Hence, whether Center, 2006).

seen as a positive or a negative, the controversy generated through 14. Lee, 2006.
social marketing campaigns has provoked a reaction leading to new
15. Stuart Hall, ‘The Spectacle of the “Other”,’ in Representation: Cul-
discourses and initiatives. ■ tural Representations and Signifying Practices, ed. Stuart Hall (Lon-
don: SAGE, 1997).
Endnotes 16. Kenneth Jones, et al., ‘Nonsupportive Peer Norms and Incarceration
1. Paula A. Treichler, How to Have Theory in an Epidemic: Cultural Chronicles of as HIV Risk Correlates for Young Black Men Who Have Sex With
AIDS (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999). Men,’ AIDS Behavior 12 (2008): 41-50.

2. Leong K. Chan, and Raymond Donovan, ‘Graphic Design and HIV/AIDS: Cultural 17. Zigzag Net Inc., ‘Case Study: Aids Activities Coordinating Office,’
Production of Epidemic Knowledge in Australia’ (CD-ROM, Connecting: Proceed- (press release, 2006).
ings of the 5th International Committee of Design History and Studies, Helsinki,
18. Kellee Terrell, ‘Bang-Bang, You’re Dead: HIV Activists Shoot Down
23-25 August 2006).
Fear-Based Prevention,’ Poz Magazine, 16 August 2006. http://
3. Nedra Weinreich, ‘Friendly Fire: Stigma & Social Marketing Redux,’ Spare Change, www.poz.com/articles/401_10047.shtml (accessed June 20
18 October 2006, http://www.social-marketing.com/blog/2006/10/friendly-fire- 2008).
stigma-social-marketing.html (accessed 2 July 2008).
19. Kevin T. Jones, ‘The “Have You Been Hit” Social Marketing Cam-
4. Zak Szymanski, ‘HIV Campaigns Spark Debate,’ Bay Area Reporter, 11 September paign: A Community Response,’ Selling Us To Ourselves: Is Social
2006, http://www.ebar.com/news/article.php?sec=news&article=1311 (accessed Marketing Effective HIV Prevention?, CHAMP (community forum
30 June 2008). presentation, New York City, 26 September 2006) available from
http://www.champnetwork.org/nysale (accessed 20 March 2008).
5. L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, ‘Own it/End it Ad Campaign,’ (Q&A sheet, 2006).
20. Les Pappas, ‘Why Social Marketing? (Because it Works),’ Selling Us
6. Ryan Lee, ‘Experts Debate the “New Face” of AIDS,’ Washington Blade, 1 Decem- To Ourselves: Is Social Marketing Effective HIV Prevention?,
ber 2006, http://www.washblade.com/print.cfm?content_id=9556 (accessed 29 CHAMP (community forum presentation, New York City, 26 Sep-
June 2008). tember 2006) available from http://www.champnetwork.org/nysale
7. Lee, 2006. (accessed 20 March 2008).

8. Mack Reed, “Agents Provocateurs: LAGLC Says ‘HIV *is* a ‘Gay Disease”,’ LA 21. Jean, 2006.
Voice, 2 October 2006, http://lavoice.org/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid 22. Terrell, 2006.
=2252 (accessed 30 June 2008).
23. Pappas, 2006.
9. Treichler, 1999, 20.
24. Ryan Gierach, ‘Does Fear in HIV Ads Work?,’ Wehonews.com, 14
10. Stuart Marshall, ‘Picturing Deviancy,’ in Ecstatic Antibodies, ed. Tessa Boffin, and September 2006. http://wehonews.com/z/wehonews/archive/
Sunil Gupta (London: Rivers Oram Press, 1990), 21. printpage.php?articleID=785 (accessed 28 February 2008).
11. Josh Gamson, ‘Silence, Death, and the Invisible Enemy: AIDS Activism and Social
Society of the And
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com

Photos by Roemer Van Toorn (Berlage Institute)


Introduction by Heather White

R oemer van Toorn’s Society of the And is a record of things we’ve missed in the banal modernity in which we
so often find ourselves entrenched. Toorn’s And is the new world; its focus is the conjunctive tissue that binds
modernity together, rejecting the linearity of the Either/Or. It’s an injunction to “map new imaginations,” to liberate
ourselves from ‘“routine and mechanical reproduction[s];” It’s also delightfully reminiscent of the Situationists,
whose ideas, like Toorn’s, were, in themselves, commonplace and thus, vitally important to those who were, and are,
not. Toorn’s work uses this eye of the And to then capture the things we overlook: “collective and public agenda in
direct communication with modernization,” renewing society from within rather than rejecting it. Through Toorn’s
lens alienation, commodification, and estrangement aren’t things to overcome but, things through which “new hori-
zons can be seen.”

Roemer van Toorn is an architecture critic, photographer, educator and curator. As professor, he runs and coordinates the Projective Theory
program at the Berlage Institute and is staff member at Delft School of Design (DSD) at University of Technology Delft. Currently he is working
on a publication as part of his PhD research Fresh Conservatism to Radical Democracy? Aesthetics as a Form of Politics. Forthcoming is his
English/French photobook the Society of The And.
volume 1.1 Is the visual political?

“Everything is infused with, and dependent on everything else; what counts isn’t
two or three or however many, it is the conjunction And.”
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com

volume 1.1 Is the visual political?

Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com
volume 1.1 Is the visual political?

Public space in the classical sense – a representational model of the communal –

no longer exists. It has been replaced by the space of transition.
Reality does not com
Media, Race and but it does

Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com

the Marketplace

by Dr. Robert M. Entman
(The George Washington University)

Part I
Explaining Negative Media Images

­M edia content, whether news, entertainment, or advertising,

reflects the interactions of marketplace forces, including con-
sumer demand and intense competition; the professional values and
42 cognitive and emotional habits and limitations of media decision-mak-
ers—those creating and distributing the material, including executives,
writers, editors, producers, directors, and actors; actual societal reali-
ties; and political pressures and government policy. As all of these forc-
es operate simultaneously (page 44, fig 1), it is both inadvisable and
impossible to single out one or two key causes— as well as difficult to
come up with easy solutions.

Everything starts and ends in the marketplace, since most of

the U.S. media are owned by corporations and publicly traded on the
stock market—which means that they are legally and economically
pressured to maximize profits.1 The importance of marketplace pres-
sures cannot be overstated, especially in an era of ever-intensifying
competition among proliferating media outlets (including the Internet).
In the realm of news, Hamilton, although not writing specifically about
the media and persons of color, offers a comprehensive explanation for
the declining quality of so much print and electronic journalism.2 He
writes: “If broadcasters internalized the benefits of hard news (such as
better informed voters) to society, they would be more likely to
offer hard news fare.”3 Instead, he continues, news markets yield:

underconsumption of news about public affairs; inadequate in-

vestment in developing or reporting hard news; a bias in broad-
casting against high-cost news programs or those that deliver
information valued by a minority of viewers; the tilt toward sat-
isfying the information demands of viewers or readers most
valued by advertisers; the possibility that journalist herding will
cause reporters to go with common wisdom rather than develop-
ing their own takes on stories; or the potential for conglomerate Image Courtesy of Flickr Member K e v i n

owners to view news provision solely thru the lens of profit


This is bad news for those hoping that news organizations will invest in
the kind of costly, demanding journalism that might help reduce their in-
pel any particular coverage;

volume 1.1 Is the visual political?

p r o p e l it.
advertent contributions to racial animosity. ident, he interviewed a large sample of There is sometimes considerable ambi-
Although the underproduction of truly edi- news decision makers and found: guity, however, about what specific con-
fying news could be regarded as a classic tent will serve profitability while still
market failure requiring government regu- [They] insisted again and again fulfilling media workers’ other needs,
lation or other forms of intervention, such that race and ethnicity do have an such as professional respect, career ad-
effect on all components of a sto-
steps are highly unlikely in the deregula- vancement, and expression of one’s cre- 43
ry. The interviews reveal a clear
tory climate promoted by the very same ative instincts. Consider novelty as an
sense among the rank-and-file
dominant media organizations. that news management’s attitudes example of an important explicit profes-
about race play a role in story se- sional value that guides selection of ma-
Media market pressures push toward sim- lection and content, editorial point terial. Whether in the news, entertain-
ple, sensational, titillating, and emotionally of view, and the skin color of the ment, or advertising, novelty is often
gratifying productions, rather than those person who will provide the “ex- valued—but only to a point. The material
pert” sound bite. At the network
that might provoke guilt or anxiety—or cannot be too novel or it threatens to be
level, producers are “carefully
even thought. Simultaneously, higher qual- taught” by the conventional wis- too unfamiliar and perhaps incomprehen-
ity material reaches only a minority of all dom of executive producers and sible, uninteresting, or disturbing, both to
media consumers. Competition pressures their senior staffs that white view- media personnel and to audiences. For
maximize revenue and minimize cost and ers (whom advertisers regard as instance, Lundman studied coverage of
risk. In general, the market works to reduce having greater purchasing power) murder and discovered that it varies
will tune out if blacks or Latinos
the quality and quantity of broadcast me- substantially—not every murder gets a
are the principal characters in seg-
dia that is tailored to minority audiences. big splash.11 Lundman shows how racial
ments on their shows.
As Napoli demonstrates, for instance, ad- and gender stereotypes (or what he calls
vertisers regard audiences of color as less “typifications”) combine with the journal-
Westin goes on to say that the conven-
valuable than whites of the same income istic value of novelty to shape the selec-
tional wisdom records the presumption of
level.5 Partly this is due to disparity of au- tion of murder stories. Newspapers paid
racially biased (white) audience tastes in
dience size. Willing to pay less for the at- greater attention to homicides that were
this newsroom aphorism: “Blacks don’t give
tention of persons of color, advertisers less novel if the murders conformed to
good demos!”— meaning that available
channel less revenue to producers of mi- race and gender expectations and fears.
minute-by-minute Nielsen ratings of news
nority-targeted programming. They devoted more space to black males
shows reveal that significant numbers of
murdering white males than to the op-
demographically desirable white viewers
Market pressures require interpretation posite, even though both are rare (i.e.,
switch stations when a story concerns
of taste and demand to provide guidance novel). Meanwhile, common murders,
African-Americans.8 Similar reasoning may
to decision-makers. The professional such as white males killing white fe-
discourage use of persons of color as news
values of journalists, media producers, males, receive more attention than their
sources, particularly young persons of
and advertisers usually include informal lack of novelty would predict.
color. This same sort of conventional wis-

and poorly-examined assumptions. Mar-

dom about white tastes shapes the profes-
keting data also discriminates regarding It is important to remember that media
sional culture of television entertainment
content.6 Consider the findings of Av decision-makers, from the executive
producers as well.

