| The politics of imagery

While the hundred-some reasons to vote on the cover of the “Vote for…” issue (March 8) were generally less eye-catching than the Big-Brother-esque Martin Ssempa who appeared on the preceding issue’s cover (March 4), peering down on two gay smoochers in a Ugandan flag-themed bedspread, they were not really subdued, apolitical, or anything like that.

The cover itself doesn’t tell you to vote “for” or “against” anything, but a regular reader probably has some idea of the significance of the various terms in Daily journalism. “Activists” are against inequality: good. “Dodging the question” is done by oppressors: bad. “Opacity” is what we have: bad; “transparency” is what we want: good.

Art in The Daily has a similar capacity to evoke a quick response. Though art with a “cause” tends to draw our attention, not all artwork in The Daily has a bone to pick – art also exists in The Daily for art’s sake. Still, the less political categories of Daily imagery are not necessarily apolitical. From Health & Education to Sci+Tech, to Compendium! (see March 15) and the photos used for News stories, we have seen that choice of imagery, like choice of word, can be a political statement.

The political images that accompany articles in The Daily derive from the struggles of marginalized communities, against “oppressors,” in “issues and events most media ignore,” (Statement of Principles, 2.3).

In “Locking the doors of the Knesset,” (Commentary, March 6) the indignation at restricted “civic and economic participation” for Palestinians was reinforced by the image of an (oppressed) hand turned away from a double-locked door. The Palestinians have it more than hard – they have no way out; they are “locked-in.”

This reality of human hardship is what Daily authors, and thus artists, have tended to see as the crux of the Palestinian crisis, more than the letter of the laws written for the Palestinians (though these are important in their own right.) While Daily art comprises diverse media, political articles often feature illustrations or collage, which allow for a more imaginative, symbolic depiction of “real” conflicts.

In some sense it makes the conflicts less real. In another, it makes them more meaningful. Either way, it is advantageous for The Daily’s political artists, since they must communicate with their artwork the same entangled conflicts (racism, sexism, heteronormativity) and the same forward-looking, often distant ideals (for example, equality) that authors articulate in their writings.

An editorial “abstention” (March 4) got us thinking about the use of the word “apartheid” in the context of Palestinian affairs, and whether this word might be misplaced.

The unfolding debate on Palestine and mixed reactions to The Daily’s coverage of the frenzied and surprisingly catty SSMU elections have led to questions about the limits to The Daily’s say in political and moral issues.

In the first place, The Daily should not have one single opinion on any subject. The Daily is available for students to introduce events and issues – in news, culture, and science – to the student body.

It is then the paper’s responsibility to dig deeper into the issues. The Daily invites authors and readers to comment on the issues introduced in the moral context of the Statement of Principles, which is to say with an eye to power relations, but also from their own perspective.

The year has seen sensational stories where it has been easy to make a moral pronouncement. Perhaps it’s been a bad couple of years for humankind. But if The Daily serves us well, we also know the folly of this kind of declaration in light of the smallness, the essentially a-global nature, of our lives at McGill.

In this world, who are we anyway? As some seek again to ban a pro-life group in Canada (“Are we complicit in marginalization?,” March 18), in Turkey, trips abroad for artificial insemination (already illegal in the country) are criminalized. As our drugs issue goes to print with new approaches to addiction and drug medication (“Addicts helping addicts,” March 15), five million Russians are hooked, a number that threatens to grow as the drug war recedes from Afghanistan to splash more on Mexico. While a woman fights for the right to wear the niqab in French classes in Quebec (“Muslim women don’t need saving from themselves,” March 18), it is forced on millions of women elsewhere, who will probably never go to school. And Israel – maddeningly, inexplicably – continues to encroach on Palestine.

Perhaps the reality will be that we cannot really dictate our morality to people who are a world away from us and our way of life. What would we do in a world like that?

Mike Prebil writes in this space every other week. Send him your thoughts post-haste – the semester’s wrapping up soon: public.editor@mcgilldaily.com.


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