Election 2016: Only Fanatics Need Apply

By Michael Shaw

Photo: Ryan Adams ‏@filmystic Jul 3/Twitter

Is the world being taken over by the crazies, or would media and social media have it so?

Are things worse than they’ve ever been, or truth be told, is that how it always feels?

What prompts these question is the photo above capturing a face-off outside a Trump rally in Denver this week. I’m talking about the set of extremes: the jugular extension; the white on white on blonde of the raging woman opposite the anguished African-Americans in “Black Lives Matter” black; the contrast of the guy in the white shirt to the black flag; and what looks like sadistic amusement on the face of the woman snapping the black couple’s photo. And of course, there is the accenting of the horror by the Trump signature spot red. The tendency is to look at a picture like this and think, how much more vicious and insane can things get?

To be honest, I don’t think this presidential election is more angry or vicious than previous ones but I think having a belligerent like Trump setting the tone makes it seem that way. It’s because the hate that has typically been more covert and more dog whistle has, in words and pictures, become more overt.

At the same time, though, it’s important to remind oneself that the media and social media, which spawned this image, thrives on the most drama, contention, fear and anger. If there is plenty of temperance, intelligence, common sense and diversity across this land, and if the tension and disruption taking place even has its own context and evolution to it, you’d never know positioned this close to the media and social media windshield.

As one simple counterpoint, though, you might consider this tweet we saw and responded to yesterday. The photo was taken outside the Justice Department following the decision not to prosecute Clinton for her use of a private email server to handle official business on her watch as Secretary of State. What struck us about the original tweet was the quality of the caption accompanying the photo. How mysterious that the reaction to the supposedly incendiary Clinton decision didn’t drive people into the streets with pitchforks (like the scene above).

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Originally published at www.readingthepictures.org on July 6, 2016.
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