Westin.7 As a former network news pres- suites to the newsroom or editing room,
and Decisio
E lites nM
s ak
ite Figure 1


mood. These factors all suggest reasons
Officials, Politicians, Media & Advertising
why, despite years of criticism for nega-
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com

Business Executives Executives, Editors

Bureaucrats Producers
tive stereotyping, insufficient lead roles
for persons of color in movies and TV,
and so much more, the media continue to
Public Policies Media Images, News reports
Social Conditions Entertainment crank out material vulnerable to the
same criticism.

White Mass Public

The cognitive and emotional forces at
Denial work among media decision-makers
Fear & other Negative Emotion include their own racial misunderstand-
Inherent Group Conflict ings and their tendencies toward ambiv-
EXPRESSED IN: alence or animosity. Even when they are
Public opinion/voting not racist (and relatively few media per-
44 Consumption decisions and market forces
(media, housing)
sonnel can get away with expressing
YMC’s organizational interactions: police, teachers, outright racism in their productions, even
if they are privately racist),14 automatic,
Individual perceptions/interactions with YMC
stereotyped racial thinking of the kind
White Elites/Decision Makers discussed earlier inevitably shapes
choices.15 Entman and Rojecki discuss
Public Policies Media images how choice of cover models for Time and
Societal Conditions News reports, Entertainment
Newsweek reflects both unconscious as-
Persons of Color Ethnic/Race sumptions that the baseline, typical hu-
man being is white and hard data that
show that putting persons of color on the
operate like all humans with bounded ra- dia jobs. At the same time, they make covers usually reduces sales.16
tionality: bound by their cognitive and their decisions under intense scrutiny
emotional habits and limitations. These from persons above them in the organi- The paucity of persons of color in posi-
include stereotypes and other forms of zational hierarchy, right up to the CEO tions of media ownership or decision-
schematic, pre-coded thinking. Such him/herself, who must report to a Board making power is a frequent explanation
habits are mandatory; they reduce the of Directors that is usually mainly con- for the racial images documented here.
time, energy, and emotional costs of cerned with the bottom line rather than Benson notes that, between 1978 and
processing information and making social responsibility.13 All of these fac- 2000, the U.S. population went from 19
decisions.12 Media workers apply their tors provide strong incentives to avoid percent to 30 percent persons of color,
pre-existing cognitive schemas when rocking the boat or earning the label of while they represented just 20 percent of
choosing and writing their stories, plan- “troublemaker” by challenging decisions television station employees by 2000.17
ning their careers, seeking sources for that might yield subtly stereotyping con- As of 2005, about 14 percent of newspa-
quotes, or casting actors in parts for TV tent. Few media workers want to be con- per employees were persons of color.18
shows and commercials. All of this is sidered arbiters of “political correctness.” Persons of color are most strikingly un-
typically done under substantial time Even if they are willing to take that risk, derrepresented in executive positions.
pressure, which heightens reliance on they might not have realistic solutions Still, as Benson says, hiring more African
mental shortcuts and unthinking emo- that are congruent with such profes- Americans, Asians, and Hispanics is no
tional reactions. They also do their work sional newsroom values as neutrality and panacea. Consider, for instance, the fact
in an environment rife with competition balance in the news, and such entertain- that the Chief of the Washington Bureau
from others, who would like to steal their ment and advertising values as keeping of NBC News is now an African American.
glamorous and sometimes lucrative me- mass audiences happy and in a buying Such persons of color have little maneu-
“[They] insisted again and again that
race and ethnicity do have an effect
on all components of a story.

volume 1.1 Is the visual political?

vering room given market constraints, the values and cognitive habits Part II
and limitations of the staffs, and other forces acting on them. Ameliorating the Negative Influences of Media

Finally, as already suggested, social realities also shape media content,

particularly (but not only) news. For instance, consider the reality that
there are comparatively high crime and arrest rates among young black
S olving policy problems is often more difficult than
describing them, and this holds particularly true
when the issues involve the media. The First Amend-
males for certain types of crime. That fact combines with profes- ment limits options for handling negative effects of the
sional values that deem gang violence by blacks and Latinos to be news, especially when the content at issue is subtle (as
more routinely newsworthy than fraudulent or discriminatory loan opposed to pornography or even violence, for example).
practices in banking, or marketing of lethal drugs by pharmaceutical Potential options for ameliorating some of the negative
companies. In part, this choice arises from white audiences’ and jour- influences described here include:
nalists’ racial, ethnic, and gender schemas or typifications for the con-
1.  Promoting “best practices” in journalism and in
cept of “crime.” Crime news, in turn, reinforces aspects of white racial
other media products
animosity. It is important to emphasize that reality does not compel
any particular coverage; but it does help to propel it. Thus, the reality 2.  Implementing legal or regulatory policies that can
of street crime by young men of color could be far better contextual- pass First Amendment scrutiny
ized, and reports could be made more ethnically balanced and neutral.19
3.  Imposing social/political sanctions on coded ap-
Certainly, “60 Minutes” has shown that “white collar” crime, mostly
peals to prejudice against young men of color
committed by whites, can garner good ratings. Without a doubt, so-
called “crime in the suites” perpetrated by corporate executives im- 4.  Employing subsidies for digital media as outlets for
poses enormous costs on most white viewers, who have little realistic positive images
possibility of falling victim to serious street violence.

Best journalism practices

To conclude with another example of the role of social realities, this time
in entertainment television, consider play-by-play coverage of basketball. he primary advantages of “best practices” are that
The sheer fact that the games are extraordinarily fast-paced—interacting they can be adopted without government action
with professional values and market pressures—fosters racial biases in the and that they may very well improve profits and pro-
narration. This happens despite sportscasters’ awareness of racial stereo- ductivity.22 A partial list of such practices, as published
types and attempts to avoid using them.20 Just as Kang and others would on the website of the Columbia Journalism School, in-
predict, the need for quick yet articulate reactions to the rapidly shifting cludes the following questions:
action on the floor leads announcers to rely on unconscious, stereotyped
assumptions.21 For example, a sportscaster trying to keep up with con- •• What is the demographic breakdown of my circula-
stantly changing conditions and new plays on the floor might automati- tion area and state?
cally invoke such clichés as “Another amazing jump and dunk by this •• Who on the staff has “listening posts” or sources
gifted athlete!” or “Another steal for Jordan as he takes advantage of his in communities of color?
incredible natural speed!” Such remarks play into the stereotype of black
athletes as inherently more gifted, whereas credit for hard work and intel- •• Where are the communities of color? Do you know
ligent play tends to go to white athletes more often. the grass roots leaders? Could your staff members
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com

identify the leaders from their pictures? Could you?

•• What are the images being projected by the front

pages? Who is in the photographs? Do the ratios of
men to women, or people of color to whites, match
our demographic profile?

•• As I examine and explore my coverage area, how

do I assess its importance in the lives of people in
46 various groups throughout our area?

•• Do I attempt to find out how the actions of the

agency or organization I cover affect people in diverse
populations in our community?

•• Do I communicate with my editor about ways to broad-

en our focus so that the paper looks at this beat with an
eye toward the variety of stories it could produce?

These ideas apply to news media, but analogous ethical

responsibilities could apply to advertisers and enter-
tainment (and “infotainment”) producers as well. Below
is a list of principles regarding the kind of work to which
journalists should aspire, as advanced by the former
editor of the Milwaukee Sentinel—principles that appear
relevant across the media spectrum:

•• Work that fights fear

•• Work that spotlights demographic destiny
•• Work that taps into humanity23

Although media executives and other decision-makers down

the line might resist any such practices that seem to threat-
en profits or creative autonomy, those recommending these
practices can and should make the case that they might
bolster—and are unlikely to significantly damage—the bot-
tom line in an increasingly multicultural society.
volume 1.1 Is the visual political?
Legal and regulatory action cades have decisively tilted towards a

deregulatory stance, especially when it
fforts to reduce the negative exter- comes to specifying content.
nalities (unintended consequences)
and boost the positive externalities pro- Policies to promote more diverse owner-
duced by media markets face barriers in ship and management appear more ac-
the United States from currently domi- ceptable from a First Amendment van-
nant interpretations of the First Amend- tage point, although they have recently
ment.24 These emphasize a literal inter- fallen out of favor at the FCC. Nonethe-
pretation of the amendment as prohibiting less, perspectives at that agency or in
virtually all forms of direct government Congress could change, and there are
intervention to shape content. There certainly arguments in favor of promot-
have been some counter-arguments, ing diversity and opposing concentration
however. For example, Baynes proposes of media ownership in order to encour-
the use of the precedent of the FCC, in age the diffusion of social power and to
a few instances years ago, denying li- make room for more ownership and man-
cense renewals to television stations agerial influence by persons of color.28
that overtly discriminated against blacks
by refusing to air programs representing Solages reports that persons of color
African Americans.25 Since the courts own just 4.2 percent of all radio stations
upheld these license denials, Baynes and 1.5 percent of TV stations.29 Black
writes, there appears to be constitution- ownership of TV and radio broadcast sta-
al means of regulating systematically tions amounts to less than one percent of
discriminatory racial content of current the total industry asset value. Meanwhile,
programming on television. Indeed, the FCC has allowed a few large owners
Baynes writes that the “FCC’s failure to to enjoy an increasing share of stations;
act against the broadcast networks and as these percentages suggest, the own-
Image Courtesy of Flickr Member Sarah
Marriage their possible complicity in the discrimi- ers of the largest enterprises are white.
nation by advertisers may make the FCC The number of TV stations owned by
a passive participant in the broadcast blacks dropped from 32 to 20 in the
networks’ discrimination.”26 Bender’s three years after ownership restrictions
analysis of libel law, on the other hand, were eased in 1999.30 Aside from owner-
suggests, for example, that the imposi- ship, one perspective on the limited voice
tion of more direct regulatory policies to given to persons of color is provided by
combat media stereotyping is unlikely to the Directors Guild of America, which
succeed.27 In any case, all three branches found that, in 2000-2001, on the 40
of government over the past two de- most popular TV series, African Ameri-

