Reading The Pictures: A Little Cross About Bush

05/25/2011 11:45 am ET
  • Michael Shaw Publisher of the visual politics and media literacy site, Reading The Pictures.


Even the most heavy-handed news photograph carries with it some uncertainty between its visual content and its most obvious editorial possibilities. That's one reason this shot is so interesting. Yesterday, AFP rummaged through its dead file to produce this four year old haymaker which was quickly snapped up by YahooNews.

Of course, taken alone, the image still retains ambiguity. Did Pat Buchanan announce a political comeback this weekend? Did he make a personal conversion?

With the addition of the "blunt force" caption, however, we learn that:

"...former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan ... on NBC television's 'Meet the Press' program, said Bush should name someone else to fill the vacancy on the US high court."

In leading off the caption by referring to "conservative outrage" over Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers, the language surely identifies the politics and emotional disposition of Pat Buchanan. What it does only by inference, however, is illuminate the real dagger in the image.

If you would allow yourself -- if only for an instant -- to ignore the figure almost accidentally occupying the middle lower eighth of this photo, you can see that the stark, ominous and upwardly saturated message here is pretty simple. Obviously, Bush is in serious hot water with those who are best at delivering the wood.

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(image: Luke Frazza/AFP/File. 2001. Location unknown. Appearing October 10, 2005. Yahoo News.)