09/30/2010 04:18 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Reading the Pictures: Glenn Beck, the Picture of Innocence


Sometimes, the artful New York Times Magazine will use subtle satire or exaggeration in a photographic cover portrait. Other times, they will play it fairly straight. Of course, how the slant of the photo plays with the tone of the article can also make all the difference in the world.

In this case, even after reading Mark Leibovich's 8,200 word article, it's hard to get a fix on exactly who Glenn Beck happens to be. If Leibovich had mostly settled on a picture of Beck as a manic-depressive with suicidal tendencies who doesn't know who he is from moment to moment, that would have been one thing. If he had stayed with the picture of Beck as a master actor, showman and self-merchandiser, that would have been another. Because the article fails to commit, though, it's hard to tell if the cover photo is being ironic, even sarcastic, or it's trying to shine a light on an innocent self at Beck's core. Without that guidance, we seem to be looking at: an enthusiastic guy, always looking forward and up; an innocent and wholesome guy -- almost a throwback to the fifties; moreover, a sweet, friendly guy who always wears his heart on his sleeve.

Given that Beck is arguably the most charismatic and also the most combustible figure on the American political scene right now, help me out here. How are we supposed to look at this portrait?

Article: Being Glenn Beck.


For a breakdown of the latest visual spin plus the best in photojournalism, visit BagNewsNotes (and catch our take on the Whitman Nannygate blowout here).