October 31, 2007

My thoughts on Image Politics

I found Deluca's Image Politics rather interesting not because of the subject matter, but the approach the author took in discussing the topic.  I couldn't help but feel that Deluca was trying to make us side with the protesters by omitting a lot of the facts.  Much like Jaya's post regarding the Vietnam picture, it appears that people are drawing general conclusions from images that don't fully represent the situation.  Although the author shows us pictures and provides example of the activists/protesters getting injured, threatened, etc., we never fully understand what the protesters are doing to receive this treatment. 

While reading this article, I kept thinking of the Westboro Baptist Church group from Kansas.  For those of you unfamiliar with them, they are an anti-gay hate group (their website is www.godhatesfags.com) who have made a name for themselves the past few years by traveling around the country and protesting at the funerals of soldiers killed in the Middle East.  Despite the fact that they are claiming to spread God's message, they exploit very rough times for their fellow citizens by turning a day or remorse into a day of hate.  The following link has an example of their antics: 

In this example, you would be hard pressed to find someone who would not want to cause harm to this particular group.  In fact, this has become such an issue, that a group called the Patriot Riders has come along to make these funerals peaceful. These riders are former war vets that follow the church group all around the US and make sure that they do not disrupt the funerals.  You can check them out on their website: www.patriotguard.org

I know that this week's topic is Pictures and Publics, but I can't help but feel that Deluca was trying to prove a point by omitting a lot of the facts. Maybe I am completely wrong, maybe I didn't read the article close enough, but I cannot help but feel that in order to receive the treatment that some of these protesters did, there has to more to the story. 

Take the example I cited above.  If all you saw of this was a biker taking on a protester, you would feel for the protester.  Then again, how would your opinion change if you knew that person was protesting at your son's, brother's, or even dad's funeral, calling his death God's punishment for our country's acceptance of gays. 

Just some things to think about...hopefully...


brett said...

yes, certainly deluca left out much of the histories which led up to each image-event, by merely giving a general history of the groups (especially greenpeace) and then specifically noting a few particular instances of the realizing of an image-event, focusing on those specific moments that were captured/documented visually and which were then distributed.

i don't think he was trying to make us side with the protestors, so much as trying to illustrate those moments which are essential to the image-event; yes each event has its unique history, and a unique temporal unfolding with provocations that we will never know, but offering these histories doesn't change the fact of the image-event - in terms of these image events, history is bunk. What matters is what is brought to our attention. yes, there is more to the story on the part of the protestors, but that doesn't matter in terms of its status AS an image event.

George said...

I agree that Deluca sided with the environmentalists, especially with his easy treatment of the tree-spiking issue (a practice that can result in the death of anyone who happens to be close to the tree being cut down).
However, I do think the environmentalists have a good point--and therein lies the problem. While one may not agree with the methods a group may employ through protesting (tree-spiking), one can still agree with some of the politics behind the action (being against old forest logging).
When it comes to Phelps (the leader of the church group Dan mentioned), his politics and his methods are both suspect. His protesting at funerals did not start at U. S. soldiers, I do believe he started at AIDS victims funerals in the mid nineties.
Relating Phelps to another reading from this past week, I think he and his believers would fit squarely and strangely into the category of a counter-public, in that he is part of a group that definitely knows its status as subordinate, which he uses in his rhetoric as proof of God abandoning America. If both religious extremists, such as Phelps, and the people he protests against, gays and lesbians, end up in the same social category, perhaps it reflects a need to bring a third category into play, or perhaps have sub-categories under counter-publics.
Hall's description of oppositional reading can also be brought up in the same regard. For instance, one can offer an oppositional reading of Brokeback Mountain as another example of a movie that punishes a gay character for acting on desire (in that the character Jack is eventually killed, and one could read him as being "punished" for expressing his love for Ennis). This oppositional reading sees hetero-normative ideology at work. However, Phelps would offer a different oppositional reading, in that the movie, by simply showing gay characters, is an abomination unto God.
Such is the curious flowing of power where two groups so diametrically opposed, such as gay rights activists and extremist religious groups such as Phelps, can be lumped under the same broad social category of counter-publics.

Through A Retina Darkly said...

I suspect De Luca does have a horse in this race, but I don't know that his concern is with the 'sides.' The way I read it, he seemed to be interested in taking these tactics seriously, as rhetorical, whereas his discipline has tended to venerate words and discourse while denigrating images.

I think it is really sad that our society has become such that people resort to tree spikes (the environmentalists) and pipe bombs (the anti-environmentalists) to deliberate over these issues. There is no space in our public for words, discourse, reason on the issues at stake here. Only image-events. And I'm not sure how healthy that is...

Meg said...

my thoughts too..how sad..that they would feel so compelled to do such things..don't they have anything better to do? I guess I am more naive than I thought.

But on another note...on pseudo events..I came home from class to watch the Chuck Cassidy funeral on the news, about the 25 year vet on the police force who got shot and how the funeral was packed with all of these police officers, and smiling Ed Rendell, and I was thinking could a crisis be considered a pseduo event?? not unless maybe its premeditated..like a mobster...but does a crisis have image and pseduo event qualities? I just kept thinking to myself that the news picked up the governor attending, and then if all these cops are at the funeral who is watching our city?? and then the reward being backed by Chicki and Pete's and Johnny "doc"! it makes you wonder...not to disregard officer Cassidy and his family, or what he did, but how the event his funeral was shown...and what the papers were saying
"At least I feel safe for a change with so many police officers," she said, as two patrol cars flew by with their lights flashing. "They stopped some boy right out here and patted him down." Jesus..doesn't this have implications too??