Selfiegate

Politics in the United States and elsewhere

Selfiegate

Postby Elliott » 16 Dec 2013, 11:54

Maybe the incident has been blown out of proportion. Maybe it's just three leaders harmlessly entertaining themselves. But, predictably, I have a bad feeling about it. When US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt leaned in together and grinned for a "selfie" at a major world event like three teenagers at a house party, well... my reaction is shared by NY Post journalist Michael Goodwin:
the “selfie” episode also symbolizes the greater global calamity of Western decline. With British prime minister David Cameron playing the role of Obama’s giggling wingman, the “look at me” moment confirms we have unserious leaders in a dangerously serious time.


It's difficult to think of a deed that could offend so many different people:

  • SOUTH AFRICANS: the leaders of the West don't take our country seriously!
  • BLACK AFRICANS IN GENERAL: they wouldn't do this at a white leader's funeral
  • US LIBERALS: just goes to show, Obama's in the pocket of the white supremacists ultimately
  • US CONSERVATIVES: we have a President who behaves like this?!
  • BRITISH SOCIALISTS: Cameron was much more somber at Thatcher's funeral - obviously he doesn't truly care about Mandela at all!
  • BRITISH CONSERVATIVES: we have a Prime Minister who behaves like this?!
  • ANARCHISTS: our so-called leaders don't actually care about anyone; they're just in it for the money and the power
  • COMMUNISTS: the rich are evil! Cameron is posh etc.!
  • HUMANITARIANS: it demonstrates that many people who succeed in politics are probably sociopathic
  • REACTOSPHERIANS: our leaders are trivial people in a very serious era

I think all of those reactions are worth considering, but it was the last one that immediately occurred to me when I first saw the photo.

One way or another, there is a sense nowadays that a storm is brewing. There's no point attempting to isolate where trouble could start from, because there are so many possible starting points. Goodwin lists some in the article linked above - I would add my own bugbears of mass immigration, Islam, multiculturalism, cultural decline, economic disaster, etc. Yet, in the midst of these immediate and long-term perils, we have leaders who behave like this. When one compares it to the seriousness and intelligence of the WW2 leaders, it appears that there are, indeed, cycles in human history and the actors play their roles, behaving in the way conducive to the cycle proceeding, even when the reasons to snap out of it are staring them in the face. "Decline and disaster all around? It's my historical role to do nothing about it. I'm the man you'd hire in for a kids' birthday party, yet here I am a leader of the free world, and I am utterly incompetent."

I do realise there's a danger of getting carried away. Maybe it is just a storm in a teacup. But, as I said elsewhere, if you were at a funeral and saw three people behaving like that, surely you would be disgusted? Surely you would be pretty shocked that anyone could think it appropriate behaviour, that anyone could have so little understanding of what a funeral is, that anyone could be so callous about the eternal matter of life and death, that anyone could be so disrespectful towards the deceased and the grieving relatives?

David Cameron has since said that Schmidt should not delete the selfie from her phone, but rather auction it off to make money for charity - further demonstrating a callous disregard for dignity, a lack of understanding/concern about how his own electorate feel, and a generally entitled-to-power attitude.

Schmidt, however, has other ideas. She isn't going to sell the selfie. What's this - a realisation that it really was the wrong way to behave at a funeral? Not exactly:
Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt wrote:It's not a very good picture.
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Re: Selfiegate

Postby Andrea » 16 Dec 2013, 13:25

Hi Elliott. Interesting points.

I thought the "selfie" (God-awful word in and of itself) was in very poor taste. I used to like it when artists of the past made self-portraits of themselves, but that was an occasional thing - I believe van Dyck, an extremely talented Baroque painter, only made three self-portraits in amongst vast amounts of his other work. Nowadays, we have "celebrities" who bask in their own vanity and send out a never-ending stream of selfies. These are generally people who have had the luck of the draw and seem to get a kick out of constantly reminding others that they have less beauty, etc. In the case of this picture of the three leaders, I think it was just a momentary lapse which should be forgiven.
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Re: Selfiegate

Postby Andrea » 16 Dec 2013, 14:21

I have something else to add, if I may, though this is not really related to the selfie that this topic is about.

When I responded to Elliott's post about Selfies earlier, I thought about how they are a good indication of narcissism, which led me to think of the following. When I think of "selfies" a load of Z-list celebrities posing scantily-clad come into my mind, but also one person in particular comes to mind. Gisele is a A-list celebrity and the highest-paid "supermodel" in the world; but that's nothing to me, as all she does is model clothes and makeup. Big deal.

What absolutely gets me angry is her constant stream of narcissistic, vacuous, and patronising thoughts. She is almost always offending women with her thoughtless comments and the latest was a photo of her breastfeeding her baby whilst getting preened and pampered by a team of stylists:

http://www.inquisitr.com/1059099/gisele-bundchen-breastfeeding-instagram-photo-creates-controversy/

This is the reason women get angry - not the breastfeeding (which is normal). Most of us do not have a beauty squad to keep us looking picture-perfect. Need I also add that not everyone has such good genes. I know someone who has had children and works out religiously every day and will never be Gisele's size.

