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vol 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 constructi
ng our world(s). Each theme-focused journal issue features articles, visual spre
ads, interviews, and reviews spanning the physical sciences, social sciences, ar
ts and humanities.
Copyright and Acknowledgements Glimpse acknowledges creators’ copyright, and encou
rages contributors to consider Creative Commons licenses for their works. Many o
f 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 Libr
ary, or private collectors. The font used in this issue is Tuffy, a freely avail
able font.
Is The vIsual polITIcal?
4 5 8 14 16 24 24 26 32 36 42 51 52 56 58 61 68 web-only web-only
presidents of the usa David Kish, illustrator ugliness: visibility and the Invis
ible prejudice Dr. Anthony Synnott, Concordia University Musings on a Master Rac
e: The Drawings of hannah Barrett Carolyn Arcabascio interviews Hannah Barrett,
artist Grandpa lenin and the crimson love Nadej Giroux politics, vision and Demo
cracy: access equality for the visually Impaired Matthew Murray, D.Phil. candida
te Cardiff University Third-Term panic, 1874 Thomas Nast, illustrator; courtesy
of T.J. Michalak political symbols Andy Hughes Mirroring people: Neuropolitics D
r. Marco Iacoboni, University of California, Los Angeles Dilemmas of claiming ow
nership in an epidemic Louise Moana Kolff, Ph. D. candidate, University of New S
outh Wales society of the and Roemer Van Toorn, Berlage Institute; Introduction
by Heather White, Boston College Media, Race, and the Marketplace Dr. Robert M.
Entman, The George Washington University hugo Juarez 2008 Nicholas Munyan politi
co-Religious Dimensions of chaco canyon pottery Dr. Stephen Plog, University of
Virginia Flags, color, symbol, and National Identity Carolyn Arcabascio intervie
ws Dr. Karen Cerulo, Rutgers University (Re)views Andy Hughes Is the visual poli
tical? Dr. Thomas Kaplan-Maxfield, Boston College political agenda Ryan Sullivan
, illustrator electing the president: how american elections Work Steve Hickey,
graphic designer Framing Documenta: The local politics of high art in Kassel, Ge
rmany Jeffrey Andreoni + Daniel Stein, Bezdomny Collective, Rome
From the Editor
Tea m
Megan Hurst Founder, Managing Editor Christine Madsen Co-Founder, Editor (Europe
) Matthew Steven Carlos Editorial Advisor Nadej Giroux Editorial Research, Copy
Editing Dane Wiedmann Editorial Research Jamie Ahlstedt Logo Design, Layout, Gra
phics Nicholas Munyan Design + Layout, Image Research Carolyn Arcabascio Intervi
ews, Editorial + Image Research Heather White Features, Editorial Research, Rela
tionship Development Andy Hughes Reviews, Editorial Research Jean-Pierre Leguill
ou Design Consultant Sarah Wharton Copy Editing
Vision is arguably our most immediate and mysterious means of receiving informat
ion. It is the carrier of great subtleties, can extend or heighten our emotions,
override our logic, but can also serve to amplify our reason or intuition. Form
ally uncodified, vision differs from our more conscious cultural engagement with
spoken and written language. It is deeply, biologically embedded in our cogniti
ve framework, but often in ways we do not recognize or understand. Long thought
to reveal the truth, as with the old adage “Seeing is believing,” research now revea
ls vision and memory to be more porous than we may have once understood. Advance
s in brain imaging indicate further intricacies to the “problem” of vision. How reli
able is human vision as it relates to our understanding of the world? Is what we
see influenced by more than just our physical sight of that which is before us?
Are there things “in plain sight” that we do not see? As we begin to understand mor
e about vision, the brain, and cognition, more complexities are revealed. These
advances have implications for societies and cultures as well. Issue 1 of Glimps
e, focuses on the question, “Is the visual political?” The obvious answer is “yes”. Pres
ented in this issue are many answers to support this thesis, ranging from the pe
rsuasiveness of satirical political illustrations to the cognitive processes of
political affiliation; to the transmission of sociopolitical information through
color, pattern, and form in ancient pottery and contemporary national flags; to
the physical logistics of how we participate in democracy through sight. Additi
onal sub-themes emerge among these works relating to the exchange of visual info
rmation- the roles of producers and of receivers, and varying levels of consciou
sness in the construction and receipt of that information. The front cover for t
his issue is green, black, and orange—an homage to optical tricks that reveal a re
d, white, and blue image after staring at a fixed point in the first image for 3
0 seconds, then shifting one’s gaze to a white surface. The American assemblagist
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 p
ower and biophysics of what we see, how we see, and how we understand what we se
e. And so, with a generous group of contributors from diverse disciplines, and a
talented and resourceful volunteer staff, we launch Glimpse. We extend an open
invitation to scholars, researchers, learners, and the generally curious to use
Glimpse as a sandbox and a soapbox for their questions, experiences, discoveries
, and theories about seeing, and vision’s many implications for being, understandi
ng, and constructing our world(s).
ISSN 1945-3906
Glimpse PO Box 382178 Cambridge, MA 02238
Megan Hurst
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com
by David Kish
uGlINess: vIsIBIlITy aND The INvIsIBle pReJuDIce
by Dr. Anthony Synnott (Concordia University)
volume 1.1 Is the visual political?
Image Courtesy of Otis Historical Archives National Museum of Health & Medicine
(Opposite): Original Illustration by David Kish ©2008
gliness is repulsive. In a democratic age, this is not fair, but there it is. Th
e U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) affirms
in Article 1: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and human right
s.” Article 2 rejects discrimination on any basis “such as race, colour, sex, langua
ge, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property...”
and it continues. But there is no explicit 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 com
ponents: beautyism, which is a relatively new term
regardless of merit, and
beautiful people uglyism, which may be a term first coined here, for the negativ
e prejudice and discrimination against ugly people.
for the positive prejudice and discrimination in favour of A well-known study on
personal appearance found that “less attractive” people were believed to be less “sen
sitive, kind, interesting, strong, poised, modest, sociable, outgoing and exciti
ng” than more attractive individuals, and also less “sexually responsive.” The researc
hers 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 indicate
s that they are less popular in school, tend to achieve lower grades, have fewer
job opportunities, and elicit fewer helping behaviors. (Patzer, 1985). Appearan
ce impacts not only attitudes, but also incomes. A Canadian study of the relatio
n between income levels and attractiveness found that the homely or less attract
ive individuals earned 75% less than the attractive individuals, and 57% less th
an the average, with each of the three groups consisting of about one-third of t
he sample. The less attractive individuals were also judged to be less sincere t
han the attractive ones: 59% compared to 75%. Similar findings have been reporte
d by Biddle and Hamermesh, and Hamermesh and Biddle (2000, 1993). Beauty is rela
tively simple. The models and the film stars and starlets, male and especially f
emale, tend to look much the same, and indeed are hired within a rigid set of cr
iteria. 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 fac
e, 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 conversations. We say, “She’s as ugl
y as sin,” “You look like hell!” moral demonization are one. Conversely, we also say,
or “You look like the devil!” The physical ugliness and the “Oh! You look divine!” “You lo
ok like an angel!” or we simply describe someone as “good-looking.” The same word, goo
d, can mean both physically attractive and morally virtuous. To be attractive is
, by definition, to attract. To be lovely is, by implication, to be lovable and
to be thought to symbolize the ugly self. The exterior is thought loved. To be u
nattractive is to repel. The
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com
en, perhaps since men are visual. Beautiful women attract the alpha males, ugly
women do not, generally speaking.
Charles Darwin was intrigued by this matter of beauty, especially in birds, and
he wondered about its evolutionary function. “The Descent of Man” was subtitled “and S
election in Relation to Sex.” In the chapter “On the influence of beauty in determin
ing the marriages of mankind,” he suggests that in “civilized life man is largely, b
ut not exclusively, influenced in the choice of his wife by external appearance” (
1981:2:338) and vice versa, he added later, pending the males’ triumph by what he
called “the law of battle.” Thus beauty becomes a prime factor in sexual selection,
contributing to “a greater average number of offspring,” (1981:2:369) and thus to hu
man evolution. Conversely, “the weaker, poorer and lower members of the same tribe
s” would have fewer offspring – as would the uglier. The chapter could equally well
have been titled: “On the influence of ugliness in determining the marriages of ma
nkind.” In today’s language, we would say that the attraction to beauty and the repu
lsion from ugliness are hard-wired and genetically determined. We might add, too
, that they
body is
to reflect the interior. This is a function of our language, and both expresses
and re-creates our beliefs and our practices. This is a supreme advantage for th
e but a supreme disadvantage for the
beautiful, ugly. No doubt most
people are somewhere in the middle, but both the advantages and the disadvantage
s persist.
The ugly Mystique
he “ugly mystique” goes back to the Greeks. In the Iliad, Homer describes the treach
erous Thersites as
“the ugliest man that had come to Ilium. He had a game foot and was bandy-legged.
His rounded shoulders almost met across his chest; and above them rose an eggsha
ped head, which sprouted a few short hairs.” (Bk 2; 1983:45) He looked bad; he was
bad. Appearance and reality were one. This was perhaps the earliest expression
Image Courtesy of Flickr Member Smabs Sputzer
are also learned behavior and culturally determined. Indeed, Darwin devoted an e
ntire chapter to the cultural relativity of beauty. Our cultural products, inclu
ding literature, film, and art reflect our linguistic norms. The Concise Oxford
Dictionary defines “Ugly” as follows: “unpleasing or repulsive to sight, antly suggest
ive, threatening, unpromising.” The application of this adjective to any individua
l carries a considerable semantic, emotional and evaluative load. The word is no
t simply a descriptor of visual appearance, but also a moral evaluation. Convers
ely, “Beauty” is defined as follows: “a combination of qualities, as shape, proportion
, colour, in human face or form, or in other objects, that delights the sight...
combined qualities delighting the other senses, the moral sense, the intellect” a
nd examples are same identity between the physical and the moral—the same confusio
n of different orders of reality. given. But as with the definition of “Ugly,” we ca
n see the morally repulsive, vile, discreditable, unpleasant, unpleas-
uglyism, yet the tradition from Thersites, Cyclops, Satan, ugly and the deformed
are evil. The invisible is visible.
The same convention of evil being Silver, Richard III, Mr. Hyde right up to Dr.
No is that the
the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Captain Hook, Long John
and outer re-
flecting inner is clear in film as well. Horror movies are the prime exemplars o
f these conventions. Monsters are uniformly horrific, whether dinosaurs, gorilla
s, aliens of various styles, or whatever. The evil is symbolized by the horrific
appearances of the evil doers. The ethos of art replicates literature and film,
as might be expected. This is most obvious in the portraiture of the Madonna an
d the devil. Not only is the Madonna uniformly uniformly
beautiful and female, but the devil, Satan, is ugly and male.
This is the Christian view. Almost the entire secular corpus of Judaeo-Christian
culture has articulated the worship of beauty and the dislike of ugliness, and
the equations of the physical and the metaphysical, the visible and the invisibl
e (Synnott, 1993 :73-102). St. Thomas Aquinas, (1225-74) the premier theologian
of the Catholic Church, defined beauty as “id quod visum placet”—that which pleases—and
asserted that “the
reality as well as in our literary, film, aesthetic and imaginative realms. What
we fear is a mirage.
References Aquinas, Thomas. 1981. Summa Theologiae. Vol. 19. Blackfriars.
and ugly. And we love beauty, even though it is so often
ugly and evil — evil
volume 1.1 Is the visual political?

and the good are identical in
reality” (1981: Vol. 19 :76). Ugliness, therefore, is that which displeases, and u
gliness and evil are identical. Yet philosophers since Plato have been fascinate
d by beauty, by the idea of beauty anyway. Plato loved beauty, and argued that t
he contemplation of a
Berscheid, E. and E. Walster, 1972. “Beauty and the Best.” Psychology Today. 42-6, 7
4. Biddle, Jeff and Daniel S. Hamermesh, 2000. “Productivity and Discrimination: L
awyers Looks and Lucre.” NBER. Working Paper No. W5366. Darwin, Charles 1981/1871.
The Descent of Man. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. Hamermesh, Dan
iel C. and Jeff Biddle. 1993. “Beauty and the Looks Mystique” NBER Working Paper No.
4518. Homer, and Colin W. MacLeod. 1982. Iliad: Book XXIV. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press. Patzer, Gordon. 1985. The Physical Attractiveness Phenomenon.
New York: Plenum. Plato, 1963. The Collected Dialogues. Edited by Edith Hamilto
n and Huntington Cairns. Bollingen Series. Princeton, N.J. : Princeton Universit
y Press. Ranfurly, Hermione. 1998. The Ugly One: the childhood memoirs of the Co
untess of Ranfurley, 1913-1939. London: Michael Joseph Ltd. Synnott, Anthony. 19
93. The Body Social. Symbolism, Self and Society. London: Routledge.
boy led one
several steps up the heavenly ladder to Absolute Beauty, which is Love and the G
ood (Symposium 211; 1963:562-3). By implication, the contemplation of an down th
e ladder to Absolute
Ugly which is Hate and Evil.
ugly boy must lead
Our attitudes and behavior towards the
ugly may be unfair,
but they are not entirely surprising: they are embedded and audible in our langu
age, legible in our literature, exemplified in our biographies and autobiographi
es, visible in our films, and rationalized by philosophers. The consequences of
ugliness and beauty have been researched by social scientists -
uglyism is more visible than it once was. None the less,
Bibliography American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 2008. Report of the 2007 Stat
istics. www.plasticsurgery.org Cash, T. F., B. A. Winstead and L. H. Janda, 1986
. “The Great American Shape-up.” Psychology Today; 19: 30-7. De Beauvoir, Simone. 19
53. The Second Sex. New York: Knopf. Eco, Umberto. 2007. On Ugliness. New York:
Rizzoli. Friday, Nancy, 1996. The Power of Beauty. New York: HarperCollins Greer
, Germaine. 1971. The Female Eunuch. London: Paladin Books. Joanisse, Leanne and
Anthony Synnott, 1998. “Fighting Back: Reactions and Resistance to the Stigma of
Obesity” in Jeffrey Sobel and Donna Maurer (eds). Interpreting Weight: The Social
Management of Fatness and Thinness. New York: Aldine de Gruyter:49-69. Kaczorows
ki, J 1989. The Good, the Average and the Ugly: Socioeconomic Dimensions of Phys
ical Attractiveness. M.A.Thesis. Department of Sociology. McGill University. Mur
phy, Robert F. 1987. The Body Silent. New York: Henry Holt. Montagu, Ashley. 197
9. The Elephant Man. New York: E. P. Dutton. Synnott, Anthony 1990. “The Beauty My
stique: Ethics and Aesthetics in the Bond Genre.” The International Journal of Pol
itics, Culture and Society. 3:3:407-26. Wan, Nathalie. 2003. “’Orange in a World of
Apples’: The Voices of Albinism.” Disability and Society. 18:3:277-96.
this is an adversity which afflicts millions of people, and receives nothing lik
e the attention of some of our other adversities specified by the United Nations
. It is so widespread, deep-rooted, and normal that it remains largely invisible
save to those affected, such as the English woman who entitled her memoirs “The
One.” She starts by
saying: “I started life as a disappointment—because I wasn’t
a boy. I continued being a disappointment —because I was My older brother was hand
some; my younger sister
was handsome; and my little sister was our baby and people always say babies are
even when they are hid-
eous” (Ranfurly, 1998:1). In sum, the conventional wisdom that the physically ugly
are also evil, and that the evil—the mass murderers and serial killers—are also ugl
y is widely symbolized in popular culture; but it is not justified by reality. A
dolf Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Charles Taylor, Slobodan Milosevic, do not look
look normal, average. The “ugly mystique” is false, unfair,
ugly. They
dangerous, and silly; yet it is alive and well and lives on in
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com 8
One Body Naturally Considered
MusINGs oN a MasTeR Race: The DRaWINGs oF haNNah BaRReTT
by Carolyn Arcabascio
series of faces peer out, defying the confines of their two-dimensional surfaces
. Their eyes connect two worlds, but bespeak bemusement and skepticism. These ar
e standoffish and wary characters, but unmistakably curious ones. about us. abou
t 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 bi
zarre, fantastical landscapes. everything foreign and new, save for the familiar
furrowed brows, lined lips, and spots of mustache that I recognized as the borr
owed and mingling features of Queen elizabeth and adolf hitler.
thInk In Images,” Hannah Barrett explained, sorting though draw-
values, that stubborn system of compartmentalized principles. Perhaps here we’ll f
ind guidance on how to feel. Disapproving? Acceptant? But our archetypes of virt
uous and villainous are all but inapplicable - in the hybrid we find the image o
f fairness and the face of evil singularly embodied. With the convergence of dic
tator (male, loathsome, past) and queen (female, good, current) comes a total co
llapse of boundaries – of our dear categories. Forced to surrender the biases that
inform our gender no choice but to look at these figures without pretense . The
y boast anatomical landscapes, dubious and rare. So entrenched in the present re
ality on this side of the picture plane, our thoughts wander to a counterculture
of bodies and orientations, the likes of which are largely inconspicuous on the
mainstream cultural horizon. But Barrett takes this new figure, crowns it, and
so thrusts it to the forefront of our sociological and political awareness. The
artist illuminates these modern taboos that perhaps a later, more sophisticated
era will greet with amity and honesty. In the meantime, we wrestle with our prec
onceptions, trying to rebuild our comfortable and illusory barriers. And all the
while, horsebacked hermaphrodite and friends go about their business. They wate
r flowers and contemplate (something) over tea, in spite of us. But the chronic
uncertainty of this paradoxical place is unshakable and frustrating and I demand
to know: What kind of leadership can be offered here and where do my stereotype
s apply? What of the aggression of masculine leadership, the diplomacy of femini
ne? Where are the absolutes to shape my ethical character and how can an entity
of opposites keep from self-destructing? A representative of the master race loo
ks out (eye-contact this time) from Barrett’s imitation Hitler watercolor. Folded
hands rest on an ornate table, decorated with the Queen’s Fabergé egg, nudged consci
entiously to the corner. Perhaps s/he can answer my questions. roles and goad ou
r self-righteousness, we’re left with
volume 1.1 Is the visual political?
ers of collaged “digital sketches.” So the image of Queen Elizabeth, for whom the Bo
ston-based artist admits a strong affinity and fondness, offered a steadfast sta
rting point for a new body of work. The monarch fixed herself, poised and patien
t, in Barrett’s mind and waited for her male counterpart whose features would ulti
mately meld with her own. This process of selection and juxtaposition is one tha
t Barrett knows well. Just take a look at the work that spans her career and you’l
l become witness to a parade of hybrids – a ragtag array of eccentricity and sexua
l ambiguity. The new series at hand would follow suit, but it had to do more tha
n just satisfy previously established, radical criteria. And for Barrett, every
candidate for combination was falling flat. They were too small, there was no te
nsion, none were commanding enough to share a body with the Queen. Until Hitler’s
face entered the spectrum of potentials. He was certainly big enough, recognizab
le enough, detestable enough to serve as the perfect visual and conceptual foil.
But Barrett met the notion of working with the dictator’s visage with justifiable
reluctance, and her extensive academic background and personal interest in Germ
an studies and culture only magnified her discomfort. Still, the image remained.
Nagging, expectant. While perusing an old Christie’s catalog, a frequent source o
f reference material and inspiration, the artist found HIM - Maurizio Cattelan’s p
hotorealistic sculpture of a miniature Hitler, kneeling in prayer. The thing is
provocative, of course, recalling atrocity and inciting pain that generations of
time haven’t dulled. Yet the scale is shifted, the gesture vulnerable, and the dy
namic between us and it—changed. Barrett reapproached her hybrid, suspended mid-th
ought, with new resolve. By continuing to shy away in her considerable distaste,
she’d be “honoring these taboos by scrupulously avoiding them.” So she executed the i
nsistent idea—several times over—and manifested a
dite Master Race.
One member of the new breed sits regally on horseback, clothed in a dictator’s get
up and accessorized with a monarch’s jewels. The figure looks past us, imparting a
misdirected royal wave. Barrett places the new and improbable person in her ren
dition of Erastus Salisbury Field’s Garden of Eden – humanity’s biblical birthplace wh
ere God breathed life into Adam’s nostrils and made Eve, the divine afterthought,
to assuage his loneliness. Now, the loaded sequence of humankind’s creation is sub
verted, beaten by a body both man and woman. Our gender-directed prejudices lie
dead and irrelevant somewhere. Craving direction, we appeal to our
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com
TalKING (sexual) hyBRIDs
carolyn arcabascio (ca): Why are you so drawn to the concepts of hybridization a
nd distortion? hannah Barrett (hB): Well, let’s start with the hybridization. I’m tr
ying to show a new figure that I feel is there, and I know is there in a way. Pe
ople are changing their bodies and you can get plastic surgery. I come from a qu
eer community with a lot of people going trans. So I wanted to show these new th
ings that are going on. Not just the surgery, but also how people are thinking a
bout themselves as not necessarily so polarized male or female. But I needed to
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 woma
n. So the hybridization allows me to make this really overt connection of a comb
ination of male and female. And then as I went along, I started experimenting wi
th it. I found that how people respond to it varies and is broader than if I jus
t showed something that broke boundaries - a trans person, or an old woman and a
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 ma
rriage, which wasn’t anything I even thought about. I’ve been thinking of things lik
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 peopl
e sort of come out of other people. So I felt that the hybrid portrait had poten
tial to show this whole new gender that was happening, and it’s also an encapsulat
ed narrative. You can suggest a whole story about a person that’s not like a strai
ght-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, 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 contempora
ry 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 oppor
tunity, in a world that’s constantly bombarded with images. And everything is so t
ired and has been done. This is something that is totally relevant, is totally c
ontemporary, but it’s not really being done. So for me it’s like, why wouldn’t I do it
? I guess some people could say it’s unsettling. ca: how has your own personal per
ception of gender influenced your work? hB: Well, I might not notice these thing
s 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. W
hen 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 m
y friends were in video and photography. There were no queer people trying to le
arn how to paint - they were all doing new media, photo, performance. And so I’ve
always been really aware of how these worlds are really separate, and that my po
int 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 where I’m the onl
y woman there who hasn’t had a sex change. So for me, that’s my reality. ca: What ro
le does humor play in your work? hB: When you do collage, humor is kind of inher
ent. 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 l
ittle hands or whatever. I could eliminate all of that. They could have a totall
y different look, and I could make them more conventionally beautiful, but then
to me, what would be the was painting with Barney Rubinstein. I’ve gone to dinner
Garden of his Heavenly Will
volume 1.1 Is the visual political? 11
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com
point? So the humor I think is partly the collage, and partly just how my person
ality 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 c
a: The humor makes it accessible. hB: It’s an involuntary thing, laughter. If peop
le feel like they can laugh and spend time with something, then this mix of stuf
f will start to permeate. That’s how I look at things. So even though my work is r
eally overt and literal, it’s still ambiguous on a certain level. But if people ha
ve something that they want to look at and that they feel engaged in because of
the humor, because of the detail, that’s what I’m trying to do. ca: Do you consider
yourself a satirist? HB: I never thought of that. Maybe. I can think of people w
ho are more satirical. There’s a kind of formality to satire; offhand I can think
of people who have satirical elements to their work, but I can’t really think of s
omebody I would call a ca: Most of your work deals with the manipulation of the
historical image - whether you’re working from a collaged family portrait, histori
cal photographs, photos of political figures. What is the importance of the alte
ration of history in the context of your work? hB: I went into painting because
I’m very attracted to the craft, and as my sensibility, I’m a very craftsman-like pe
rson. So I’m really interested in the old crafts and old paintings - studying thes
e things, practicing them. But at the same time, I’m a very contemporary person. S
o for me there’s always a weird split that goes on. I’ll be poring over all the auct
ion magazines from Christie’s for old master paintings, and they’re all credibly sat
irist. It’s a really interesting question, because visually I think it’s kind of out
of fashion. I don’t think it’s out of fashion in writing, or in theater. But it has
to do with how people read visual imagery now. I don’t think people read it in a
way where satire really operates anymore. When I think of contemporary images to
day, and I think of people who work with very overt and specific imagery like I
do, or people much more famous than myself like Neo Rauch or Dana Schutz, holdin
g 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. They had a fake gross national prod
uct for fifty years and then in 1989 everybody woke up and discovered, oh, actua
lly, all these factories and all these things that we thought we were doing - it’s
just play. So you could say it means that - that’s what these things symbolize. O
n the other hand, somebody wouldn’t even have to know anything about East Germany
and could just see them as something that goes on with everybody - you’re looking
for something, and you come up with this thing, and it’s an absurdity. I think his
work would lose a lot if it were more related to a specifically East German ide
a. And it’s important that it can mean something broader than that. Current events
are happening so fast now, I think it’s hard to keep up with something that’s relev
ant. That’s probably part of it too— how people read imagery now. By the time you’re d
one with the thing, the news has changed.
always ambiguity there .
So even if
something seems like it’s being satirized, it’s still general. For example, in Neo R
ausch’s work there’s
incredibly religious paintings, inmisogynist . I don’t see myself in that. So I’m at
to the craftsmanship, the beauty, the color, the surface of those things, but be
cause 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 bac
k to them. If something’s far enough away, it’s a sort of realm of rediscovery becau
se you don’t know about it any more than you know about what hasn’t happened yet.
ca: since you mostly see these images as fragments while you work, and since tha
t’s the nature of the kind of image that you generally work with, does this influe
nce the way you see things in everyday life? Do you pick things apart and fragme
ntize? hB: I know that how people optically perceive things in the world is dire
ctly linked to how they work. You know, people who have a broader vision stand b
ack 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 ar
t’s not in the schools anymore, people don’t do it, don’t practice it. When my grandpa
rents went to school in this country, everybody did drawing. My grandparents cou
ld 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 g
oing 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 do
n’t understand visual meaning. You know, they’re trying to match something that they
see, instead of looking at it in terms of it’s own language, because they don’t kno
w that language. So the farther people get from knowing visual language, I think
the more politicized it becomes.
Joyous Entry
volume 1.1 Is the visual political? 13

