March 25, 2012

Photographing Obama/Clarence Thomas so he appears to have a halo.

I've seen many photographs of Obama that go for a halo image around his head. Photographers/editors seem to really love this kind of thing:



So it caught my eye when the New York Times — in "Groups Blanket Supreme Court on Health Care" — chose a haloed image of Clarence Thomas:



I exclude the possibility that this is an accident. The selection of photographs in the NYT is exquisitely deliberate. I exclude the possibility that the NYT adores Thomas. The halo cannot possibly reflect the religious awe that we sense in the Obama halo pictures. I doubt that is has anything to do with race, though Thomas, like Obama is black. That is, maybe strange notions of spiritualism arise in the minds of white photographers and editors when they gaze at images of black people. Maybe!

I can only come up with 2 explanations I think are plausible:

1. The Clarence Thomas halo is a really messed up halo, constructed of fuzzy dots and sagging at either end. It vaguely calls to mind a UFO. It therefore conveys a negative opinion of the man, especially if you also think of the extremely well-formed haloes that appear around the sainted President's head.

2. The NYT is trying to butter up Clarence Thomas. They'd like to influence him to uphold the health care law. The article begins with an elaborately set-up quote from Thomas, likening Supreme Court decisionmaking to shooting free throws in basketball: You focus on the rim and ignore all the crowd noise.
With three days of arguments scheduled for this week, the nine justices will need the steely nerves of a clutch free-throw shooter to block out all the noise surrounding a case that has generated perhaps the most intense outside lobbying campaign that the court has ever seen.
The article itself is part of that campaign, no?
Proponents of the sweeping 2010 law, working with the White House, have also developed “talking points” to emphasize the potential harm if the law is thrown out, including the reduction in coverage for those with pre-existing conditions and for young adults who wish to remain on their parents’ policies.
Yes, it will take an immense amount of nerve to throw out this uniquely momentous law. I don't think they can exclude all the noise. Maybe Thomas can, but none of the others. Maybe Scalia. But the question is whether the pressure against the law feels greater than the pressure for it. It's momentously valuable/momentously destructive. The noise could cancel itself out, leaving the Justices to decide using a purely legal methodology.

And if they could do that, they would all deserve haloes. But sophisticated legal folk don't think there is any such purity to be found among mortals.
“All that other background noise, I never — I don’t listen to all this stuff,” [Clarence Thomas] said. “I don’t read the papers, I don’t watch the evening news.” If justices let outside pressures distract them, he said, “in my opinion, you have no business in the job.”
Jesus said: "You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." And Paul wrote: "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

47 comments:

Pogo said...

It's an ugly picture, little more. It's not a positive image. Try to imagine them using the same photo of Obama. No way that's gonna happen.

I am intrigued that Thomas does not read the papers or watch the news. Me neither. Soap opera bullshit, as rhhardin points out.

I dunno how they'll vote, but if upheld, the "suddenly" part of going broke becomes a lot closer.

Roman said...

For all of the conspiricy buffs out there; the 'fuzzy dots' above Justice Thomas' head, in photographic terms, are called "circles of confusion".

In practical terms, sometimes contrast is needed for similar colors, to define the shape of the photographed object from the background.

Tridad said...

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Don said...

Is that a halo, or a mushroom cloud?

EDH said...

I was thinking accident scene.

Caution!

LoafingOaf said...

I got negative feelings from the picture of Thomas. He has a grumpy expression and the "halo" actually made me think of a mushroom cloud or that he's a hothead.

LoafingOaf said...

Don said...
"Is that a halo, or a mushroom cloud?"

Exactly! That was the first thing that came into my mind when I looked at it.

Ann Althouse said...

"Is that a halo, or a mushroom cloud?"

That's what Meade said too.

edutcher said...

The Lefties can never forgive Thomas for escaping the plantation and telling the world what happens there.

A modern Frederick Douglass.

And I think he's tough enough and smart enough - and bruised enough from all the sneers from rags like the Gray Lady - that he will do what he figures is right.

Damn Catholics.

They're worse than the Jews.

James said...

For all of the conspiricy buffs out there; the 'fuzzy dots' above Justice Thomas' head, in photographic terms, are called "circles of confusion".

Not in this particular case though. He is standing in a room and in the background is a light fixture with incandescent bulbs. The photo was composed with a very shallow depth of field frame his head with the lights yet throw the background lights out of focus. If you look at the lights carefully you can even count the number of aperture blades in the lens. Some erroneously refer to this as "bokeh" or background blur even though the term doesn't relate to the rendering of points of light.

