NOTE: BagNewsNotes is now located at Please update your bookmarks.

You will be automatically redirected in a few seconds...

« De-Fence Of Liberty | Main | War Is H(Sw)ell »

Dec 01, 2005

"Victory Plan" Theatre


As I've said before, I think the visual coverage of the White House has begun to incorporate the idea that the Bush Administration is a sitcom.

Of course, Bush's plan in search of a plan; the "Victory" branding (including the neurolinguistic tactic of positioning "victory" as the opposite of "exit strategy"); and the imperial backdrop in Annapolis (including the " Plan For Victory" term 15 times over) are all so "over the top" that the whole Iraq re-re-repositioning here more than overdoses on it's own.

Still, I especially admired two images yesterday which more subliminally conveyed that things don't add up.


The more you absorb this image by Jonathan Ernst, what stands out is the photographer passing in front of the stage, and the there, but-not-there camera man in the foreground.  (And don't forget the photographer stage left shooting Bush from below.)  The message? It's a show, baby, pure show.


And then there was this shot by Paul J. Richards.  Just fabulous!  (If you were expecting the pic showing the cadets sleeping in their seats waiting for Bush to finally arrive, you won't find it here.  Way too obvious, way way too obvious.)

But this!  Someone please argue with me that this photo is "straight up" -- meaning strictly laudatory.  Because it does read straight up; these kids are worshipful.

At the same time, however (and that's what makes for great irony), this photo is a complete hoot.  The three heads just below the curtain (as if the stage was in front of us, not behind) is straight out of Python.  The guy in the middle?  Yeah, he's transfixed.  But the stare is "over the top" again.  And the guy at the far right?  Even if it's really not, that surely is a skeptical eye.  And what's with the symmetrical one- eyed business at the edges, anyway?  That's funny.  Just like those two heads framing the crazy Tom Cruise-guy in the center are funny -- especially the crew cut one.

I can't imagine what could be left by the time we get to Bush's last year.  Can a person actually become a caricature of a caricature of himself?

(image 1: Chris Gardner/A.P.  November 30, 2005. Annapolis, Md. Via YahooNews.  image 2: .Jason Reed/Reuters. November 30, 2005. Annapolis, Md. Via YahooNews.  image 3: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters. November 30, 2005. Annapolis, Md. Via YahooNews.  image 4:  Paul J. Richards/AFP. November 30, 2005. Annapolis, Md. Via YahooNews.)


My God. That "Plan for Victory" backdrop looks like an old set from The Carol Burnett Show.

What struck me about the first photo is its resemblance to a classic puppet theater set. I found myself trying to imagine who was squatting there behind the skirt across the front of the stage, holding up the little puppet. A quick search on Google images for "puppet theater" brought it all home.

eva, great suggestion about googling puppet theater That's exactly what I was missing to make sense of those top two photos.

The third photo reminds me of school age children in grown-up theater seats trying to make sense of Wagner's Parsifal.

The incredible shrinking preznit.

Your "Tom Cruise guy" comment is brilliant. Suddenly Scientology and the U.S. Military become bizarre equivalents. Can we say "brainwash", boys and girls?

A friend's son is a cadet there. He said they were all forced to attend, received no extra credit for it (though he thought they should have), and he spent all his time counting the number of mispronounced words and the number of times Bush looked down at his notes with that deer in the headlights look. He was not impressed. And his mother tried to watch the speech in order to catch a glimpse of her son in the audience, but Bush made her so nauseous she had to turn off the TV. She wants the twins sent to Iraq ASAP.

What makes the backdrop behind the president look like it's from an old TV show, as tuffy points out, is the attempted use of trump l'oeil--the fake drop shadows behind the pompous looking insignias and the banner reading "Plan for Victory." The backdrop is also divided into three inexplicable panels delineated by more sham drop shadows. This cut-rate, fake backdrop signals the spuriousness of Bush's remarks before he even opens his mouth. Maybe Bush needs to switch PR firms. The two folding panels in front of Bush's dais are more fakery, as well as a way of barricading Bush from his audience.

The soldiers in the audience remind me of that old 1984 Apple computer commercial with its voice over: "Today, we celebrate the first glorious anniversary of the Information Purification Directives. We have created, for the first time in all history, a garden of pure ideology. Where each worker may bloom secure from the pests of contradictory and confusing truths. Our Unification of Thoughts is more powerful a weapon than any fleet or army on earth. We are one people, with one will, one resolve, one cause. Our enemies shall talk themselves to death and we will bury them with their own confusion. We shall prevail!"

I like how they had to keep the commandant or whatever his title is up on the stage for the speech. Would the boys not have sat at attention other wise?

