Category Archives: visual persuasion

ISIS and the war on history

Barbarism As a Feature, Not a Bug The Islamic State’s apparent destruction of ancient artifacts at a Mosul museum has been called “barbaric” and “an odious crime…against the heritage of humanity.”  But what looks like barbarism to François Hollande – … Continue reading

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Information and terror attacks

The fateful question, rarely asked, about atrocities like the recent massacre in Paris, is:  what did the perpetrators expect to accomplish?  The answer may seem intuitive.  These men were terrorists.  They obviously expected to achieve their political goals by terrifying … Continue reading

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A social media beheading

Sometime last week, James Foley, an American free-lance journalist, was beheaded by a masked individual who claimed to belong to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).  This was a moral and political atrocity, requiring frank talk about … Continue reading

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The last temptation of Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera’s popularity stemmed from the perception, shared by a large Arabic-speaking audience, that the satellite newscaster’s editorial decisions were not dictated by any government or party.  Under the banner of “the opinion and the other opinion,” Al Jazeera demonstrated … Continue reading

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Kony 2012 and the art of going viral

The online advocacy video Kony 2012 can only be described as a digital enormity, breaking all records and rules.  By one measure, it reached 100 million views in six days, fastest in the history of the web.  But that’s only … Continue reading

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The unsettling “simplifications” of Kony 2012

The popularity of digital platforms, particularly social media, has swept away in a whirl the traditional gate-keepers of information – journalists, scholars, politicians.  By now this is an old story, often told.  Information, once scarce, has become overabundant, and those … Continue reading

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Death and influence in Syria

A grim axiom of old-time journalism maintains that “if it bleeds, it leads.”  The mass audience pays attention to violence – so goes the assumption.  Since the news media desperately seeks an audience, it gravitates toward violence, at times ceding … Continue reading

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The very visual end of Muammar Qaddafi

Muammar Qaddafi’s death yesterday in some ways resembles that of Mussolini in 1945.  Like Mussolini, Qaddafi was captured alive then executed by militias fighting his regime.  Like Mussolini, too, his body was exhibited with much rejoicing by the victors.  Let … Continue reading

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A man on fire: pictures from the revolution

Abdesslem Trimech, a Tunisian street vendor, set himself on fire in the provincial town of Monastir to protest the government.  That was March 3, 2010.  Trimech died, mourned no doubt by his family, but otherwise obscure and inconsequential. On December … Continue reading

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Al Jazeera and the Arab uprising

Each bit of information implies an ideology and is a form of advocacy.  This is true even of science.  The physics of Newton described a moral and political order, as well as a universe of mass and force. With the … Continue reading

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