Image Courtesy of Flickr

Member Eric Castro
can males directed three percent of epi- the positive externalities of non-white Two specific recommendations follow
sodes, Latino males directed two percent, ownership may be significant. In an in- from this discussion:
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com

and Asian American males directed one triguing study, Oberholzer-Gee and Wald-
percent (whereas 11 percent of episodes fogel find that black voter turnout is •• Federal communications and anti-
were directed by white women, two Asian higher in areas of higher black population, trust policy should be used to enhance
American women constituted the total and their analysis indicates that one rea- ethnic diversity in ownership and in
representation of females of color who son for this is that such areas are served top executive positions of the media.
directed episodes).31 by more black-oriented media content.36
•• Foundations should fund systematic
Benson argues that merely increasing As to employment of persons of color in education of decision-makers in the ad-
the numbers of broadcast stations owned high-level positions, Benson argues that vertising industry, on both the client
or managed by persons of color will not the increase in minority employment in and agency sides, to reduce discrimina-
provide a solution if the market under- the newsroom has helped alter word us- tion against media audiences perceived
values minority audiences, as indicated age; for instance, such phrases as “ille- as less valuable than they actually are.
by evidence discussed earlier.32 Many gal alien” have generally been replaced
advertisers appear unwilling to pay effi- by “undocumented immigrant.”37 On the One other important procedural public
cient prices for broadcasts that target other hand, he asserts, recent decades, policy option that would have potentially

After all, most people do not want

substantive results would be for
the FCC, the courts, and Congress

to view themselves as racists.

to rely upon more thorough and
innovative social
scientific and legal research. A
2004 federal court decision, later
non-white audiences because they cling which have seen growing representation upheld by the Supreme Court, required
to stereotypes (such as the bizarre as- of persons of color in newsrooms, have the FCC to
sumption that “black people don’t eat also shown an ideological narrowing and reconsider its loosening of rules on me-
beef”).33 Many radio stations operate un- de-politicization of journalism. He ar- dia ownership after the Commission as-
der “No minority/Spanish” dictates, gues, in fact, that staff diversity be- serted it was following congressional
meaning that clients direct their adver- comes mostly a tool for marketing to mandates in the 1996 Telecommunica-
tising agencies to not buy time on sta- ethnic audiences and for public relations tions Act.39 In that instance, regulators
tions that target persons of color. A sys- image enhancement, rather than for af- and members of Congress appear to
tematic undervaluing of persons of color fecting substantive news coverage.38 base policy more on assumptions or
in the advertising market not only under- This might be predictable in light of the skewed evidence than on careful consid-
cuts production of programming oriented market pressures and other forces influ- eration of underlying complexities and
to these persons, but also means that encing media content, all of which nar- social goals. In fact, Kang goes so far as
the tastes of persons of color will carry row the discretion exercised by individ- to suggest that more careful analysis
less weight in programmers’ decisions ual media workers and would undermine one of the primary
about general audience fare than if ad- decision-makers— no matter what their goals of FCC policy.40 Although the FCC
vertisers had better information.34 ethnicity—regarding decisions about acts on the presumption that increasing
what to put on the screen or page. the amount of local television news has
Some evidence indicates that station Nonetheless, it is difficult to discern positive effects, as documented by
owners who are persons of color exhibit what harm would result from promoting Kang’s literature review and other stud-
more sensitivity to the programming in- affirmative action in the media. Indeed, ies discussed earlier, local TV news has
terests of non-white audiences.35 Such many corporations have voluntarily ad- negative externalities. Most importantly
owners would likely pursue advertising opted such policies in recognition of for our purposes, it appears to heighten
targeted at persons of color. In addition, growing diversity in the population. whites’ racial anxieties and hostilities,
and that, in turn, has demonstrable ef- even antagonistic whites against re- White House occupied by a black family
fects on their political opinions and vot- sponding favorably to those appeals. Af- hands the media unprecedented oppor-
ing. It is conceivable that such negative ter all, most people do not want to view tunities to produce educational and heal-
externalities are outweighed by positive themselves as racists. Thus, the recom- ing messages. ■
social benefits. The point here, however, mendation advanced here is to hold can-
is that neither the FCC nor the courts didates to account for using racially an-

volume 1.1 Is the visual political?

(nor Congress) treat communications tagonistic appeals by publicly and “Media, Race and the Marketplace: Explaining
Negative Media Images” is excerpted and
policy decisions with the sensitivity and prominently exposing them as such, and adapted from YOUNG MEN OF COLOR IN
depth they merit. Hence, the following demanding that they cease. THE MEDIA: IMAGES AND IMPACTS, a
report by Robert M. Entman. © 2006 by the
Joint Center for Political and Economic
Subsidize digital media as new outlets Studies. All rights reserved. View the full
Because their choices can affect the report at: http://www.jointcenter.org/
for positive expression publications1/publication-PDFs/DellumsRe-
lives of YMC [young men of color]
and the entire society in surprising
and important ways—effects only For Goodman, the era of digital media
recently discovered by social scien- significantly improves the opportunities
tists and even more recently incor- for positive government regulation in the
porated into legal form of subsidies, which do not interfere Endnotes:
scholarship—officials should evalu- with media owners’ First Amendment 1. cf. Hamilton, James. 2004. All the news 49
ate communications policy decisions
rights.44 Although she is not primarily that’s fit to sell: How the market transforms
more carefully, minimizing reliance
concerned with media images of YMC or information into news. Princeton, NJ: Princ-
upon unproven assumptions or in- eton University Press.; and Entman, R. M.
complete evidence.41 with race relations, Goodman’s general
1989. Democracy Without Citizens: Media and
prescription clearly applies to the scar- the Decay of American Politics. New York:
city of opportunities for exposure to Oxford University Press.
Sanction political candidates who use
positive media images of YMC — a scar- 2. Hamilton 2004.
coded appeals to racial or ethnic
city that affects whites as well as per-
animosity 3. Hamilton 2004: 239.
sons of color. In the context of this re-

4. Hamilton 2004: 240-41.
o put a finer point on the earlier port, the key point, as Goodman puts it,
is altering consumer desires: “Subsidies 5. Napoli, P. 2002. Audience valuation and au-
discussion, one source of negative
dience media: An analysis of the determi-
media effects on YMC is politicians’ use for a robust public service media, as op-
nants of the value of radio audiences. Jour-
of indirect appeals to racial or ethnic an- posed to media regulations, are the most nal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media
tagonism through visual images or code promising and constitutionally accept- 46(2):169-184.127

words, such as “inner city,” “crime,” or able way to increase consumption of 6. Hamilton 2004.
“poverty.” Sometimes the use may be programming that exposes viewers to
7. Westin, Av. 2001. You’ve got to ‘Be Care-
well-intentioned or inadvertent, but this difference, forges community, and ele- fully Taught’: racist encoding in the news-
excuse wears thin as research accrues vates discourse in the face of content room. Nieman Reports 55 (1): 63.

demonstrating the racial decoding of abundance and attention scarcity.”45 8. Westin 2001: 64.
these appeals. 42
Of course, politicians This, in turn, “might then force the mar-
9. Simon, J. and S. Hayes. 2004. Juvenile
have First Amendment rights to make ket to provide media products with Crime Stories Use Police Blotter Without
whatever appeals they choose. Interest- greater positive externalities, including Comment from Suspects. Newspaper Re-
search Journal 25: 92.
ingly, however, politicians and citizens in common exposure to difference and pub-
many other democracies, which judge lic elevation.”46 10. Entman, R. M., and A. Rojecki. 2000. Chapter
9.” The Black Image in the White Mind: Media
racist speech to be more socially damag-
and Race in America. Chicago: University of
ing than beneficial, do not exercise such Postscript: A final externality involves Chicago Press.
rights. 43
Mendelberg’s research most America’s first president of color. Al-
11. Lundman, R. J. 2003. The newsworthiness
thoroughly supports the idea that label- though Barack Obama will inevitably face and selection bias in news about murder:
ing negative racial appeals for what they political attacks and damage that could Comparative and relative effects of novelt
reaffirm racial difference and threat, a and race and gender typifications on news-
are tends to inoculate ambivalent or
paper coverage of homicide. Sociological Forum 18 (3):357- Inc.
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com

30. Solages 2003: 21.
12. See, for example, Macrae C.N., and G.V. Bodenhausen. 2000.
31. Baynes 2003: 312-13.
Social cognition: Thinking categorically about others. Annual
Review of Psychology 51:93-120.; Fiske, Susan T., and Shelley 32. Benson, 2005.
E. Taylor. 1991. Social Cognition. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw
33. Ofori, Kofi Asiedu. 1999. When Being Number 1 is Not Enough:
Hill.; Kang, J. 2005. Trojan horses of race. Harvard Law Review
The Impact of Advertising Practices On Minority-Owned &
Minority-Formatted Broadcast Stations. Civil Rights Forum on
13. Hamilton 2004. Communications Policy. Accessed 21 November 2005 at:
14. cf. Westin 2001.
34. See also Goodman 2004: 1426-27.
15. See Kang 2005.
35. Mason, Laurie, Christine M. Bachen, and Stephanie L. Craft.
16. Entman and Rojecki 2000.
2001. Support For FCC Minority Ownership Policy: How Broad-
17. Benson, R. 2005. American Journalism and the politics of di- cast Station Owner Race Or Ethnicity Affects News And Public
50 versity. Media Culture & Society 27 (1):10. Affairs Programming Diversity. Communication Law & Policy
6:37-73.; and Owens, W. LaNelle. 2004. Inequities on the air:
18. American Society of Newspaper Editors. Newstaffs shrinking
The FCC media ownership rules—encouraging economic effi-
while minority presence grows. 12 April 2005. Accessed 9
ciency and disregarding the needs of minorities. Howard Law
June 2005 at: http://www.asne.org/index.cfm?id=5648.
Journal 47:1037.
19. cf. Westin 2001.
36. Oberholzer-Gee, Felix, and Joel Waldfogel. 2005. Strength in
20. Bruce, T. 2004. Marking the boundaries of the ‘normal’ in tele- Numbers: Group Size and Political Mobilization. The Journal of
vised sports: the play-by-play of race. Media Culture & Society Law & Economics 48:73-91.

26 (6):861-79. 37. Benson 2005.

21. (20) Kang 2005; Bruce 2004: 864. 38. Benson 2005: 9-10.

22. BEST PRACTICES (21) See Mazingo 2001; Westin 2001. 39. The case is Prometheus Radio Project vs. Federal
Communications Commission, 3rd Circuit (issued 24 June
23. Gissler, Sig. 2001. “Let’s Do It Better Workshop.” Summarized
2004), available at http:// www.fcc.gov/ogc/documents/
by the Columbia Journalism School, accessed 9 June 2005 at:
tent_gissler.html. 40. Kang 2005.