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 existenc
e”. On Navajo and Druidic artifacts, in French cathedrals and symbols of the Chine
se Tang Dynasty, the swastika seems to have been a widely recognized image and w
as incorporated in positive and spiritual ways that seem surprising now. Specifi
c 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. Sarka
r has also been sure to point out the significance of the swastika’s positioning:
when the line at the top points to the right, it is a positive expression, repre
senting ultimate victory. When reversed, it indicates destruction and extinction
. As inseparable as this symbol is from the evils of World War II and the Holoca
ust, there are still cultures today that recognize the original values of the sw
astika. A website, www.reclaimtheswastika.com is currently leading a campaign to
promote the positive values of the symbol and separate it from its political as
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GRaNDpa leNIN aND The cRIMsoN love
by Nadej Giroux
there he hung on a wall of every institution: from office buildings to grocery s
tores to hospitals, always beaming on with his strong eyebrows and a far away ga
ze to the “beautiful future”. For all of us he was just that—the good old gramps.
felt he always was a part of my family, this man I never knew. None of us knew h
im, actually. And yet,
attendance was a must (or else your boss would have a word with you later on, sa
y, the subject of your social uninvolvement) and a volunteer would take a roll c
all to make sure that everybody came with mandatory glee. Communism in the mid-e
ighties was certainly not what it used to be in the days of its dawn. Grown-ups
frequently made subtle passing jokes in regards to “Oh, you don’t have it as bad as
we had it” and my mother was genuinely happy (though would never admit it in publi
c at the time) that kids in the eighties had a far lesser degree of indoctrinati
on. The amount of communist art produced in that era pales in comparison to the
previous decades and it started to gain more of a kitschy, half-serious characte
r. It was like a secret, side-ways route by which we phased out the ideology we
no longer believed. All the symbols and all the red turned into the background,
much like incessant billboard advertising. People became disillusioned by the se
lf-perpetuated dream of a perfect future, when all of us communists would be “free”.
Back in those days though, we didn’t know that “free” would still mean having no mone
y, even with access to the goods. But shades of crimson still brought happiness
to a young child like myself, mostly because it was bright and very few things w
ere vibrant in my childhood. I remember being astonished the first time I saw a
set of Play-Dough sold in America, particularly because of the colors it contain
ed: “Wow, pink and purple and such rich green. This is certainly unheard of!” In the
kindergarten they always asked us to make the Play-Dough sculptures and the col
ors were always brown, beige, white and black. Sometimes you were lucky to get a
green but they were all dark and depressing colors in
As we woke up from our afternoon nap, all the kids would sit in a circle as the
teacher made us memorize the poems that made him ever so endearing, but it is pr
ecisely then that I started questioning why this strange man somehow sneaked int
o my heart and made me so fond of him. The grown-ups considered his mummy in the
Moscow mausoleum to be a sacred place, but the idea of a mummified man, exposed
for all to see struck me as something beyond creepy. But this is precisely why
Lenin remained our constant family member: he never died, his body continued to
live on in physical space, where hundreds of people would venture daily as if to
see a relic of the old Saints. In fact, most said that dead Lenin was so “hot”, you’d
have to bribe people in advance to get the tickets. Many things in my childhood
were crimson red. It seemed like “red” was the stock color, associated with everyth
ing eternally good, festive and patriotic. Red banners flew over many buildings
and “krasnyj” (being the word for “red” as well as “beautiful”) flew in woman’s dresses, ca
and shiny balloons during the many parades of my childhood. The Soviets loved pa
rades in a quaintly harmless, exhibitionistic way we loved to show ourselves how
really great we were and people collected massively to celebrate our idealistic
dreams. More often than not, however, the parade
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 wi
th 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 i
t was anger and over sexualized images that became so pervasive and socially unr
estricted that they flooded every corner of the country. While, possibly, elsewh
ere this would cause public discontent, we had already learned to tune visuals o
ut and it just wasn’t much of a shock. I even remember sometime in the late eighti
es people would come on trains during long stops and sell from under thick jacke
ts 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 sto
ne/ marble/granite/bronze jacket waving in the wind and his arm pointing to an/t
he 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 li
berated merriment as the West watched it happening, somewhere else as usual, glu
ed 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!” No
body made much fuss because we had no real reason to hate him—none of us really kn
ew 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 a
nd I was happy about it. After all, he was a part of my family and watched me wh
erever went.

