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Elephant Backsides on Parade

Posted on Oct 9, 2006
Elephant backsides
Left: NYT Mag; right: Time (composition: Blair Golson / Truthdig)

Left: an image from a New York Times Magazine cover story on the fracturing of elephant society; right: an image from a Time magazine cover story on the fracturing of GOP society.

Weird: Both Time magazine and The New York Times Magazine are using images of elephant backsides to illustrate cover stories this week—but for wildly different purposes: Time is writing about the breakdown of Republican society, and The N.Y. Times Mag is writing about the breakdown of, well, elephant society.

  • Each article is at the top of its publication’s “most e-mailed” list.

  • NYT Magazine:

    ... [I]n ‘‘Elephant Breakdown,’’ a 2005 essay in the journal Nature, Bradshaw and several colleagues argued that today’s elephant populations are suffering from a form of chronic stress, a kind of species-wide trauma. Decades of poaching and culling and habitat loss, they claim, have so disrupted the intricate web of familial and societal relations by which young elephants have traditionally been raised in the wild, and by which established elephant herds are governed, that what we are now witnessing is nothing less than a precipitous collapse of elephant culture.


    Time magazine:

    ... It took 40 years for the House Democrats to exhaust their goodwill. It may take only 12 years for the Republicans to get there.

    ... [A]fter controlling both houses of Congress and the White House for most of Bush’s six years in office, the party has a governing record that has come unmoored from those Grand Old Party ideals. The exquisite political machinery that aces the elections has begun to betray the platform. To win votes back home, lawmakers have been spending taxpayer money like sailors on leave, producing the biggest budget deficits in U.S. history. And the party’s approach to national security has taken the country into a war that most Americans now believe was a mistake and that the government’s own intelligence experts say has shaped “a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives.”


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    By Blair Golson, October 9, 2006 at 10:46 pm Link to this comment

    In response to #27885 (Sandee Cohen)

    While I appreciate the Truthdigging spirit with which Ms. Cohen responded to my blog entry, I have to respectfully disagree with her characterization of my post as being dishonest.

    I knew full well when I created the post that the cover of the NYT magazine was not an elephant’s rear end; rather the cover image was of an elephant’s eye.

    So I phrased my writing very carefully. I wrote:

    “Both Time magazine and The New York Times Magazine are using images of elephant backsides to illustrate cover stories this week…”

    Note: I didn’t write “both magazines had featured images of elephants’ backsides on their covers,” rather, I wrote that they used images of elephants’ backsides to illustrate cover stories.

    Now, if cover stories only existed ON the cover of a magazine, my statement would have been false. But because cover stories exist IN and THROUGHOUT the magazine, it was fair for me to say that that cover story was illustrated with a picture of an elephant’s backside. Just because that illustration took place inside the magazine doesn’t make what I wrote any less true. It was a cover story that was illustrated with an image of an elephant’s back side.

    So while I wasn’t as clear as I might have been, I also didn’t lie.

    Report this

    By Fadel Abdallah, October 9, 2006 at 9:31 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Since I landed on the shores of this country 30 years ago, I’ve been wondering why in the world would a party take the elephant as a symbol! The few times I asked about the meaning of the symbol, I got no answers! So I decided to stop asking and began to imagine answers: Is it because it has thick skin? Is it because it’s fat and slow? Now, seeing the two juxtaposed pictures of these elephants from the back, I have no doubt that elephants are really ugly animals, especially when viewed from the back.
    This connects me to a historical event recorded in the Qur’an. There is a Chapter on the “People of the Elephant.” Those were Christians from South Yemen of pre-Islam Arabia. They were envious of the pagan people of Mecca for having the Holy Sanctuary, called the Ka’bah, located in their city, which was attracting the trading caravans between ancient China and Arabia. They decided to invade Mecca with a huge army headed by their leader mounting on a single elephant, in order to destroy the Ka’bah. The Qur’an says that, miraculously, God sent upon them hosts of heavenly birds which belted the army with pebbles causing its destruction and defeat. This took place in the year 570/71; the same year Prophet Muhammad was born.
    Could it be that history would repeat itself?! That time it was the people of the elephant invading Mecca and destroyed miraculously by God. This time another people of even an uglier wilder and more destructive elephant invading neighboring Iraq, and being defeated slowly but steadily by outnumbered, and out equipped courageous bunch of freedom fighters! Soon history will give its answer!

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    By harald hardrada, October 9, 2006 at 5:55 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    it’s so unfair that elephants have to suffer the indignity of standing for the gop

    instead the gop ought to switch symbols by adopting a human type: for instance, the shit-eating jesus freak

    Report this

    By Sandee Cohen, October 9, 2006 at 4:16 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    TruthDig has gotten it all wrong.

    First, the NY Times Magazine cover did not show the back end of two elephants for the cover of its Sunday magazine.

    The actual cover was the side face of an elephant on a stark black background.

    Your compositor (Blair Golson / Truthdig) has engaged in what can only be called a blatant lie.

    There is no New York Times Magazine cover that is remotely similar to the composition pictured on your web page.

    It is sad that TruthDig would resort to this sort of silly manipulation of images just to make a little “dig” at the NY Times and/or Time magazine and/or the Republicans.

    Report this
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