24. See Goodman 2004 for a critique: Goodman, Ellen. 2004. Me- 41. cf. Kang 2005; Goodman 2004.
dia policy out of the box: Content Abundance, Attention Scar-
city, and the Failures of Digital Markets. Berkeley Telephony 42. Gilens, M. 1999. Why Americans Hate Welfare: Race, Media and
Law Journal 19:1389. the Politics of Antipoverty Policy. Chicago: University of Chicago
Press; Mendelberg, T. 2001. The Race Card. Princeton: Prince-
25. Baynes, L. M. 2003. White Out: The Absence and Stereotyping ton University Press.; and Hurwitz J., and M. Peffley. 2005.
of People of Color by the Broadcast Networks in Prime Time Playing the race card in the post-Willie Horton era—The impact
Entertainment Programming. Arizona Law Review 45:293. of racialized code words on support for punitive crime policy.
Public Opinion Quarterly 69:99-112.164 See Frydman and Ror-
26. Baynes 2003: 311.
ive 2002.
27. Bender, Steven W. 2003. Greasers and Gringos: Latinos, Law,
43. Frydman, B. and I. Rorive. 2002. Regulating Internet Content
and the American Imagination. New York: New York University
Through Intermediaries in the U.S. and Europe. Zeitschrift für
Rechtssoziologies 23:41-59.
28. Baker, C. Edwin. 2002. Media Concentration: Giving Up On De-
44. Goodman 2004: 1393.
mocracy. 54 Florida Law Review (December):839.
45. Goodman 2004: 1472.
29. Solages, Carrie. 2003. If the FCC Rule Changes Survive, Minor-
ity Broadcasting May Not. Crisis (The New): Crisis Publications 46. Goodman 2004: 1419.
Paid for by: Illegal Immigrants for Hugo Juarez



volume 1.1 Is the visual political?


Hugo Juarez 2008

by Nicholas Munyan

A s election day in America approaches, presidential hopefuls

scramble to solidify their support from every imaginable demo-
graphic through targeted campaign events and propaganda. However,
Though Hugo Juarez 2008 campaign targets an unconventional group,
it utilizes relevant campaign strategies and rhetoric by alluding to the
current emphasis on environmental concerns and using simple affirma-
while everyone from women and students to Vietnam vets and Pacific tive statements. Simultaneously, the campaign posters take advantage
Islanders are attending countless rallies, one group has been consis- of various stereotypical ideas and images associated with illegal im-
tently overlooked: illegal immigrants. Hugo Juarez 2008 targets this migration (inner tubes, barbed wire fences, and green cards) in order
forgotten demographic in order to both highlight and critique contem- to both gain the attention of the viewer and expose their biases. While
porary campaign issues and strategies. While illegal immigrants’ lack of every immigrant experience is unique, Hugo Juarez 2008 proposes a
suffrage makes the campaign oversight not only understandable, but campaign that targets illegal immigrants collectively. The campaign
also necessary, illegal immigrants’ are still an American demographic suggests uniting those who may not otherwise converge around a
whose lives are significantly affected by the events in Washington. common struggle for acceptance and government recognition, just as
Five posters in the Hugo Juarez 2008 campaign series represent issues the cause of environmentalism continues to draw allies from across
that resonate strongly with peoples struggling to establish a life for the political spectrum. ■
themselves in America.
For the complete Hugo Juarez 2008 Campaign Kit
visit www.glimpsejournal.com
Politico-Religious Dimensions
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com

in Chaco Canyon Pottery

by Dr. Stephen Plog (University of Virginia)

T he study of the symbols painted on prehistoric ceramics has long

been important in archaeological research. However, archaeolo-
gists studying regions of the world where civilizations or states were
thought not to have developed—my own research area, the American
Image Courtesy of Boston Public Library
Southwest, being only one example—rarely have explored whether
decorative symbols carried political implications or information. To un-
derstand that tendency—and move beyond it—we first need to describe
and understand the history of symbols studies in such areas.

We should first note that studies of symbols found at settlements oc-

cupied year round have often emphasized decorative patterns on pre-
historic pottery. By the time that most ancient peoples inhabited vil-
lages throughout the course of the year, rather than making seasonal or
even more frequent moves, ceramic vessels had become common imple-
ments with some households containing as many as 20-25 vessels.
These vessels were used for cooking, storage, and serving, just as we
use ceramics today. Such vessels not only were common, but they pos-
sess two additional features that have made them so valuable to archae-
ologists. First, they were fragile enough that they were often broken and

“As our understanding of subsequently discarded. Thus, in a village of 10-15 families that was
inhabited for periods as short as 20 years, thousands of fragments

pre-historic chronologies and (sherds) of broken vessels would be discarded. Second, once broken into

cultures has i n c r e a s e d , studies

small fragments, the resulting sherds are remarkably durable. Whereas
basketry, wooden implements, or textiles likely will disintegrate within a

of decorative symb0ls
few decades under most conditions, ceramics endure for thousands of
years. Because sherds vastly outnumber any other type of artifact on

have » » » » shifted
sites created when groups lived in villages year-round, they have been
the focus of archaeological research from early years of the discipline.

from questions of
w e r e and w h e n to
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries when archaeological

research was still in its formative years, scholars studying ceramics
discovered that the decorative symbols or patterns painted, stamped,

an emphasis on Why?” or incised on vessels typically changed over time and, as a result, stud-
ies of the designs typically focused on their value in helping identify
the time periods when settlements were inhabited. As our knowledge
of particular regions increased, archaeologists also identified spatial
patterns in the distribution of symbols and thus also began to charac-
terize prehistoric cultures by particular types of designs or design
patterns. Prehistoric groups from the Great Lakes region of the United
States, for example, decorated their pottery with different symbols and
patterns from those of people in such nearby regions as fragmented ceramic vessels that are so ubiquitous in settlements oc-

volume 1.1 Is the visual political?

the Great Basin or the Plains. cupied over the last 1200 years of Pueblo history. Formal “ceramic
types” based on designs and other characteristics of the pottery re-
As our understanding of prehistoric chronologies and cul- peatedly prove to be the building blocks of any study of culture
tures has increased, studies of decorative symbols have change.
shifted from questions of “where” and “when” to an
emphasis on “why.” Why did designs change over time As research has matured, however, and scholars have endeavored to
and why do we find designs that were characteristic of address questions about social, political, and religious dimensions of
particular cultures? The result of this research is that prehistoric life, we have increasingly explored ways that those impor-
archaeologists increasingly have recognized a variety of tant dimensions are reflected in the material culture—pottery, baskets,
social, religious, and political factors that influence what and architecture—that prehistoric people left behind when they moved
they had initially assumed to be rather simple, uncompli- to new settlements. Because pottery is typically common on such sites
cated choices about design symbols. and painted designs are rarely determined by material availability or
technological constraints, the variation in those symbols has proven to
The Pueblo region of the American Southwest (northern be a particularly fruitful avenue for study.
Arizona and New Mexico, southeastern Utah, and
southwestern Colorado), my own area of expertise, ex- Why do those designs vary so much over time and space? Before
emplifies this trend in design studies. The northern offering a direct answer to that question, it is important to emphasize
Southwest is an area where much pioneering research that the cultural dimensions of interest—political, social, and religious
was done during archaeology’s formative years and patterns and relationships—cannot be easily compartmentalized in the
variation in painted designs continues to be critical to way we discuss our own society where there is a separation of church
the dating of settlements. Archaeological discussions and state and the important social relationships in our lives may have
often emphasize the importance of tree-ring and radio- little or no relationship to political alliances or religious beliefs and
carbon dating, techniques that undoubtedly are critical affiliation. In most pre-state societies, political, social, and religious
to our research, but the reality is that we date 99 per- dimensions of life are closely intertwined and thus difficult to separate.
cent of prehistoric archaeological sites by focusing on Social status and ritual status may not be one and the same, but they
changing patterns in the shape and size of spear and are often strongly related. And political power is typically grounded in,
arrow points or on the stylistic patterns painted on the if not generated from, ritual knowledge and authority.

Image Courtesy of
Flickr Member Andy Eick
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com

With that qualifier in mind, we can suggest at least four authority. I have suggested that the Chaco Canyon region of northwest-
factors that affect the nature of painted symbols and their ern New Mexico may serve as one clear example of how symbols repre-
spatial and temporal patterns. First, we can recognize that sent and reinforce politico-religious dimensions. During the era from A.D.
54 some variation is a product of stylistic drift (Cleland 1972; 850 to 1130 in the northern Southwest, most Pueblo people lived in
Braun 1995; Neiman 1995), “progressive rearrangements, smaller pueblos of 1-15 masonry rooms, probably occupied by no more
addition, and/or deletion of discrete design elements which than 10-25 people. Chaco Canyon, an anomaly to this pattern, was a
produce new design sets as a result of successive replica- nexus of large pueblos—twelve are concentrated in a single 15-kilometer
tion of a single design motif” (Cleland 1972:202). Drift is stretch of the canyon—referred to as “great houses” because of their
one of the key factors that make design symbols such a size (50 to 650 masonry rooms) and an unusual constellation of archi-
sensitive marker of time periods. Second, studies have tectural features such as intricate core-and-veneer architecture and
emphasized the importance of teacher-student relation- large subterranean ritual structures, known as great kivas. These com-
ships in determining symbol sets. Beginning as least as plexes represent the earliest examples of the multi-story pueblos, each
early as Ruth Bunzel’s (1929) classic study of historic occupied by at least a few hundred Pueblo people, encountered in the
Pueblo pottery decoration, we learned that the symbol set northern Southwest by the first non-Native explorers, Fray Marcos de
employed by artists in pre-state societies was heavily in- Niza and Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, in 1539 and 1540, respec-
fluenced by the symbols used by their mentor, most often tively. Yet, as Mills (2002:66) has emphasized, the “degree of planning,
a family member. expertise, and complexity shown in great house construction is very
different from that found among the ethnographic Pueblo.”
Most recent studies of the last two or three decades
have focused on a third significant variable. Considerable Chaco Canyon great houses were not an isolated phenomenon, how-
attention has been given to the ways in which design ever. Some groups outside the canyon constructed structures similar
symbols and patterns determine and reflect social in form and detail, though usually smaller in scale and rarely in clusters,
boundaries (e.g., Hodder 1981; Plog 1980; Wobst 1972; throughout much of New Mexico’s San Juan Basin as well as portions
Wiessner 1983 among some of the earliest of such of southwestern Colorado, southeastern Utah, and northeastern Ari-
studies). That is, people commonly use different clothes zona. Roads (cleared paths, in some places lined with masonry curbs)
styles, house forms, and decorative symbols to up to 10 meters wide ran tens of miles from the canyon to a few of
distinguish themselves from others, an “us” vs. “them” these outlying settlements (Vivian 1997a, 1997b). Shorter roads may
dichotomy. The boundaries may exist between genders, have served less as physical connections between settlements and
age groups, status groups, or cultures that hold spatially more as symbolic connections to the cosmos as many extend only a
discrete or perhaps slightly overlapping territories. few kilometers from the great house. These and other characteristics
demonstrate significant social, ritual, and perhaps political ties within
Few, however, have studied the ways that decorative the Chaco region with perhaps direct political control over the area
symbols in the Southwest may convey politico-religious immediately surrounding the canyon.
messages. Some have connected symbol sets to ritual
(e.g., Adams 1992, Crown 1994), but have not suggested Kidder (1924:178) long ago recognized that one of the hallmarks of
that the ritual were related to political connections or Chaco was an unusual decorative pattern, termed the Gallup-Dogoszhi
volume 1.1 Is the visual political?
Images courtesy of Boston Public Library

style (Figure 1), drawn by outlining shapes and then filling the interior pp. 123-140. Plenum Press, New York.

of the form with thin, parallel lines, i.e., a form of hachure. The wide- Bunzel, Ruth 1929 The Pueblo Potter: A Study of Creative Imagination
spread spatial distribution of this hachured style in the northern in Primitive Art. Columbia University Press, New York.