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polITIcs, vIsIoN aND DeMocRacy: access eQualITy FoR The vIsually IMpaIReD
by Matthew Murray (Cardiff University)
Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the universal s
izing and texturing of various denominations the U.S. dollar was discriminatory
to the visually impaired.1 The court ruled that the adaptations made previously
to the dollar were not enough to bring the currency into compliance to the Rehab
ilitation Act of 1973 that affords “meaningful access” to the handicapped.2 Judge Ju
dith V. Rogers stated in the majority opinion, “Even the most searching tactile ex
amination will reveal no difference between a $100 bill and a $1 bill.” This rulin
g affirms that currency having only visual cues to disseminate its value, is dis
criminatory as the visually impaired do not have equal access to the needed sens
ory input (in part or in full) to use the existing cues present on the dollar. W
ithout this equal ability, the visually impaired are unable to discern the value
of the currency and must rely on the charity of others to inform them of the va
lue of the money being exchanged. Without access to the medium of communication
used by the currency, the visually impaired cannot interact in what has been dee
med a manner equal to all other individuals. This
fter many years of pursuit by the American Council for the Blind, on May 20th 20
08 the U.S.
This inability to access these forms of visual communication lead to social and
political inequalities that stand contrary to the moral demands of a democratic
system of governance. In highlighting the inadequate provision of these media, I
intend to show that the legal and moral standards for instituting reforms exist
in present legislation in the United States. To conclude this article, I will p
ose a solution to rectify the current failings in media provision for blind/visu
ally-impaired/dyslexic persons (referred to just as visually impaired), articula
te how these reforms can provide the requisite access to visual forms of communi
cation, and how this access empowers the visually impaired to equally partake in
the system of governance. To discern the moral duty and subsequent legal duty o
f the democratic system of governance in the United States, it is important to e
stablish precisely what this system is meant to do, ideally speaking. The federa
l representative democracy of the United States is intended to respect populatio
n and territory proportionally while treating indition of one person, one vote.
The ability to vote with equal quantifiable power to all other individual citize
ns is the formal vidual citizens with equality in respect to their direct quanti
equality be-
stowed upon all citizens capable of registering to vote.3 Although those unable
to take part in this process still have protected rights, the ability to take pa
rt in the political process through voting infers something further. Being a reg
istered voter both physically, through capability, and formally, through recogni
zed citizenship, means that beyond the formal rights protections bestowed upon a
ll, the opinion of all these individuals, including the handicapped, is deemed t
o be equal and worthy of equal quantification in the processes of democratic gov
ernance. Individuals meeting these thresholds are deemed capable because of thei
r requisite membership in the polity and their ability to exercise their opinion
s in the formal system of quantification.
inequality means
that the visually impaired cannot act equally in all circumstances in the consen
sual transactions implied by ally impaired face runs contrary to the legal and m
oral commitments of the United States when such issues have been remedied by oth
er global currencies. The lack of access to visual information formats in our so
ciety extends beyond currency to other visually-dependent media. These visually-
dependent media are requisite to the ability of visually impaired persons to acc
ess information and make the social associations in which other fully-sighted in
dividuals can freely partake. capitalist justice. This inequality that the visu-
The formal parameters of citizenship in respect to voting continue to emerge as
the boundaries of who actually qualifies as a quantifiable individual citizen ha
ve been questioned and amended historically. The parameters and provisions neede
d to procure the equal social conditions required to foster this formal quantifi
cation of equality are
volume 1.1 Is the visual political?
a matter of constant debate and revision as well. Economics, gender, and race ar
e just a few of the social issues that have also spurred reform in the quantific
ation 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 associat
ion but also would deny them the ability to access conceptions of the good that
would legitimize their electoral decisions. The handicapped, including the visua
lly 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 handicapped to part
icipate as equally as possible in society, including voting accommodations. Alth
ough the ADA acted broadly in providing the legal mandate for physical access, e
mployment rights and transportation provisions, the provisions for communication
systems were monofaceted. Title IV of the ADA, deals specifically with telecomm
unications and provisions for “hearing-impaired and speech-impaired individuals.”5 C
ertain 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 h
earing-impaired individuals were unable to access or unduly burdened in accessin
g these mediums. Without the ability to freely partake in these important medium
s of communication and social association, these impaired individuals would be f
ormally free to participate in society and the democratic system of governance b
ut denied a vital associative tool of which all other citizens could freely avai
l themselves. One of the provision’s shortcomings was addressed in 1990 when Congr
ess 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
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mandate all televisions be capable of receiving a closed captioning (CC) signal.
This mandate first extended only to analog televisions but has been extended to
cover all digital televisions as well. The findings of the bill stated “to the fu
llest extent made possible by technology, deaf and hearing-impaired people shoul
d have equal access to the television medium.”8 Furthermore, the findings stated “cl
osed-captioned television will provide access to information entertainment, and
a greater understanding of our Nation and the world to over 24,000,000 people in
the United States who are deaf or hearing-impaired.”9 At the time, the hearing im
paired had to privately supply receivers. These privately acquired receivers wer
e only able to access the stations actually providing CC content. In accordance
with the TDCA, the FCC was given the power to mandate the form of CC and subsequ
ently to compel TV manufactures to produce technology compliant with standardize
d formats over time. The standardization and mandatory provision of CC technolog
y ensured that the hearing-impaired were able to access the medium with most tel
evisions10. However, merely standardizing and mandating the technology that rece
ives CC on televisions would not be enough since privately owned media outlets w
ould not be compelled to provide CC services. In 1996, 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 as Part 79) for television broadcasters and distri
butors, pursuant to the TDCA.12 With few exceptions13, this portion of the FCC c
ode mandated the provision of CC signals in English and subsequently in Spanish,
by all operating television outlets including cable and satellite operators. As
a regulatory body of the government which essentially permits the legal use of
forms of broadcast, the FCC could compel
these broadcast requirements even for privately held media outlets as the actual
medium, they were using was a governmentally regulated body. The regulation pro
tects the broadcasting outlets from other private actors, who given an unregulat
ed broadcast system would infringe upon one another and interrupt the ability of
either to broadcast. In turn, for protecting these outlets from the hazards of
the medium that is the property of all citizens, the FCC acts to ensure that all
individuals who wish to receive these forms of communication have the ability t
o do so, even if these outlets themselves are privately owned. Although the cont
ent itself might be privately owned and require private compensation, like satel
lite or cable television, these outlets could not discriminate against the heari
ng impaired beyond the costs that are incurred by any other enabled individual i
n accessing their content. Furthermore, by using publicly regulated mediums and
infrastructure they could be legitimately compelled to provide the CC service in
exchange for the protection of their broadcast rights. These public policies fo
rmalized access to the federallysanctioned TV medium, implied equal interactive
capability for all, and realized this commitment to equality that further implie
d that such equalizing material provisions could not be fairly foisted upon hear
ing-impaired individuals. The federal regulation through the FCC gave the govern
ment recourse to enact bipartite reforms that
Image Courtesy of Flickr Member Foxtongue Photo
compelled the provision of receivers while also ensuring the mandatory provision
of the CC signals that allow the hearing impaired to interact with televised co
ntent. It is important, if this argument is to be convincingly extended to other
mediums, to discuss precisely why “a greater understanding of our Nation and the
world” is a fundamentally important aspect of the lives of hearing impaired in the
United States. 14 Furthermore, we must discuss why these reforms to provide req
uisite access to the television medium accomplished this imperative. Television,
much like other forms of communication, is a medium for content that provides t
he context that individuals must be equally free to acquire/perceive. The inabil
ity to proscribe how individuals may wish to associate and communicate does not
subvert the imperative that individuals must equally and individually be capable
of associating and communicating in order for their choices, both in their dail
y lives and in the polity, to be seen as legitimate in a democratic context. Alt
hough individuals can form conceptions of the good, arguably without social inte
raction, they cannot be denied equal access to the mediums that individuals use
to interact and form their social conceptions, because of the material needs of
their disability. For the hearing impaired prior to the TDCA/Part 79, the formal
liberty to receive and associate with televised media was not denied to them, b
ut the practical ability to access the format universally was denied, save the f
ew who were proficient lip-readers or fiscally endowed enough to have programs d
isseminated alternatively. The hearing impaired may legitimately choose not to w
atch television or to associate with any particular channel or broadcast entity,
but that is a decision the confines
leave squarely to all individuals. By
volume 1.1 Is the visual political?
the same token, broadcast outlets may choose not to associate, through denial of
service for private content for, say, someone unwilling to pay for the service,
but they cannot make such distinction based upon the access needs present in an
individual’s sensory capabilities. These outlets cannot discriminate based upon t
he physical accommodations required by morally/legally equal actors, so although
the content may be private, the access to it through the federally-protected me
dia must be universal. To coherently implement this moral impetus, the standardi
zation of signal formats and decoder equipment plainly follows. However, one mig
ht argue that this moral argument still isn’t enough to justify the universal stan
dardization of closed captioning equipment and signals, given that the role of t
he state is purely to provide access to each given channel of the given broadcas
t medium. Individual channels could provide access in any number of ways, all of
which may be in different formats and with different technological requirements
. As long as these outlets provided the service and technology without added cos
t to the hearing-impaired person, it seems the moral duty to
in a liberal
democratic society would be fulfilled. To explain the trouble with such an argum
ent, let us say each broadcaster provided free alternative access to the hearing
impaired in separate dissimilar formats, whereas the hearing capable could free
ly interact with any of these providers without such a process. Although these s
uppliers are not denying access to the disabled individuals, they would be placi
ng an undue burden on disabled individuals in order for them to acquire the serv
ice 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 adaptations that allow h
im 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
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formality of providing an avenue through which the handicapped can procure the s
ervice- it has to be one equal across like services in order for the selection p
rocess facing the handicapped not to be coercive. The handicapped must be equall
y able to select like mediums with the same opportunity set present to all other
individuals or else their decision to use a particular service or channel may b
e made simply based upon the ease of access given their embodiment status, which
is precisely the
inequality the provision of the format itself is in-
tended to avoid. For this reason, standardization enforcement of closed captioni
ng and decoder technology seems not only logistically appealing but also morally
justified. The TDCA/Part 79 provides a segment of the population the ability to
interact with equal opportunity to other individuals with the televised content
of their choice. It also states that the liberty of the hearing impaired to int
eract with media requires more than simply the ability to access the content, bu
t also the technology and format uniformity that equal access imply. In doing so
the hearing impaired gain access to the content of their choice and have an equ
al ability to interact with perspectives this medium presents. From this follows
the broader statement that individuals in a democratic system of governance wit
h sensory handicaps must be given equal access to mediums of communication, when
such access can be plausibly given, without undue burden relative to all other
citizens who can access the medium without assistance. Such logic seems to be ha
rdly controversial, but this moral impetus of
and communicate in ways all others may freely do and is denied prospective that
are intended to be equally quantified by the democratic system of governance. Al
though I do not wish to infer that it is the only reform elicited by the moral c
ommitment of
text-based forms of communication are the most troubling. However, the solution
for providing access to text is plainly conceivable with modern technology and a
realization of the need for
in access.
The diversity of various text formats includes books, periodicals, web pages and
newspapers. Text is a medium for the social ideas and perspectives presented by
the respective authors. For the visually impaired, the inability to access this
medium easily or at all would infer they lack important associative capabilitie
s that pins the democratic processes of the United States. de-legitimize the pre
mise of equality that under-
equality that stands at the heart of the sys-
tem of governance and justice in the United States is not wholly fulfilled for t
he visually impaired. Adaptive technology and accessible mediums are everywhere
from large print and audio book sections in the local library to CCTV magnifiers
to text to speech features on many computer programs. It is also true that visu
al deficiencies are as broad and unique as the individuals who have them and so
the solutions that work best for certain individuals can vary broadly. However,
as much as the hearing impaired universally have difficulty accessing certain br
oadcast mediums of communication, the visually impaired face these same barriers
with forms of visual communication. If the visually impaired cannot access form
s of visual communication without undue burden, then the standardization that eq
ualizes the way in which these individuals can access these mediums must be prov
ided. If these forms of communication are not universally accessible, these equa
lly quantified individuals will not have equal access to a form of communication
used to disseminate social interactions that all others can freely access. Such
inability means that the visually impaired voter is unable to associate
The Numbers
recisely how widespread the inability to access various text formats is remains
a relatively vague
question, however any inability seems to infer a morally unacceptable
Although some may
argue this problem is limited, the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB)
estimated this past April that 96 percent of books published in the United King
dom are never turned into alternative format accessible to the visually impaired
.15 This statistic, although not directly describing the availability present in
the United States, articulates well that the lack of visual formats is far from
an isolated problem. Websites are not compelled to meet any formatting standard
s at all. With the use of image based links and visually driven interfaces, many
websites are difficult for the visually impaired to access, if they are accessi
ble 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 the Bli
nd & Dyslexic (RFB&D) library, provide Digital Accessible Information System (DA
ISy) and 4-track books for the visually impaired. As wonderful as these services
are, they require equipment to use, employ different formats, and in the case o
f the RFB&D (as a non-governmental organization) require special technology and
membership dues that are at the expense of the user. This is to say nothing abou
t the potential limitations of the book selection, the time involved in transcri
ption for needed/wanted texts, and the accessible formats only being on loan and
not for permanent possession. Some popular titles are produced in large print a
nd audio format directly by the publisher, but not all. Many journals, magazines
, newspapers and even some books are provided on the web in various document for
mats but these materials are provided in a variety of audio and data formats, ea
ch with different security, copyright, and adaptive features, assuming, of cours
e, that an individual can
varying degrees, access to some, but not all, forms of textbased mediums and no
legal recourse to compel them. This is an unacceptable cratic society. This form
of inequality and the need for format standardization has been recognized in ot
her democratic societies18 and by the United Nations19. Even within the United S
tates there have been attempts to legislate the provision of text media standard
ization. However, these particular reforms in the United States have focused pri
marily on the provision of educational resources for students and not text media
more broadly20. Such reforms would not alleviate the moral burdens that the fed
eral government bears in ensuring equal access to text materials for all visuall
y impaired individuals. The provisions that exist at the moment, aside from char
itable organizations that work admirably for the provision of text to the blind,
are largely though individual State/Commonwealth commissions and agencies. Thes
e State agencies work through multi-level legislation to provide resources, serv
ices and advocacy for the visually impaired. State agencies provide the individu
al social assistance needed for the visually impaired to be members of our socie
ty. They provide support and assistance in everything from health care solutions
to mobility training and transportation, as well as adaptive technology solutio
ns that help specific individuals access text mediums. But the burden to provide
access to text mediums, through overarching formatting and material provisions,
should not fall on individual States. State agencies may best administrate and
procure access to the end users, as they can individualize material solutions an
d use state-specific legislation to help specific individuals. In this way, stat
e agencies are likely
given the impor-
tance of text-based communication in an equal and demo-
navigate to find them initially. These formats then require different forms of t
echnology to access them respectively. The lack of standardization means that th
e visually impaired face the same sort of undue burdens and lack of equality to
access the visual medium of text that the hearing impaired faced with televised
media prior to the TDCA and Part 79. The visually impaired cannot access the com
municated ideas in these various text resources with the same discretion as thei
r fellow citizens, if these options are provided at all. Instead, there is prese
ntly a patchwork of solutions that are not working to comprehensively fulfill th
e fundamental need for equal access for the visually impaired. At the moment the
re is no legal remit to compel the provision of accessible forms of text in the
United States outside of employment settings, as the ADA focused solely on telec
ommunications. The provisions of the TDCA and Part 79 that worked to ensure all
hearing-impaired individuals could partake in the communication provided by broa
dcast television are not extended to other mediums and other forms of sensory de
privation. Even if there was a legal precedent directly addressing the provision
of accessible visual mediums in the ADA for the visually impaired, without lega
l standardization of formatting and provision for the tools to access these stan
dard formats, such as those present in the TDCA and Part 79, the requisite effec
t would not be achieved. The visually impaired have, in
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the best apparatus to affect change but individual states cannot affect the univ
ersal change and provision that text formats demand. Individual states may legit
imately institute standardizations and provisions that are incoherent with the s
tandards of other states. Individual states may also provide unequal material or
standard provisions to citizens who are all equal federal citizens on mediums t
hat are federally protected across state borders. This infers that the provision
for equal standards and the material provision to meet these standards falls sq
uarely on the federal less of what state they happen to reside in. In order for
the federal government to pursue a coherent reform that government, as it must e
nsure the equality of all citizens regard-
ally impaired to provide the technology needed to access these alternative forma
ts. This support can be based upon the information collected through the census
and federal taxation process for individuals who meet the threshold of legally b
lind or those tested and proven to be dyslexic. This would work to ensure equal
citizens in all states had equal technological provisions to access the print me
dium. In instituting these proposed reforms, the United States would coherently
mandate equal access to the text medium in a manner sensitive to burdens of diss
emination. In doing so, it would fulfill the moral and legal duty to the visuall
y impaired, to this point lacking within the demanded by a democratic system of
governance. The instruments of measurement (voting) cannot be seen as equal if i
ndividuals do not have the equal ability, and hence, choice, to freely associate
with information at the disposal of other equal citizens to inform or influence
their decisions in the democratic process. Although these medium-deprived indiv
iduals will have a legitimate opinion of the world regardless of the information
presented to them, the inability or extreme difficulty in accessing a medium of
communication means that the corresponding political response cannot be seen as
equal compared to the opinions expressed by those capable of passively accessin
g the medium. United States, in turn meeting the social equality
realizes the kinds of protections envisaged in the ADA and TDCA it must create s
tandardized accessible formatting guidelines, provide for the material resources
to access these formats, and lay out a coherent timetable for these reforms thr
ough some institution of government with remit over the medium in question. Give
n the many forms of visual impairment, the diversity of individual provision and
the demands of administration that come from the provision of access to the med
ium, I propose addressing these issues as two separate provisions. The first asp
ect of these is the administrative provision. This would consist of the standard
ization, with the caveat of federal amendment to these standards, as technology
warrants, of alternative format provisions pursuant to copyright protection. Due
to the different formats of media, the standards would need to compel dually a
provision of Braille (or Braille printable format) and a digital format capable
of auditory translation and enlargement. These formats would also have to be mad
e available to the visually impaired individuals at no added cost or burden for
acquisition. These provisions would be applied to all text media protected by co
pyright within the United States including print and digital media. These contin
gencies of copyright protections would be administered through the United States
Copyright Office. As copyright protects the content conveyed through the medium
of text across the jurisdiction of the United States, the U.S. Copyright Office
has the legal remit to make such demands of those receiving these protections.
This would institute provisions and administrative vestiges similar to those cre
ated by the ADA and TDCA. Much like these acts, it is also advisable to proscrib
e a timetable for compliance and create a petition process through which potenti
al exceptions could be adjudicated. The second of the needed provisions is techn
ological. The standardization of accessible text is useless without universal pr
ovision of the means to disseminate these alternative mediums. This implies a Fe
deral provision of fiscal support to state agencies for the blind and visu-
is requisite to democratic processes
because it is the assumption that all individuals are formally and equally repre
sented in the system of political obligation. If morally equal individuals face
physical barriers that prevent their formal Democratic peers, their representati
on cannot be seen as equal.
equality with their
equality infers that all can freely and
equally socialize themselves, or not associate as the case may be, and as such t
heir subsequent opinions about their political existence can be quantified throu
gh accessible and equal processes. The formal process is equal with equal access
, but in order for this process to achieve a legitimate outcome, individuals mus
t be able to associate and socialize as they wish within the constraints of righ
ts protection, and in doing so, form and amend their conceptions of the good wit
h unilateral equal opportunity.
This realization of equality and material provision has already been established
through the ADA, TDCA and Part 79 in regard to sensory disability. Expanding th
is to text mediums has in this way moral and legal precedent as well as being im
plied by the assumptions of democratic governance. Furthermore, these reforms ca
n be brought about through achievable administrative and technological provision
s. These provisions administered through existing governmental structures can fi
nally enaccess to the visual communications their embodiment denies them. sure t
he equality of the visually impaired through
Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990; Findings; Section 2; Subsection 3; Nat
ional Captioning Institute Incorporated; http://www.ncicap.org/Docs/dcb.htm Read
er’s Note: There were provisions for exceptions including TV’s below 13’ inches. Analo
g and Digital televisions had different timetable requirements as well. Please r
efer to the Closed Captioning FCC Consumer Factsheet provided by the Federal Com
munications Commission at http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/closedcaption.htm
l . Telecommunications Act of 1996; Pub. LA. No. 104-104, 110 Stat. 56 / S. 652;
January 3, 1996; Library of Congress; http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/ z?c1
04:s.652.enr ; Amending the Telecommunications Act of 1934; Sections 251 (a) (2)
and 255; Please refer to the Federal Communications Commission; http:// www.fcc
.gov/cgb/dro/section255.html Federal Communications Commission; CFR 47 Part 79,
http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/ dro/ccrules.html Reader’s Note: The FCC did allow for exce
ptions via petition and pre-rule programming exceptions in specific circumstance
s. Please refer to http://www.fcc. gov/cgb/dro/cctimeline.html Television Decode
r Circuitry Act of 1990; Findings; Section 2; Subsection 3; National Captioning
Institute Incorporated; http://www.ncicap.org/Docs/dcb.htm Royal National Instit
ute for the Blind; Press Office; “Right to Read Week 2007” Press Release; Last Updat
ed: April 8th 2008; http://www.rnib.org.uk/xpedio/ groups/public/documents/publi
cwebsite/public_pr021107.hcsp Reader’s Note: For an example of specific advancemen
ts and issues related to web media please refer to McAllister, Neil; “IBM Open Sou
rces Web Accessibility”; Yahoo News / PCWorld.com; July 9, 2008; http://news.yahoo
.com/s/pcworld/20080709/tc_pcworld/148149 and Schaefer, K; “E-space Inclusion: A C
ase for the Americans with Disabilities Act in Cyberspace”; Journal of Public Poli
cy & Marketing; Volume 22; Issue 2; American Marketing Association; Chicago; 200
3 Reader’s Note: These formats for print accessibility include but are not limited
to, mp3, cd audio, wav, daisy (LOC and others), 4-track LOC, pdf, html, rtf, ti
ff, word document, enlarged print. Copyright (Visually Impaired Persons) Act of
2002; The Office of Public Sector Information; The National Archives; London; ht
tp://www.opsi.gov.uk/ACTS/ acts2002/ukpga_20020033_en_1 The United Nations Educa
tional, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “Kofi Annan: Make the Inter
net Available to Everyone”; New York; International Day of Disabled Persons; Novem
ber 15, 2006; http://portal.unesco.org/ci/en/ev. php-URL_ID=23451&URL_DO=DO_PRIN
TPAGE&URL_SECTION=201.html Reader’s Note: Please refer specifically to age issues,
educational mandate and non-binding nature of the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA) / H.R. 1350; Library of Congress; http
://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ query/z?c108:h.1350.enr:
volume 1.1 Is the visual political?