And how many of our sailors are serving in Iraq anyway? Aren't the marines and the army the ones taking the heat in this war? I suppose there are a fare number of Navy seals who are losing their lives, but the average sailor has it pretty easy by comparison, I believe. I'd like to see Bush try this one at West Point and see what kind of response he gets. He's all buy ruined our Army after all.

There's something very surrealistic about it all. My first reaction was that I was looking at a doll house, Barbi's Dream Home. The Plan for Victory sign -- well, it's just plain stupid looking. The whole scene is stupid. Stupid is as stupid does, I guess.

It makes my eyes hurt. This is way too early in the morning to view the props of our insane administration.

Tuffy, if that backdrop isn't from the Carol Burnett show, it's surely one of the backgrounds Marta drops during the "Lonely Goatherd" number in The Sound of Music.

That third shot looks a lot like the Kilroy Was Here graffiti from WWII. See for more info about Kilroy.

Very weird.

Ya suppose Bush's plan for victory is something he saw in a window and just couldn't resist?

Wow, it looks like King Friday's set on Mr.Roger's Neighborhood.
Doesn't Mr. Roger's refer to that as the "Land of Make-believe?"

Ding, ding ... here comes the trolly.

Sad. Very. I want to laugh at the buffoon but it's just not funny, what he has done.

John Stewart referred to teh set as "Naval Jeopardy". HEE!

Here's the Daily Show link, if you're interested.

Don Imus this morning said the set looked like "Wink Martindale" was coming out to give you a prize! Something like that, anyway. Loved the Wink Martindale reference.

What a joke, what does he think he is King George holding court. I would wonder if that is supposed to play in the South (me thinks not). Then I figure nobody is going to watch this "major speech" anyway.

Either things are working on the ground or they are not. That being said I am glad Murtha opened up the debate a bit and King George is finally (and to late) trying to open up dialog with the American street.

To bad we are to busy rioting over who gets to buy a video iPod.

That backdrop embarasses me and makes me want to puke. That is without considering the irony that he is unveiling a plan for victory 3 years in, with over 2,100 US soldiers dead in Iraq alone, over 15,000 wounded, and nobody even knows why we are there, why we went, or if victory is possible, or what victory is...but its a good thing they spent all that time and money on a gold leaf monarchs seal for the backdrop.

I am starting to disbelieve (or maybe the correct term would be fail to comprehend both what I am seeing, and why it is being shown to me) what I see.

To heck with the old show thing, that is the seal of a King. He thinks that he can start on his Manifest Destiny right now. That 20 years from now we are going to look back and be in awe of his speech and the backdrop.

The set design looks a lot like a "standard" web page: three columns, banner heading, small print footer, drop shadows, nifty icons, recti-linear background texture, the visual contrast between the blues and the (all-Red, all-Green, no-Blue) gold highlights. This could be the front page for a well funded entity that wants to get in on the Internet's attention but doesn't really have anything worthwhile to say. A facade.

Oh, and that tiny little thing in the center, that's the President of the United States.

The backdrop looks like a bad cake decoration.

Or as though it was inspired by a gold-leafed entry hall to one of Sadaam's old palaces.

The backdrop looks uncomfortably like a church to me... but then, that's just me.

However, I found these fun:



Thanks, BagNewsNotes!

I was reminded of the new Christian flag that we discussed here a while back.

Perhaps this cluttered mess is another example of the coded aesthetic admired by right-wing authoritarians like GWB & his supporters. I believe the visual choices provide a window into their minds and thinking: fussy with irrelevant detail, missing the forest for the trees; concrete (rather than abstract); explicit (rather than implicit); superficial, not subtle, not making fine distinctions; boxed in, hierarchical; anxious, paranoid, struggling with scale and proportion. In a kind of pre-metaphorical thinking, simple codes are used in which an object is invested with power & meaning.

The first thing to impress me was all the rectangles divided and subdivided into smaller rectangles of all sizes: I count at least nine sizes. It is the visual equivalent of using nine different fonts on a page. In addition, the proportions of the backdrop are flag-like. The little squares echo the stars and stripes. Finally, notice how everything is framed, controlled, closed in. No straying outside the lines here! It's a claustrophic, right-angle world view.

In addition, nothing is symbolic or abstract. Just in case you miss it, the message is spelled out. The closest thing to symbolic are the blue and gold naval colors and the reassuringly accessible Naval armorial shield. Its scale dwarfs the humans. The messages are repeated like a mantra: "Plan for Victory," three times. The armorial shield, four times.