Southwest crosscut a number of geographically specific styles, the Cleland, Charles E. 1972 From Sacred to Profane: Style Drift in the 55
first time that two decorative styles had co-occurred in significant Decoration of Jesuit Finger Rings. American Antiquity 37:202-210.

frequencies in most areas of the northern Southwest. The Gallup- Crown, Patricia L. 1994 Ceramics and Ideology: Salado Polychrome Pot-
Dogoszhi style differed from these other styles by the strong covaria- tery. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.

tion among decorative elements, a pattern that would be expected of Hodder, Ian 1981 Symbols in Action: Ethnoarchaeological Studies of
a design pattern that was iconic in nature and used to convey impor- Material Culture. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

tant messages (Plog 1990:67-68). Furthermore, the style is relatively Kidder, Alfred V. 1924 An Introduction to the Study of Southwestern
more common at settlements with public ceremonial architecture (Plog Archaeology. Yale University Press, New Haven.

1990:68-69). More recently, I have shown that the hachured style Mills, Barbara J. 2002 Recent Research on Chaco: Changing Views of
likely was a black-on-white symbol for the color blue-green, a color Economy, Ritual and Society. Journal of Archaeological Research
that was difficult to produce in fired pottery and, more importantly, a
color that was extremely important in the cosmology of native peoples Neiman, Fraser D. 1995 Stylistic Variation in Evolutionary Perspec-
tive: Inferences from Decorative Diversity and Interassemblage Dis-
not only in the northern Southwest, but also throughout Mexico and
tance in Illinois Woodland Ceramic Assemblages. American Antiquity
Central America as well (Plog 2003). 60:7-36.

Plog, Stephen 1980 Stylistic Variation in Prehistoric Ceramics. Cam-

There are thus a variety of reasons to suggest that the Gallup- bridge University Press, Cambridge.
Dogoszhi hachured style served as one important symbol of
Plog, Stephen. 1990 Sociopolitical Implications of Stylistic Variation in
politico-religious organization in the northern Southwest during the the American Southwest. In The Uses of Style in Archaeology, edited
Chacoan era. In the immediate vicinity of Chaco Canyon, the style may by Margaret Conkey and Christine Hastorf, pp. 61-72. Cambridge Uni-
have conveyed specific aspects of the politico-religious authority of versity Press, Cambridge.

Chacoan leaders while in more distant areas, the ritual and cosmology Plog, Stephen. 2003 Exploring the Ubiquitous Through the Unusual:
dimensions of the style may have been more significant, though the Color Symbolism in Pueblo Black-on-White Pottery. American Antiq-
uity 68:665-695.
style may still have been a visible marker of important ties with the
Chaco polity. And Chaco almost certainly was not the only prehistoric Vivian, R. Gwinn 1997a Chacoan Roads: Morphology. Kiva 63:7-34.

polity in the broader Southwest region where decorative patterns sym- Vivian, R. Gwinn 1997b Chacoan Roads: Function. Kiva 63:35-67.
bolized such dimensions. I hope that future research will explore this Wiessner, Polly. 1983 Style and Social Information in Kalahari San
possibility in many other regions. ■ Projectile Points. American Antiquity 48:253-276.

Wobst, H. Martin. 1972 Stylistic Behavior and Information Exchange.

References: In Social Exchange and Interaction, Anthropological Papers of the Mu-
seum of Anthropology, University of Michigan, No. 61, pp. 317-342.
Adams, E. Charles 1992 The Origin and Development of the Pueblo Katsina Cult. Univer-
Ann Arbor.
sity of Arizona Press, Tucson.

Braun, David P.1995 Style, Selection, and Historicity. In Style, Society, and Person: Ar-
chaeological and Ethnological Perspectives, edited by Christopher Carr and Jill E. Neitzel,
Flags, Color, Symbol,
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com

and National Identity:

Interview with Dr. Karen Cerulo
by Carolyn Arcabascio

C A : How does the visual power of a flag differ from

that of other national symbols (i.e. monuments,
currency, etc.)?

Image Courtesy of Flickr Member Daniel Lobo

KC: Flags are the symbol with which people are most
familiar. One reason for this stems from the fact that movements, victory in war, etc.) are associated with the adoption of basic
flags are designed for display. Thus, this visual image— designs. Disruptive, divisive events (a revolution, an economic depression,
colorful and dynamic—becomes a “staple” of some of the etc.) are associated with complex, embellished designs. When populations
most solemn or powerful or populated venues of a na- are cohesive and “on the same page,” symbolic communication can ef-
tion. It becomes a calling card or a logo—a shorthand for fectively occur via the symbolic shorthand of basic designs. Fragmenta-
the nation. tion calls for elaboration as different positions must be added to the mix.

CA: How does the organization of a flag’s independent CA: In addition to the level of simplicity or complexity of design, is
design elements relate to its function as a nation’s the color of national flags also telling of identity?
“calling card?”
KC: Colors are used to convey many sorts of messages. For example,
KC: Flags, as national calling cards, are somewhat many nations choose colors that will provoke a sense of unity — unity
reflective of national culture. But flag designs also tell to other nations or unity among groups within a nation. Consider the
us much more. There appears to be a clear logic to the case of Thailand. Because the flags of Thailand’s World War I allies
selection of national symbol designs. National leaders contained red, white and blue, Thailand added a blue stripe to it’s red
knowingly choose some designs over others. While some and white flag. The change signified a purposive link to these other
of these choices can be linked to national traditions and nations. Similarly, many of the flags of Muslim nations include green (a
lineage, there are also broader social patterns that signifier of Islam), indicating strong religious unity. The flag of Ireland
guide symbol selection as well. offers yet another example. This symbol was designed to unite the
country’s religious groups. The flag’s green field represented Catholics,
For example: while its orange field represented protestants. The flag also included
a white field meant to indicate the peaceful coexistence of the two
1) A nation’s global economic position is associated with groups.
flag design. The most central, powerful nations choose
the simplest, most basic designs, while economically CA: From the viewer’s perspective, how does the visual information
peripheral nations adopt highly embellished designs. It of flags influence behavior, political or otherwise?
appears as if the oldest, most powerful nations “set the
bar,” establishing a symbolic code that other nations KC: Flag design is not an arbitrary task. Research shows that certain
react to and elaborate. designs prove more or less appropriate than others in specific con-
texts. In this way, flag designs are no different than other color “ven-
2) The social events that face a nation when a flag is ues”. We’ve all experienced this phenomenon in learning to dress our-
adopted are associated with flag design. Events that selves, for example, and coming to “see” that certain color and pattern
bespeak high cohesiveness or solidarity (i.e. independence combinations simply don’t “go together”.
volume 1.1 Is the visual political?
In my book Identity Designs, I talk about the consequenc- CA: What draws you personally to the study of political
es of adopting a flag design in which the components “go symbol systems?
together” in an expected way, (what I call a “normal de-
sign”) versus adopting a flag in which the components KC: I started my academic career with a deep interest in the
violate expectation, (what I call a “deviant” design). My social and cultural forces that shape creativity particularly
research shows that deviant flags do not enjoy the fer- musical and visual creativity. Along the way, I also devel-
vent reception or the intense attachment of their more oped interests in theories of social change, political com-
normal counterparts. People relate to them in a rational munication, and collective identity Thus, the study of na-
rather than a passionate way; they engage the deviant tional symbols offered a vehicle by which to combine my
flags in a very restricted range of activities; they revere interests. Studying national symbols allowed me to pursue
the flag via legal mandate rather than voluntary reaction. the ways in which individual style, cultural norms of com-
These consequences can make the deviant flag a much munication, power, and change individually and collectively
less powerful motivator. inform the creative field. ■

“Don’t Tread on Me” Serpent (Gadsden Flag)

This symbol and flag is seen in attendance at many patriotic American events, yet few seem to
know its proper name, yet alone where it came from. It is an image that expresses stubbornness
and a sort of recklessness all at once.

The image of the snake in American politics dates back to 1754, in Benjamin Franklin’s famous
cartoon, Join or Die, largely believed to be the first political cartoon in American history. It
depicted a snake cut up into several pieces, with each piece representing a different U.S colony,
and was meant to be a message of solidarity during the French and Indian war.

The snake symbol began to appear on many colonial items, including currency. In October of 1775,
the first known combined appearance of symbol and motto occurred. When the newly created the
United States Navy was dispatched to overtake a pair of British cargo ships, five companies of
Marines were also sent. Members of these companies were observed to have carried yellow drums
with the image of a snake, and “Don’t Tread on Me” written alongside it. Though the origin of this
pairing is obscure, a letter written to the Pennsylvania Journal by an anonymous source praised the
snake image and claimed it to be the perfect symbol for America.

The name comes from Colonel Christopher Gadsden, a renowned leader of the Continental Army.
It is said that he presented the flag to be flown by Commodore Esek Hopkins as his own personal
flag. Because of this, it is sometimes known as the Hopkins Flag.

