In an instructional talk given to the Syracuse Advertising Men’s Club, in March 1911, newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane coined the phrase “Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.” Contemporary idiomatic use may have modified the phrase ever so slightly, yet Brisbane’s axiom remains universally agreed upon and frequently employed. A little research would suggest that Brisbane’s phrase was ever so slightly derivative and perhaps numerically understated even. For example, a character within Ivan S. Turgenev’s 1862 novel, ‘Father and Sons’, opines “[This] drawing shows me at one glance what might be spread over ten pages in a book”. Unless, each page of Turgenev’s hypothetical book contained pages of no more than one hundred words, it seems that an element of textual deflation of several degrees had occurred between the scribings of Turgenev and Brisbane. If, in spite of numerical differences, both these learned gentlemen are correct in principle, then the typographically reductive nature of modern day social media, best depicted by the one hundred and forty characters of Twitter, was perhaps therefore inevitable. There seems to be an inverse relationship between the advancement of image technology and the reduction in the number of words needed. Think of Instagram as a perfect almost wordless example of this seemingly immutable law of inverse picture/word relationship.
One wonders what Brisbane and Turgenev would have made of the attached photograph here. Likely they would see little requirement for words, as the contents appear self-explanatory and any additional prose would seem superfluous. Yet there are occasions when words remain absolutely necessary. The pen is mightier than the sword for certain, but one wonders if on occasions it also triumphs over the camera, or the HB pencil, in its ability to communicate. Undoubtedly there is no parity of communication between picture and word, the picture is, after all, worth a thousand words, yet perhaps the converse is true also – a thousand words is worth a picture. If such is the case then those who wield pen and pad may take confidence in the undiminished requirement for literary output that enables the reader to look afresh at the picture before his eyes.
The recent events in Paris, France, in which several folk who made a professional living constructing images that speak thousands of words were cruelly butchered, ably demonstrate this point. There indeed seems to be a thousand pictures of the attacks circulating the Internet and tens of thousands of words describing those pictures and opining on the reasons and implications for this attack on freedom of expression. Being the news junkie that I am, I have taken time to view some of the pictures but have taken a far greater interest in the words written. This picture however did catch my attention and initially I could not understand the reason why that was. It is a relatively innocuous picture of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo’s editor, Stephane Charbonnier, presenting to journalists the front cover a satirical drawing titled “Intouchables “. The front cover depicts a mocking cartoon of a Muslim man in a wheelchair pushed by an Orthodox Jew, with both of them saying, “You mustn’t mock us!” It’s a parody of the hit French film “Untouchables,” about a wealthy white quadriplegic and his black caretaker.
The picture was featured on an article of the website of The Daily News, an American newspaper based in New York which is the fourth most widely circulated newspaper in America. The featured article is entitled ‘Playing With Fire: French mag publishes controversial Prophet Muhammed cartoons, even though previous mockery got them bombed”. Note, however, a curious feature of the photograph. The cartoon depiction of the Muslim man has been heavily pixelated for fear of offending Muslims. Why, one wonders, is there perceived to be no concomitant requirement to pixelate the equally offensive caricature of the Jewish figure? In what sane world does one appease the sensibilities of one religio-socio-politico group, whilst simultaneously finding it un-necessary to address any potential sensitivities of a second, religio-socio-racial grouping? In the West, every hand wringing liberal sensitive to their so-called white privilege is ever on the hunt for traces of hidden, unconscious racism. Perhaps in this picture we have a blatant example of such unconscious racism, flagrant anti-semitism even, yet more likely there is a more sane explanation.
You see, we have been conditioned to think that all religions are equal and all are equivalently violent. In truth of course such a view is utter insanity and a dereliction of the duty to think through the evidence that is presented. Let me quote some facts and figures to amply illustrate the point at which I wish to drive. Since the September 11th attacks on the New York twin towers there have been 24,795 recorded Islamic attacks on civilians throughout the world. In December 2014 alone there were 233 jihad attacks in 30 separate countries resulting in 2,497 dead bodies and a further 2,225 folks who have been critically injured. That is in just one month alone. It seems that in the year just past barely a day goes by without news of some Allah u Akbar inspired atrocity somewhere or other in the world. Figures seem to bear out this impression, as there was an average increase of 151% from 2010-13 to 2014 in the numbers of those slain in Islamic attacks. Yet state terror is excluded from these figures, so for example figures for the hanging of homosexuals in Iran and the stoning to death of women for adultery in several Islamic countries are excluded here. In 2014 alone the world endured: Boko Haram, ISIS, The Sydney hostage crisis, The Peshawar school attacks, The Kano bombing, A shooting at the Jewish museum in Belgium, Shootings at Parliament Hill, Ottawa, The Borno Massacre and countless other such incidents. Stretching back over several years, the world has endured for example, the 2013 stabbing of Lee Rigby, the Boston Marathon bombing, the Mumbai bombings, the Bali bombings, the London underground bombings, the murder of Theo van Gogh, the bombing of the Australian embassy in Jarkata, the Beslan school hostages situation, the Bali bombings and of course 9/11.
It is understatement to suggest that the majority of terrorist attacks in the world in recent years emanate from within Islam, yet our leaders would have us believe that Islam is as benign and as tolerant as any other religion. The evidence suggests otherwise, and in reality most folk know this to be the case. This picture is perfect evidence of this point. The Daily News instinctively understands that there will be no repercussions from the Jewish community for the caricature of a Jewish man in this photograph. Replace the Jew with a Christian, a Hindu, a Mormom, a Buddhist, an atheist, a Moonie or likewise and there will likewise be little response beyond perhaps the odd complaint or two. Depict a marginally derogatory caricature of a Muslim and one can certainly expect barbaric reprisals. One can with impunity burn bibles, urinate on crosses, blaspheme the name of Christ, destroy the star of David, offend Hindus, Buddhists and the like at will, indeed the Western media is overflowing with examples of such. Yet this same brave, edgy Western Media somehow loses its testicular fortitude when any critique of Islam is required. In one sense I don’t blame the editors of The Daily News and other newspapers across the Western world for their pixelated caution, after all, lives are very much at risk. Yet I find it compellingly revealing that a photograph such as this unwittingly tells a picture that tens of thousands of words from our wooly, liberal elite could never tell us: Islam is no religion of peace. A picture tells a thousand words, I hope that these thousand words [1301 actually] tell a picture.