1. Lennihan, Mark; “U.S. court: Dollars Discriminate Against Blind”; Associated Pres
s; MSNBC; May 20, 2008, http://www.msnbc. msn.com/id/24725916 Public Law 93-112;
29 U.S.C., Section 791; 93rd Congress of the United States of America; H. R. 80
70; September 26, 1973; Section 5, Subsection A, Part VIII; pg. 125. Full Text t
hrough the United States Department of Education http://www.ed.gov/ policy/spece
d/reg/narrative.html Reader’s Note: Some rights protected individuals are physical
ly incapable of voting and pose interesting moral questions of trusteeship for t
he State while others such as non-citizens and some ex-convicts are prohibited f
rom voting which pose human rights/representation issues for the State that are
beyond the scope of this article. Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990; Unite
d States; Publication L. 101-336; 104 Stat. 327; July 26, 1990; United States De
partment of Justice; Americans with Disabilities Act Website; http://www.ada.gov
/pubs/ada.htm ; (full text with editorial notes) Americans with Disabilities Act
of 1990; United States; Publication L. 101-336; 104 Stat. 327; July 26, 1990; T
itle IV; United States Department of Justice; http://www.ada.gov/ pubs/ada.htm R
eader’s Note: These include Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS) that largely d
ealt with the provision of telephones and telephonic alternatives and televised
media. Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990; 101st Congress of the United St
ates of America; S 1947 / 47 USC 609; January 23, 1990; National Captioning Inst
itute Incorporated; http:// www.ncicap.org/Docs/dcb.htm Television Decoder Circu
itry Act of 1990; Findings; Section 2; Subsection 1; National Captioning Institu
te Incorporated; http://www.ncicap.org/Docs/dcb.htm 14.
polITIcal syMBols
by andy hughes
party itself. In the best scenario, a symbol acts as an instantly recognizable t
hesis statement and communicates the essential values and message of that group.
Over the years, various symbols have been adopted by (and at times become insep
arable from) certain political causes. This issue features a variety of politica
l symbols and the sometimes tumultuous and startling history behind each of them
t’s hard to think of a better interaction between the political and the visual tha
n political symbols. These images used by political parties and institutions are
meant to be long-lasting, and in some cases end up outlasting the
Third Term Panic” by Thomas Nast, originally published in 1874, Courtesy of T.J. M
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 re
sponse 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 Ba
laam, 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 Ja
ckson’s abuse of his party (with a rod that says “veto” on the side). The donkey image
ry continued to be used, perhaps most famously by the Harper’s Weekly cartoonist T
homas Nast. In 1870, he published a cartoon entitled “A Live Jackass Kicking a Dea
d Lion”; the donkey used here did not symbolize the Democratic Party, but instead
the Democratic-inclined press that Nast disagreed with. The image proved effecti
ve, 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 Republican
s: lumbering, careless, and headed off of a cliff. Yet both parties have embrace
d these animals and emphasized their positive aspects. Republicans have cited th
e elephant’s supposed long memory and strength, while Democrats consider the donke
y humble and energetic. Despite this acceptance, the two symbols are still widel
y used in political cartoons to mock both parties.
MIRRoRING people: NeuRopolITIcs
by Dr. Marco Iacoboni (University of California, Los Angeles)
Theories of political attitudes Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com
political science, now a political science professor at the University of Califo
rnia, San Diego, approached the faculty of our Brain Mapping Center with the ide
a of testing certain theories about how political attitudes are formed. At that
time, the use of brain imaging for such a purpose was basically unheard of. Now,
if not quite mainstream, it is not that unusual. A few labs are doing such rese
arch, ours included. Inevitably, of course, as Darren put his idea into action a
nd other experiments followed, I began to wonder whether mirroring, and therefor
e mirror neurons, play a role in all this. Typically, serious students of politi
cs have liked to believe that political thinking is a highly rational process in
which automatic mirroring should not play a major role. However, we have seen h
ow mirroring is a pervasive form of communication and social interaction among h
umans. Given that a major component of politics is affiliation with others with
whom we share values and ideas about how society should be organized, I think th
at forms of mirroring are almost certainly involved in some aspects of political
thinking. And exactly how rational is political thinking to begin with? That’s wh
at Darren wanted to find out, because data from national surveys had stirred a l
ong-standing debate in the political science literature. When citizens were aske
d a variety of questions on political issues, a clear pattern emerged. With thos
e subjects who responded quickly, the responses were consistent in terms of poli
tical attitudes. They “made sense.” For instance, if one of these quickly replying s
ubjects expressed a “liberal” attitude on abortion, the same subject would probably
respond with a “liberal” attitude on education or gay rights. However, another group
of subjects required, on average, quite a long time to respond to the questions
, and their answers were not consistent. On some questions they would have the “li
beral” attitude, on others the “conservative” one. Nor was there any consistency withi
n the group: the same question would elicit a liberal answer from some of the sl
ow repliers, a conservative answer from others. Overall, the results from these
surveys seemed to identify two different kinds of citizens. Was there any major
variable that could easily differentiate between them? The answer seemed to be y
es. The subjects who knew a lot about politics were the ones who responded quick
ly and with consistent attitudes. The subjects who didn’t know nearly as much took
a long time to respond and then did so “inconsistently.” In the 1960s, the politica
l scientist Philip Converse wrapped up his analysis of this phenomenon by sugges
ting that political sophisticates had well-informed although rather crystallized
political opinions, whereas political novices had no opinions at all, and when
responding to political survey questions, they basically flipped coins. Perhaps
this summary sounds rather mundane today, but it started quite a controversy in
the political science literature. About ten years after Converse’s proposal, anoth
er political scientist, Chris Achen, argued that the political novices simply we
re not able to map their true attitudes during these political surveys. Their se
emingly inconsistent responses were due not to a lack of political attitudes, bu
t to imperfect, inadequate political surveys. And a third hypothesis was more re
cently proposed by John Zaller (incidentally the mentor of Darren Schreiber duri
ng his graduate studies) and Stanley Feldman. They suggested that the novices’ inc
onsistent responses were not due to a complete lack of a political attitude or t
o the artifact of imperfect surveys. They proposed instead that while the crysta
llized opinions of political sophisticates were based on an almost automatic ret
rieval of facts and prior
n the late 1990s, Darren Schreiber, then a UCLA graduate student in
Image courtesy of Flickr member, Reigh LeBlanc
considerations, political novices retrieved information relevant to the politica
l questions as they went along with the survey. Only the more salient informatio
n— generally speaking, the latest news determined their answers. These novices do
need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows! This is why they seemed to f
lip coins when answering the survey questions.1 If Zaller and Feldman’s hypothesis
is correct, the difference between political sophisticates and political novice
s is mostly due to cognitive differences stemming from different levels of exper
tise, the same differences that would be noted between so-called sophisticates a
nd novices in any field. Sophisticates are engaged in a well-practiced task, the
novices in a new one. In fact, brain imaging data showing strikingly different
patterns of activation between a well-practiced task and a novel task have been
around for years.
volume 1.1 Is the visual political?
problem in neuroscience (and almost every other field). How could we fund the pr
oject? Imaging is an expensive scientific enterprise. Use of the MRI alone, with
out taking into account overhead, salaries, volunteer fees, and so on, is typica
lly about six hundred dollars per hour. Total cost for our imaging experiments v
aries from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Luckily, at UC
LA we have a research funding opportunity called the Chancellor’s Fund for Academi
c Border Crossing, specifically designed for interdisciplinary projects involvin
g two professors from different disciplines mentoring a graduate student who wan
ts to perform interdisciplinary work. In the summer of 2000 we applied for this
funding. Coincidentally or otherwise, we received the good news on election day
that fall. We thought this was a good sign. Then the electoral mess in Florida d
ragged on and on, and we could only hope our experiment would proceed more exped
The novices, however,
had to (think) about the
Darren Schreiber set out to use brain imaging to look at all of these questions
about political thinking. I thought he had a very clever idea, but I have to adm
it that my interest was also motivated by my research on mirroring. With politic
s, the sophisticates are almost junkies. They’re hooked, thanks in large part to t
he endless opportunities provided by the Web. I wanted to find out whether a pol
itical junkie’s brain would produce higher mirroring responses while watching poli
ticians compared with watching other
political statements,
so they gea r e d for cog-ni-tion
Mirroring and the political Junkie Brain
and down
the default network.
o maximize Darren’s chances of obtaining an experimental effect, we thought it wou
be useful to select subjects at the two ends of the spectrum. Among the sophisti
cates, we wanted those most knowledgeable on subjects in politics. Among the nov
ices, we wanted to recruit the most clueless individuals, who knew nothing and w
ere content with not knowing.
famous people. I believed that it would. Darren, his mentor John Zaller, and I m
et several times over the course of a year to figure out how to set up a series
of experiments that would address the various issues we were interested in. We w
ere venturing into the unknown. There had never been a brain imaging experiment
on issues of political science. It took us a while to shape our interests and id
eas into viable experimental designs. When we finally did, we had to face the st
Darren got down to business and began recruiting subjects in the early months of
2001. To select these individuals, he had prepared an extremely detailed series
of questions. His screening interview would take some hours for each subject. T
o find the ideal sophisticates, he interviewed stalwart members of the Democrati
c and Republican clubs on campus, and he quickly found the “political junkies” we we
re looking for. These young men and women were well-informed, and their politica
l attitudes were radical and crystallized. Darren’s sophisticates looked like ideo
logues. The recruitment of the
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com
novices was not terribly painful either. Darren advertised 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) know much about politics.
Darren had plenty of novices to choose from. The subjects he chose were indeed
clueless and utterly without well-formed political attitudes. They knew that Bus
h was the new president, they knew there had been some kind of problem on electi
on day, they might even have responded to the phrase “hanging chad,” but that was ab
out it. (Today, they would also know that Schwarzenegger is the governor of Cali
fornia.) A secondary goal of the interviews with the novices was to gather the i
nformation necessary to design one of the imaging experiments. One key for Darre
n’s design was that the novices had to at least recognize the faces of the politic
ians, even if they knew almost nothing about them, so he explicitly asked his po
tential subjects whether they recognized certain faces. This is how we discovere
d the depth of the cluelessness on the UCLA campus. The face of Joe Lieberman, w
ho had been Al Gore’s running mate in the famous disputed election less than a yea
r earlier, was basically unknown among the mass of students. We also factored in
another variable, the constant hot-button issue in American politics: race. The
whole experimental design thus comprised three different kinds of faces: politi
cal or not political, famous or not famous, and white or African American. On sc
an day, the subjects were simply asked to watch the faces while we were measurin
g their brain activity with fMRI. We found what I had predicted with my theory t
hat mirroring indicates, among other things, a sense of affiliation, of belongin
g to a specific community within the larger community of our society. Politicall
y sophisticated subjects had higher activity in mirror neuron areas when they vi
ewed the famous political faces, compared with when they viewed famous nonpoliti
darren got his answer
cal faces and unknown faces. The political novices did not show any such differe
nce in mirror neuron areas when they were watching political and nonpolitical fa
ces. When we compared the results obtained from the political sophisticates with
the results obtained in our previous study about imitating and observing facial
emotional expressions we found remarkably similar locations of neurological act
ivation.3 This anatomical correspondence suggests that even or the more abstract
types of mirroring I had hypothesized to be the basis of these activations- the
sense of belonging to a specific community- the mirror neuron system still uses
the basic neural mechanism that also activates during more mundane mirroring ta
sks.4 The experiment using the photographs to look for mirror neuron activity am
ong political sophisticates was one of two Darren conducted with the same subjec
ts. In the other one, he tested whether sophisticates and novices use different
brain areas when thinking about political issues. His “expertise” hypothesis had sug
gested that they do, because previous data from this kind of imaging experiment,
looking at novel versus well-practiced tasks, had shown brain activation in lar
gely separated brain areas. The activations for the novel tasks suggested that t
hey are performed (because they have to be) with a high level of cognitive effor
t, specifically with enhanced activation in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex,
an area known for its role in the so-called executive functions. On the other ha
nd, well-practiced
and c l e a r. The p-at-t-er-n of brain acTivaTion for
sophisticate s
political ( and novices ) was quite different— but noT as we had expected...
tasks seem to be performed mostly using information retrieved from memory, using
areas in the temporal lobe, an important brain structure for memory. According
to Darren’s hypothesis— therefore, political novices and sophisticates should show a
nalogous patterns of activation: cognitive areas for the political novices, for
whom thinking about politics would be cognitive work, and memory areas for the s
ophisticates, who already have their answers to political statements and have me
rely to retrieve them. In this setup, the subjects listened to a series of digit
ally recorded statements, half of them political, half nonpolitical. The politic
al statements concerned typical hot-button issues in American politics, and the
subjects were asked to agree or disagree with each statement. The statements wer
e carefully crafted so that the initial phrase was always the same. For instance
, the political statements started, “The government in Washington ...” The final par
t of the sentence presented the novel opinion for each statement-for example, “sho
uld encourage adoption by banning abortion.” These loaded statements were relative
ly similar in structure to the questions Darren had used to reveal the different
patterns of behavior between political sophisticates and political novices. The
specific and careful form of presentation allowed us to deliver the critical pa
rt of the statement in a relatively well-defined temporal window, which helped u
s look in a fairly precise way at the brain changes occurring from the presentat
ion of the important material to the response of the subject, which was given by
pressing one of two buttons. Darren got his answer loud and clear. The pattern
of brain activation for political sophisticates and novices was quite different-
but not as we had expected. To everyone’s surprise, the results did not show the
expected cognitive/memory distinction. The two areas that demonstrated the strik
ing dissociation between sophisticates and novices were the precuneus and the do
rsomedial prefrontal cortex. Both belong to a neural system called the default s
tate network, which had been discovered only recently by Marcus Raichle and his
colleagues at Washington University in St. Louis.5 The default state network is
a peculiar set of cortical areas that have high activity while the subject is re
sting and doing basically nothing, and reduced activity while the subject perfor
ms cognitive tasks. This reduction in activity was substantially independent of
the kind of cognitive tasks the subjects were performing. All in all, this was a
bizarre neural response that was dif-
Image Courtesy of Flickr Member D.B. King
volume 1.1 Is the visual political?
ficult to interpret. By looking at certain physiological parameters measured wit
h PET (the now somewhat out-of-favor technique that uses radioactive material),
Raichle and colleagues demonstrated that these regions were actually shutting th
emselves down during a variety of cognitive tasks. Thinking carefully about this
, they suggested that these areas represented some kind of default state of the
brain that is dominant when there are no specific goals or tasks at hand, when t
he subjects (that is, we humans) daydream or “do nothing.” When certain tasks requir
e attention, this “default state” is overridden, and its network shuts down. This an
alysis ties in perfectly with the results from Darren’s test. During the political
questions, these “default state” brain areas were activated in the sophisticates, w
ho think about politics all the time (their own “default state”) and do not need to
deploy attention to the political statements. They need only their memory banks.
The novices, however, had to think about the political statements, so they gear
ed up for cognition and shut down the default network.6 To judge by the brain im
aging literature, increased activity in these default state areas is extremely r
are during any kind of task. As it happens, we had previously observed one of th
e most robust, if not the most robust, increases in my lab. Very provocatively,
this increased activity in the default state network was paralleled by increased
activity in mirror neuron areas. And now Darren’s experiment had picked up increa
sed activity in the default areas for the political sophisticates. Is there a li
nk between the results of these two experiments? More generally, what is the rel
ationship between mirror neuron areas and default state areas? Before we conside
r these questions, let’s look at that prior study, which was unique, even apart fr
om its results, partly because the driving force behind it was an anthropologist
, not exactly the kind of scholar who typically participates in a brain imaging
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com
social context surrounding the action, the context was composed only of objects,
no people. Given our claim that mirror neurons were important neural elements f
or 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 relevan
t to human social relations. Talking with Alan about his idea, I envisioned an e
xperimental design for a study that could suit both of our purposes: the only ta
Image Courtesy of Flickr Member Reigh LeBlanc
for the subjects in the scanner would be the observation of social relations bet
ween people. Of course, we could not bring a bunch of people into the scanner ro
om and stage various interactions while our subjects watched, so we prepared a s
et of video clips depicting everyday social interactions. In order to simplify t
he experimental design, we also decided to focus on only two of the four relatio
nal models of Alan’s theory. Once again, we were moving into uncharted territory.
In these cases, a relatively simple experimental design is highly advisable. As
in the brain imaging experiment on politics performed by Darren Schreiber, in wh
ich we picked subjects at the far ends of the political continuum, we picked the
two social relational models that seemed at the far ends of a continuum. One wa
s communal sharing, predominantly based on kindness and sharing, and the other o
ne was authority ranking, based on hierarchical inequality. The tricky issue was
that communal sharing relations seem inherently positive, while authority ranki
ng relations are typically perceived in a negative way, especially by North Amer
ican subjects. This was a “confounding factor” that we had to control for, if we wer
e to achieve a pattern of brain activation that truly reflected differences in t
he way we process social relations, not differences in how Americans feel about
authority figures! We ended up with thirty-six video clips, a fairly large set f
or such an experiment, half depicting communal sharing social relations, the oth
er half depicting authority ranking social relations. Some of the clips for each
relationship clearly elicited positive emotions, the others elicited negative e
motions, thus controlling for the “emotional valence” of the clips. Each story was i
dentically structured, introducing one character for “baseline” purposes, then bring
ing in the second character for the interaction-the “relational” segment. The depict
ed situations were widely variable, from office scenes to basketball courts, fro
m lovers playfully interacting to judges ruling in court.
Brain politics
sis of the Moose people of Burkina Faso, a West African society. Drawing from th
is fieldwork and from scholarly work encompassing a variety of disciplines study
ing a variety of cultures, Alan proposed a model of human social relations, acco
rding to which we relate to each other using four elementary forms of social rel
• • • •
lan Fiske is an anthropology professor at UCLA who has performed a detailed ethn
ographic analy-
communal sharing, in which people have a sense of
common identity; authority ranking, in which people relate to each
other following a hierarchy; equality matching, in which there is an egalitarian
relationship among peers; and market pricing, in which the relationship is medi-
ated by values that follow a market system. Alan contends that these four elemen
tary relational structures and their variations account for all the social relat
ions among all humans in all cultures.8 Alan published that work in 1991. Eight
years ago (about a year before Darren Schreiber walked into my office), Alan con
tacted me about teaming up on an imaging experiment relating to his well-known m
odel of social relations. I found the idea fascinating because he made me realiz
e that those of us in the lab were basically studying responses in mirror neuron
areas, while subjects were simply watching or imitating individual actions. The
se actions were rarely surrounded by a social context. In the few instances in w
hich we used a
Looking at the brain data of the subjects watching these scenes, we found robust
activity in mirror neurons, as expected because the observed characters were ma
king 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 cl
ip. This correlation confirmed that mirror neurons are especially interested in
actions that unfold during social relations, probably because those actions are
critical to our understanding of the relationship. Other brain areas also demons
trated fairly robust activity while subjects watched the social interaction clip
s: particularly the default state network, which had been implicated in Darren’s e
xperiment with political junkies answering political questions. My interpretatio
n of these data is that while political junkies think about politics all the tim
e (it’s their “default state”), most people think about social relations all the time
(it’s our “default state”). Who am I? I am the husband of my wife, the father of my da
ughter, the son of my parents, the mentor of my trainees, the colleague of my pe
ers, and so on. I am constantly defined in relation to other people. It seems th
at there is, in addition to the mirror neuron system, another neural system in t
he brain— the default state network— that is concerned with both self and other, in
which self and other are inter-dependent.9 In conclusion, while mirror neurons d
eal with the physical aspects of self and others, I believe the default state ne
twork deals with more abstract aspects of the relationship between self and othe
r—specifically, social roles. I am convinced that understanding the fundamental co
nnections between self and other is essential for understanding the human indivi
dual. By enabling one individual to simulate (or imitate within their ‘self’) the ac
tion of another, mirror neurons fill the gap between ‘self’ and ‘other’. However, this p
rompts a further question: why do we need to simulate in the first place?
5. 4. 3. 2. Endnotes 1. Converse, P., "The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publ
ics," in D. Apter, ed., Ideology and Discontent (New York: Free Press, 1964), 20
6-61; Achen, C. "Mass Political Attitudes and the Survey Response," American Pol
itical Science Review 69 (1975): 1218-31; Zaller, J. R. and S. Feldman, "A Simpl
e Theory of the Survey Response: Answering Questions versus Revealing Preference
s," American Journal of Political Science 36 (1992):579-616. Raichle, M. E., J.A
. Fiez, T. O. Videen, et al., "Practice-Related Changes in Human Brain Functiona
l Anatomy During Nonmotor Learning," Cerebral Cortex 4 (1994):8-26. Carr, L., M.
Iacoboni, M. C. Dubeau, et al., "Neural Mechanisms of Empathy in Humans: A Rela
y from Neural Systems for Imitation to Limbic Areas," Proceedings of the Nationa
l Academy of Sciences USA 100 (2003):5497-5502. Schreiber, D., and M. Iacoboni,
"Monkey See, Monkey Do: Mirror Neurons, Functional Brain Imaging, and Looking at
Political Faces," paper presented at the American Political Science Association
Meeting, 2005, Washington, D.C. Gusnard, D. A., and M. E. Raichle, "Searching f
or a Baseline: Functional Imaging and the Resting Human Brain," Nature Reviews N
euroscience 2 (2001):685-94; Raichle, M. E., A. M. MacLeod, A. Z. Snyder, et al.
, "A default Mode of Brain Function," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sci
ences USA 98 (2001):676-82. Schreiber, D., and M. Iacoboni, "Thinking About Poli
tics: Results from Three Experiments Studying Sophistication," paper presented a
t the 61st Annual National Conference of the Midwest Political Science Associati
on, 2003. Iacoboni, M., M. D. Lieberman, B. J. Knowlton, et al., "Watching Socia
l Interactions Produces Dorsomedial Prefrontal and Medial Parietal BOLD fMRI Sig
nal Increases Compared to a Resting Baseline," Neuroimage 21 (2004):1167-73 Fisk
e, A. P., Structures of Social Life: The Four Elementary Forms of Human Relation
s (New York: Free Press, 1991). Iacoboni, M., "Failure to Deactivate in Autism:
The Co-constitution of Self and Other," Trends in Cognitive Science 10 (2006):43
1-33; 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 i
n Cognitive Science 11 (2007): 153-57; Lieberman, M. D., "Social Cognitive Neuro
science: A Review of Core Processes," Annual Review of Psychology 58 (2007):259-
volume 1.1 Is the visual political? 31