Don said...

"That's what Meade said too."

Golly gee, I'm in good company! [gloated Don]

Great minds think alike. And, as a friend always adds, fools seldom differ.

Amexpat said...

My first association was a silly hat, sort of of sombrero without the top.

rhhardin said...

Obama's jingle calls for the Halo Shampoo jingle youtube.

Brent said...

Less than 1 in 4 Americans favors Obama care. The rest of us want it to go down. That's the most recent Gallup poll.

But if you read the newspapers, and watch TV News, you could be excused for believing it was the other way around.

Why do we put up with such dishonest news reporting every day?
How long can a Constitutional America survive when it is fed - and acts upon - dishonest "news"?

Brent said...

Less than 1 in 4 Americans favors Obama care. The rest of us want it to go down. That's the most recent Gallup poll.

But if you read the newspapers, and watch TV News, you could be excused for believing it was the other way around.

Why do we put up with such dishonest news reporting every day?
How long can a Constitutional America survive when it is fed - and acts upon - dishonest "news"?

Darrell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Darrell said...

It's a negative image--certainly not one that would make you think more of Thomas than you already do. That's what the little minds were shooting for, the kind that scratch their noses with their middle fingers. The perpetual adolescents.

The scowl on his face is the big giveaway that they chose the worst picture they could rather than the best.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

It looks like Thomas is wearing a balloon hat made by a carnie in a traveling circus.

Photo was made to have negative connotations.

Writ Small said...

Devil horns.

Phil 3:14 said...

NYT?

Sorry, I'd have to pay for such enlightenment and I'd rather not

William said...

If it's a halo, it's certainly not a beatific one.....In the Star Wars movies, Luke's light sabre burns with a pure, white flame. Darth Vader's weapon, by contrast, burns orange because of all the impurities in its bearer......His halo is the color of Darth Vader's weapon. And it doesn't look like it emanates from him so much as it looks like it's crushing him. It's an image of a man being crushed by his lowering rage.....I think it reveals a great deal more about the NY Times than it does about Clarence Thomas.

Martha said...

I doubt the Justices are swayed by the media or those demonstrating in front of the Supreme Court.

Justice Kennedy once remarked in a talk to law students that from the window of his office he sees only the back of those demonstrating and the backside of their signs and therefore has no idea what side the demonstrates are on. Nor does he care.

Tom said...

Technically, it's a nimbus, not a halo. Just sayin' ...

Penny said...

My mind wandered here

Those colors!

Penny said...

And now I see that Don and Meade got to the same place, only much faster.

Must admit that I got sidetracked at Wikipedia, reading their entry on Jefferson Airplane's "Crown of Creation", which then led me to reading about a book by John Wyndham called "The Chrysalids" - science fiction about a post apocalyptic world. Had no clue, before today, that Airplane lifted the lyrics for that title track directly from this book.

Anyway, a little mind and aural trip back to San Francisco in the 60's isn't a bad way to spend a portion of this day.

I ♥ Willard said...

I can only come up with 2 explanations I think are plausible

Professor,

You and I have very different definitions of plausible. o_O

Penny said...

Oh! Almost forgot this, with all the focus on mushroom clouds.

Did you know that Jorma Kaukonen, in addition to the lead guitar and vocals on this album also played the electric chicken???

No, me either.

Or that Spencer Dryden, in addition to the drums, played the steel balls??

Ha! Me either!

But this one's my favorite. Gary Blackman had a NOSE solo!!

Those damn hippies! ha ha

Alex said...

File this one under "Conservatives want the Rapture".

Bob_R said...

I'm voting for mushroom cloud /hellfire

Whatever Works said...

I think that the Obama "halo" here is elegant but subdued -- meant to portray a sort of graceful humility; whereas the ostentatious bright lights surrounding Thomas seem to say "conceited narcissist."

[Alternatively, my first impression was that the lights sort of resemble a cheesy neon-lighted sign you might see at a Vegas casino (the Golden Nugget came to mind -- http://www.insidervlv.com/images/CasinoPics/GoldenNugget.jpg ), conjuring images of seedy activity and greed. But that probably says more about me than the NYT.]

Joe Schmoe said...

Saint Clarence, adorned with the stigmata of a mystical Crown of Thorns. His considerable burden is evident on his visage. A serious man for a serious time.

