December 5, 2007

Image politcs and the homogeniety of the "Other"

Cohen’s article on “Images of Suffering” and how they are presented and mainstreamed in TV news reminded me of the article by Bosmajian we read in the Strat Comm class. Bosmajian, in his article argues that name-calling is a way of defining and constricting a person’s identity with words. In a larger context then, grouping the marginal under one label unifies them as one, and stifles any diverse voices that might arise out of them. In the example of Hitler’s rhetoric, Bosmajian writes about the dictator’s strategy to appeal to the German audience with the use of the “crowd mentality.” Bosmajian quotes Hitler’s words in Mein Kampf, “It belongs to the genius of a great leader to make even adversaries far removed from one another seem to belong to a single category, because in weak and ucertain characters the knowledge of having different enemies can only too readily lead to the beginning of doubt in their own right” (Bosmajian, 21). By collapsing the enemies under one common label, the enemy can be seen as weak and easy to define.

It was interesting to read Bosmajian’s thoughts in Cohen’s idea about image politics. Images can after all also help play on what Waller calls as the “out-group homogeneity effect.” Images of atrocities in third world countries are also strategically presented as homogeneous and under a single heading, and therefore it becomes easier for us to alienate ourselves from an image of trauma. Through the use of patterns of filtering images the media can present a country’s violence as “just another episode in a centuries-long Darwinian struggle for power, a twist in an endless cycle of retaliation…” (Cohen, 177), so that the viewers remain nothing but passive “bystanders” of the event. Therefore it is easy to distance oneself from the trauma and create the distinction between the “self” and the “other”. Thus news images of famines in Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan seem so similar to us and we refuse to grant them as incidents from completely different countries.

Here are two images- one from famine in southern Sudan, the other from a famine in Somalia. Can we really tell which one’s which?

p.s – sorry for the images. But I thought it was necessary.

1 comment:

Meg said...

Sadly, unless we could decipher the images thru experience or knowledge of culture or surroundings,say,then no, we can not tell which one is which.