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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Wingo Reveals the Veils of Politics

Ajume Wingo, assistant professor in UMB’s department of Philosophy, recently released Veil Politics in Liberal Democratic States. His book describes how politics in the Western world rely heavily upon the use of icons and symbols.

Wingo opens his book with a critique of the significance of Abraham Lincoln’s presence on the penny. He explores the fact that this most ubiquitous piece of government-issued tender in the country bears the visage of the so-called “Great Emancipator” who is associated with granting freedom to the enslaved and oppressed. The symbolic value of Lincoln’s image plays right into the type of message the government wants to be sending to its citizens at all times.

“The image of Lincoln finds its way into every pocket and every child’s piggy bank, and in doing so, various ideals and virtues associated with the image of Lincoln find their way as well into the daily lives of citizens,” Wingo writes. He continues, “In a sense, this image becomes invisible, blending as it does into the commonplace background of everyday life. But, like language and the countless other tacit assumptions of everyday life, these unobtrusive images play a role in shaping our values, judgments and intuitions.”

In this sense, the image of Lincoln becomes a veil that sheds light on a historical and heroic U.S. icon while shielding the country’s leaders from negativity.

Last Wednesday, November 12, Wingo addressed the over-filled Troy Colloquium Room on the second floor of Wheatley to promote his new book and discuss how such veils function similarly in dictatorial regimes, monarchies, and theocracies to promote national pride and preserve order.

Wingo invoked the names of figures such as Martin Luther King, Idi Amin, Franklin Roosevelt, and Adolf Hitler in discussing how the presentation of these leaders cemented the way they were seen by those they led, even if they were vilified by the rest of the world. Wingo also used more recent examples to illustrate his point and cited President Bush’s appearance on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln when announcing that major combat operations in Iraq had concluded. Wingo depicted this as a rather blatant attempt to provide an aesthetic veil for what has been called a quagmire by many critics.

He also repeatedly stressed that the presence of veils is what may turn the ongoing “War on Terrorism” into a losing battle, pointing out that even if Osama bin Laden is physically removed from the earth, the ideas of resentment and violent backlash that bin Laden represents may be impossible to get rid of.

“Cruise missiles, smart bombs, and grenades may be very effective for destroying a tank or a bunker,” Wingo poignantly declared, “but they won’t do much good in destroying an ideal.”