Can you talk about something if there isn’t a name for “the thing”? Look at the term “photo-op”, which came into use in the Nixon White House. Before then, politicians certainly weren’t bashful to position themselves with “power people” – to be photographed for the papers and the message they were well connected. You just have to look at all our stiff-necked local “Caesars” jostling to get into the same frame with Queen Elizabeth in those black and white pics in magazines of yore!
Way before pictures, folks would show up at court – if you were of the manor born – “to be seen” in the penumbra of royalty. But after Nixon, the term “photo-op” captured the cold calculation that went into politicians manipulating their appearances to bolster the “image” they wanted to “project”. It didn’t matter who the politician “really was” – it was who he WANTED to make the voters believe he was.
Pollsters discovered very few voters are interested in the details of policies and programmes. Folks have their own inclinations and prejudices and gravitate to politicians who “look” as if they’re responsive to their concerns. You believe the government’s discriminating against you and folks like you? Who’s the politician who’s not only been saying the same thing but has been showing up at occasions to show solidarity with your angst? And the pics are in the paper to remind you. For years before he was seen as “PNC” Granger was showing up at ACDA, Pan-African Conferences, etc and giving historical lectures of the constituency he now leads. With his pics in the papers.
Want to impress folks who take their religion seriously? Turn up at key events at some Church, dressed soberly, looking serious (if not sombre) and have a pic at the side of the Bishop, or pastor or Apostle or whoever’s the “main man”. (It’s seldom there’s a “main woman” in Churches.) For Guyana, multiply that by three and show up at Masjids and Mandirs also. You can even invite a group “from the other side” to visit your home and get down with them in their exotic practices as President Granger did a few weeks back. Ensure your PR team makes the pic go viral.
What to show you take security seriously since it weighs heavily on the minds of voters? It’s great if you’re a General… but you can augment the image by surrounding yourself with a battery of other military types. Then take pics of you looking stern as you convene a security meeting at 4am in the morning.
And ensure your Minister of Public Security’s there – even though his curfew’s on!!
We’ve mentioned before the photoshopped pic of the President flying a kite with a bunch of kids. But the media managers – concerned about the President’s “image” – went overboard and decided a “multiracial” bunch of kids would better burnish the President’s image. And what was that image they’d been working on so assiduously they felt secure enough not to check with people upstairs?
That President Granger could heal the deepest cleavage in this country – race. The image makers had to ensure Pressie was “on message” – just as he’d achieved that by having Moses Nagamootoo at his side during the campaign. But he’d purchased that with 40% of the spoils. With AFC’s crass opportunism not going down too well with his base, he had to do it on his own.
But does this “image game” work with those from across the divide? And the answer comes loud and clear from the US’s where the art of the image has evolved furthest.
No!! Just ask Trump.
Did you see Minister “I is” Broomes’ photo-op with small miners in the Chronic? One brought up their problem with “landlordism”. While she’d waxed eloquent on every other matter, she was mute on this question.
Wasn’t because she’s a “landlord”? Naaaah!