Poised somewhere between exuberant proclamation and ominous threat, this, for some, represents
the ideal America, one that will strike if necessary and is not afraid to retaliate. It is perhaps
unsurprising, then, that one variant of the Gadsden flag paired its original design with another
famous American slogan: “Liberty or Death”.
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com

Todd Williams (film, 2004)

by Andy Hughes

T he N Word, a documentary by Todd Larkin Williams

released four years ago, takes a look at the titular
slur and the questions that surround it, namely: how did
explained here, are not exactly surprising), but you will at least have the
experience of hearing different opinions from a wide range of people.
Intercut with the “talking heads” sections of the film are montages of
it get where it is today? How did it progress from some- film and television clips in which the words are used. There are also a
thing derogatory and hateful to a term of endearment few poetic divergences, in which black actors read literature that uses
among black people? To give us answers, Landers in- the word: we hear the works of such people as Langston Hughes, Mark
58 terviews a host of professors, rappers, actors, athletes, Twain, Carl Sandburg, and Saul Williams, who gives a passionate reading
comedians and activists, black and white. of his work “Sha Clack Clack”.

At first the film seems slightly disjointed, but soon the At a run time of an hour and 25 minutes, The N Word doesn’t exactly strain
pacing becomes more regular. We hear from people like the viewer. Its style is almost leisurely, perhaps startling given the
Samuel L. Jackson and Ice Cube, who identify posi- potentially volatile subject matter. All of the interviews, even those with
tively with the word, and from others, like activist Dick older or more academic personages, have a casual air about them. The
Gregory, who have difficulty viewing it outside of its conversations are also well-edited, giving the film an easy flow as the
racist context. Topics discussed include the supposed topics change. The film clips, many of them from the 60’s and 70’s, make
history of the word, the success of Richard Pryor, and up for the static nature of the interviews, as do the literary recitations.
the evolution of hip-hop.
The only thing that really hurts the film is its graphic intensive, VH1 style
You may or may not learn something new about the black delivery. Before the opening credits, for example, we see brief clips from
experience in America (the origins of the “N” word, as a few of the interviews used later in the film. Immediately afterward, we
see those same clips used in an opening sequence that transcribes the
quotes on screen. It’s a great-looking opening, but it distracts a little bit,
and the use of things already heard comes across as a bit redundant.
Overall, though, The N Word is thought-provoking. ■

Image Courtesy of Flickr Member Cristian Borquez


volume 1.1 Is the visual political?

Arthur Hiller, Maximillian Schell, Lois Nettleton (film, 1975)

by Andy Hughes

H e lives in a lavish penthouse in New York City. He is the master

of his domain, spending his days in luxury and regaling his visitors
and servants with quirky anecdotes, stopping only to spy on the world
the connection: we don’t get the feeling that we are see-
ing a split personality so much as two extremes of one.
The film’s most memorable image occurs in the long final
below through a telescope. He is Arthur Goldman (Maximillian Schell), courtroom scene, as Dorff/Goldman, in full Nazi regalia,
a Jewish Holocaust refugee and self-made millionaire. Or is he? To is placed in a bulletproof booth to protect him from
his faithful assistant Charlie, he is just an eccentric old man with assassins. Sealed off from the rest of the proceed-
a Christ complex, haunted by demons of the past. At times he ings, Schell delivers manic and unapologetic 59
sees the ghost of his father, other times the image of Adolf speeches, mocks his prosecutor, and vents pure
Dorff, Nazi commandant and torturer. Reeling from these vi- venom at the Israeli jury. He is terrifying, and
sions, Goldman never ceases his strange banter, sometimes yet, vulnerable in a strange way, especially
silly, other times unnerving. He is both an ominous prophet and as the court begins to wonder whom he
Groucho Marx, switching between snide remarks and bizarre really is. At this point, Schell is able to com-
tangents, not all of which are in English. municate much without saying anything,
letting his red, panicked face and cold eyes
Christian symbolism plays a large part in his life: Goldman speak for themselves.
refers to a dinner he has with several eligible women as his “last
supper” and interrupts the meal to rub the ashes of his dead wife As a representation of postwar sentiment,
on his forehead. He seems to have placed himself into the role of The Man in the Glass Booth is a curious
savior and miracle maker, one he delights in. As his connection to the specimen. It examines the effects of
outside world, Charlie acts as a shy, humble foil, and attempts politically engineered devastation
to keep his master’s feet on the ground. through the eyes of a man whose
own personality is displaced
But there is a sinister quality to Goldman’s antics, one that comes to through oppression. Though the
the forefront when he is arrested by foreign agents and taken to Is- dialogue and staging still feels,
rael to be tried as Nazi war criminal Dorff. Dorff, it seems, has been well, stagy, the strength of the
masquerading as Goldman in order to escape authorities, something central conflict anchors the rest
Goldman doesn’t attempt to deny. In fact, the persona of Dorff of the production. ■
emerges so easily from Goldman that it raises skepticism: is Goldman
putting the authorities on?

An adaptation of the play by Robert Shaw, The Man in the Glass Booth
garnered Schell an Oscar nomination in 1975, and yet has gone more or
less unnoticed by most modern moviegoers. This is unfair, as the film is
gripping, intelligently written, and fueled by an intense performance by
Schell, both as the strange but lovable Goldman and the psychopathic
Dorff. He manages to perform both roles effectively while still leaving

Image Courtesy of Flickr Member grisei

Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com

Image Courtesy of Flickr Member Molly Bewigged

(RE)VIEW: Crossing
the Line
Daniel Gordon (film, 2007)

60 by Andy Hughes

S ometimes, when life seems its bleakest, a person

will turn to whatever refuge presents itself. In
1962, American soldier Joseph Dresnok made that de-
If this compelling documentary has one weakness, it is a failure to em-
phasize some of the most fascinating aspects of its story. The DMZ is
around two and a half miles wide. It is heavily mined and considered one
cision when he walked away from the army. His refuge of the most dangerous places in the world. For Dresnok, Jenkins, and
of choice: the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. two other American soldiers to have made it across safely, and on
His timing couldn’t have been better, making him one of separate occasions, is not only lucky; it’s miraculous. The film under-
the last Americans to defect there, and the only one still standably has a lot of material to cover, but neglecting details like this
living there today. weakens the power of the story somewhat.

His life is chronicled in Crossing the Line, a documentary At first, the boys are perceived as enemies and threats. Later, they are a
from director Daniel Gordon and VeryMuchSo produc- North Korean cause celebre, and their citizenship becomes a major source
tions. Prior to this project, Gordon had directed two of pride for the warring nation. Benefits are offered to other Americans if
other documentaries, The Game of their Lives and A State they defect. They start meeting women and building families. The most
of Mind, both filmed in North Korea. After winning the bizarre twist of all comes when future leader Kim Jong Il casts Dresnok
respect of the North Korean government with those and Jenkins as evil American generals in a series of patriotic war films.
films, he and his crew found Dresnok and another defec- The films are seen widely throughout the country and become hugely
tor from the army, Charles Jenkins, and proceeded to popular. We see people in the streets of modern day Pyongyang address-
create this fascinating and bizarre story of people living ing Dresnok as “Mr. Arthur”, the name of his character.
and operating outside of political concerns.
Dresnok makes for a great interview subject, honest in his opinions and
Dresnok, a large man with a deep Virginia twang in his not afraid to get emotional. Much of the time he sports a bemused half-
voice, tells us that he’s never let his story be known be- smile that suggests that on some level, he can’t believe what’s happened
fore. He grew up running away from his problems, first to him either. We see his family life, and meet his sons, who are both
from unloving relatives, then from a foster home. At the white like their father but speak accented English and consider them-
age of 17, he joined the army and married shortly before selves to be Korean.
being shipped off to serve in the Korean War. Upon dis-
covering his wife was having an affair, he immediately The film slows down to observe the basics of Dresnok’s life, then picks
slipped into a depressed state, constantly staying out too up again to follow Jenkins, and the fate of his family, and Dresnok’s
long on leave in the villages of the south. One day, with a reaction to it (which I won’t give away). It is engrossing, largely because
clear resolve, he simply set out into the Korean Demilita- Dresnok is such an easy person to identify with, and yet still somewhat
rized Zone, running away from his problems yet again. indecipherable. ■
volume 1.1 Is the visual political?
Image Courtesy of Flickr Member Jef Poskanze

Is the Visual Political?

by Dr. Thomas Kaplan-Maxfield
(Boston College)
One root of the problem

T o answer the question, “Is the Visual Political?”, I would like to

start at the root of our civilization, the ancient Greeks. As “poli-
tics” is rooted in “polis”, the city, so “civilization” is at once us, the
society. While the west may no longer be wide open, we still imagine
ourselves as rugged individualists. Yet, the Declaration of Indepen-
dence closes with “we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our
citizens, and the city (the Latin “civis”) in which we all live, regardless Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” Our Founding Fathers and Mothers
of whether we live in teeming New York, or the wide open spaces of worked together, and Benjamin Franklin’s joke at the signing that “we
the West. We are all members of the body politic, and this is more or must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately”
less the way the Greeks imagined themselves. Thus, the immediate (Sparks, 408) contains within it the basic paradox of our nation, and
Greek answer to our question is “Yes! Of course the visual is political”, thus of our politics: these rebels, in their act of separating themselves
because in some way everything is political. from their mother country England, realized that they would only sur-
vive united, hanging together. And indeed, it has been thus: by hanging
And if, following the Greeks, the visual is political, then the political is vi- together, we have all managed to avoid hanging separately. Yet we
sual, among other things. Therefore, a question arises: is our present have all hung together nevertheless.
difficulty with politics (our being turned off by, or not participating in) also
a symptom of our not seeing properly, or better, of our not seeing our We are hung up, as a consequence, on this paradox of at once being a
seeing? That is, I would like to restate the question by focusing on a dif- nation of individuals, and a nation who pledges its fortunes together.
ficulty in our polis – that we feel disenfranchised, left out, bored, discon- We have undertaken to establish a nation based on an inner conflict,
nected. If the visual is, by necessity, political, then might not our problems and our civil war is testament to that fact, as is our red/blue state
with political participation be, in part, a difficulty with the visual? divide, and our endless debates about the welfare state and the social
safety net. “Privatization of social security” is a catch phrase that
We, a nation of voyeurs, might not really be seeing; or better, we might neatly contains this paradox.
not be seeing our seeing. I propose, therefore, to examine the act of
seeing itself, to see if we can strip away some of the blindness that In addition, our first mothers and fathers were acutely aware of how
appears to accompany our seeing. Because if the visual is political, the visual was political: they were aware that “the whole world was
then our not being political must be a form of blindness. watching”, and the Declaration asserts “let facts be submitted to a
candid world” (the root of ‘candid’ is ‘shine’, ‘bright’, and even ‘light’).
In the United States in 2008, the question of the link between the vi- They wanted to bring things to light, to enlightenment. That is, they
sual and political, so readily answered by the Greeks, is more complex. wanted to show the ‘long train of abuses’ – their emphasis, while ra-
We are reminded every four years, if not more frequently, that we have tional, was certainly on the visual and the necessity of shedding light
the worst record for voter participation of any standing democracy. We on what was in darkness.
prize our privacy, and individual rights are still the hallmark of our
Of course the Enlightenment, as the Gothic writers understood, contained cheek to cheek. “I like to watch” says Jerzy Kosinski’s
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com

