Did Newsweek set out to make Michele Bachmann look like a loon?(Read article summary)
Newsweek is coming under fire for a wild-eyed cover photo of Michele Bachmann. The headline calls her the 'Queen of Rage.' But was the rough treatment actually a compliment of sorts?
Itâ€™s not flattering, thatâ€™s for sure. The shot shows her staring out with wild eyes, as if she just stepped on a slug and is trying to not scream with revulsion in front of the photographer.
Or perhaps, just before the shutter snapped, someone in the room said, â€śOh look â€“ CNN says Rick Perry is getting into the race!â€ť And sheâ€™s reacting to that, because, you know, Perry would be a formidable competitor for a Bachmann core constituency â€“ Christian evangelicals.
The cover headline â€“ â€śQueen of Rageâ€ť â€“ multiplies the overall wingnut effect of the presentation.
â€śItâ€™s sexist.... Surely this has never been done to a man,â€ť said NOW president Terry Oâ€™Neill.
Really? As practicing journalists, we have perhaps a different view of this controversy.
1. Yes, yes they would do this to a man. Weâ€™re old enough to remember when news magazines used the word â€świmpâ€ť in cover heads about George H. W. Bush. In a way, itâ€™s a compliment to Bachmann that sheâ€™s the target of this rough treatment. There are probably many unflattering photos extent of Newt Gingrich, say, or Rick Santorum. But theyâ€™re not doing well enough in the polls to merit the coverage.
2.The question is not whether they would do this to a man. Itâ€™s whether they would do it to a Democrat â€“ particularly a sitting Democratic president. Weâ€™ll be waiting to see if Newsweek runs an Obama cover story titled â€śKing of Socialism,â€ť or something like that.
3. Newsweek knew what would happen, and is pleased with the response. In meetings photo editors sit around talking endlessly about their photo options. Of course they do. And Newsweek/Daily Beast editor Tina Brown famously began her career in the rough and tumble world of British journalism, where â€śPrincess Anne Not a Horse â€“ See Insideâ€ť counts as a restrained headline.
4. This is not the most damaging news coverage Bachmann has received this week. The actual Newsweek cover story is mild, noting only that the â€śprincipled rigidity of her position has caused some problems for her campaign,â€ť and then talking about how she used to be a government lawyer, and maybe a relativeâ€™s farm got government subsidies. In contrast, the New Yorker has a longer, tougher piece tracing the roots of Bachmannâ€™s beliefs, including her past involvement with such controversial thinkers as the evangelical Nancy Pearcey, a creationist and advocate of the theory of â€śDominionism,â€ť which holds that Christians are biblically mandated to occupy secular institutions until the return of Christ to earth.