Also, this is the same woman who said:
I cannot put this poison on my skin. I do not use anything synthetic.


"Are you going to give chemical food to your child when they are so little?"


And yet, isn't she exposing her child to the nail varnish (which is full of chemicals)? I certainly wouldn't paint my nails next to a baby because of the fumes.

I'm not alone in this view, here are a few of the many disparaging comments on E!:

Yes, the narcissist desperate for attention is Bundchen.


I don't care how much she's worth you can't buy a personality. She's a diva! Giselle is ridiculous.


The funny thing is Emmy Rossum, who took a photo of herself (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2522155/Emmy-Rossum-mocks-Gisele-Bundchens-breastfeeding-Instagram-post-fake-baby.html) in the same pose (as a joke) is more attractive in my eyes than Gisele...because she's apparently a nice lady.

So, my point is this: Self-portraits are the ultimate indication of the Look At Me culture...and I hate it.
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Re: Selfiegate

Postby Gavin » 16 Dec 2013, 20:31

I think there can be time for a lighter side at a funeral, especially if the person's death was not tragic but expected, and they lived a long and (finally) happy life. A lot of the South Africans seemed to be doing a lot of dancing and celebrating. But true enough, heads of state (especially western ones) should probably remain sombre and it was pretty vulgar of that woman (a socialist, I can safely presume) to get out her mobile for a "selfie". I also agree with Andrea about the vulgarity of that word, and I think as it happens David Cameron is quite shallow and unsuitable for the role of Prime Minister. But, in an idiocracy, who will be elected next? There was a close up of Ed Miliband speaking on the news this evening, and I just couldn't believe it. I thought "It cannot be true that this individual will follow in the footsteps of towering leaders such as Gladstone, Disraeli and Churchill". What have we become?!
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Re: Selfiegate

Postby Kevin R » 17 Dec 2013, 01:25

Speaking of Van Dyke, I know of a respected art-expert who has quickly adopted the adolescent neologism 'selfie' on his 'blog', in order to describe the last self-portrait by the great man (which is presently awaiting it's fate of either going abroad to a foreign buyer or staying in Britain by raising of public subscription). I was disappointed at his eagerness to seem 'with it' as he is otherwise a perspicacious fellow.

And whilst we are on the subject of prosaic leaders and elites, I've just been reading some of the diary thoughts of Peyps and Evelyn regarding the behaviour at the court of Charles II. They sorely lament the permeation of Restoration government and culture by petty-fogging ambitions of fools, the trifling, the trivial and the meretricious, and all in a time of international upheaval and political jostling. I wonder what Mr Peyps would have made of the 'selfie' event..

Perhaps something like..

'On Sunday, my Lord the King did journey forth to meet with his Regnal cousins, appertaining to the state lying-in of an monarch anointed, but lately given over to death. There, in remembrance of such a march as we shall all come unto, he did sport with the said kings and queens present, and they did make forth merry unto themselves in rude annulment of God's decreed end, to whit, a merry and apeish posture before a strange glass presented unto them, and by disposition of their vanities they thus indulged a childish humour. I did wholly lament at this, being as such a time as was wont for the gravitas of stately honour, but the people were like to delight and sport in facsimile at this strange and sinful deed...'
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Re: Selfiegate

Postby Jonathan » 17 Dec 2013, 18:34

I'm not sure I'd dignify this event with the title of 'Selfiegate', which, after all, asserts it has some significance.

It may be that the West's current leadership is not serious, but this event is not an indication of that. Obama is not sitting in a meeting of top national security advisors. He is not formulating policy. He is not making vital decisions.

This event is primarily a piece of theater for public consumption. Obama's fault is that he did not flawlessly maintain decorum for four hours straight (or however long those speeches cumulatively took). This, I think, is too much to expect of any human, nor is it the sort of virtue which we ought to demand of our representatives.

The main significance of 'Selfiegate' is that the press saw fit to publish the photograph, rather than covering it up, as they might have done five years ago.
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Re: Selfiegate

Postby Andrea » 18 Dec 2013, 15:43

Kevin R wrote:Speaking of Van Dyke, I know of a respected art-expert who has quickly adopted the adolescent neologism 'selfie' on his 'blog', in order to describe the last self-portrait by the great man (which is presently awaiting it's fate of either going abroad to a foreign buyer or staying in Britain by raising of public subscription). I was disappointed at his eagerness to seem 'with it' as he is otherwise a perspicacious fellow.

And whilst we are on the subject of prosaic leaders and elites, I've just been reading some of the diary thoughts of Pepys and Evelyn regarding the behaviour at the court of Charles II. They sorely lament the permeation of Restoration government and culture by petty-fogging ambitions of fools, the trifling, the trivial and the meretricious, and all in a time of international upheaval and political jostling. I wonder what Mr Pepys would have made of the 'selfie' event..