its own shadow of darkness. And so, like a suddenly self-conscious actor, famous anti-hero, Chauncey Gardner, in “Being There”
these rebels realized that while they were standing up to be seen by the (Braunsberg). We all like to watch; TV is us. We like to
world and to set an example. The pressure was on; they were inviting be- watch everything, from old movies to porn to reality TV.
ing watched, and thus were indeed being watched. We like to “see the sights” and plan destination vaca-
tions and destination weddings, where the emphasis is
Martha Washington declared herself to be a ‘prisoner of the state’ because on seeing and being seen. Yet “destination” is also our
she was so closely scrutinized in her manners and dress. When she appeared destiny, which is our fate. We are doomed to be heading
for her husband’s inauguration in Philadelphia, she put off her usual classy somewhere to see the sights. We place such emphasis
and rich lace and instead wore homespun worsted. She was one of the first on sight and the visual that we think that what is seen
to understand that, as she was being watched, how she was seen had very is reality. We invented public relations, which often
much to do with politics, and the fate of the new nation. means being seen. We may be seen but not heard, but
better to be seen and not heard than heard but not seen
Being watched and watching, of course, invades our privacy, and so we (radio). Eccentrics among us prefer radio because the
arrive at a connection between the two ideas: while the United States was pictures are better, but we all know that a wide screen
established as a nation of rebels who nevertheless were ‘united’, this union TV will bring redemption and the good life.
has always tended both to reveal us to one another and to invade our
privacy, thus hitting at one of the fundamental beliefs upon which we es- Of course it’s more complex than that. For in our valuing
of sight as our primary sense, we have fallen for the

But to “see” oldest trick of magicians – which they explain to us.

means also “The hand is quicker than the eye”, they warn before
performing astonishing feats of disappearing and reap-

to understand, pearing coins, torn up paper that reappears as whole,

to see b e y o n d bodies sawn in half that reconnect before our eyes.

what appears. Before our eyes! We forget, perhaps willingly, that the
hand is indeed quicker than the eye, and so we are
tablished our country – privacy rights. This basic paradox of the United fooled, over and over. We simply don’t believe it! How
States bears directly on the problem of sight, and how we understand the can the hand – so clumsy, so physical, be quicker than
visual as political in our society. the eye, which perceives instantaneously? Light travels
at 186,000 miles per second, and surely the hand can-
The solution to the problem with our ‘merely’ watching and not participat- not move half that quickly, not even snapping fingers.
ing, therefore is not, as I see it, simply to ‘make’ ourselves become more
political, but to understand that it’s in our blood, the blood of our nation, Yet the hand is indeed quicker than the eye, because
to be both social and alone, political and apolitical. To be watched and to the eye can so easily be fooled. In the Greek myth, Hip-
not be watched. Perhaps the problem, then, is not lack of political engage- pomenes tricked and thereby won the hand of the virgin
ment, but lack of engagement with the problem. We don’t grapple and Atalanta by tossing a golden apple in her line of sight.
wrestle with our own image. In short, reflection, that basic act of seeing, When she stopped to pick it up, he raced by her, winning
is what is needed. the race, and thereby her hand. Hippomenes was the
first magician who understood that magic works by in-
Voyeur nation direction. Hippomenes was a descendant of Poseidon,

one of whose guises was Proteus, the spirit of shifting
e are a nation of voyeurs, who sit at home and stare at computer appearance. Further, it was Aphrodite, the goddess of
screens, and even date online – that ultimate act of social engage- love, who furnished Hippomenes with the golden apple.
ment begins now alone in a room, as often as in a crowded bar or dancing Thus, the intertwining of appearance and love. We shall
Seeing is not believing,
but it’s being
return to love momentarily. ter”, in which the letter in question is invisible to the eyes

volume 1.1 Is the visual political?

of the police specifically because it is in plain view. As Poe’s
We are all now like Atalanta, virgins to the notion that the hand can be genius detective Dupin explains, the mistake the police
quicker than the eye, assuming that we can stop to pick up whatever the make is thinking that seeing is believing – assuming that a
eye sees (eye candy) and not lose our first place in the race. But “to see” “hidden” letter is a letter or object that is out of the direct
means also “to understand” — to see beyond what appears. But the line of vision. That is, the police made the fatal error of
story tells us differently. Because the eye is so easily fooled, we can confusing their own understanding of the word “hidden” as
come to see eyesight itself as a complex phenomenon, something that “physically not in the line of sight” with the metaphorical
cannot only mean the physical act of seeing. Indeed, we would all agree meaning of “hidden” as “that which one does not see”.
that Laura Bush’s red dress and Obama’s disappearing and reappearing
flag pin are not just about the actual act of seeing them. Further, and equally as important, the police neglect (as
Dupin explains) to take into account the psychology of the
That is, we think we are not fooled by the eye. In being so trusting of thief: he is both a mathematician and poet – although the
our eyes, in being a nation of voyeurs, we fall for all sorts of sleight of police think of the thief only as a poet, and therefore (the
hand. We see the “Mission Accomplished” banner, and so we believe. police conclude) a fool. They cannot imagine that he could
In fact, we are all too often blind to the big picture. We ignore or do not be both; their imaginations are limited and literalized. But
see that there is a hand behind the banner manipulating us, the gullible this sort of seeing requires the enlightened mind to be
marks. The wonderful joke of “Being There” is, of course, that Gardner darkened, and for imagination to come in. Dupin first begins
is an idiot, which none of the characters seems to see. to solve the mystery when he turns off the lights.

In fact, the eye fools us all the time, and further, it endangers us. When We arrive, then, at a notion that real seeing involves the
we think we see what’s going on, often we are fooled. Or, we are fooled psychological – taking into account not only the person who
to the extent that we believe what we see – whether it’s what appears is displaying himself, but one’s own thought processes and
or what is hidden beneath the surface. But, we gain insight: we realize proclivities. In other words, seeing involves being connect-
we have been fooled, and so open our eyes to what we believe is the ed, viewer with viewed, and vice versa. The thief in Poe’s
real reality. story was able to hide his letter successfully from the police
because he understood how the police think. Thus applied
But, are we really seeing when we think we are? When we dismiss the to our case, we think we see because we are so sophisti-
“Mission Accomplished” banner as mere politics, a lie, a visual to be cated that we understand (see) that ‘real’ meaning lies be-
ignored, are we not blinded to the impact of the visual? Are we missing neath the surface, somewhere hidden: it’s not the red dress
the forest for the trees? per se that is the point, but what it signifies, what it points
to, what is encoded in its redness (or blueness, etc). Yet we
In the end, might it be that seeing is not only seeing – that it’s also not miss the point over and over, as a nation, politically. Partly,
seeing? That is, that “nature loves to hide”, and that Aphrodite is al- the answer lies in the nature of seeing – that it always in-
ways half turned away from us in her bath. – Desire, longing, is what volves blindness.
is left – and the resulting imagination. In other words, to really see
would be to see that we see and do not see at the same time, such If seeing clearly means, in part, understanding there is a
being the nature of sight. connection between the viewer and the viewed, then we can
no longer make glib separations between ourselves and our
Seeing and believing leaders, for example. Politicians, in spite of our blind insis-

tences, are not ‘people over there’, but us, ourselves in
et’s take the process apart for a moment: seeing means perceiving other guises, our elected officials who, whether we like it or
on a physical level, that which appears. But to “see” means also not, represent us. Perhaps sometimes (or perhaps often)
to understand, to see beyond what appears. Poe gives us a lesson in they represent the interests of corporations and not us, but
how easily the eye is fooled by this distinction, in “The Purloined Let- to conclude that therefore they are crooks, inept, etc., is
We have

everything is
and yet
simply to project our own guilt onto them. Our own guilt at having elected them, first
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com

of all.

And as to the notion that our representatives actually work for the corporations, this
again begs the question: where did these corporations come from? From us! We, the
citizens, give them the power, via state charters, to do business. We remain blind to
the fact that corporations are sitting ducks for our control, via boycotts. Ralph Nader
has been lecturing us sternly on the reality of this situation for years, yet we refuse
to listen, to see: we keep electing corporate representatives, and then complain. Yet
again, it is we, not some god or ineluctable power, who elects these particular repre-
sentatives. If we blame them, we simply continue the split between us and them that
facilitates our ability to congratulate ourselves on being honest (while they are
crooks), generous (while they are venal), etc. In other words, we commit the same
error of blindness Poe’s police do – we do not follow through with the implication of
seeing, which is that it makes viewer and viewed connected.

Seeing is not believing, but it’s being connected – and therefore imagining what it
means to be so connected. We elect the officials whom we later repudiate and con-
demn, in part because after all our supposed sophistication around seeing, while we
are busy flattering our moral vanity, we fall for their appearances. Poe’s police as-
sumed their moral superiority, too.

In our attention to sight and the visual, we have lost several arts of seeing, among them
Image Courtesy of Flickr Member Jess Lander one 19th-century practice, called Physiognomy – the reading of character from the face.
Ralph Nader looks kind of swarthy and unkempt, and therefore we experience a kind of
distaste, almost aesthetic. Which of course means a political decision is made based on
appearance, even in a case in which he is screaming at us not to pay too much attention
to appearance, by his very example. We can easily read character in facial characteris-
tics, if we only would: Reagan’s good natured, ‘what me worry?’ raised and pulled to-
gether eyebrows, this chuckling dismissal of any criticism, the blandness of his Holly-
wood trained face: were these not the signs of a foolish, shallow old man?

Seeing will reconnect us, but how and in what way? We have seen how easily the eye
is fooled, and how believing we understand the meaning beneath the surface only means
that we are once again fooled, like Poe’s police. Their big problem was in not connecting
themselves with the thief, making or seeing that there is a connection.

How, then, to read the red dress, to really see what’s going on with the flag pin?

