What You See is What You Know

Did anybody pay attention to the camera placements for the State of the Union speech last night? I was watching ABC, but I think all the networks were taking the same feed. They had only two wide shots, one from the back of the room on a jib arm and one shooting across the room toward the Republican side. Other angles were either on the President or were mobile.

As usual, the senators and congressmen are seated according to party: Republicans are on the right, Democrats on the left.

The wide camera on the jib arm was from the back and left side of the room and showed the Republican side from the front and the Democratic side from the back. The stationary wide shot covered exactly half the room — the Republican half.

Needless to say, Republicans applaud everything the President says, and Democrats often refrain from applauding. But because of the way the cameras were placed, you never saw that. Every time they went wide you thought the whole room was clapping because the stationary wide shot only showed the Republican side. The jib arm showed the Democrats, but only from the back. You couldn’t see what the Democrats were doing. You saw the Republicans clearly.

The only way you could tell that the Democrats weren’t enthusiastic about Bush’s speech was by deduction. You had to look at their backs and figure out that they weren’t clapping. You never saw it plainly.

The effect was to reinforce the idea that the whole room was united around the wonderful policies of our dear leader. Dissent didn’t exist because you couldn’t see it.

Explore posts in the same categories: Media and Society

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