Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Suspicions Confirmed - Newsweek Again

My father-in-law sends on the magazines he’s finished with. He also sometimes sends on treasures he has found at the dump, but years of living in New England will do that even to sensible men. He sends on Sports Illustrated, which I am less interested in since the internet brings me my sports news, but they are sometimes worth a browse. Smithsonian is nice, and those usually stay around awhile. Discover is a tease, its covers holding out promise of real information, its articles coming up short. History Channel Magazine is a mixed bag. While it is certainly history lite, it does cover subjects I am less familiar with at times, and lite is often good enough.

Newsweek is always the wry amusement in the pile. I scan each cover, ready to compare the photos of conservatives in black-and-white, or with half their faces in shadow - to the colorful, smiling liberals. One can count on at least one cover story framed as a leading question – “Have We Lost Iraq?” and at least one sub-headline about how the Republicans are breaking up.

I admit I am surprised how many covers are devoted to health issues. For some reason this just doesn’t stick in my memory. But this latest batch is true to form. A smiling, pink Hillary on the campaign trail, with Bill whispering into her ear – wisely and affectionately, we assume. Bill Clinton behind Hillary is not portrayed as Cheney behind Bush, the latter always being a disembodied head of the VP looking sternly over the shoulder of a troubled Bush. Then Hillary speaking with a blue sky and clouds behind her. The prominent colorful Republican is Mike Bloomberg, and how his running would remake the political landscape – are they kidding me? Does anyone at Newsweek actually believe that?

The B&W cover of the series is of Afghan mountains, noting that Osama is still out there, dated just before Petraeus came to Washington to discuss the Surge. Like bin Laden matters? The fracturing Republicans are covered in a headline reading “The GOP’s Iraq Rebellion.” The pivotal year 1968 is featured, with essays by six liberals about why it was so important* and pictures of famous liberals from the era – Cronkite, The Smothers Brothers, Ethel Kennedy… and one maverick conservative, Tom Wolfe.

What it reminds me of is the Soviet-era art on sale at Szoborpark in Budapest, with beautiful and healthy peasants and machinists staring off to the horizon, abundant grain at their feet and solid tools in their hands. Though for really good examples, the Chicoms did it better.

There’s a thesis for an adventurous art or communications student in the covers of news magazines over the last fifty years.

Ah well, those Newsweeks are now going into the recycling.

*Jerry Adler’s essay was quite interesting, though, noting how 1908 was just as pivotal or more so.


Anonymous said...

"I scan each cover, ready to compare the photos of conservatives in black-and-white, or with half their faces in shadow - to the colorful, smiling liberals." Time does it too.

Us and Them 2004 and Us and Them 2000

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Beautiful! Thanks for the links.