Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Body of Language

Oh, the difference a photo choice makes. Below I've placed the front page photo choices by the top three 24-hour news outlets of Obama's appearance on "The Daily Show".

Let's start with CNN:

Stewart's smiling and Obama's on the defensive. That's an accurate portrayal of how the interview went overall. And the headline reads "Obama, Jon Stewart Square Off Over Audacity Vs. Timid". Also very accurate as that is what they indeed did.

Now let's take a look at MSNBC:

Okay, so MSNBC used the exact same photo as CNN, they're both leaned forward, Stewart's smiling and Obama's on the defensive. The headline reads "Obama on 'The Daily Show': 'We have done an awful lot.'" MSNBC chose to highlight Obama's achievements rather than what will more likely be concentrated on and that is the debate itself resulting from Stewart not backing down from the questions that many wanted him to ask.

Now, let's take a look at FOX News:

This, to use a term that Bill O'Reilly is so fond of using, tells you so much about the body language of the two individuals. Here, we can see Obama on the attack, hand outstretched, as Stewart recoils in fear and the headline reads "Obama Rejects 'Timid' Characterization on 'Daily Show'". Yes, Obama rejected the word "'Timid' when applied to his legislation but the use of the word "Characterization" implies that Stewart was calling the President himself timid which is funny for FOX to do when the photo tells me more about the body language that FOX News wants to portray than anything else, which is that he's angry and hostile as this photo implies that he's physically attacking anyone who dares oppose him.

So CNN says "audacity vs. timid", MSNBC says "Obama... done a lot" and FOX News says "rejects timid." Let's break down some of the simple language used by the reporters in their articles for these three outlets in order to show their "take" on things:

CNN article: "Obama said", "Obama said", "the president said", "Obama said", "Obama invoked".

MSNBC Article: "the president said", "the president responded", "Obama added", "the president replied".

FOX article: "Obama shot back", "Obama lamented", "Obama said but went on to argue", "Obama joked", "Obama defended", "the president argued".

First off, MSNBC, CNN, and FOX, I know you're probably just bloggers but the p in the President is capitalized. You should know that if you're going to use it that often, MSNBC. Second off, I'd say that CNN and MSNBC used basically innocuous words in this circumstance but FOX, the use of "shot back" and especially "lamented" really shows us your point of view. I get "defended" and "argued" because that is what he did but you know "lamented" makes him seem sad and "shot back" goes towards that violent thing that FOX likes to project. And I do mean project.

Now, the photo I used above for FOX was the one in the body of the article and not on the front page. So here's the front page photo.

This one puts Stewart on the defensive but they do look like they just might kiss. So it's a combo of an MSNBC and a FOX News photo choice. But let's take a look at the other articles you can link to just beneath it.

"Obama Says Summers Did 'A Heckuva Job'", is a link to a Wall Street Journal Article which of course then talks about it being a Bush reference concerning former FEMA Director Brownie and Hurricane Katrina which we all know, so anyways. But the photo at the top of the article is the same one that I posted above with the outreached hand and when you go to the actual Wall Street Journal article there is an entirely different photo.

So FOX chose to repost their choice of photo rather than the one to the left that the Wall Street Journal chose to go along with their article which has both men smiling and leaning forward.

The next article link which was below the FOX News front page photo above is "OPINION: Obama's Sad, Surprising Words". Now this link has nothing to do with the interview, it has to do with the newest FOX News creation which stems from a quote from a speech that Obama made in Philadelphia on October 10th, "It's the Republicans. And they say, what are they saying? They say, we want the keys back... They can't have the keys back. They don't know how to drive... They can ride with us, if they want. But they got to get in the back seat, because - because we want to go forward. We don't want the special interests riding shotgun. I just want everybody to notice when you get in your car and you want to go forward, what do you do? You put the car in "D," if you're going backwards, what do you do? You put the car in "R." That's not a coincidence."

FOX News has decided that the above Obama quote was an allusion to riding in the back of the bus. Last time I checked, passengers on buses don't tend to ride shotgun and taking the keys to the car is, well, he said it, it's an obvious allusion to his feeling that Republicans were leading the country in the wrong direction and he would like to have a turn for a little while. And he most definitely was not literally saying that there should be separate seating for Republicans on public transportation.

So as I was saying, journalists can influence opinions through simple image and word choices but when you start adding things that weren't even there like when Sean Hannity of FOX News said on his very own show that "President Obama actually said Republicans can go to the back of the bus." When what he said was "back seat". Well, you can read into all the implications you want as I have in my assessment of photos but how in this time of easily accessible recordings can you make up quotes? I know why you do it. It's just amazing that it works. I know that you want to influence your base and have your reporters report on you and then bloggers repeat what you have said and then suddenly it's a quote but it's your quote, not Obama's quote and that's what gets lost and then suddenly they're printing it on T-shirts.

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