“Mirroring People: Neuropolitics” is excerpted from MIRRORING PEOPLE: The New Scienc
e of How We Connect With Others by Marco Iacoboni, published by Farrar, Straus a
nd Giroux, LLC. Copyright © 2008 by Marco Iacoboni. All rights reserved.
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com
DIleMMas oF claIMING oWNeRshIp IN aN epIDeMIc
by Louise Moana Kolff (University of New South Wales)
a political epidemic
he complexity of HIV/AIDS means that it is difficult to speak of one unified “epid
emic”. Rather, there
gay community, African Americans and people living with HIV/AIDS. The campaigns
have been criticised for resorting to culturally insensitive tactics by subscrib
ing to the notion that the ends justifies the means. The campaigns were by one b
logger labelled “friendly fire”, because “while trying to shoot down the ‘enemy’ – AIDS – t
e social marketing campaigns also cause some collateral damage by either reinfor
cing negative stereotypes or creating an environment that makes people not want
to acknowledge that they are at risk”.3 The two campaigns discussed below have bot
h generated a political debate in an attempt to stand out from “traditional” HIV/AID
S campaigning, and focus awareness on issues often left out of public discourses
. In doing so they have divided opinions into those who believe prevention graph
ics must generate controversy in order to attract attention, and those who belie
ve such campaigns are counterproductive and even destructive.
are multiple overlapping and ever-changing “epidemics” influenced by factors such as
geography, gender, race, sexual orientation, policies, social status, economics
, medical advances, public opinion and access to treatment. These factors mean t
hat the “cultural construction” of HIV/AIDS – the meanings that are assigned to images
, language and metaphors —is inherently linked to
politics at international, national, community and grassroots levels. The fact t
hat the groups most affected by HIV/AIDS are often already marginalised minoriti
es, such as gay men and people of colour in the United States, contributes to th
e politicisation of the issues. In an “invisible” epidemic, where the virus cannot b
e seen by the naked eye, and people living with HIV/AIDS often show no visible s
igns of illness, prevention campaigns can be viewed as the “face” of the epidemic, t
hrough which a visual image is constructed, opinions formed, and knowledge gener
ated.2 The role of the organisations and designers creating campaigns, therefore
, becomes crucial in shaping the sociocultural course of the epidemic(s). They a
re faced with the dilemma of engaging the attention of the target audience, whic
h, in the case of the gay community, has been exposed to prevention messages for
more than 25 years, while staying within the boundaries of cultural taboos dict
ating which representations are deemed socially acceptable. While politics mostl
y remain internal throughout the design process, the graphics become political i
n the public arena when these boundaries are crossed. Recently, a number of cont
roversial social marketing campaigns launched in the United States have been cri
ticised for contributing to the stigmatisation of the
Reaffirming Risk Groups
he social marketing campaign Own It, End It was commissioned by the Los Angeles
Gay and Lesbian Center, as a reaction to what
the organisation sees as a “de-gaying” of the HIV/AIDS crisis.4 The
slogans “HIV is a gay disease” and “Own It, End It” aimed at encouraging debate and call
ing the gay community to action in Los Angeles, where 75 percent of people with
HIV are men who have sex with men. The organisation believes that the current pr
esidential administration has allowed homophobia to affect funding for preventio
n efforts targeting the gay community5— a view shared by other organisations and r
esearchers, who are critical of the fact that, though the domestic epidemic in t
he United States is the worst in the developed world, the public, political, and
financial focus has shifted to the international epidemic. As Rowena Johnston f
rom the Foundation for AIDS Research puts it: “For Bush and many Americans, the im
age of African women who get HIV/AIDS from their unfaithful partners, then pass
the disease along to their innocent babies, evokes more empathy than the faces o
f those who comprise the domestic epidemic.”6 This means that though
the gay community is still greatly affected by the epidemic (it is estimated tha
t in the United States 25 percent of white and nearly 50 percent of black men wh
o have sex with men are living with HIV)7 there is less focus on the problem in
public discourse and within the community itself. The question of who “owns” the epi
demic creates a dilemma for the groups most heavily affected. To generate fundin
g and create awareness, attention must be focused on the severity of the problem
. However, the consequences of declaring “ownership” may be further stigmatisation o
f already marginalised populations. This dilemma is illustrated in the debate su
rrounding Own It, End It. The creators of the ads aimed to empower the gay commu
nity. However, the campaign was heavily criticised for promoting a false sense o
f security in other populations and for reverting public discourse back to a tim
e when homosexuals were blamed for the epidemic, and the common perception was t
hat only gay men could contract AIDS.8 The strong reaction to the campaign must
be seen in the context of the political history of HIV/AIDS in the United States
. Soon after the identification of AIDS in 1981 “risk groups” were defined in an att
empt to locate the new epidemic outside of the white, heterosexual population. I
n the United States the Centre for Disease Control compiled a list of high-risk
categories, originally called the “4-H list” (homosexuals, hemophiliacs, heroin addi
cts, and Haitians);9 while AIDS, initially given the acronym GRID (Gay Related I
mmune Deficiency), soon became known in the mainstream media as “the gay cancer” or “g
ay plague”. The gay community, which had throughout the 1970s fought for the same
legal and social rights as heterosexuals, was once again placed in the historic
role as sexually deviant and pathological. Having long fought for positive visib
ility within mainstream society, gay men now became visible through negative ima
ges of death and disease.10 In response to the inaction of the government (Presi
dent Reagan did not publicly address the AIDS crisis until 1987, by which time m
ore than 20,000 people in the United States were known to have died of AIDS),11
grassroots organisations and activist groups came together to present a differen
t perspective and offer alternatives to the information and images generated by
the mainstream media. During this period in AIDS activism one of the main slogan
s was “Silence = Death”.12 While critics of the Own It, End It campaign feel that cl
aiming HIV is a gay disease undermines the long fought battle against stigma and
prejudice, the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center believe that a dangerous new kind of s
ilence within the gay community itself 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 would cause c
ontroversy, the main aim was to create a discourse and renewed consciousness abo
ut HIV within the gay community.13
Image Courtesy of Own It, End It. © Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center and Better
World Advertising, 2006
volume 1.1 Is the visual political? 33
Targeting the Target population
he question of ownership similarly causes dilemma in the African American commun
ity, which is dispro-
portionately affected by HIV/AIDS. Though African Americans only make up about 1
2-13 percent of the U.S. population, they represent 47 percent of Americans livi
ng with HIV.14 In calling attention to the problem, the
community risks reinforcing prejudice and negative stereotypes, while a failure
to address the issue will potentially lead to further rises in new infections. A
gain, the dilemma should be seen in the context of “risk” group categorisations, whi
ch exclude the white, affluent, heterosexual, non-drug-using population, and hav
e, since the identification of Haitians as part of the “4-H list,” linked HIV/AIDS w
ith skin colour— a categorisation which connects racial stereotyping with a histor
ic labelling of the black body as hypersexual, irresponsible and immoral.15
have sex with men are particularly affected, with an estimated one in two living
with HIV. These men belong to a minority within a minority, as homophobia is wi
despread in many parts of the African American community. A recent
promote attacks on both black men, who are often the victims of gun violence, an
d gay men, who may be subjected to hate-crimes.18 Another critique from the Blac
k Gay Men’s Leadership Council was the implied role of HIV positive men as murdere
rs aiming to infect HIVnegative partners. The organisation blamed the creators f
or using an ineffective ‘band-aid’ fear-based approach, instead of addressing the ro
ot cause of the problem such as low self-worth, homophobia, racism and economic
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com
study found that issues such as incarceration, racial discrimination, and family
disapproval greatly affect risk behaviour within the group.16 The complexity of
the issue, as well as the risk of feeding into negative stereotypes when portra
ying black men who have sex with men, make prevention efforts extremely difficul
t. 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 enco
urage testing for HIV. The posters, website, TV commercial and bus ads depicted
faces of young black men in the cross hairs of a sniper’s rifle with the slogan ‘HIV
. Have you been hit?’. The design firm responsible for creating the graphics carri
ed out focus testing among the target population ‘to ensure development of the mos
t communicable, memorable and effective campaign.’17 However, after extensive pres
sure from local community groups such as the Black Gay Men’s Leadership Council th
e campaign was pulled from public viewing. The graphics were criticised for bein
g culturally insensitive by stereotyping African American men as ‘triggerhappy’ and
only capable of understanding the language of guns. Furthermore, the campaign wa
s launched at a time of record breaking gun murders in the city, leading to fear
s that the images would further glamorise guns, and
“Know HIV” ad campaign. Image Courtesy of Flickr Member Kate Mereand
strategic controversy
he nature of HIV/AIDS means that prevention campaigns will inevitably risk causi
ng controversy when dealing with socially and
politically sensitive subjects such as sex, sexuality, race, and illness. Issues
which are closely connected to cultural taboos, as well as historic stereotypes
and present problems of discrimination. The two campaigns discussed are example
s of prevention efforts which in an attempt to address difficult questions cause
d heated debate about the role of social marketing and the boundaries of appropr
iate design tactics. Les Pappas, director of Better World Advertising – which desi
gned Own It, End It and a number of other controversial HIV/AIDS campaigns—argues
that successful social marketing should demand attention, even if the graphics d
isturb and shock people.20 In this sense
both campaigns could be seen as successful. However, the two campaigns had diffe
rent agendas. The goal of Own It, End It was specifically to spark a renewed deb
ate within the gay community about HIV. Controversy was part of the strategy. As
the creators write: ‘Whatever you feel about the campaign, the time is now to do
something. Raise your voice! Talk to your friends! Post your comments on www.Own
ItEndIt.org.”21 This was followed by an invitation to attend a public community fo
rum. The goal of initiating discussion was achieved, whether the debate that fol
lowed did in fact provoke people to act, or just discuss the campaign and the ro
le of social marketing. The aim of Have You Been Hit? was to encourage the targe
t 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 unde
rlying root causes such as heterosexism, stigma, homophobia and racism, and woul
d therefore not change behaviour in the long run.22 In attempting to navigate th
e complex issues surrounding black men who have sex with men, the creators of th
e campaign chose to use images too closely connected to other interrelated socia
l and political problems. Within HIV/AIDS prevention the use of social marketing—d
escribed as ‘the blending of traditional public health methods with contemporary
Rainbow Flag/Pink Triangle (LGBT Pride Movement) The rainbow has had many connot
ations throughout history: with hope, with heaven, with illusion, with leprechau
ns. Its most lasting association for modern culture has to be its use as a symbo
l of the gay pride movement. Like the best political symbols, it fills a niche a
nd 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 cultu
re That was the year of openly gay city supervisor Harvey Milk’s assassination, an
d the six-color flag was a key component of the gay community’s response, displaye
d everywhere in solidarity. The pink triangle has a more uneasy history. It was,
of course, originally used by Nazis to identify homosexual men (homosexual wome
n were given a black triangle), who were then sentenced to imprisonment, castrat
ion, and death in concentration camps. This was one of many colored triangle bad
ges used to mark enemies of the Third Reich. The 1970s saw the reuse of the tria
ngle as a power symbol, and its status was cemented as gay pride movements devel
oped through the 1980s. The triangle is sometimes pictured reversed, so as to su
bvert the shame and hatred of the original image and forge a more positive ident
volume 1.1 Is the visual political?
marketing and advertising techniques’23—has sparked a counter-movement fuelled by th
e recent wave of controversial campaigns. Grassroot groups such as RealPreventio
n have formed in an effort to promote ‘science-based, sex-positive education’24 and
have organised community forums to discuss the future of prevention. Hence, whet
her seen as a positive or a negative, the controversy generated through social m
arketing campaigns has provoked a reaction leading to new discourses and initiat
1. Paula A. Treichler, How to Have Theory in an Epidemic: Cultural Chronicles of
AIDS (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999). Leong K. Chan, and Raymond Dono
van, ‘Graphic Design and HIV/AIDS: Cultural Production of Epidemic Knowledge in Au
stralia’ (CD-ROM, Connecting: Proceedings of the 5th International Committee of De
sign History and Studies, Helsinki, 23-25 August 2006). Nedra Weinreich, ‘Friendly
Fire: Stigma & Social Marketing Redux,’ Spare Change, 18 October 2006, http://www
.social-marketing.com/blog/2006/10/friendly-firestigma-social-marketing.html (ac
cessed 2 July 2008). Zak Szymanski, ‘HIV Campaigns Spark Debate,’ Bay Area Reporter,
11 September 2006, http://www.ebar.com/news/article.php?sec=news&article=1311 (
accessed 30 June 2008). 5. 6. L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, ‘Own it/End it Ad Campaig
n,’ (Q&A sheet, 2006). Ryan Lee, ‘Experts Debate the “New Face” of AIDS,’ Washington Blade
, 1 December 2006, http://www.washblade.com/print.cfm?content_id=9556 (accessed
29 June 2008). Lee, 2006. Mack Reed, “Agents Provocateurs: LAGLC Says ‘HIV *is* a ‘Gay
Disease”,’ LA Voice, 2 October 2006, http://lavoice.org/index.php?name=News&file=ar
ticle&sid =2252 (accessed 30 June 2008). Treichler, 1999, 20. Stuart Marshall, ‘Pi
cturing Deviancy,’ in Ecstatic Antibodies, ed. Tessa Boffin, and Sunil Gupta (Lond
on: Rivers Oram Press, 1990), 21. Josh Gamson, ‘Silence, Death, and the Invisible
Enemy: AIDS Activism and Social 21. 22. 23. 24. 20. 17. 14. 15. 13. 12.
Movement “Newness”,’ Social Problems 36, no. 4 (1989): 351-67. Douglas Crimp, and Adam
Rolston, AIDS Demo Graphics (Seattle, WA: Bay Press, 1990). Lorri L. Jean, ‘Own i
t, End It’ (opinion piece, L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, 2006). Lee, 2006. Stuart Hal
l, ‘The Spectacle of the “Other”,’ in Representation: Cultural Representations and Signi
fying Practices, ed. Stuart Hall (London: SAGE, 1997). Kenneth Jones, et al., ‘Non
supportive Peer Norms and Incarceration as HIV Risk Correlates for Young Black M
en Who Have Sex With Men,’ AIDS Behavior 12 (2008): 41-50. Zigzag Net Inc., ‘Case St
udy: Aids Activities Coordinating Office,’ (press release, 2006). Kellee Terrell, ‘B
ang-Bang, You’re Dead: HIV Activists Shoot Down Fear-Based Prevention,’ Poz Magazine
, 16 August 2006. http:// www.poz.com/articles/401_10047.shtml (accessed June 20
2008). Kevin T. Jones, ‘The “Have You Been Hit” Social Marketing Campaign: A Communit
y Response,’ Selling Us To Ourselves: Is Social Marketing Effective HIV Prevention
?, CHAMP (community forum presentation, New York City, 26 September 2006) availa
ble from http://www.champnetwork.org/nysale (accessed 20 March 2008). Les Pappas
, ‘Why Social Marketing? (Because it Works),’ Selling Us To Ourselves: Is Social Mar
keting Effective HIV Prevention?, CHAMP (community forum presentation, New York
City, 26 September 2006) available from http://www.champnetwork.org/nysale (acce
ssed 20 March 2008). Jean, 2006. Terrell, 2006. Pappas, 2006. Ryan Gierach, ‘Does
Fear in HIV Ads Work?,’ Wehonews.com, 14 September 2006. http://wehonews.com/z/weh
onews/archive/ printpage.php?articleID=785 (accessed 28 February 2008).

7. 8.
9. 10.
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com
society of the And
Photos by Roemer Van Toorn (Berlage Institute)
Introduction by Heather White
modernity together, rejecting the linearity of the Either/Or. It’s an injunction t
o “map new imaginations,” to liberate ourselves from ‘“routine and mechanical reproducti
on[s];” It’s also delightfully reminiscent of the Situationists, whose ideas, like T
oorn’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 thin
gs we overlook: “collective and public agenda in direct communication with moderni
zation,” renewing society from within rather than rejecting it. Through Toorn’s lens
alienation, commodification, and estrangement aren’t things to overcome but, thin
gs through which “new horizons 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 Berla
ge Institute and is staff member at Delft School of Design (DSD) at University o
f 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 Politi
cs. Forthcoming is his English/French photobook the Society of The And.
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
volume 1.1 Is the visual political? 37
“everything is infused with, and dependent on everything else; what counts isn’t two
or three or however many, it is the conjunction and.”
38 Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com
volume 1.1 Is the visual political?
40 Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com
volume 1.1 Is the visual political? 41
public space in the classical sense – a representational model of the communal – no
longer exists. It has been replaced by the space of transition.
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com
MeDIa, Race aND The MaRKeTplace
by Dr. Robert M. Entman (The George Washington University)
part I explaining Negative Media Images
Reality does not com but it does
edia content, whether news, entertainment, or advertising, reflects the interact
ions of marketplace forces, including con-
sumer demand and intense competition; the professional values and cognitive and
emotional habits and limitations of media decision-makers—those creating and distr
ibuting the material, including executives, writers, editors, producers, directo
rs, and actors; actual societal realities; and political pressures and governmen
t policy. As all of these forces operate simultaneously (page 44, fig 1), it is
both inadvisable and impossible to single out one or two key causes— as well as di
fficult to come up with easy solutions. Everything starts and ends in the market
place, since most of the U.S. media are owned by corporations and publicly trade
d on the stock market—which means that they are legally and economically pressured
to maximize profits.1 The importance of marketplace pressures cannot be oversta
ted, especially in an era of ever-intensifying competition among proliferating m
edia outlets (including the Internet). In the realm of news, Hamilton, although
not writing specifically about the media and persons of color, offers a comprehe
nsive explanation for the declining quality of so much print and electronic jour
nalism.2 He
writes: “If broadcasters internalized the benefits of hard news (such as better in
formed voters) to society, they would be more likely to offer hard news fare.”3 In
stead, he continues, news markets yield: underconsumption of news about public a
ffairs; inadequate investment in developing or reporting hard news; a bias in br
oadcasting against high-cost news programs or those that deliver information val
ued by a minority of viewers; the tilt toward satisfying the information demands
of viewers or readers most valued by advertisers; the possibility that journali
st herding will cause reporters to go with common wisdom rather than developing
their own takes on stories; or the potential for conglomerate owners to view new
s provision solely thru the lens of profit maximization.4 This is bad news for t
hose hoping that news organizations will invest in the kind of costly, demanding
journalism that might help reduce their in-
Image Courtesy of Flickr Member K e v i n
pel any particular coverage; help to p r o p e l it.
advertent contributions to racial animosity. Although the underproduction of tru
ly edifying news could be regarded as a classic market failure requiring governm
ent regulation or other forms of intervention, such steps are highly unlikely in
the deregulatory climate promoted by the very same dominant media organizations
. Media market pressures push toward simple, sensational, titillating, and emoti
onally gratifying productions, rather than those that might provoke guilt or anx
iety—or even thought. Simultaneously, higher quality material reaches only a minor
ity of all media consumers. Competition pressures maximize revenue and minimize
cost and risk. In general, the market works to reduce the quality and quantity o
f broadcast media that is tailored to minority audiences. As Napoli demonstrates
, for instance, advertisers regard audiences of color as less valuable than whit
es of the same income level.5 Partly this is due to disparity of audience size.
Willing to pay less for the attention of persons of color, advertisers channel l
ess revenue to producers of minority-targeted programming. Market pressures requ
ire interpretation of taste and demand to provide guidance to decision-makers. T
he professional values of journalists, media producers, and advertisers usually
include informal and poorly-examined assumptions. Marketing data also discrimina
tes regarding content.6 Consider the findings of Av Westin.7 As a former network
news pres[They] insisted again and again that race and ethnicity do have an eff
ect on all components of a story. The interviews reveal a clear sense among the
rank-and-file that news management’s attitudes about race play a role in story sel
ection and content, editorial point of view, and the skin color of the person wh
o will provide the “expert” sound bite. At the network level, producers are “carefully
taught” by the conventional wisdom of executive producers and their senior staffs
that white viewers (whom advertisers regard as having greater purchasing power)
will tune out if blacks or Latinos are the principal characters in segments on
their shows. Westin goes on to say that the conventional wisdom records the pres
umption of racially biased (white) audience tastes in this newsroom aphorism: “Bla
cks don’t give good demos!”— meaning that available minute-by-minute Nielsen ratings o
f news shows reveal that significant numbers of demographically desirable white
viewers switch stations when a story concerns African-Americans.8 Similar reason
ing may discourage use of persons of color as news sources, particularly young p
ersons of color. This same sort of conventional wis9
volume 1.1 Is the visual political?
ident, he interviewed a large sample of news decision makers and found:
There is sometimes considerable ambiguity, however, about what specific content
will serve profitability while still fulfilling media workers’ other needs, such a
s professional respect, career advancement, and expression of one’s creative insti
ncts. Consider novelty as an example of an important explicit professional value
that guides selection of material. Whether in the news, entertainment, or adver
tising, novelty is often valued—but only to a point. The material cannot be too no
vel or it threatens to be too unfamiliar and perhaps incomprehensible, uninteres
ting, or disturbing, both to media personnel and to audiences. For instance, Lun
dman studied coverage of murder and discovered that it varies substantially—not ev
ery murder gets a big splash.11 Lundman shows how racial and gender stereotypes
(or what he calls “typifications”) combine with the journalistic value of novelty to
shape the selection of murder stories. Newspapers paid greater attention to hom
icides that were less novel if the murders conformed to race and gender expectat
ions and fears. They devoted more space to black males murdering white males tha
n to the opposite, even though both are rare (i.e., novel). Meanwhile, common mu
rders, such as white males killing white females, receive more attention than th
eir lack of novelty would predict. It is important to remember that media decisi
on-makers, from the executive suites to the newsroom or editing room,
dom about white tastes shapes the professional culture of television entertainme
nt producers as well.
W h
es and Decision Elit M s
s er
Figure 1
mood. These factors all suggest reasons
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com
O cials, Politicians, Business Executives Bureaucrats
Media & Advertising Executives, Editors Producers
why, despite years of criticism for negative stereotyping, insufficient lead rol
es for persons of color in movies and TV, and so much more, the media continue t
o crank out material vulnerable to the same criticism.
Public Policies Social Conditions
Media Images, News reports Entertainment
White Mass Public
Stereotypes Denial Fear & other Negative Emotion Inherent Group Con ict
The cognitive and emotional forces at work among media decision-makers include t
heir own racial misunderstandings and their tendencies toward ambivalence or ani
mosity. Even when they are not racist (and relatively few media personnel can ge
t away with expressing outright racism in their productions, even if they are pr
ivately racist),14 automatic, stereotyped racial thinking of the kind discussed
earlier inevitably shapes choices.15 Entman and Rojecki discuss
Media images News reports, Entertainment
Public opinion/voting Consumption decisions and market forces (media, housing) Y
MC’s organizational interactions: police, teachers, employers Individual perceptio
ns/interactions with YMC
White Elites/Decision Makers
Public Policies Societal Conditions
how choice of cover models for Time and Newsweek reflects both unconscious assum
ptions that the baseline, typical human being is white and hard data that show t
hat putting persons of color on the covers usually reduces sales.16 The paucity
of persons of color in positions of media ownership or decisionmaking power is a
frequent explanation for the racial images documented here. Benson notes that,
between 1978 and 2000, the U.S. population went from 19 percent to 30 percent pe
rsons of color, while they represented just 20 percent of television station emp
loyees by 2000.17 As of 2005, about 14 percent of newspaper employees were perso
ns of color.18 Persons of color are most strikingly underrepresented in executiv
e positions. Still, as Benson says, hiring more African Americans, Asians, and H
ispanics is no panacea. Consider, for instance, the fact that the Chief of the W
ashington Bureau of NBC News is now an African American. Such persons of color h
ave little maneu-
Persons of Color
Ethnic/Race Subcultures
operate like all humans with bounded rationality: bound by their cognitive and e
motional habits and limitations. These include stereotypes and other forms of sc
hematic, pre-coded thinking. Such habits are mandatory; they reduce the time, en
ergy, and emotional costs of processing information and making decisions.12 Medi
a workers apply their pre-existing cognitive schemas when choosing and writing t
heir stories, planning their careers, seeking sources for quotes, or casting act
ors in parts for TV shows and commercials. All of this is typically done under s
ubstantial time pressure, which heightens reliance on mental shortcuts and unthi
nking emotional reactions. They also do their work in an environment rife with c
ompetition from others, who would like to steal their glamorous and sometimes lu
crative me-
dia jobs. At the same time, they make their decisions under intense scrutiny fro
m persons above them in the organizational hierarchy, right up to the CEO him/he
rself, who must report to a Board of Directors that is usually mainly concerned
with the bottom line rather than social responsibility.13 All of these factors p
rovide strong incentives to avoid rocking the boat or earning the label of “troubl
emaker” by challenging decisions that might yield subtly stereotyping content. Few
media workers want to be considered arbiters of “political correctness.” Even if th
ey are willing to take that risk, they might not have realistic solutions that a
re congruent with such professional newsroom values as neutrality and balance in
the news, and such entertainment and advertising values as keeping mass audienc
es happy and in a buying
“[They] insisted again and again that race and ethnicity do have an effect on all
components of a story.
vering room given market constraints, the values and cognitive habits and limita
tions of the staffs, and other forces acting on them. Finally, as already sugges
ted, 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 males for certain types of crime. That fact comb
ines with professional values that deem gang violence by blacks and Latinos to b
e more routinely newsworthy than fraudulent or discriminatory loan practices in
banking, or marketing of lethal drugs by pharmaceutical companies. In part, this
choice arises from white audiences’ and journalists’ racial, ethnic, and gender sch
emas or typifications for the concept of “crime.” Crime news, in turn, reinforces as
pects of white racial animosity. It is important to emphasize that reality does
not compel any particular coverage; but it does help to propel it. Thus, the rea
lity of street crime by young men of color could be far better contextualized, a
nd reports could be made more ethnically balanced and neutral.19 Certainly, “60 Mi
nutes” has shown that “white collar” crime, mostly committed by whites, can garner goo
d ratings. Without a doubt, socalled “crime in the suites” perpetrated by corporate
executives imposes enormous costs on most white viewers, who have little realist
ic possibility of falling victim to serious street violence. To conclude with an
other example of the role of social realities, this time in entertainment televi
sion, consider play-by-play coverage of basketball. The sheer fact that the game
s are extraordinarily fast-paced—interacting with professional values and market p
ressures—fosters racial biases in the narration. This happens despite sportscaster
s’ awareness of racial stereotypes and attempts to avoid using them.20 Just as Kan
g and others would predict, the need for quick yet articulate reactions to the r
apidly shifting action on the floor leads announcers to rely on unconscious, ste
reotyped assumptions.21 For example, a sportscaster trying to keep up with const
antly changing conditions and new plays on the floor might automatically invoke
such clichés as “Another amazing jump and dunk by this gifted athlete!” or “Another stea
l for Jordan as he takes advantage of his incredible natural speed!” Such remarks
play into the stereotype of black athletes as inherently more gifted, whereas cr
edit for hard work and intelligent play tends to go to white athletes more often
volume 1.1 Is the visual political?
part II ameliorating the Negative Influences of Media
olving policy problems is often more difficult than describing them, and this ho
lds particularly true
when the issues involve the media. The First Amendment limits options for handli
ng negative effects of the news, especially when the content at issue is subtle
(as opposed to pornography or even violence, for example). Potential options for
ameliorating some of the negative influences described here include: 1. Promoti
ng “best practices” in journalism and in other media products 2. Implementing legal
or regulatory policies that can pass First Amendment scrutiny 3. Imposing social
/political sanctions on coded appeals to prejudice against young men of color 4.
Employing subsidies for digital media as outlets for positive images
Best journalism practices
• • •
he primary advantages of “best practices” are that they can be adopted without gover
nment action
and that they may very well improve profits and productivity.22 A partial list o
f such practices, as published
on the website of the Columbia Journalism School, includes the following questio
ns: What is the demographic breakdown of my circula-
tion area and state? Who on the staff has “listening posts” or sources
in communities of color? Where are the communities of color? Do you know
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 co
lor 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 various groups throughout o
ur area?