We see it as a cluttered mess. His base sees it as clear coded reassurance that we are safer and victory will be achieved through military might.

Nice catch marysz! Then again all of Bush presidency spins my mind between 1984 and Fareigheit 411.

I think the background should have been a nice deep purple or maybe a blood red. One that would either make Caesar or Mad King George III proud!

This pompous, comic-opera set is designed to speak louder than the words coming out of The Idiot's mouth. A good idea, since he can't do public speaking and his handlers think we are stupid. Also, that small wall down front might be more important than it seems: I feel there might be federal agents hunkered down there with guns in case somebody tries anything (even with a pie). I laughed at the BAG's "parody of a parody" but actually I'm crying. What the hell is happening to my country?

I don't have much to add but I have to say how much I enjoy - and sometimes giggle through - everyone's comments. Too bad it's not just a joke...

My first impressions were "over the top" and "cheesy". But somehow it also reminds me of some of those oldish movies where there's a guy selling some potion, and he goes from town to town setting up a stage and trying to con people.

It also looks like whoever designed this thing has zero respect for his audience, either the cadets or the larger domestic and international audience. They're assuming that they're talking to morons.

From Main Deck/ Top Gun /Mission Accomplished //to standing in front of a back drop of a ships grey hull complete with iron strapping, metal plates, rivets and unopened port holes which cry out Plan for Victory (he’s doing some touch up painting from his new scaffold position) I am looking at the TV where these objects stand out unlike the photo. I have replayed the speech noting that, “Iraqis know their people and the language”..“answer histories call”..“ they create chaos for the camera”..“bring justice to our enemies”..“they seek to sow, anger, hatred and despair”...“releasing unclassified version of Plan For Victory”... GWB lips were actually quivering when he read the last letter of Corporal Jeff Shaw (I did a number of replays to be certain) for which he received the loudest and longest ovation...the staging is a dogs breakfast but combining the voice & images I observed a return to The Theatre Of The Absurd, and what better script or actor could have been chosen ?

Being so old it made me think of seeing the News on Germany as I grew up. I was born in the 30's. What is it with these 'rulers' who like to get second class men designing their back drops?

These backgrounds are really getting irritating; here's Bush talking about World AIDS Day.

(Seeing the Presidential Seal up close reminds me of that design for a new Christian flag, too.)

First, thank you to everyone for your good moods today and generosity with funny links. I laughed out loud many times. (Goatherd.)

I'd like to extend some of PTate_in_MN's comments a little further. I agree that the aesthetic of the stage set is hideous, but I don't think "cluttered" or "mess" accurately describe it. The design is very rigid, regular, and (please forgive the alliteration) repetitious. There is clear-cut framing and everything is deliberately centered. These elements of the design give a feeling of control and calmness, all the better to convey the message that things are under control in Iraq, so let's stick to our original plan. Also, the color blue is calming, and this particular blue (Air Force blue, for how we are moving into a stronger air campaign?) is very cool, almost silver (silver outranks gold in some military symbolism).

Other elements the military audience can relate to: a stupid simpleton slogan (oops, a little editorializing slipped out — sorry!) on a background with gold stars (stars denote rank) to look like insignia, the flag (two makes for steadiness and balance in this case), the commander-in-chief in a suit that matches the seated officer's, the chevron shape behind W (I don't get that one beyond it's divided vertically, but I'm sure it means something), even the curtains and stage "skirt" probably mean something. We're going to have to wait for fotonique to fill in the blanks that I can't. All I can figure out is the speech is not for us civilians, it's a pep talk for the military.

Whoever is in charge of these backdrop designs really loves a repeating pattern, no matter who the audience is. The antiseptic look to them always gives me a migraine.

breeder: You can tell they aren't gay by how ugly the stage set is. If they were gay, the set would look A LOT better.

How scary is it that marysz can quote a 20-year old commercial? I spent my misguided youth ignoring them.

On the other hand, it does sound a lot like a pseudo-Borg announcement.

Howard Roberts

A Seven-point plan for an Exit Strategy in Iraq

1) A timetable for the complete withdrawal of American and British forces must be announced.
I envision the following procedure, but suitable fine-tuning can be applied by all the people involved.

A) A ceasefire should be offered by the Occupying side to representatives of both the Sunni insurgency and the Shiite community. These representatives would be promised safe passage, to any meetings. The individual insurgency groups would designate who would attend.
At this meeting a written document declaring a one-month ceasefire, witnessed by a United Nations authority, will be fashioned and eventually signed. This document will be released in full, to all Iraqi newspapers, the foreign press, and the Internet.
B) US and British command will make public its withdrawal, within sixth-months of 80 % of their troops.

