The Internet punditocracy is busy dissecting a Newsweek cover photo of presidential candidate Michele Bachmann that, depending on where you stand, reveals the magazine's liberal bias or society's entrenched sexism, or both, or neither.
To be sure, the photo in question is not a flattering one. Bachmann has a wide-eyed stare fixed on some indefinite point in the distance, and the clear implication is that she may be a tad too crazy for the nation's highest office. Choosing a photo to convey a certain narrative is by no means a new technique for the media -- witness the endless parade of a glum or defeated looking Barack Obama as he tried to show leadership during the debt talks -- but this choice was seen as particularly inflammatory.
For one, it was seen as an attempt to marginalize a candidate who appears to be a very viable player in the presidential race, media derision or Republican establishment trepidation aside. A post on the conservative Freedom's Lighthouse blog asked, "Can anyone really say with a straight face that the Mainstream Media is not totally biased against conservatives?"
But even the dreaded "mainstream media" has said that this photo may have gone too far, though they were more worried about the photo's implicit sexism.
"I hate it when Michele Bachmann makes me defend her, but...The Newsweek cover was unnecessarily unflattering," Jessica Grose wrote in Slate. "I doubt Newsweek would portray a male candidate with such a lunatic expression on his face. As much as it pains me to admit it Bachmann is a legitimate candidate and major magazines should treat her like one."
The choice of photo marks another misstep in Tina Brown's already turbulent stewardship of Newsweek. Brown was widely criticized for a cover story that imagined what Princess Diana's life would be like if she had not perished in a car accident, complete with a image of a digitally aged Diana.