Obama, unfazed and unaware, is reviewing his NCAA bracket on his iPad. "Hey," he realizes, "Austin Rivers would look like my son, if I had one."

crosspatch said...

It is a sad face. A :( over his head.

I think that is what they are trying to say.

ricpic said...

Clarence Thomas: I am so pissed at Frank Mitterand, who gave me this floppy light emitting beret, which is too big and yet has a hole too small for my admittedly overlarge head so it looks silly on me. And why? Because he said when the overlords descend on some village in the Pyrenees the beret will be a signal that I am, like Frank, of the elect, despite the fact I'm a black dude, was the way he put it. Then he flew away on his helicopter but wouldn't let me join him because "You may be elect but you're not that elect." Now I see why the mere mention of Frogs throws Crack into a rage.

Roger J. said...

Given the MSM's abject circulation numbers, I dont think any print image will have much impact. Now Drudge, on the other hand, does a great job with images on his website.

I heart Willard: Yes, that is indeed an astute observation--rather a blinding flash of the obvious, in fact. Continue your good work. You will soon bring the professor to her knees with your insightful analysis.

Joe Schmoe said...

I hate to quibble with Clarence, but the free throw metaphor is not quite apt. The justices can find isolation, if they want it, and they deliberate alone with no one attempting to distract them except the other justices.

Golf putting is a better metaphor. There's still pressure, but etiquette dictates complete silence in the gallery while the golfer is putting. The golfer doesn't have to put up with a hostile crowd while he's trying to do his job. Unlike the free throw shooter, or football placekicker.

Tim said...

"Less than 1 in 4 Americans favors Obama care. The rest of us want it to go down. That's the most recent Gallup poll."

Prior to enactment of the ACA, approximately 80% of those with coverage were happy with there coverage.

Tim said...

...*their* coverage...

I ♥ Willard said...

You will soon bring the professor to her knees with your insightful analysis.

Excuse me! I will not tolerate such crude, sexist remarks! You, sir, owe the Professor and me an apology.

Brian McKim & Traci Skene said...

Help me out here (and I'm sincere in my request):

Have the "sophisticated legal folk" ever (EVER!) cared about "purity" so much prior to this case?

All this talk about purity and all this pre-emptive battlespace preparation seems (to me) to be unprecedencted... and a bit unsettling.

It seems like the sophisticated legal folk are gearing up to try to delegitimize the Supreme Court. They wouldn't do that, would they? (If Lani Guinier can cook up "alternative voting systems," what makes me think they wouldn't try to push some sort of system whereby we do away with the Supreme Court?)

Help me out. This smells bad. Anybody else smell something funky? (And not just regular funky, but extradorinary, conspiracy-theory funky?)

David said...

That's no halo. Those are UFO's.

JAL said...

A seething volcano of an angry conservative?

Dante said...

I agree it isn't an accident. Whether it is worth time thinking about is another question. It seems to me to give the NYT power it doesn't deserve.

That having been said, my reaction to the photo is spotlights looking at Thomas, wondering what he is going to do.

I ♥ Willard said...

Anybody else smell something funky?

No, but then again, I'm not in the room with you. o_O

I ♥ Willard said...

Oh
my
God!
It
must
be
a
conspiracy
!

Calypso Facto said...

I doubt that is has anything to do with race, though Thomas, like Obama is black.

No, Thomas is black American in the way half-Kenyan/half-upper class white Obama could never be. Also unlike Obama, Thomas' black son is neither imaginary nor dragged out for political advantage.

RonF said...

Proponents of the sweeping 2010 law, working with the White House, have also developed “talking points” to emphasize the potential harm if the law is thrown out, including the reduction in coverage for those with pre-existing conditions and for young adults who wish to remain on their parents’ policies.

Is this part of the argument being made before the Supreme Court by the law's proponents? If so, I don't understand why this should sway the justices. Their job isn't to strike down or preserve a law because of it's effects. My understanding of their job is to determine whether a law is in accordance with the Constitution. If the law is necessary but contradicts the Constitution I thought the legal remedy was to amend the Constitution, not to get 5 unelected people to decide for us whether it's best for us or not.

Biff said...

I'm not sure if the contrast was prompted by mentioning "halo" and "Obama" before showing the Thomas picture, but my first reaction on seeing the Thomas picture was "devil horns," or, charitably, "bull horns." Nonetheless, even in the absence of prompting, I don't think I ever would have seen the Thomas picture and thought, "halo!"

...and I like Thomas, very much.