C) Every month, a team of United Nations observers will verify the effectiveness of the ceasefire.
All incidences on both sides will be reported.

D) Combined representative armed forces of both the Occupying nations and the insurgency organizations that agreed to the cease fire will protect the Iraqi people from actions by terrorist cells.

E) Combined representative armed forces from both the Occupying nations and the insurgency organizations will begin creating a new military and police force. Those who served, with out extenuating circumstances, in the previous Iraqi military or police, will be given the first option to serve.

F) After the second month of the ceasefire, and thereafter, in increments of 10-20% ,a total of 80% will be withdrawn, to enclaves in Qatar and Bahrain. The governments of these countries will work out a temporary land-lease housing arrangement for these troops. During the time the troops will be in these countries they will not stand down, and can be re-activated in the theater, if both the chain of the command still in Iraq, the newly formed Iraqi military, the leaders of the insurgency, and two international ombudsman (one from the Arab League, One from the United Nations), as a majority, deem it necessary.

G) One-half of those troops in enclaves will leave three-months after they arrive, for the United States or other locations, not including Iraq.

H) The other half of the troops in enclaves will leave after six-months.

I) The remaining 20 % of the Occupying troops will, during this six month interval, be used as peace-keepers, and will work with all the designated organizations, to aid in reconstruction and nation-building.

J) After four months they will be moved to enclaves in the above-mentioned countries.
They will remain, still active, for two month, until their return to the States, Britain and the other involved nations.

2) At the beginning of this period the United States will file a letter with the Secretary General of the Security Council of the United Nations, making null and void all written and proscribed orders by the CPA, under R. Paul Bremer. This will be announced and duly noted.

3) At the beginning of this period all contracts signed by foreign countries will be considered in abeyance until a system of fair bidding, by both Iraqi and foreign countries, will be implemented ,by an interim Productivity and Investment Board, chosen from pertinent sectors of the Iraqi economy.
Local representatives of the 18 provinces of Iraq will put this board together, in local elections.

4) At the beginning of this period, the United Nations will declare that Iraq is a sovereign state again, and will be forming a Union of 18 autonomous regions. Each region will, with the help of international experts, and local bureaucrats, do a census as a first step toward the creation of a municipal government for all 18 provinces. After the census, a voting roll will be completed. Any group that gets a list of 15% of the names on this census will be able to nominate a slate of representatives. When all the parties have chosen their slates, a period of one-month will be allowed for campaigning.
Then in a popular election the group with the most votes will represent that province.
When the voters choose a slate, they will also be asked to choose five individual members of any of the slates.
The individuals who have the five highest vote counts will represent a National government.
This whole process, in every province, will be watched by international observers as well as the local bureaucrats.

During this process of local elections: a central governing board, made up of United Nations, Election governing experts, insurgency organizations, US and British peacekeepers, and Arab league representatives, will assume the temporary duties of administering Baghdad, and the central duties of governing.

When the ninety representatives are elected they will assume the legislative duties of Iraq for two years.

Within three months the parties that have at least 15% of the representatives will nominate candidates for President and Prime Minister.

A national wide election for these offices will be held within three months from their nomination.

The President and the Vice President and the Prime Minister will choose their cabinet, after the election.

5) All debts accrued by Iraq will be rescheduled to begin payment, on the principal after one year, and on the interest after two years. If Iraq is able to handle another loan during this period she should be given a grace period of two years, from the taking of the loan, to comply with any structural adjustments.

6) The United States and the United Kingdom shall pay Iraq reparations for its invasion in the total of 120 billion dollars over a period of twenty years for damages to its infrastructure. This money can be defrayed as investment, if the return does not exceed 6.5 %.

7) During beginning period Saddam Hussein and any other prisoners who are deemed by a Council of Iraqi Judges, elected by the National representative body, as having committed crimes will be put up for trial.
The trial of Saddam Hussein will be before seven judges, chosen from this Council of Judges.
One judge, one jury, again chosen by this Council, will try all other prisoners.
All defendants will have the right to present any evidence they want, and to choose freely their own lawyers.

In that last photo, WHERE is the photographer shooting from? Behind the blue drapery? Is there a space between that and the stage? And why no apparent flash if it's shot close-up? Depth of field seems to be shallow. Or was it shot before the event started when the house lights were up?

I agree about the boxing in of W. The two verticals on either side; his head surrounded by boxes within the chevron shape; he's behind the podium which is behind the panels.

All in all, the setting reminds me of totalitarian propaganda art. All message, no meaning.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

My Other Accounts

Blog powered by TypePad
Member since 07/2003