Do I attempt to find out how the actions of the
agency or organization I cover affect people in diverse populations in our commu

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 eth
ical responsibilities could apply to advertisers and entertainment (and “infotainm
ent”) 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 Milw
aukee Sentinel—principles that appear relevant across the media spectrum:
• • •
Work that fights fear Work that spotlights demographic destiny Work that taps in
to humanity23
Although media executives and other decision-makers down the line might resist a
ny such practices that seem to threaten profits or creative autonomy, those reco
mmending these practices can and should make the case that they might bolster—and
are unlikely to significantly damage—the bottom line in an increasingly multicultu
ral society.
volume 1.1 Is the visual political?
legal and regulatory action
cades have decisively tilted towards a deregulatory stance, especially when it c
omes to specifying content. Policies to promote more diverse ownership and manag
ement appear more acceptable from a First Amendment vantage point, although they
have recently fallen out of favor at the FCC. Nonetheless, perspectives at that
agency or in Congress could change, and there are certainly arguments in favor
of promoting diversity and opposing concentration of media ownership in order to
encourage the diffusion of social power and to make room for more ownership and
managerial influence by persons of color.28 Solages reports that persons of col
or own just 4.2 percent of all radio stations and 1.5 percent of TV stations.29
Black ownership of TV and radio broadcast stations amounts to less than one perc
ent of the total industry asset value. Meanwhile, the FCC has allowed a few larg
e owners to enjoy an increasing share of stations; as these percentages suggest,
the owners of the largest enterprises are white. The number of TV stations owne
d by blacks dropped from 32 to 20 in the three years after ownership restriction
s were eased in 1999.30 Aside from ownership, one perspective on the limited voi
ce given to persons of color is provided by the Directors Guild of America, whic
h found that, in 2000-2001, on the 40 most popular TV series, African Ameri-
fforts to reduce the negative externalities (unintended consequences)
and boost the positive externalities produced by media markets face barriers in
the United States from currently dominant interpretations of the First Amendment
.24 These emphasize a literal interpretation of the amendment as prohibiting vir
tually all forms of direct government intervention to shape content. There have
been some counter-arguments, however. For example, Baynes proposes the use of th
e precedent of the FCC, in a few instances years ago, denying license renewals t
o television stations that overtly discriminated against blacks by refusing to a
ir programs representing African Americans.25 Since the courts upheld these lice
nse denials, Baynes writes, there appears to be constitutional means of regulati
ng systematically discriminatory racial content of current programming on televi
sion. Indeed, Baynes writes that the “FCC’s failure to
Image Courtesy of Flickr Member Sarah Marriage
act against the broadcast networks and their possible complicity in the discrimi
nation by advertisers may make the FCC a passive participant in the broadcast ne
tworks’ discrimination.”26 Bender’s analysis of libel law, on the other hand, suggests
, for example, that the imposition of more direct regulatory policies to combat
media stereotyping is unlikely to succeed.27 In any case, all three branches of
government over the past two de-
Image Courtesy of Flickr Member Eric Castro
can males directed three percent of epi-
the positive externalities of non-white ownership may be significant. In an intr
iguing study, Oberholzer-Gee and Waldfogel find that black voter turnout is high
er in areas of higher black population, and their analysis indicates that one re
ason for this is that such areas are served by more black-oriented media content
Two specific recommendations follow from this discussion:
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com
sodes, Latino males directed two percent, and Asian American males directed one
percent (whereas 11 percent of episodes were directed by white women, two Asian
American women constituted the total representation of females of color who dire
cted episodes).31 Benson argues that merely increasing the numbers of broadcast
stations owned or managed by persons of color will not provide a solution if the
market undervalues minority audiences, as indicated by evidence discussed earli
er.32 Many advertisers appear unwilling to pay efficient prices for broadcasts t
hat target

Federal communications and anti-
trust policy should be used to enhance ethnic diversity in ownership and in top
executive positions of the media.

As to employment of persons of color in high-level positions, Benson argues that
the increase in minority employment in the newsroom has helped alter word usage
; for instance, such phrases as “illegal alien” have generally been replaced by “undoc
umented immigrant.”37 On the other hand, he asserts, recent decades,
Foundations should fund systematic
education of decision-makers in the advertising industry, on both the client and
agency sides, to reduce discrimination against media audiences perceived as les
s valuable than they actually are. One other important procedural public policy
option that would have potentially substantive results would be for the FCC, the
courts, and Congress to rely upon more thorough and innovative social scientifi
c and legal research. A 2004 federal court decision, later FCC to
After all, most people do not want to view themselves as RAcists.
non-white audiences because they cling to stereotypes (such as the bizarre assum
ption that “black people don’t eat beef”).33 Many radio stations operate under “No minor
ity/Spanish” dictates, meaning that clients direct their advertising agencies to n
ot buy time on stations that target persons of color. A systematic undervaluing
of persons of color in the advertising market not only undercuts production of p
rogramming oriented to these persons, but also means that the tastes of persons
of color will carry less weight in programmers’ decisions about general audience f
are than if advertisers had better information.34 Some evidence indicates that s
tation owners who are persons of color exhibit more sensitivity to the programmi
ng interests of non-white audiences.35 Such owners would likely pursue advertisi
ng targeted at persons of color. In addition, which have seen growing representa
tion of persons of color in newsrooms, have also shown an ideological narrowing
and de-politicization of journalism. He argues, in fact, that staff diversity be
comes mostly a tool for marketing to ethnic audiences and for public relations i
mage enhancement, rather than for affecting substantive news coverage.38 This mi
ght be predictable in light of the market pressures and other forces influencing
media content, all of which narrow the discretion exercised by individual media
workers decisions and about decision-makers— no matter what their ethnicity—regardi
ng what to put on the screen or page. Nonetheless, it is difficult to discern wh
at harm would result from promoting affirmative action in the media. Indeed, man
y corporations have voluntarily adopted such policies in recognition of growing
diversity in the population. the
upheld by the Supreme Court, required reconsider its loosening of rules on media
ownership after the Commission asserted it was following congressional mandates
in the 1996 Telecommunications Act.39 In that instance, regulators and members
of Congress appear to base policy more on assumptions or skewed evidence than on
careful consideration of underlying complexities and social goals. In fact, Kan
g goes so far as to suggest that more careful analysis would undermine one of th
e primary goals of FCC policy.40 Although the FCC acts on the presumption that i
ncreasing the amount of local television news has positive effects, as documente
d by Kang’s literature review and other studies discussed earlier, local TV news h
as negative externalities. Most importantly for our purposes, it appears to heig
hten whites’ racial anxieties and hostilities,
and that, in turn, has demonstrable effects on their political opinions and voti
ng. It is conceivable that such negative externalities are outweighed by positiv
e social benefits. The point here, however, is that neither the FCC nor the cour
ts (nor Congress) treat communications policy decisions with the sensitivity and
depth they merit. Hence, the following recommendation: Because their choices ca
n affect the lives of YMC [young men of color] and the entire society in surpris
ing and important ways—effects only recently discovered by social scientists and e
ven more recently incorporated into legal scholarship—officials should evaluate co
mmunications policy decisions more carefully, minimizing reliance upon unproven
assumptions or incomplete evidence.41
even antagonistic whites against responding favorably to those appeals. After al
l, most people do not want to view themselves as racists. Thus, the recommendati
on advanced here is to hold candidates to account for using racially antagonisti
c appeals by publicly and prominently exposing them as such, and demanding that
they cease.
White House occupied by a black family hands the media unprecedented opportuniti
es to produce educational and healing messages.

volume 1.1 Is the visual political?
subsidize digital media as new outlets for positive expression
For Goodman, the era of digital media significantly improves the opportunities f
or positive government regulation in the form of subsidies, which do not interfe
re with media owners’ First Amendment rights.44 Although she is not primarily conc
erned with media images of YMC or with race relations, Goodman’s general prescript
ion clearly applies to the scarcity of opportunities for exposure to positive me
dia images of YMC — a scarcity that affects whites as well as persons of color. In
the context of this report, the key point, as Goodman puts it, is altering cons
umer desires: “Subsidies for a robust public service media, as opposed to media re
gulations, are the most promising and constitutionally acceptable way to increas
e consumption of programming that exposes viewers to difference, forges communit
y, and elevates discourse in the face of content abundance and attention scarcit
y.”45 This, in turn, “might then force the market to provide media products with gre
ater positive externalities, including common exposure to difference and public
elevation.”46 postscript: A final externality involves America’s first president of
color. Although Barack Obama will inevitably face political attacks and damage t
hat could reaffirm racial difference and threat, a
“Media, Race and the Marketplace: Explaining Negative Media Images” is excerpted and
obert M. Entman. © 2006 by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. Al
l rights reserved. View the full report at: http://www.jointcenter.org/ publicat
1. cf. Hamilton, James. 2004. All the news that’s fit to sell: How the market tran
sforms information into news. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.; and En
tman, R. M. 1989. Democracy Without Citizens: Media and the Decay of American Po
litics. New York: Oxford University Press. Hamilton 2004. Hamilton 2004: 239. Ha
milton 2004: 240-41. Napoli, P. 2002. Audience valuation and audience media: An
analysis of the determinants of the value of radio audiences. Journal of Broadca
sting and Electronic Media 46(2):169-184.127 Hamilton 2004. Westin, Av. 2001. Yo
u’ve got to ‘Be Carefully Taught’: racist encoding in the newsroom. Nieman Reports 55
(1): 63. Westin 2001: 64. Simon, J. and S. Hayes. 2004. Juvenile Crime Stories U
se Police Blotter Without Comment from Suspects. Newspaper Research Journal 25:
92. Entman, R. M., and A. Rojecki. 2000. Chapter 9.” The Black Image in the White
Mind: Media and Race in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Lundman,
R. J. 2003. The newsworthiness and selection bias in news about murder: Comparat
ive and relative effects of novelt and race and gender typifications on news-
sanction political candidates who use coded appeals to racial or ethnic animosit
2. 3. 4. 5.
o put a finer point on the earlier discussion, one source of negative
media effects on YMC is politicians’ use of indirect appeals to racial or ethnic a
ntagonism through visual images or code words, such as “inner city,” “crime,” or “poverty.”
Sometimes the use may be well-intentioned or inadvertent, but this excuse wears
thin as research accrues demonstrating the racial decoding of these appeals.
6. 7.
8. 9.
Of course, politicians
have First Amendment rights to make whatever appeals they choose. Interestingly,
however, politicians and citizens in many other democracies, which judge racist
speech to be more socially damaging than beneficial, do not exercise such right
Mendelberg’s research most
thoroughly supports the idea that labeling negative racial appeals for what they
are tends to inoculate ambivalent or
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com
paper coverage of homicide. Sociological Forum 18 (3):357386. 12. See, for examp
le, Macrae C.N., and G.V. Bodenhausen. 2000. Social cognition: Thinking categori
cally about others. Annual Review of Psychology 51:93-120.; Fiske, Susan T., and
Shelley E. Taylor. 1991. Social Cognition. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw Hill.; Kang
, J. 2005. Trojan horses of race. Harvard Law Review 118(5):1489-1593.. Hamilton
2004. cf. Westin 2001. See Kang 2005. Entman and Rojecki 2000. Benson, R. 2005.
American Journalism and the politics of diversity. Media Culture & Society 27 (
1):10. American Society of Newspaper Editors. Newstaffs shrinking while minority
presence grows. 12 April 2005. Accessed 9 June 2005 at: http://www.asne.org/ind
ex.cfm?id=5648. cf. Westin 2001. Bruce, T. 2004. Marking the boundaries of the ‘no
rmal’ in televised sports: the play-by-play of race. Media Culture & Society 26 (6
):861-79. 21. 22. 23. (20) Kang 2005; Bruce 2004: 864. BEST PRACTICES (21) See M
azingo 2001; Westin 2001. Gissler, Sig. 2001. “Let’s Do It Better Workshop.” Summarize
d by the Columbia Journalism School, accessed 9 June 2005 at: http://www.jrn.col
umbia.edu/events/race/growingyourcontent_gissler.html. See Goodman 2004 for a cr
itique: Goodman, Ellen. 2004. Media policy out of the box: Content Abundance, At
tention Scarcity, and the Failures of Digital Markets. Berkeley Telephony Law Jo
urnal 19:1389. Baynes, L. M. 2003. White Out: The Absence and Stereotyping of Pe
ople of Color by the Broadcast Networks in Prime Time Entertainment Programming.
Arizona Law Review 45:293. Baynes 2003: 311. Bender, Steven W. 2003. Greasers a
nd Gringos: Latinos, Law, and the American Imagination. New York: New York Unive
rsity Press. Baker, C. Edwin. 2002. Media Concentration: Giving Up On Democracy.
54 Florida Law Review (December):839. Solages, Carrie. 2003. If the FCC Rule Ch
anges Survive, Minority Broadcasting May Not. Crisis (The New): Crisis Publicati
Inc. 30. 31. 32. 33. Solages 2003: 21. Baynes 2003: 312-13. Benson, 2005. Ofori,
Kofi Asiedu. 1999. When Being Number 1 is Not Enough: The Impact of Advertising
Practices On Minority-Owned & Minority-Formatted Broadcast Stations. Civil Righ
ts Forum on Communications Policy. Accessed 21 November 2005 at: http://www.fcc.
gov/Bureaus/Mass_Media/Informal/ad-study/. See also Goodman 2004: 1426-27. Mason
, Laurie, Christine M. Bachen, and Stephanie L. Craft. 2001. Support For FCC Min
ority Ownership Policy: How Broadcast Station Owner Race Or Ethnicity Affects Ne
ws And Public Affairs Programming Diversity. Communication Law & Policy 6:37-73.
; and Owens, W. LaNelle. 2004. Inequities on the air: The FCC media ownership ru
les—encouraging economic efficiency and disregarding the needs of minorities. Howa
rd Law Journal 47:1037. Oberholzer-Gee, Felix, and Joel Waldfogel. 2005. Strengt
h in Numbers: Group Size and Political Mobilization. The Journal of Law & Econom
ics 48:73-91. Benson 2005. Benson 2005: 9-10. The case is Prometheus Radio Proje
ct vs. Federal Communications Commission, 3rd Circuit (issued 24 June 2004), ava
ilable at http:// www.fcc.gov/ogc/documents/ opinions/2004/03-3388-062404.pdf. K
ang 2005. cf. Kang 2005; Goodman 2004. Gilens, M. 1999. Why Americans Hate Welfa
re: Race, Media and the Politics of Antipoverty Policy. Chicago: University of C
hicago Press; Mendelberg, T. 2001. The Race Card. Princeton: Princeton Universit
y Press.; and Hurwitz J., and M. Peffley. 2005. Playing the race card in the pos
t-Willie Horton era—The impact of racialized code words on support for punitive cr
ime policy. Public Opinion Quarterly 69:99-112.164 See Frydman and Rorive 2002.
Frydman, B. and I. Rorive. 2002. Regulating Internet Content Through Intermediar
ies in the U.S. and Europe. Zeitschrift für Rechtssoziologies 23:41-59. Goodman 20
04: 1393. Goodman 2004: 1472. Goodman 2004: 1419.
13. 14. 15. 16.
34. 35.
19. 20.
37. 38. 39.
40. 41. 42.
26. 27.
44. 45. 46.
Paid for by: Illegal Immigrants for Hugo Juarez
volume 1.1 Is the visual political? 51
huGo JuaRez 2008
by Nicholas Munyan
graphic through targeted campaign events and propaganda. However, while everyone
from women and students to Vietnam vets and Pacific Islanders are attending cou
ntless rallies, one group has been consistently overlooked: illegal immigrants.
Hugo Juarez 2008 targets this forgotten demographic in order to both highlight a
nd critique contemporary campaign issues and strategies. While illegal immigrant
s’ lack of suffrage makes the campaign oversight not only understandable, but also
necessary, illegal immigrants’ are still an American demographic whose lives are
significantly affected by the events in Washington. Five posters in the Hugo Jua
rez 2008 campaign series represent issues that resonate strongly with peoples st
ruggling to establish a life for themselves in America.
s election day in America approaches, presidential hopefuls scramble to solidify
their support from every imaginable demo-
Though Hugo Juarez 2008 campaign targets an unconventional group, it utilizes re
levant campaign strategies and rhetoric by alluding to the current emphasis on e
nvironmental concerns and using simple affirmative statements. Simultaneously, t
he campaign posters take advantage of various stereotypical ideas and images ass
ociated with illegal immigration (inner tubes, barbed wire fences, and green car
ds) in order to both gain the attention of the viewer and expose their biases. W
hile every immigrant experience is unique, Hugo Juarez 2008 proposes a campaign
that targets illegal immigrants collectively. The campaign suggests uniting thos
e who may not otherwise converge around a common struggle for acceptance and gov
ernment recognition, just as the cause of environmentalism continues to draw all
ies from across the political spectrum.

