Friday, August 7, 2009

Krugman on Rockwell

Paul Krugman, writing in the New York Times on “town hall mobs”:

There’s a famous Norman Rockwell painting titled “Freedom of Speech,” depicting an idealized American town meeting. The painting, part of a series illustrating F.D.R.’s “Four Freedoms,” shows an ordinary citizen expressing an unpopular opinion. His neighbors obviously don’t like what he’s saying, but they’re letting him speak his mind.
I don’t disagree with the analysis that follows Krugman’s opening paragraph. But just a glance at Rockwell’s painting shows that this description is off: there is no hostility, none, in the faces surrounding the speaker. What’s important in Rockwell’s painting is class: the speaker’s clothes and hands mark him as a “working man,” in clear contrast to the suits beside him and in front of him. He even looks a bit like Abraham Lincoln, which might help to explain why everyone’s paying close attention to what he says.

I wonder what Norman Rockwell would say about the chanting, the shouting, the death threats, all that is hateful and ugly in the “debate” (is it one, really?) over health care.

comments: 4

Slywy said...

The "suits" look a little surprised that the working man is speaking up, but they also look inclined to let him have his say. Definitely about class, and perhaps a wee bit about age (since he appears younger).

Michael Leddy said...

Yes, age too. Thanks for pointing that out. (And welcome back, Diane.)

Anonymous said...

I'm left wondering why all people arrivng at a public meeting to discuss an issue, those that disagree and those that agree, are not simply told the rules for a civil meeting and removed when those rules are not followed. Those that refuse to leave are encouraged by the local police.
Most issues are too important to be decided based on who yells the loudest.

Slywy said...

My understanding is that some of the more riotous disrupters have been organized by larger powers. And people were dissing community organizers. Huh.