Seeing is dangerous

W e are told that being couch potatoes will kill us, but our physical bodies’ deterioration
is only half the story. Sight itself is dangerous. Let us return again to the Greeks,
who knew not only that seeing is not always believing, but that seeing can be a dangerous
act, and not just the metaphorical “seeing” which means understanding.
seen so much that
we are blind:
there for us to see,
we do not understand.
Greek myth is full of stories of the dangers of seeing: Tiresias stumbles upon Athena

volume 1.1 Is the visual political?

in her bath, and she blinds him. Acteon, while hunting, sees Artemis bathing, and he is
turned by her into a stag who is then killed by his own dogs. Dionysus’s mother Semele
is the paramour of Zeus. Semele makes Zeus swear by the River Styx to grant her one
wish, and to satisfy her curiosity, she demands he show her his divine form. The sight
kills her, of course.

In fact, one of the central (at least according to Freud) myths of human life, Oedi-
pus, is a story about the dangers of seeing too much, and he of course ends up blind,
like the seer Tiresias who has warned him not to try to see too deeply into the
mystery of who killed the king. Oedipus, like Gloucester in King Lear, and like Tire-
sias, sees too much, and so is blinded.

But in their blindness, they begin to see with other eyes. Before
we arrive at what they saw with their new eyes, we first need
to see what blinded them: Goddesses bathing; a lover god in his
full glory; how sex and fate are entwined (among other things). In
these stories, seeing is sexy, or has something to do with sex, or
desire, or love – and with endings, elemental changes, and even
death. Hippomenes and Atalanta, after their marriage, are said to
have been killed by Zeus for having sex in his temple.

Seeing may be dangerous, but in part it is dangerous because it’s

sexy. The visual is political by way of sexiness.

We know this: we, a nation of viewers, put people in jail for the crime
of seeing. One does not have to have actually, bodily have performed
any illegal act for the weight of the law to come down. It’s enough to
have seen forbidden images. Indeed, while our agreement that child
pornography is immoral and therefore illegal, the viewing of any
pornography no matter how legal, is often held as morally, if not
legally, suspect. We have a sense that there are things that we
should not see. And yet, our paradoxical nature thrives: pornogra-
phy is one of the primary drives of the internet.

But it’s not just naked bodies that are sexy – any seeing is sexy –
that is, any seeing involves desire. Images arouse us, as David
Freedberg, in The Power of Images, states that “images do work in
such a way as to incite desire.” The eyes are the windows of desire,
leading us into love at first sight. We are both seeing and blind in love, as
the medieval love poets understood. And in our day, Anaïs Nin says that
“love dies of blindness”; Helen Keller described her call for light as a call
for love, which redeemed her.
Image Courtesy of Boston Public Library

It’s the image after all that incites and arouses us, arouses our imagination, and makes
the answer lies in
the nature of seeing—
that it always involves blindness.
us connected. “Images draw us into participation with what it IS, what it looks like, the specific color of red, the fabric, the
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com

them,” writes James Hillman (211). We are in Aphrodite’s cut of the dress, and the wearer of it – and how we feel looking at it:
company now, for she is the beautiful face of the world. does it incite desire, disgust, distrust?
She is the one who can inspire us to see even those aw-
ful representatives not doing our bidding, as beautiful – if Aphrodite teaches us, after all, not to be too quick to see beyond the
only the beauty of the prostitute (for prostitutes were surface of things, but instead to love the appearances and take them
devotees of Aphrodite, lest we forget). Sex for money literally at face value. We can learn to judge character from facial ap-
had its place in the Greek pantheon, for it was, in its own pearance not because a certain smile “stands for” or “represents” cru-
way, honoring the lovely face of the world, and further, elty, or a generous heart, but because it’s the smile itself that IS
our connection to it. But pause a moment: Aphrodite’s cruel or generous.
priestesses were not simply prostitutes making a living;
intercourse with them was considered a way of worship- We begin to see differently when we really see. Thoreau, in Walden, taught
ping the goddess, and thus sex with an actual stranger us that our job is to be “looking always at what is to be seen” (174). We
had, for the Greeks, an element of sanctity. Imagine return to a paradox: we see and are blinded; we are blinded when we see,
that! and when we do not see, then we are blind and yet see. Oedipus gains
wisdom once he has blinded himself. Tiresias becomes a prophet with
Is our present day condemnation of prostitution as im- foresight after Athena has blinded him because he sees her naked.
moral, illegal and infectious the result of our high moral-
ity, or might it be evidence of our having lost touch with We have seen so much that we are blind: everything is there for us to see,
Aphrodite? And if we have lost touch with her, we have and yet we do not understand. 24/7 news coverage, the History channel,
lost the ability to witness and fall in love with the world the Nature channel, movies old and young, culture, information, entertain-
around us. As a result not only actual prostitutes, but ment – it’s all there for the viewing via the cable that connects us all. Yet
the rest of the physical world becomes just crap, stuff we are considered politically as children by much of the rest of the world,
in our way, a traffic jam, eyesores, painful to see. for our naïveté. We do not see what is really going on, and so fall for ap-
pearances instead of fall for appearances. We too often forget that while
Yet we must begin to see in the way Aphrodite teach- Aphrodite may teach us to pay attention and to love appearances, she also
es us, because in the end, that will restore us to our reminds us that it’s not as simple as that. The visual is always veiled, as
politics. And politics has a body – in fact, IS our body, it turns out. In a sense, there is no such thing as “naked”. And so to see
our body politic. clearly means also to see through a glass darkly.

Seeing is connection What we come to see, in looking at an image, is that the imagination is

aroused – and we at the same time do not see, are blinded. Seeing is
eeing makes a connection. Those who want to out- being connected, yes, but indirectly, and by means of desire and longing.
law pornography because it supposedly causes Aphroditic seeing of the world, appreciating and noting its infinite par-
sexual violence are surely showing us that seeing does ticularities, means also seeing that the image never reveals itself com-
connect us, can connect us, to the world – that is, see- pletely. Anyone who has ever shopped for pornography or clothing
ing can result in action. And connection is what we are knows this: it’s not so much about what is seen, but what is imagined.
all about, if Aristotle is right and we are political ani- Half hidden: Aphrodite turned away in her bath; the discreetly placed
mals, and if our worries about not voting as a nation are cloth over the crucified Jesus – the effect of these half hidden images
to be taken seriously. has the result of, in Hillman’s words, “closing off the literal and opening
into the imaginable, the implied, sparking the fervor of fantasy” (222).
What do we see when Aphrodite is present? Not be-
neath or beyond the surface, but the surface itself, the We end where we began, with a paradox: we must become blind, like
meaning that is inherent in the surface, not beyond it. Tiresias, in order not only to see, but to play a significant role in the
It’s not what Laura Bush’s red dress might “mean”, but polis, the fate of our city. We must see that we are blind – and blinded
Image Courtesy of Flickr Member Adam Pieniazek

because we see so much. One of the ways the visual lead directly to the And in the voting booth, alone, look around – it looks a
political was via Aphrodite’s affair with her favorite lover Ares, god of lot like those booths with peep holes in the dirty book
war and by default, politics. He’s the god of action, and he’s sexy enough stores, where you can be paradoxically alone while en-
to win Aphrodite’s heart. It’s all around us, Aphrodite and Ares enacting gaging in the great ritual of human connectedness. This
their love affair – good-looking, young, upright soldiers; spiffy in their is an image – voting booth as peeping booth, where we
uniforms, off to war, adored by their lovely wives, husbands, lovers. Gang can secretly look and see, become blinded to our belief
of Four’s “I love a man in a uniform” is precisely to the point (and by the that we see everything, and then have our eyes opened
way, their name is a reference to the discredited Chinese heads of state to how we are at all times and everywhere, connected, in
[one of whom was Mao’s last wife!], and thus provides another connec- love and politics, in sex and war.
tion between sex and politics, or appearance and society).
We can become engaged via the visual – that is, to
We see so much that we are blind to the various necessities of the polis, follow James Hillman, the image itself is vital, presents
war being among them. I am not arguing in favor of the Iraq invasion, for to us fertility, inspiration, creation, and that we arrive at
that is not a war. But if the Greeks are to be understood as giving us this creativity, this engagement via looking. “Images
something more than children’s stories, then our seeing what is going on draw us into participation with them” (211).
in our country will be blind and staggering around if we do not understand
that war is sexy – perhaps primarily because it incites desire and the We use the word “engagement” today as the entrance to
imagination. Our fathers and mothers wooed while warring (my own father marriage, which among other things is the socially ac-
met and married my mother in Australia during the World War II). ceptable container for sex. So to be ‘engaged’, whether
to a person, with a cause, or with society, is to enter upon
Therefore, I am answering the question “Is the visual political?” by ask- (to enter and to be entered by) the world of images –
ing a series of questions – “What is seeing?”, “What is politics?” And my which is another way of saying that looking is sexy.
conclusion would be that not only is the visual political, but that the
visual is one of the primary ways in which we can become more politi- It is, as we know. ■
cized, more connected. Following Aphrodite, we can see that it’s the face
of the world and our response to it that will connect us, get us to vote. References
Voting out of a sense of duty is boring and moral; but voting because Braunsberg, A. (Producer), & Ashby, H. (Director). (1979). Being There
it’s an experience of connectedness – that’s sexy and desirable. In the [Motion Picture]. USA: Lorimar Productions.

voting booth, alone, one is made aware, with just a little looking around, Freedberg, D. 1989. The Power of Images: Studies in the History and
that what we are seeing is the actual, physical precinct, its sights and Theory of Response. Chicago: University Press.

smells, the retirees staffing the folding tables, the humble places where Hillman, J. 2007. “Pink Madness” in Mythic Figures. Putnam: Spring
democracy pitches its tent, among the people who make it work. Publications.

Poe, E. A. 1845. “The Purloined Letter” in Tales. London: Wiley and

A “precinct” was originally something that girded us about, like our loins. Putnam.

All of us, getting together to conjoin in a vast orgy of election, letting Sparks, J. 1859. The Life of Benjamin Franklin; Containing the Auto-
the juices flow, getting excited, flushed, heart beating for our cause, biography, with Notes and a Continuation. Philadelphia: Childs & Pe-
terson. p408.
eyes bright with the vision of someone or something coming into our
lives that will change us forever – these symptoms are the same as we Thoreau, H. D. 1894. Walden, Or, Life in the Woods. Boston and New
York: Houghton, Mifflin and Co.
experience when we fall in love.
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com

volume 1.1 Is the visual political?

by Ryan “Sully” Sullivan

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