Monday, October 27, 2008

Roland Barthes on The Election

Every morning, I am a little disconcerted about some newspapers not supporting Senator Obama. But this morning, I was happy to read the FT. In a break with from its short tradition, this blog will take a step aside this week and speak of the election - for I strongly believe there is no commodity like the apolitical business journalist.

Here is something interesting that I have been reading - I was struck by the relevance of it today as it was when this book was first transated from French in the 1950s.
From Mythologies - by Roland Barthes - Photography and Electoral Appeal.
"Some candidates for Parliament adorn their electoral prospectus with a portrait. This presupposes that photography has a power to convert which must be analysed....Photography tends to restore the paternalisti nature of elections , whose elitist essence has been disrupted by proportional representation and the rules of parties (the Right seems to use it much more than the left). Inasmuch as photography is an ellipse of language and a condensation of an ineffable social whole, it constitutes an anti-intellectual weapon and tends to spirit politics to the advantage of a manner of being....Look at me, I am like you.
Electoral photography is therefore above all an acknowledgement of something deep and irrational co-extensive with politics. What is transmitted through the photograph of the candidate are not his plans, but his deep motives, all his family, mental circumstances, all this style of life of which he is at once the product, the example and the bait.....what we are asked to read is the known , it offers to the voter his own likeness, but clarified, exalted and superbly elevated into a type. This glorification is in fact the very definition of the photogenic: the voter is at once expressed and heroized, he is invited to elect himself, to weigh the mandate which he is about to give with a vertiable physical transference: he is delegating his race.
The conventions of photography are themselves replete with signs. The three-quarter face photographs are ascensional, the face is lifted towards a supernatural light which draws it up and elevates it into the realm of higher humanity...all political contradictions are solved: peace and war...social progress and employers' profits , so-called free religious schools and subsidies from the sugar-beet lobby, the Right and the Left : all these coexist peacefully in this thoughtful gaze, nobly fixed in the hidden interests of the Order."

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