For the complete Hugo Juarez 2008 campaign Kit visit www.glimpsejournal.com
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com
polITIco-RelIGIous DIMeNsIoNs IN chaco caNyoN poTTeRy
by Dr. Stephen Plog (University of Virginia)
Image Courtesy of Boston Public Library
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 n
ot to have developed—my own research area, the American Southwest, being only one
example—rarely have explored whether decorative symbols carried political implicat
ions or information. To understand 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 occupied year round hav
e often emphasized decorative patterns on prehistoric pottery. By the time that
most ancient peoples inhabited villages throughout the course of the year, rathe
r than making seasonal or even more frequent moves, ceramic vessels had become c
ommon implements with some households containing as many as 20-25 vessels. These
vessels were used for cooking, storage, and serving, just as we use ceramics to
day. Such vessels not only were common, but they possess two additional features
that have made them so valuable to archae-
“As our understanding of pre-historic chronologies and cultures has i n c r e a s
e d , studies of decorative symb0ls have » » » » shifted from questions of w e r e and w
h e n to h an emphasis on Why?”
ologists. First, they were fragile enough that they were often broken and subseq
uently discarded. Thus, in a village of 10-15 families that was inhabited for pe
riods as short as 20 years, thousands of fragments (sherds) of broken vessels wo
uld be discarded. Second, once broken into small fragments, the resulting sherds
are remarkably durable. Whereas basketry, wooden implements, or textiles likely
will disintegrate within a few decades under most conditions, ceramics endure f
or thousands of years. Because sherds vastly outnumber any other type of artifac
t on sites created when groups lived in villages year-round, they have been the
focus of archaeological research from early years of the discipline. During the
late 19th and early 20th centuries when archaeological research was still in its
formative years, scholars studying ceramics discovered that the decorative symb
ols or patterns painted, stamped, or incised on vessels typically changed over t
ime and, as a result, studies of the designs typically focused on their value in
helping identify the time periods when settlements were inhabited. As our knowl
edge of particular regions increased, archaeologists also identified spatial pat
terns in the distribution of symbols and thus also began to characterize prehist
oric cultures by particular types of designs or design patterns. Prehistoric gro
ups from the Great Lakes region of the United States, for example, decorated the
ir pottery with different symbols and
patterns from those of people in such nearby regions as the Great Basin or the P
lains. As our understanding of prehistoric chronologies and cultures has increas
ed, studies of decorative symbols have shifted from questions of “where” and “when” to a
n emphasis on “why.” Why did designs change over time and why do we find designs tha
t were characteristic of particular cultures? The result of this research is tha
t archaeologists increasingly have recognized a variety of social, religious, an
d political factors that influence what they had initially assumed to be rather
simple, uncomplicated choices about design symbols. The Pueblo region of the Ame
rican Southwest (northern Arizona and New Mexico, southeastern Utah, and southwe
stern Colorado), my own area of expertise, exemplifies this trend in design stud
ies. The northern Southwest is an area where much pioneering research was done d
uring archaeology’s formative years and variation in painted designs continues to
be critical to the dating of settlements. Archaeological discussions often empha
size the importance of tree-ring and radiocarbon dating, techniques that undoubt
edly are critical to our research, but the reality is that we date 99 percent of
prehistoric archaeological sites by focusing on changing patterns in the shape
and size of spear and arrow points or on the stylistic patterns painted on the
fragmented ceramic vessels that are so ubiquitous in settlements occupied over t
he last 1200 years of Pueblo history. Formal “ceramic types” based on designs and ot
her characteristics of the pottery repeatedly prove to be the building blocks of
any study of culture change. As research has matured, however, and scholars hav
e endeavored to address questions about social, political, and religious dimensi
ons of prehistoric life, we have increasingly explored ways that those important
dimensions are reflected in the material culture—pottery, baskets, and architectu
re—that prehistoric people left behind when they moved to new settlements. Because
pottery is typically common on such sites and painted designs are rarely determ
ined by material availability or technological constraints, the variation in tho
se symbols has proven to be a particularly fruitful avenue for study. Why do tho
se designs vary so much over time and space? Before offering a direct answer to
that question, it is important to emphasize that the cultural dimensions of inte
rest—political, social, and religious patterns and relationships—cannot be easily co
mpartmentalized in the way we discuss our own society where there is a separatio
n of church and state and the important social relationships in our lives may ha
ve little or no relationship to political alliances or religious beliefs and aff
iliation. In most pre-state societies, political, social, and religious dimensio
ns of life are closely intertwined and thus difficult to separate. Social status
and ritual status may not be one and the same, but they are often strongly rela
ted. And political power is typically grounded in, if not generated from, ritual
knowledge and authority.
volume 1.1 Is the visual political? 53
Image Courtesy of Flickr Member Andy Eick
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com
With that qualifier in mind, we can suggest at least four factors that affect th
e nature of painted symbols and their spatial and temporal patterns. First, we c
an recognize that some variation is a product of stylistic drift (Cleland 1972;
Braun 1995; Neiman 1995), “progressive rearrangements, addition, and/or deletion o
f discrete design elements which produce new design sets as a result of successi
ve replication of a single design motif” (Cleland 1972:202). Drift is one of the k
ey factors that make design symbols such a sensitive marker of time periods. Sec
ond, studies have emphasized the importance of teacher-student relationships in
determining symbol sets. Beginning as least as early as Ruth Bunzel’s (1929) class
ic study of historic Pueblo pottery decoration, we learned that the symbol set e
mployed by artists in pre-state societies was heavily influenced by the symbols
used by their mentor, most often a family member. Most recent studies of the las
t two or three decades have focused on a third significant variable. Considerabl
e attention has been given to the ways in which design symbols and patterns dete
rmine and reflect social boundaries (e.g., Hodder 1981; Plog 1980; Wobst 1972; W
iessner 1983 among some of the earliest of such studies). That is, people common
ly use different clothes styles, house forms, and decorative symbols to distingu
ish themselves from others, an “us” vs. “them” dichotomy. The boundaries may exist betwe
en genders, age groups, status groups, or cultures that hold spatially discrete
or perhaps slightly overlapping territories. Few, however, have studied the ways
that decorative symbols in the Southwest may convey politico-religious messages
. Some have connected symbol sets to ritual (e.g., Adams 1992, Crown 1994), but
have not suggested that the ritual were related to political connections or
authority. I have suggested that the Chaco Canyon region of northwestern New Mex
ico may serve as one clear example of how symbols represent and reinforce politi
co-religious dimensions. During the era from A.D. 850 to 1130 in the northern So
uthwest, most Pueblo people lived in smaller pueblos of 1-15 masonry rooms, prob
ably occupied by no more than 10-25 people. Chaco Canyon, an anomaly to this pat
tern, was a nexus of large pueblos—twelve are concentrated in a single 15-kilomete
r stretch of the canyon—referred to as “great houses” because of their size (50 to 650
masonry rooms) and an unusual constellation of architectural features such as i
ntricate core-and-veneer architecture and large subterranean ritual structures,
known as great kivas. These complexes represent the earliest examples of the mul
ti-story pueblos, each occupied by at least a few hundred Pueblo people, encount
ered in the northern Southwest by the first non-Native explorers, Fray Marcos de
Niza and Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, in 1539 and 1540, respectively. Yet, as M
ills (2002:66) has emphasized, the “degree of planning, expertise, and complexity
shown in great house construction is very different from that found among the et
hnographic Pueblo.” Chaco Canyon great houses were not an isolated phenomenon, how
ever. Some groups outside the canyon constructed structures similar in form and
detail, though usually smaller in scale and rarely in clusters, throughout much
of New Mexico’s San Juan Basin as well as portions of southwestern Colorado, south
eastern Utah, and northeastern Arizona. Roads (cleared paths, in some places lin
ed with masonry curbs) up to 10 meters wide ran tens of miles from the canyon to
a few of these outlying settlements (Vivian 1997a, 1997b). Shorter roads may ha
ve served less as physical connections between settlements and more as symbolic
connections to the cosmos as many extend only a few kilometers from the great ho
use. These and other characteristics demonstrate significant social, ritual, and
perhaps political ties within the Chaco region with perhaps direct political co
ntrol over the area immediately surrounding the canyon. Kidder (1924:178) long a
go recognized that one of the hallmarks of Chaco was an unusual decorative patte
rn, 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 of the
form with thin, parallel lines, i.e., a form of hachure. The widespread spatial
distribution of this hachured style in the northern Southwest crosscut a number
of geographically specific styles, the first time that two decorative styles ha
d co-occurred in significant frequencies in most areas of the northern Southwest
. The GallupDogoszhi style differed from these other styles by the strong covari
ation among decorative elements, a pattern that would be expected of a design pa
ttern that was iconic in nature and used to convey important messages (Plog 1990
:67-68). Furthermore, the style is relatively more common at settlements with pu
blic ceremonial architecture (Plog 1990:68-69). More recently, I have shown that
the hachured style likely was a black-on-white symbol for the color blue-green,
a color that was difficult to produce in fired pottery and, more importantly, a
color that was extremely important in the cosmology of native peoples not only
in the northern Southwest, but also throughout Mexico and Central America as wel
l (Plog 2003). There are thus a variety of reasons to suggest that the GallupDog
oszhi hachured style served as one important symbol of politico-religious organi
zation in the northern Southwest during the Chacoan era. In the immediate vicini
ty of Chaco Canyon, the style may have conveyed specific aspects of the politico
-religious authority of Chacoan leaders while in more distant areas, the ritual
and cosmology dimensions of the style may have been more significant, though the
style may still have been a visible marker of important ties with the Chaco pol
ity. And Chaco almost certainly was not the only prehistoric polity in the broad
er Southwest region where decorative patterns symbolized such dimensions. I hope
that future research will explore this possibility in many other regions.
Adams, E. Charles 1992 The Origin and Development of the Pueblo Katsina Cult. Un
iversity of Arizona Press, Tucson. Braun, David P.1995 Style, Selection, and His
toricity. In Style, Society, and Person: Archaeological and Ethnological Perspec
tives, edited by Christopher Carr and Jill E. Neitzel,
pp. 123-140. Plenum Press, New York. Bunzel, Ruth 1929 The Pueblo Potter: A Stud
y of Creative Imagination in Primitive Art. Columbia University Press, New York.
Cleland, Charles E. 1972 From Sacred to Profane: Style Drift in the Decoration
of Jesuit Finger Rings. American Antiquity 37:202-210. Crown, Patricia L. 1994 C
eramics and Ideology: Salado Polychrome Pottery. University of New Mexico Press,
Albuquerque. Hodder, Ian 1981 Symbols in Action: Ethnoarchaeological Studies of
Material Culture. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Kidder, Alfred V. 1924
An Introduction to the Study of Southwestern Archaeology. Yale University Press
, New Haven. Mills, Barbara J. 2002 Recent Research on Chaco: Changing Views of
Economy, Ritual and Society. Journal of Archaeological Research 10:65-117. Neima
n, Fraser D. 1995 Stylistic Variation in Evolutionary Perspective: Inferences fr
om Decorative Diversity and Interassemblage Distance in Illinois Woodland Cerami
c Assemblages. American Antiquity 60:7-36. Plog, Stephen 1980 Stylistic Variatio
n in Prehistoric Ceramics. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Plog, Stephen.
1990 Sociopolitical Implications of Stylistic Variation in the American Southwe
st. In The Uses of Style in Archaeology, edited by Margaret Conkey and Christine
Hastorf, pp. 61-72. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Plog, Stephen. 2003
Exploring the Ubiquitous Through the Unusual: Color Symbolism in Pueblo Black-on
-White Pottery. American Antiquity 68:665-695. Vivian, R. Gwinn 1997a Chacoan Ro
ads: Morphology. Kiva 63:7-34. Vivian, R. Gwinn 1997b Chacoan Roads: Function. K
iva 63:35-67. Wiessner, Polly. 1983 Style and Social Information in Kalahari San
Projectile Points. American Antiquity 48:253-276. Wobst, H. Martin. 1972 Stylis
tic Behavior and Information Exchange. In Social Exchange and Interaction, Anthr
opological Papers of the Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan, No. 61,
pp. 317-342. Ann Arbor.

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FlaGs, coloR, syMBol, 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 sym
bols (i.e. monuments, currency, etc.)? KC: Flags are the symbol with which peopl
e are most
Image Courtesy of Flickr Member Daniel Lobo
familiar. One reason for this stems from the fact that flags are designed for di
splay. Thus, this visual image— colorful and dynamic—becomes a “staple” of some of the m
ost solemn or powerful or populated venues of a nation. It becomes a calling car
d or a logo—a shorthand for the nation. ca: how does the organization of a flag’s in
dependent design elements relate to its function as a nation’s “calling card?”
movements, victory in war, etc.) are associated with the adoption of basic desig
ns. Disruptive, divisive events (a revolution, an economic depression, etc.) are
associated with complex, embellished designs. When populations are cohesive and
“on the same page,” symbolic communication can effectively occur via the symbolic s
horthand of basic designs. Fragmentation calls for elaboration as different posi
tions must be added to the mix. ca: In addition to the level of simplicity or co
mplexity of design, is the color of national flags also telling of identity? KC:
Colors are used to convey many sorts of messages. For example,
KC: Flags, as national calling cards, are somewhat reflective of national cultur
e. But flag designs also tell us much more. There appears to be a clear logic to
the selection of national symbol designs. National leaders knowingly choose som
e designs over others. While some of these choices can be linked to national tra
ditions and lineage, there are also broader social patterns that guide symbol se
lection as well. For example: 1) A nation’s global economic position is associated
with flag design. The most central, powerful nations choose the simplest, most
basic designs, while economically peripheral nations adopt highly embellished de
signs. It appears as if the oldest, most powerful nations “set the bar,” establishin
g a symbolic code that other nations react to and elaborate. 2) The social event
s that face a nation when a flag is adopted are associated with flag design. Eve
nts that bespeak high cohesiveness or solidarity (i.e. independence
many nations choose colors that will provoke a sense of unity — unity to other nat
ions or unity among groups within a nation. Consider the case of Thailand. Becau
se the flags of Thailand’s World War I allies contained red, white and blue, Thail
and added a blue stripe to it’s red and white flag. The change signified a purposi
ve link to these other nations. Similarly, many of the flags of Muslim nations i
nclude green (a signifier of Islam), indicating strong religious unity. The flag
of Ireland offers yet another example. This symbol was designed to unite the co
untry’s religious groups. The flag’s green field represented Catholics, while its or
ange field represented protestants. The flag also included a white field meant t
o indicate the peaceful coexistence of the two groups. ca: From the viewer’s persp
ective, how does the visual information of flags influence behavior, political o
r otherwise? KC: Flag design is not an arbitrary task. Research shows that certa
in designs prove more or less appropriate than others in specific contexts. In t
his way, flag designs are no different than other color “venues”. We’ve all experience
d this phenomenon in learning to dress ourselves, for example, and coming to “see” t
hat certain color and pattern combinations simply don’t “go together”.
volume 1.1 Is the visual political?
In my book Identity Designs, I talk about the consequences of adopting a flag de
sign in which the components “go together” in an expected way, (what I call a “normal
design”) versus adopting a flag in which the components violate expectation, (what
I call a “deviant” design). My research shows that deviant flags do not enjoy the f
ervent reception or the intense attachment of their more normal counterparts. Pe
ople relate to them in a rational rather than a passionate way; they engage the
deviant flags in a very restricted range of activities; they revere the flag via
legal mandate rather than voluntary reaction. These consequences can make the d
eviant flag a much less powerful motivator.
ca: What draws you personally to the study of political symbol systems? KC: I st
arted my academic career with a deep interest in the social and cultural forces
that shape creativity particularly musical and visual creativity. Along the way,
I also developed interests in theories of social change, political communicatio
n, and collective identity Thus, the study of national symbols offered a vehicle
by which to combine my interests. Studying national symbols allowed me to pursu
e the ways in which individual style, cultural norms of communication, power, an
d change individually and collectively 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, ye
t 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 o
f 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 Ame
rican history. It depicted a snake cut up into several pieces, with each piece r
epresenting 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 colon
ial items, including currency. In October of 1775, the first known combined appe
arance of symbol and motto occurred. When the newly created the United States Na
vy was dispatched to overtake a pair of British cargo ships, five companies of M
arines 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 Pennsylvan
ia Journal by an anonymous source praised the snake image and claimed it to be t
he 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, o
ne that will strike if necessary and is not afraid to retaliate. It is perhaps u
nsurprising, then, that one variant of the Gadsden flag paired its original desi
gn with another famous American slogan: “Liberty or Death”.
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Todd Williams (film, 2004)
by Andy Hughes
he N Word, a documentary by Todd Larkin Williams released four years ago, takes
a look at the titular
explained here, are not exactly surprising), but you will at least have the expe
rience of hearing different opinions from a wide range of people. Intercut with
the “talking heads” sections of the film are montages of film and television clips i
n which the words are used. There are also a few poetic divergences, in which bl
ack actors read literature that uses the word: we hear the works of such people
as Langston Hughes, Mark Twain, Carl Sandburg, and Saul Williams, who gives a pa
ssionate reading of his work “Sha Clack Clack”. At a run time of an hour and 25 minu
tes, The N Word doesn’t exactly strain the viewer. Its style is almost leisurely,
perhaps startling given the potentially volatile subject matter. All of the inte
rviews, even those with older or more academic personages, have a casual air abo
ut them. The conversations are also well-edited, giving the film an easy flow as
the topics change. The film clips, many of them from the 60’s and 70’s, make up for
the static nature of the interviews, as do the literary recitations. The only t
hing that really hurts the film is its graphic intensive, VH1 style
slur and the questions that surround it, namely: how did it get where it is toda
y? How did it progress from something derogatory and hateful to a term of endear
ment among black people? To give us answers, Landers interviews a host of profes
sors, rappers, actors, athletes, comedians and activists, black and white. At fi
rst the film seems slightly disjointed, but soon the pacing becomes more regular
. We hear from people like Samuel L. Jackson and Ice Cube, who identify positive
ly with the word, and from others, like activist Dick Gregory, who have difficul
ty viewing it outside of its racist context. Topics discussed include the suppos
ed history of the word, the success of Richard Pryor, and the evolution of hip-h
op. You may or may not learn something new about the black experience in America
(the origins of the “N” word, as
delivery. Before the opening credits, for example, we see brief clips from a few
of the interviews used later in the film. Immediately afterward, we see those s
ame 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 al
ready heard comes across as a bit redundant. Overall, though, The N Word is thou
ght-provoking. ■
Image Courtesy of Flickr Member Cristian Borquez
Arthur Hiller, Maximillian Schell, Lois Nettleton (film, 1975)
volume 1.1 Is the visual political?
by Andy Hughes
and servants with quirky anecdotes, stopping only to spy on the world below thro
ugh a telescope. He is Arthur Goldman (Maximillian Schell), a Jewish Holocaust r
efugee and self-made millionaire. Or is he? To his faithful assistant Charlie, h
e is just an eccentric old man with a Christ complex, haunted by demons of the p
ast. At times he sees the ghost of his father, other times the image of Adolf Do
rff, Nazi commandant and torturer. Reeling from these visions, Goldman never cea
ses his strange banter, sometimes silly, other times unnerving. He is both an om
inous prophet and Groucho Marx, switching between snide remarks and bizarre tang
ents, not all of which are in English. Christian symbolism plays a large part in
his life: Goldman refers to a dinner he has with several eligible women as his “l
ast supper” and interrupts the meal to rub the ashes of his dead wife on his foreh
ead. He seems to have placed himself into the role of savior and miracle maker,
one he delights in. As his connection to the outside world, Charlie acts as a sh
y, humble foil, and attempts to keep his master’s feet on the ground. But there is
a sinister quality to Goldman’s antics, one that comes to the forefront when he i
s arrested by foreign agents and taken to Israel to be tried as Nazi war crimina
l Dorff. Dorff, it seems, has been masquerading as Goldman in order to escape au
thorities, something Goldman doesn’t attempt to deny. In fact, the persona of Dorf
f emerges so easily from Goldman that it raises skepticism: is Goldman putting t
he authorities on? An adaptation of the play by Robert Shaw, The Man in the Glas
s Booth garnered Schell an Oscar nomination in 1975, and yet has gone more or le
ss 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 perfor
m both roles effectively while still leaving
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
the connection: we don’t get the feeling that we are seeing a split personality so
much as two extremes of one. The film’s most memorable image occurs in the long f
inal courtroom scene, as Dorff/Goldman, in full Nazi regalia, is placed in a bul
letproof booth to protect him from assassins. Sealed off from the rest of the pr
oceedings, Schell delivers manic and unapologetic speeches, mocks his prosecutor
, and vents pure venom at the Israeli jury. He is terrifying, and yet, vulnerabl
e in a strange way, especially as the court begins to wonder whom he really is.
At this point, Schell is able to communicate much without saying anything, letti
ng his red, panicked face and cold eyes speak for themselves. As a representatio
n of postwar sentiment, The Man in the Glass Booth is a curious specimen. It exa
mines the effects of politically engineered devastation through the eyes of a ma
n whose own personality is displaced through oppression. Though the dialogue and
staging still feels, well, stagy, the strength of the central conflict anchors
the rest of the production.

