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Oct 20, 2005

Your Turn: They Don't Mug Like They Used To



When your mandate is to keep tabs on the political images of the day, people come to expect you'll snag the more prominent ones.

Maybe this shot is showing up "left and right" (or, at least, "left and far left") today.  Putting it up on the BAG, however, means it must automatically be subjected to a semiotic "once (or twice) over" by a growing community of insightful visual/political/cultural interpreters.  So it's "just" a portrait, you say?  Well, there's no such thing around here.

...Of course, it's a mug shot.  And that's where the whole can of worms gets opened up.  ( starts off the analysis here.)


UPDATE 10/21/05 1:40 pm PST:  With all the great commentary so far, it seems only fitting to toss in the other classic photo this week.  Because we don't often get them this good, why not?  Feel free to analyze the two shots separately, or comparatively.

(click here to inspect the full size/full resolution version at

(I'm still leaving the interpreting in your able hands, but I had to say a couple things.  Of course, as already mentioned in the thread, the body language is wonderful -- as is the unusually generous use of space at top and bottom, and the positioning of the human stars relative to the emblem.  ...I'm not sure, but I think those flowers are fake.  If not, they have quite a supply, because I've been looking at that exact arrangement for years now.  Keep in mind, by the way, that we're looking through a fish eye.)

(image 1: Harris County Sheriff's Office/Handout/Reuters. October 20, 2005. Via YahooNews.  Caption: Former House Majority leader Tom DeLay in his Harris County Sheriff's Office booking photograph. DeLay, who posted a $10,000 bond and was released near midday, evaded the press corps that had gathered at the courthouse in his home district outside Houston.  image 2:  AFP/HO October 20, 2005. Via YahooNews. Caption: In this photo released by the Harris County Sheriff's Office in Texas, US Representative Tom Delay, Republican of Texas, is shown in a booking photo taken in Houston, Texas. The former Republican head of the House of Representatives spent less than 30 minutes at the sheriff's office, in the Houston suburbs, during which he posted a 10,000 USD bail bond, was fingerprinted and photographed, officials said.) image 3:  Eric Draper/White House. Oct. 19, 2005. White House. Caption: President George W. Bush and Bono discuss global AIDS and Africa policy in the Oval Office ... following lunch in the White House.)


Clearly that was an astute move on DeLay's (and his handlers') part. However, while DeLay's mug shot does not provide the immediate retributory satisfaction that, for example, this other image would have provided:

I believe that, in the hands of a skilled political communicator, DeLay's "smiling" mug shot could be used to raise all sorts of troubling questions -- specially if the "smiling" mug shot is paired with less flattering images and, too, is coupled with the many scandals that DeLay is associated with.

Now THAT'S a narcissist.

He looks like hes on mescaline.

What's that pin he's wearing? gushes over how "bright, personable and confident" DeLay looks here. Well, darling, it reminds me of another mug shot that was taken of the minor racketeer Basil Cervone. Who says you have to be a slimy politician to pull off a jolly mug shot. These two boys have a lot in common...but of courses, only photogenically.

Baggy, Can't you get some of the outtakes?

His eyes are so red. Wonder if it's from the polution in Houston or crying his wee little head to sleep.

His name is so appropriate for his place in history, Delay. To delay is to cause to be late or behind in movement or progress.
How can this country move forward with numskulls like this running things?

The anger and agresion in red-site comments areas is telling.
And disturbing.

Right on, eva.. also checked out John Gotti's mugshots over the years on that same site.. In his younger years, he seems afraid in his mug shots. But near the end, Gotti looks downright amused.

But DeLay is different... despite his cheesy smile, you can see the fear in his eyes.

Here's an interesting site: Spot the Fake Smile

This has got to be the happiest mug in a mugshot ever taken. Or at least, the intention is to make it look happy. To my mind, there is a hint, in those eyes of his, of roiling anger and revenge. The smile feels practiced and set in stone.

mugatea - it's the @$!*$@! Houston air. I wish my eyes looked so good.

ummabdullah - The pin is apparently an official house of representatives thing. Wouldn't want us to forget who he is!

Every time I look at these, I think of a simpleton who thinks it's all a game. Of course, he could just be someone who knows it's all a game....

Don't make any sudden movements and keep your hands away from his mouth.

Psychopath. From Wikipedia...

Arrogant/Deceitful Interpersonal Style

Glibness/superficial charm
Egocentricity/Grandiose sense of self-worth
Pathological lying

Deficient Affective Experience

Lack of remorse or guilt
Callous/Lack of empathy
Shallow affect
Failure to accept responsibility for own actions

Impulsive/Irresponsible Behavioral Style

Need for stimulation/Proneness to boredom
Parasitic lifestyle
Lack of realistic, long-term goals

For more...

Its that used car salesman smile.
Seen is many times.
The first rule of thumb is don't trust a word that comes out of his mouth and just by coincidence.......................

I would just like to say that I once got arrested for a minor offense (due to no real fault of my own, of course), and I too went for the smiley mugshot. I figured (hoped) this was my only mugshot picture, and I really wanted it to be a good one.

I'm not sure, but I think it might be why the guard threatened to knock the wind out of me five minutes later. He probably thought I was some punk-ass criminal smirking at the crime that I'd eventually get away with. And he was probably right.

and...........if his lips are moving....hey wait a minute I think I just saw his lips moving.

