Friday, October 21, 2011

The Yankee Fan with the Golden Gun

What exactly is the "news value" of a picture of a dead body that is not already contained in the information that said person is dead?
Do such images add "news value" to descriptions like:

In a cellphone video that went viral on the Internet, the deposed Libyan leader is seen splayed on the hood of a truck and then stumbling amid a frenzied crowd, seemingly begging for mercy. He is next seen on the ground, with fighters grabbing his hair. Blood pours down his head, drenching his golden brown khakis, as the crowd shouts, “God is great!”

When the news first came out about Gaddafi's execution, the photographs and video images did - not despite, but as evidence for, the analyses of Barthes and Sontag - provide a sense of confirmation, but this sense of confirmation may be adding something other than what I would understand by "news value"; its value lies elsewhere.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Outer Mong-don't-go-there

Okay, so my arm was twisted by an alert reader, I'll enter the fray.

Apparently, twitter has been a-flutter after Ricky Gervais tweeted a series of jokes in which he plays with the word "mong." Previously, we dealt with profoundly mean-spirited, nasty, spiteful jokes about disability (Ofcom and About A Boy), but this has a different quality to it.

As I'm sure you all know, "mong" is a term of derision for people with mental retardation, especially people with Down Syndrome. The "stigmata" of Down Syndrome can include macroglossia (a big tongue, hence elegant impersonations that involve putting your tongue under your lower lip and going "nhhhuhhhh"), the rather more imaginatively-named "simian crease" ("get your simian crease off of me, you damned dirty ape"), and, of course, prominent epicanthal folds, which spurred the popularisation of the term "mongoloid", cleverly contracted to "mong". There is nothing affectionate or endearing about the word "mong"; it's a crass and pejorative diminutive of a weirdly racist characterisation of a feature associated with a number of conditions associated with mental retardation. A whole history of dismissive, contemptuous, belittling, and arrogantly misconstrued cruelty is captured in that term.