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Friday, August 21, 2009

Drudge: The new New Yorker?

It’s easy to dismiss link dump Drudge Report as a political version of the National Enquirers of the world. You may not like the stories it links to, or the way creator Matt Drudge takes a sound bite buried eight paragraphs in and turns into the Armageddon-like centerpiece of a story, but you can’t argue that the news item in question is factually wrong.

Like the tabloids, celebs and politicians may hate that sensational stories are released in the first place, but few are able to sue successfully. It’s a two way street too. Tabloids know they wouldn’t be in business long if they published false material and some personalities probably like the attention.

Still, while uncomfortable to deal with from a PR point of view, and while many photos capture moments that may not be what they appear to be, most stories are almost always “true.” (I’m in a legal kind of mood lately, can ya tell?)

I saw that particular Drudge headline yesterday with the Obama image though and chalked it up to the same old shit, but in a way, the combination of using the person’s own words and an otherwise innocuous shot together goes to the core of what any political cartoonist would do. Maybe something you’d see on The New Yorker or in any newspaper comics section even.

(Which then made me think of how newspapers are basically delivery systems for comics in much the same way cigarettes deliver nicotine, but I digress.)

There’s a line between political commentary and political activism though.

A cartoon, illustration or graphic representing the former isn’t real in the sense that a photo can be perceived to be. An illustrator interprets the “reality” of a situation and remixes it with their commentary in the form of a given scene, like that Obama New Yorker Cover.

When it becomes activism is when the photo reinforces a realistic portrayal of the person in question, coupled with a highly charged and emotional audience. Drudge himself may skew centrist in his political leanings, but the majority of his audience skews right, as well as the ones for former partner Andrew Breitbart, and, extending that out further, Fox News and Rush Limbaugh.

That collective audiences makes a nice base with which to cement opinions, and the clever juxtaposition of copy and photo is not lost on them—it’s reinforced. (That’s not just my conspiracy theorist leanings, you only have to follow any of those four to see how each links and references the others.)

But, admit it, POTUS does look like he’s got the munchies in that shot.

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