After communism and capitalism, there is asterism.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Can you trust "We Media"?

As you may notice I have a new logo on my side bar ---> it is for the We Media conference being held by The Media Center, Reuters and the BBC. The subject is "Do You Trust the Media?". I will be attending and blogging the event on behalf of Iraqi bloggers everywhere and Global Voices Online.

Now, I am a little confused how they came up with the image for the conference logo. As you can see it is the much printed picture of a veiled woman who (obviously, from the purple finger) had voted at one of the recent Iraqi elections. But what does this have to do with trusting the media. Is she an example of someone who blindly trusted the media? The posing of the question next to her suggests that but it cannot be - the question is not directed at Iraqis it is directed at us in the West. Maybe she is posing the question - but again I don't think so - she is mute and making her own visual statement - "I voted". Then she is an example of a media image that is to be questioned. Do I trust this picture? So to pick apart the answer to the question one must deconstruct the image.

First the obvious - she is a symbol of a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. One that instructs women not only to cover their hair but body and face. In the West we feel she is oppressed. But at the same time she is showing a personality and an independent will - the way the painted finger is thrust forward proudly proclaiming her right to make a difference in the world. And here is the media to photograph that moment. The liberation of people through elections.

But is this the whole story? Let us now look at the photo in context. Here is a web site that shows a lot of pictures of people voting. While you can see many women in these photo's wearing an abaya, none of the Iraqi women cover their face (except for the one taken in Jordan, coincidentally photographed by the same person as the conference image). So this image is an exception not the rule. Hmmm a subtle deception. Not only is the woman dresses atypically for Iraqis, and she is from a minority that lives in exile in Jordan.

Also look at this image of the same woman by the same photographer on the same day...

Photo credit: Ali Jarekji, Reuters

And the whole masquerade ends. Here is an image that was clearly stage managed. She posed with flags so she must have posed the main photo too. It was not a spontaneous expression of defiance and liberation but a posed photo shoot.

Suddenly the trust is gone.

Now there is no trust and you start asking questions. Does this woman really cover her face? If she does surely she would not have agreed to do something as demeaning and vein as posing for photographs. How come the ink on the finger darker from one image to the next. Is she a real Iraqi voter?

If you can't trust this image - how can you trust the media?

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