Image Courtesy of Flickr Member grisei
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(Re)vIeW: cRossING The lINe
Daniel Gordon (film, 2007)
Image Courtesy of Flickr Member Molly Bewigged
by Andy Hughes
ometimes, when life seems its bleakest, a person will turn to whatever refuge pr
esents itself. In
If this compelling documentary has one weakness, it is a failure to emphasize so
me of the most fascinating aspects of its story. The DMZ is around two and a hal
f miles wide. It is heavily mined and considered one of the most dangerous place
s in the world. For Dresnok, Jenkins, and two other American soldiers to have ma
de it across safely, and on separate occasions, is not only lucky; it’s miraculous
. The film understandably has a lot of material to cover, but neglecting details
like this weakens the power of the story somewhat. At first, the boys are perce
ived as enemies and threats. Later, they are a North Korean cause celebre, and t
heir citizenship becomes a major source of pride for the warring nation. Benefit
s are offered to other Americans if they defect. They start meeting women and bu
ilding families. The most bizarre twist of all comes when future leader Kim Jong
Il casts Dresnok and Jenkins as evil American generals in a series of patriotic
war films. The films are seen widely throughout the country and become hugely p
opular. We see people in the streets of modern day Pyongyang addressing Dresnok
as “Mr. Arthur”, the name of his character. Dresnok makes for a great interview subj
ect, honest in his opinions and
1962, American soldier Joseph Dresnok made that decision when he walked away fro
m the army. His refuge of choice: the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. His t
iming couldn’t have been better, making him one of the last Americans to defect th
ere, and the only one still living there today. His life is chronicled in Crossi
ng the Line, a documentary from director Daniel Gordon and VeryMuchSo production
s. Prior to this project, Gordon had directed two other documentaries, The Game
of their Lives and A State of Mind, both filmed in North Korea. After winning th
e respect of the North Korean government with those films, he and his crew found
Dresnok and another defector from the army, Charles Jenkins, and proceeded to c
reate this fascinating and bizarre story of people living and operating outside
of political concerns. Dresnok, a large man with a deep Virginia twang in his vo
ice, tells us that he’s never let his story be known before. He grew up running aw
ay from his problems, first from unloving relatives, then from a foster home. At
the age of 17, he joined the army and married shortly before being shipped off
to serve in the Korean War. Upon discovering his wife was having an affair, he i
mmediately slipped into a depressed state, constantly staying out too long on le
ave in the villages of the south. One day, with a clear resolve, he simply set o
ut into the Korean Demilitarized Zone, running away from his problems yet again.
not afraid to get emotional. Much of the time he sports a bemused halfsmile that
suggests that on some level, he can’t believe what’s happened to him either. We see
his family life, and meet his sons, who are both white like their father but sp
eak accented English and consider themselves to be Korean. The film slows down t
o observe the basics of Dresnok’s life, then picks up again to follow Jenkins, and
the fate of his family, and Dresnok’s reaction to it (which I won’t give away). It
is engrossing, largely because Dresnok is such an easy person to identify with,
and yet still somewhat 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
o answer the question, “Is the Visual Political?”, I would like to start at the root
of our civilization, the ancient Greeks. As “poli-
society. While the west may no longer be wide open, we still imagine ourselves a
s rugged individualists. Yet, the Declaration of Independence closes with “we mutu
ally pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” Our Foun
ding Fathers and Mothers worked together, and Benjamin Franklin’s joke at the sign
ing that “we must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately” (Spa
rks, 408) contains within it the basic paradox of our nation, and thus of our po
litics: these rebels, in their act of separating themselves from their mother co
untry England, realized that they would only survive united, hanging together. A
nd indeed, it has been thus: by hanging together, we have all managed to avoid h
anging separately. Yet we have all hung together nevertheless. We are hung up, a
s a consequence, on this paradox of at once being a nation of individuals, and a
nation who pledges its fortunes together. We have undertaken to establish a nat
ion based on an inner conflict, and our civil war is testament to that fact, as
is our red/blue state divide, and our endless debates about the welfare state an
d the social safety net. “Privatization of social security” is a catch phrase that n
eatly contains this paradox. In addition, our first mothers and fathers were acu
tely aware of how the visual was political: they were aware that “the whole world
was watching”, and the Declaration asserts “let facts be submitted to a candid world”
(the root of ‘candid’ is ‘shine’, ‘bright’, and even ‘light’). They wanted to bring things
ght, to enlightenment. That is, they wanted to show the ‘long train of abuses’ – their
emphasis, while rational, was certainly on the visual and the necessity of shed
ding light on what was in darkness.
tics” is rooted in “polis”, the city, so “civilization” is at once us, the citizens, and t
he city (the Latin “civis”) in which we all live, regardless of whether we live in t
eeming New York, or the wide open spaces of the West. We are all members of the
body politic, and this is more or less the way the Greeks imagined themselves. T
hus, the immediate Greek answer to our question is “Yes! Of course the visual is p
olitical”, because in some way everything is political. And if, following the Gree
ks, the visual is political, then the political is visual, among other things. T
herefore, a question arises: is our present difficulty with politics (our being
turned off by, or not participating in) also a symptom of our not seeing properl
y, or better, of our not seeing our seeing? That is, I would like to restate the
question by focusing on a difficulty in our polis – that we feel disenfranchised,
left out, bored, disconnected. If the visual is, by necessity, political, then
might not our problems with political participation be, in part, a difficulty wi
th the visual? We, a nation of voyeurs, might not really be seeing; or better, w
e might not be seeing our seeing. I propose, therefore, to examine the act of se
eing itself, to see if we can strip away some of the blindness that appears to a
ccompany our seeing. Because if the visual is political, then our not being poli
tical must be a form of blindness. In the United States in 2008, the question of
the link between the visual and political, so readily answered by the Greeks, i
s more complex. We are reminded every four years, if not more frequently, that w
e have the worst record for voter participation of any standing democracy. We pr
ize our privacy, and individual rights are still the hallmark of our
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Of course the Enlightenment, as the Gothic writers understood, contained its own
shadow of darkness. And so, like a suddenly self-conscious actor, these rebels
realized that while they were standing up to be seen by the world and to set an
example. The pressure was on; they were inviting being watched, and thus were in
deed being watched. Martha Washington declared herself to be a ‘prisoner of the st
ate’ because she was so closely scrutinized in her manners and dress. When she app
eared for her husband’s inauguration in Philadelphia, she put off her usual classy
and rich lace and instead wore homespun worsted. She was one of the first to un
derstand that, as she was being watched, how she was seen had very much to do wi
th politics, and the fate of the new nation.
cheek to cheek. “I like to watch” says Jerzy Kosinski’s famous anti-hero, Chauncey Gar
dner, in “Being There” (Braunsberg). We all like to watch; TV is us. We like to watc
h everything, from old movies to porn to reality TV. We like to “see the sights” and
plan destination vacations and destination weddings, where the emphasis is on s
eeing and being seen. Yet “destination” is also our destiny, which is our fate. We a
re doomed to be heading somewhere to see the sights. We place such emphasis on s
ight and the visual that we think that what is seen is reality. We invented publ
ic relations, which often means being seen. We may be seen but not heard, but be
tter to be seen and not heard than heard but not seen (radio). Eccentrics among
us prefer radio because the pictures are better, but we all know that a wide scr
een TV will bring redemption and the good life. Of course it’s more complex than t
hat. For in our valuing of sight as our primary sense, we have fallen for the ol
dest trick of magicians – which they explain to us. “The hand is quicker than the ey
e”, they warn before performing astonishing feats of disappearing and reappearing
coins, torn up paper that reappears as whole, bodies sawn in half that reconnect
before our eyes. Before our eyes! We forget, perhaps willingly, that the hand i
s indeed quicker than the eye, and so we are fooled, over and over. We simply do
n’t believe it! How can the hand – so clumsy, so physical, be quicker than the eye,
which perceives instantaneously? Light travels at 186,000 miles per second, and
surely the hand cannot move half that quickly, not even snapping fingers. Yet th
e hand is indeed quicker than the eye, because the eye can so easily be fooled.
In the Greek myth, Hippomenes tricked and thereby won the hand of the virgin Ata
lanta by tossing a golden apple in her line of sight. When she stopped to pick i
t up, he raced by her, winning the race, and thereby her hand. Hippomenes was th
e first magician who understood that magic works by indirection. Hippomenes was
a descendant of Poseidon, one of whose guises was Proteus, the spirit of shiftin
g appearance. Further, it was Aphrodite, the goddess of love, who furnished Hipp
omenes with the golden apple. Thus, the intertwining of appearance and love. We
Being watched and watching, of course, invades our privacy, and so we arrive at
a connection between the two ideas: while the United States was established as a
nation of rebels who nevertheless were ‘united’, this union has always tended both
to reveal us to one another and to invade our privacy, thus hitting at one of th
e fundamental beliefs upon which we es-
But to “see” means also to understand, to see b e y o n d what appears.
tablished our country – privacy rights. This basic paradox of the United States be
ars directly on the problem of sight, and how we understand the visual as politi
cal in our society. The solution to the problem with our ‘merely’ watching and not p
articipating, 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, to b
e both social and alone, political and apolitical. To be watched and to not be w
atched. Perhaps the problem, then, is not lack of political engagement, but lack
of engagement with the problem. We don’t grapple and wrestle with our own image.
In short, reflection, that basic act of seeing, is what is needed.
voyeur nation
e are a nation of voyeurs, who sit at home and stare at computer screens, and ev
en date online – that ultimate act of social engage-
ment begins now alone in a room, as often as in a crowded bar or dancing
Seeing is not believing, but it’s being
return to love momentarily. We are all now like Atalanta, virgins to the notion
that the hand can be quicker than the eye, assuming that we can stop to pick up
whatever the eye sees (eye candy) and not lose our first place in the race. But “t
o see” means also “to understand” — to see beyond what appears. But the story tells us d
ifferently. Because the eye is so easily fooled, we can come to see eyesight its
elf as a complex phenomenon, something that cannot only mean the physical act of
seeing. Indeed, we would all agree that Laura Bush’s red dress and Obama’s disappea
ring and reappearing flag pin are not just about the actual act of seeing them.
That is, we think we are not fooled by the eye. In being so trusting of our eyes
, in being a nation of voyeurs, we fall for all sorts of sleight of hand. We see
the “Mission Accomplished” banner, and so we believe. In fact, we are all too often
blind to the big picture. We ignore or do not see that there is a hand behind t
he banner manipulating us, the gullible marks. The wonderful joke of “Being There” i
s, of course, that Gardner is an idiot, which none of the characters seems to se
e. In fact, the eye fools us all the time, and further, it endangers us. When we
think we see what’s going on, often we are fooled. Or, we are fooled to the exten
t that we believe what we see – whether it’s what appears or what is hidden beneath
the surface. But, we gain insight: we realize we have been fooled, and so open o
ur eyes to what we believe is the real reality. But, are we really seeing when w
e think we are? When we dismiss the “Mission Accomplished” banner as mere politics,
a lie, a visual to be ignored, are we not blinded to the impact of the visual? A
re we missing the forest for the trees? In the end, might it be that seeing is n
ot only seeing – that it’s also not seeing? That is, that “nature loves to hide”, and th
at Aphrodite is always half turned away from us in her bath. – Desire, longing, is
what 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 being the nature of
ter”, in which the letter in question is invisible to the eyes of the police speci
fically because it is in plain view. As Poe’s genius detective Dupin explains, the
mistake the police make is thinking that seeing is believing – assuming that a “hid
den” letter is a letter or object that is out of the direct line of vision. That i
s, the police made the fatal error of confusing their own understanding of the w
ord “hidden” as “physically not in the line of sight” with the metaphorical meaning of “hi
dden” as “that which one does not see”. Further, and equally as important, the police
neglect (as Dupin explains) to take into account the psychology of the thief: he
is both a mathematician and poet – although the police think of the thief only as
a poet, and therefore (the police conclude) a fool. They cannot imagine that he
could be both; their imaginations are limited and literalized. But this sort of
seeing requires the enlightened mind to be darkened, and for imagination to com
e in. Dupin first begins to solve the mystery when he turns off the lights. We a
rrive, then, at a notion that real seeing involves the psychological – taking into
account not only the person who is displaying himself, but one’s own thought proc
esses and proclivities. In other words, seeing involves being connected, viewer
with viewed, and vice versa. The thief in Poe’s story was able to hide his letter
successfully from the police because he understood how the police think. Thus ap
plied to our case, we think we see because we are so sophisticated that we under
stand (see) that ‘real’ meaning lies beneath the surface, somewhere hidden: it’s not t
he red dress 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 miss the point over a
nd over, as a nation, politically. Partly, the answer lies in the nature of seei
ng – that it always involves blindness. If seeing clearly means, in part, understa
nding there is a connection between the viewer and the viewed, then we can no lo
nger make glib separations between ourselves and our leaders, for example. Polit
icians, in spite of our blind insistences, are not ‘people over there’, but us, ours
elves in other guises, our elected officials who, whether we like it or not, rep
resent us. Perhaps sometimes (or perhaps often) they represent the interests of
corporations and not us, but to conclude that therefore they are crooks, inept,
etc., is
volume 1.1 Is the visual political? 63
seeing and believing
to understand, to see beyond what appears. Poe gives us a lesson in how easily t
he eye is fooled by this distinction, in “The Purloined Let-
et’s take the process apart for a moment: seeing means perceiving on a physical le
vel, that which appears. But to “see” means also
We have everything is and yet
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com
simply to project our own guilt onto them. Our own guilt at having elected them,
first of all. And as to the notion that our representatives actually work for t
he 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 o
ur control, via boycotts. Ralph Nader has been lecturing us sternly on the reali
ty of this situation for years, yet we refuse to listen, to see: we keep electin
g corporate representatives, and then complain. Yet again, it is we, not some go
d or ineluctable power, who elects these particular representatives. If we blame
them, we simply continue the split between us and them that facilitates our abi
lity 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 blindn
ess 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 b
eing connected – and therefore imagining what it means to be so connected. We elec
t the officials whom we later repudiate and condemn, in part because after all o
ur supposed sophistication around seeing, while we are busy flattering our moral
vanity, we fall for their appearances. Poe’s police assumed their moral superiori
ty, 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 decisio
n 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 rea
d character in facial characteristics, if we only would: Reagan’s good natured, ‘wha
t me worry?’ raised and pulled together eyebrows, this chuckling dismissal of any
criticism, the blandness of his Hollywood trained face: were these not the signs
of a foolish, shallow old man? Seeing will reconnect us, but how and in what wa
y? We have seen how easily the eye is fooled, and how believing we understand th
e 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, maki
ng or seeing that there is a connection. How, then, to read the red dress, to re
ally see what’s going on with the flag pin?
seeing is dangerous
e are told that being couch potatoes will kill us, but our physical bodies’ deteri
oration is only half the story. Sight itself is dangerous. Let us return again t
o 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 A
thena in her bath, and she blinds him. Acteon, while hunting, sees Artemis bathi
ng, and he is turned by her into a stag who is then killed by his own dogs. Dion
ysus’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 h
er his divine form. The sight kills her, of course. In fact, one of the central
(at least according to Freud) myths of human life, Oedipus, is a story about the
dangers of seeing too much, and he of course ends up blind, like the seer Tires
ias who has warned him not to try to see too deeply into the mystery of who kill
ed the king. Oedipus, like Gloucester in King Lear, and like Tiresias, sees too
much, and so is blinded. But in their blindness, they begin to see with other ey
es. 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 ha
s something to do with sex, or desire, or love – and with endings, elemental chang
es, and even death. Hippomenes and Atalanta, after their marriage, are said to h
ave been killed by Zeus for having sex in his temple. Seeing may be dangerous, b
ut in part it is dangerous because it’s sexy. The visual is political by way of se
xiness. 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 im
ages. Indeed, while our agreement that child pornography is immoral and therefor
e 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: pornography is one of t
he primary drives of the internet. But it’s not just naked bodies that are sexy – an
y 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 t
o incite desire.” The eyes are the windows of desire, leading us into love at firs
t sight. We are both seeing and blind in love, as the medieval love poets unders
tood. And in our day, Anaïs Nin says that “love dies of blindness”; Helen Keller descr
ibed her call for light as a call for love, which redeemed her. It’s the image aft
er all that incites and arouses us, arouses our imagination, and makes
Image Courtesy of Boston Public Library
volume 1.1 Is the visual political? 65
Partly, the answer lies in the nature of seeing— that it always involves blindness
Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com
us connected. “Images draw us into participation with them,” writes James Hillman (2
11). We are in Aphrodite’s company now, for she is the beautiful face of the world
. She is the one who can inspire us to see even those awful representatives not
doing our bidding, as beautiful – if only the beauty of the prostitute (for prosti
tutes were devotees of Aphrodite, lest we forget). Sex for money had its place i
n the Greek pantheon, for it was, in its own way, honoring the lovely face of th
e world, and further, our connection to it. But pause a moment: Aphrodite’s priest
esses were not simply prostitutes making a living; intercourse with them was con
sidered a way of worshipWe begin to see differently when we really see. Thoreau,
in Walden, taught us that our job is to be “looking always at what is to be seen” (
174). We return to a paradox: we see and are blinded; we are blinded when we see
, and when we do not see, then we are blind and yet see. Oedipus gains wisdom on
ce he has blinded himself. Tiresias becomes a prophet with Is our present day co
ndemnation of prostitution as immoral, illegal and infectious the result of our
high morality, or might it be evidence of our having lost touch with Aphrodite?
And if we have lost touch with her, we have lost the ability to witness and fall
in love with the world around us. As a result not only actual prostitutes, but
the rest of the physical world becomes just crap, stuff in our way, a traffic ja
m, eyesores, painful to see. Yet we must begin to see in the way Aphrodite teach
es us, because in the end, that will restore us to our politics. And politics ha
s a body – in fact, IS our body, our body politic. We have seen so much that we ar
e blind: everything is there for us to see, and yet we do not understand. 24/7 n
ews coverage, the History channel, the Nature channel, movies old and young, cul
ture, information, entertainment – it’s all there for the viewing via the cable that
connects us all. Yet we are considered politically as children by much of the r
est of the world, for our naïveté. We do not see what is really going on, and so fal
l for appearances instead of fall for appearances. We too often forget that whil
e Aphrodite may teach us to pay attention and to love appearances, she also remi
nds us that it’s not as simple as that. The visual is always veiled, as it turns o
ut. In a sense, there is no such thing as “naked”. And so to see clearly means also
to see through a glass darkly. What we come to see, in looking at an image, is t
hat the imagination is aroused – and we at the same time do not see, are blinded.
Seeing is being connected, yes, but indirectly, and by means of desire and longi
ng. Aphroditic seeing of the world, appreciating and noting its infinite particu
larities, means also seeing that the image never reveals itself completely. Anyo
ne who has ever shopped for pornography or clothing knows this: it’s not so much a
bout what is seen, but what is imagined. Half hidden: Aphrodite turned away in h
er bath; the discreetly placed cloth over the crucified Jesus – the effect of thes
e half hidden images has the result of, in Hillman’s words, “closing off the literal
and opening into the imaginable, the implied, sparking the fervor of fantasy” (22
2). What do we see when Aphrodite is present? Not beneath or beyond the surface,
but the surface itself, the meaning that is inherent in the surface, not beyond
it. It’s not what Laura Bush’s red dress might “mean”, but We end where we began, with
a paradox: we must become blind, like Tiresias, in order not only to see, but to
play a significant role in the polis, the fate of our city. We must see that we
are blind – and blinded foresight after Athena has blinded him because he sees he
r naked. ping the goddess, and thus sex with an actual stranger had, for the Gre
eks, an element of sanctity. Imagine that! Aphrodite teaches us, after all, not
to be too quick to see beyond the surface of things, but instead to love the app
earances and take them literally at face value. We can learn to judge character
from facial appearance not because a certain smile “stands for” or “represents” cruelty,
or a generous heart, but because it’s the smile itself that IS cruel or generous.
what it IS, what it looks like, the specific color of red, the fabric, the cut
of the dress, and the wearer of it – and how we feel looking at it: does it incite
desire, disgust, distrust?
seeing is connection
eeing makes a connection. Those who want to outlaw pornography because it suppos
edly causes
sexual violence are surely showing us that seeing does connect us, can connect u
s, to the world – that is, seeing can result in action. And connection is what we
are all about, if Aristotle is right and we are political animals, and if our wo
rries about not voting as a nation are to be taken seriously.
Image Courtesy of Flickr Member Adam Pieniazek
because we see so much. One of the ways the visual lead directly to the politica
l was via Aphrodite’s affair with her favorite lover Ares, god of war and by defau
lt, politics. He’s the god of action, and he’s sexy enough to win Aphrodite’s heart. I
t’s all around us, Aphrodite and Ares enacting their love affair – good-looking, you
ng, upright soldiers; spiffy in their uniforms, off to war, adored by their love
ly wives, husbands, lovers. Gang of Four’s “I love a man in a uniform” is precisely to
the point (and by the way, their name is a reference to the discredited Chinese
heads of state [one of whom was Mao’s last wife!], and thus provides another conn
ection between sex and politics, or appearance and society).
And in the voting booth, alone, look around – it looks a lot like those booths wit
h peep holes in the dirty book stores, where you can be paradoxically alone whil
e engaging in the great ritual of human connectedness. This is an image – voting b
ooth as peeping booth, where we can secretly look and see, become blinded to our
belief that we see everything, and then have our eyes opened to how we are at a
ll times and everywhere, connected, in love and politics, in sex and war. 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, war be
ing among them. I am not arguing in favor of the Iraq invasion, for that is not
a war. But if the Greeks are to be understood as giving us something more than c
hildren’s stories, then our seeing what is going on in our country will be blind a
nd staggering around if we do not understand that war is sexy – perhaps primarily
because it incites desire and the imagination. Our fathers and mothers wooed whi
le warring (my own father met and married my mother in Australia during the Worl
d War II). Therefore, I am answering the question “Is the visual political?” by aski
ng a series of questions – “What is seeing?”, “What is politics?” And my conclusion would
be that not only is the visual political, but that the visual is one of the prim
ary ways in which we can become more politicized, more connected. Following Aphr
odite, we can see that it’s the face of the world and our response to it that will
connect us, get us to vote. Voting out of a sense of duty is boring and moral;
but voting because it’s an experience of connectedness – that’s sexy and desirable. In
the voting booth, alone, one is made aware, with just a little looking around,
that what we are seeing is the actual, physical precinct, its sights and smells,
the retirees staffing the folding tables, the humble places where democracy pit
ches its tent, among the people who make it work. A “precinct” was originally someth
ing that girded us about, like our loins. All of us, getting together to conjoin
in a vast orgy of election, letting the juices flow, getting excited, flushed,
heart beating for our cause, eyes bright with the vision of someone or something
coming into our lives that will change us forever – these symptoms are the same a
s we experience when we fall in love.
follow James Hillman, the image itself is vital, presents to us fertility, inspi
ration, creation, and that we arrive at this creativity, this engagement via loo
king. “Images draw us into participation with them” (211). We use the word “engagement”
today as the entrance to marriage, which among other things is the socially acce
ptable container for sex. So to be ‘engaged’, whether to a person, with a cause, or
with society, is to enter upon (to enter and to be entered by) the world of imag
es – which is another way of saying that looking is sexy. It is, as we know.
Braunsberg, A. (Producer), & Ashby, H. (Director). (1979). Being There [Motion P
icture]. USA: Lorimar Productions. Freedberg, D. 1989. The Power of Images: Stud
ies in the History and Theory of Response. Chicago: University Press. Hillman, J
. 2007. “Pink Madness” in Mythic Figures. Putnam: Spring Publications. Poe, E. A. 18
45. “The Purloined Letter” in Tales. London: Wiley and Putnam. Sparks, J. 1859. The
Life of Benjamin Franklin; Containing the Autobiography, with Notes and a Contin
uation. Philadelphia: Childs & Peterson. p408. Thoreau, H. D. 1894. Walden, Or,
Life in the Woods. Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Co.

68 Glimpse www.glimpsejournal.com
volume 1.1 Is the visual political?
by Ryan “Sully” Sullivan
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