The Power of an Image

I posted two blog posts on his inaugural speech at, and a ton of time reading: his words, the news and other opinion pieces trying to figure out what Mr. Trump is all about. One thing is clear – if he knows he doesn’t want us to know.

So much for seeking first to understand. Let’s move on to a solution. The Trump modus operandi is to disorient on stage then act behind the scenes. This is the Big Lie. It is meant to obscure the truth through misdirection and deceit. The only image he has representing himself or his ideas is his clownish hair, a dark suit and an extra long tie.

To achieve significant change in politics one must change the image according to Vaclav Havel the past President of Czechoslovakia, and eventually the Czech Republic, “If we are to change our world view, images have to change.”  That happens to be the process we are going through now with Trump, only in reverse – Havel fought a repressive regime and Trump is installing one. The new image of government is clownish hair, a dark suit and an extra long tie.

Trump is removing the image of a magnanimous government that is ready to share its knowledge and research with free access. He is replacing it with barriers and restrictions. By befuddling the media and lying to us he is preventing the growth of knowledge and intellectual well being. The image of Trump signifies hidden knowledge, exclusion, secrets and bafflement. If the government speaks only through one mouthpiece and edits new knowledge out of the discussion, they gain more control. Knowledge is no longer free, so it becomes a commodity to be sold.

82290-004-9B7D3012Vaclav Havel began his rise to fame as an artist: a playwright, during the Communist rule of Czechoslovakia. His plays and essays were quite popular because they pointed out the flaws of a communist style oppressive regime. He became a dissident (and occasionally jailed) for merely expressing his point of view. His works were suppressed by the government, but there was such demand that individuals would hand-copy his writings and pass them on through an underground of dissidents. That, of course, was well before the internet; a different strategy is needed today.

Bloggers will become the new dissidents if we find a way to channel our verbiage into action. The diversity of our opinions and the normalcy of our witty rejoinders may gather a crowd of resistance protesters, but that action is more symbolic than actual. We have all become so jaded that The Joker can walk right in and take our stuff while we laugh at a cartoon of him doing it. How do we resist in this condition? True action must evolve at a ground level and swell into a movement. This has nothing to do with democrats, they are irrelevant now; the republicans will follow suit after Trump destroys them.

3e7c9523e02677ef46879f377b8f2a84If we follow Havel’s advice to form a new image, the image will have to be more significant and powerful than the Guy Fawkes mask used by Anonymous. That is a tough standard to exceed. It has been a successful piece of iconography used to convey the message of an anarchist political movement. It’s right up there with the red, white and blue Obama campaign logo, or the pre-Trump significance of The Statue of Liberty as an iconic symbol for a political idea. Its political significance comes from an anarchist movement adopting the mask image from a movie  (V-for Vendetta) based upon a graphic novel that came from the artist, David Lloyd’s mind while illustrating a story by Alan Moore of a futuristic dystopian England and the vigilante who attempts to overthrow an authoritarian government; it’s based on a moment in British history where a militant (Guy Fawkes) in 1605 failed to force the return of Catholic leadership to London.

obama-08-logo-18The Obama campaign’s logo was sheer genius. This was the first time such a soft, feminine graphic was used to symbolize a male candidate for US presidential office, even though there were similar  examples of the look elsewhere in the world. Most political graphics were military in nature like McCain’s solid rectangles with military wings and block letters. Fighting imagery had strength but the military look had been done too many times in the past to feel new and exciting. The “O” felt inclusive, it told a story through symbols that could be read many ways. A new landscape representing the circle of life, the plowed fields, the suggested sunrise, the new day dawning, the security of home, the heartland, even the comfort of the womb, etc. If you look through art history you will see a commonality through all cultures of an ideal landscape. It includes a path into the picture for the observer to get to the optimistic and idyllic place in the painting that contains a stream, growing plants and plenty of sky. It says: hope and illustrates the potential for sustainability. That was the message of his campaign and the symbolic text of his logo.

Our new “image” is going to have to exceed these two brilliant examples of the graphic arts. It will need to express the rebellious, self assured and ironic nature of the mask and the optimism of the Obama logo. It should speak of reformation, not anarchy. It should be about inclusion not exclusion. It should be about the search for a new order, not just complain about the current order. It should be joyful but deadly serious. It could be historic or a new creation or a combination of both.

Years ago, I went to the Occupy Pittsburgh rally. On the edge of the crowd were two girls wearing Guy Fawkes masks. They didn’t talk or move or interact, they just stood there together. I smiled when I first saw them. By the end of the event they had gained significance equal to a stone monument of the event. Each time I looked in their direction I had a new visceral reaction that was akin to awe. They projected back to the crowd all the ideas of all the speakers and performers. They became the event itself, re-made, manifest in living symbolic flesh and mask. The transformational power embodied in the use of an image is supreme.

I’ll post appropriate suggestions if you reply on the


  1. brucegee1962 says

    In my mind, the V for Vendetta Guy Fawkes mask is a poor symbol for the movement, because the character in the graphic novel was a chilling, ultraviolent psychopath who was portrayed as being almost as evil as the government he opposed.

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