I don't see what others see: fear, red eyes, etc. The guy has no idea what would be in store for him if he couldn't easily post ten grand bail. What's in that criminal head of his? Finish the photo-op, and hit the country club for lunch.

Most people who get hauled in don't have all that much warning; in their mugshots they appear as they did when they were captured by the police. On the other end of the photographic equipment are the people who will remove items like shoes, belts--and oh yes, decorative pins--from their person and lock them in a cold cell. They know that images of the feelings their mugshot captures--fear, injustice, guilt, remorse, anger (or bright, capped-tooth confidence)--are not likely to suddenly flash via internet across the globe.

So, so, so out of touch is this man.

The lapel pin says "I'm a politician." It underlines his continuing defensive scheme of charging that he is a political victim of prosecutor Ronnie Earle. {Never mind that Earle has prosecuted more Democrats than Republicans, of course. But DeLays argument is for his base.)

He could have tied his tie a bit better.

I wonder if he wore any makeup.

Hey know what you get if you rearrange the letters in the name "TOM DELAY"?


Who'd a thunk it?

The guy's a professional smiler: I don't see even a trace of anxiety, malice or even impatience here. By making this image the one that sails through the infosphere, he's advertising that it's all still easy for him: the cops are in his pocket everywhere he goes. Who else could get away with it?

I know this is digressing a bit, but I can't help but think about it when looking at any photo of DeLay: What is it about a certain kind of fundamentalist or Evangelical Christianity that actually physically manifests in the faces of bodies of a particular breed of Christian?

To me, DeLay is just undeniably recognizable as a fundamentalist Christian, and it's not just the conservative manner of dress or that godawful toupee-looking haircut--it's something that completely saturates his face and posture. He's like a textbook example. I'd think you could almost smell it on him.

(To be specific: I do not mean Christians in general, but that particular breed of the Jesus-obsessed)

I come from a part of the US (Nebraska/Kansas) where fundamentalists are common enough (or far too common, to be candid), and I've grown up with more than just a couple in my own family, so I'm speaking not from a distance, but from lifelong experience. I couldn't tell you offhand if an individual was Catholic or Lutheran just by looking at them, but I can spot a fundamentalist Christian from fifty feet away (as I duck and cover).

In this regard fundamentalism seems to me similar to schizophrenia or autism, where you also very often get subtle physical telltale signs that one with a little experience can easily learn ot recognize.

arrogance of power.

Houston... to be the most crony-corporate corrupt city on earth! beginning with Enron/Reliant holding the powerless state of California for ransom with their contrived "energy crisis", now Exxon / Saudi et al. doing the same thing to the entire country (world?)

the other, weirdly inappropriate smile in the news : that of Judith Miller, fwiw.

Delay... well, so much for the appetizer. I'd just as soon skip the Frist salad and get on to this month's prix fixe main course, cooked cabal : chef Fitzgerald will be serving WHIG = White House Iraq Group, "stewed in its own juices, until tender"


"What is it about a certain kind of fundamentalist ...that actually physically manifests in the faces ... bodies ..."

it's the Houston Look !

the men there have this Pillsbury Dough-Boy look about them (Houston is THE most obese city in the country, fwiw)

Don't Crush That Dwarf - Hand Me The Pliers !

It's a very fake smile - the lips are pulled up, but not the corners of the eyes as in a real smile. I've faked smiles like that when told to smile for the camera - he was obviously told to smile to make it look less like a "real" mug shot.

I find it a disturbing image to look at. I think it is real enough to fool the Republicans, which is why they like it, but to someone who can actually read people well, it is an image that would be very disturbing.

That's a sociopathic smile if ever I seen one. Would've been nice to have a Nolte, or a Jacko, or even a Noelle Bush, but in a twisted way, this also serves the purpose of painting him as either full of arrogance, or full of the crazy bone.

Tom DeLay, a professional politician, knows how to put on a smile. This is a well-practiced skill among guys who raise money for a living. They might be bored out of their minds at some function but they still look engaged.

However, this is not entirely a PR exercise. Prosecutor Ronnie Earle knows you don't shoot a tiger to wound him. Tom's nonchalance won't do him any good in front of a judge. He certainly won't be smiling when he's found guilty.

Whoever puts that on a line of punching bags is gonna get rich

Looks like a cockroach in an Edgar suit.

My immediate reaction when I saw the mugshot was, WHAT AN ASSHOLE! (Not that I didn't already think that; this just confirms it once again.) It's a smug, arrogant, overconfident, inappropriate, contemptuous and taunting above-the-law attitude shining through his pearly whites. The smile is too big, too irreverent for the occasion of being booked and fingerprinted for any offense, let alone a federal offense. It's a go-fuck-yourself-Ronnie smile, only DeLay doesn't seem to realize that his smirk isn't private, it's public. He's telling the American people to fuck themselves. What an asshole.

I think it is informative to consider what Delay's mug shot is not. It is not the face of some innocent who believes they have been wrongly accused. It is not the expression of a victim of injustice. It is the face of someone who has an antiperspirant ad's punchline playing in his head: 'Never Let'em See You Sweat'.

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