Hello Kevin, and welcome to the forum (I'm a little late, but it still counts!). You have no idea how happy I was to read your post, because everything you said is completely up my street! Indeed, the reign of Charles II was full of narcissistic fops and ambitious ne'er-do-well's...but that's probably because the pendulum had swung from one extreme (the Puritanism of the Interregnum period) to the decadence of the Restoration court. Pepys, whilst of dubious morals himself, would more than likely have lamented the king behaving in such a manner. Evelyn, whom I infinitely prefer, would have been even more disparaging, I daresay.

It's a shame that the art expert feels obliged to try to be cool. (By the by, I've been working to keep that van Dyck in the country, and the main campaign website unashamedly (lamentably) has the odious word "selfie" emblazoned on the main page. I do think this is part of the inherent dumbing down of our society. This is a world where children don't know Charles II unless you refer to him as the "king of bling.")

Anyway, I enjoyed your contribution!
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Re: Selfiegate

Postby Andrea » 18 Dec 2013, 16:58

Speaking of "selfies", I just came across this on The British Museum's Facebook page:

What a great idea! Forget ‪#‎selfies‬, we want to see your ‪#‎shelfies‬ http://gu.com/p/3yave/tw via The Guardian.


"Shelfies" - photos of one's bookshelves. Now...I don't mind this as much as the other!
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Re: Selfiegate

Postby Jonathan » 18 Dec 2013, 18:36

I think it would be great if we posted our own shelfies, or, at least, our Dalrymple shelfies.

Does anyone else like this idea?
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Re: Selfiegate

Postby Andrea » 18 Dec 2013, 22:12

I like the idea of "shelfies" because it's less self-absorbed, more high-brow, and more upward aspiring.

I'm seeing a lot of people - even those on The Guardian - who are starting to complain about selfies. I believe there is a direct correlation between the number of self photos a person takes and how superficial and vacuous they are! To be perfectly honest, I've observed that the more intellectual of my friends often have photos of books and rarely a photo of themselves!

Check this out: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/dec/06/selfies-status-updates-digital-bragging-web?utm_content=buffer937f8&utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Buffer
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Re: Selfiegate

Postby Kevin R » 19 Dec 2013, 01:30

Andrea wrote:
Kevin R wrote:Speaking of Van Dyke, I know of a respected art-expert who has quickly adopted the adolescent neologism 'selfie' on his 'blog', in order to describe the last self-portrait by the great man (which is presently awaiting it's fate of either going abroad to a foreign buyer or staying in Britain by raising of public subscription). I was disappointed at his eagerness to seem 'with it' as he is otherwise a perspicacious fellow.

And whilst we are on the subject of prosaic leaders and elites, I've just been reading some of the diary thoughts of Pepys and Evelyn regarding the behaviour at the court of Charles II. They sorely lament the permeation of Restoration government and culture by petty-fogging ambitions of fools, the trifling, the trivial and the meretricious, and all in a time of international upheaval and political jostling. I wonder what Mr Pepys would have made of the 'selfie' event..


Hello Kevin, and welcome to the forum (I'm a little late, but it still counts!). You have no idea how happy I was to read your post, because everything you said is completely up my street! Indeed, the reign of Charles II was full of narcissistic fops and ambitious ne'er-do-well's...but that's probably because the pendulum had swung from one extreme (the Puritanism of the Interregnum period) to the decadence of the Restoration court. Pepys, whilst of dubious morals himself, would more than likely have lamented the king behaving in such a manner. Evelyn, whom I infinitely prefer, would have been even more disparaging, I daresay.

It's a shame that the art expert feels obliged to try to be cool. (By the by, I've been working to keep that van Dyck in the country, and the main campaign website unashamedly (lamentably) has the odious word "selfie" emblazoned on the main page. I do think this is part of the inherent dumbing down of our society. This is a world where children don't know Charles II unless you refer to him as the "king of bling.")

Anyway, I enjoyed your contribution!



Hello Andrea,

Thanks very much for the welcome.. glad you enjoyed Mr Peyps' lament. A little clumsy in homage I know, but I couldn't resist it. Yes, he was rather naughty when abroad wasn't he, and I daresay you're right about Evelyn's appraisal. I also agree with your point about behavioural shifts after a period of upheaval and privation such as a war or revolution presents to the populace. Frivolity and sporting vanities often follow hard upon; people somehow have to feel a release, the restoration being the obvious historical example. One writer I came across (can't remember his name) likened the post-war WW2 shift into the sixties fashion/consumer model to such a time, and I think what he was getting at was that the older style gravitas of political rhetoric and seriousness was slowly receding into history, and political integrity increasingly constrained to behave like pebbles being washed back and forth upon a tide of increasingly complex economic necessity, attempting to get a sounding on the slippery sand of ideology only results in being brought back out to sea again by unforeseen or unlooked for events, the result seems inevitably to lead to political opportunism and the rule of 'the spectacle' and the growing obsession with the more overt tittle-tattle trivialities of public celebrity and internicine jostling.

Incidentally, I've seen the website you mentioned and have sent a few groats to help the campaign, being, as I am, an idolator of Sir Anthony's pictures. There is a lot more to them than merely the tint of rouge and the liquefaction of silk tressles.
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Re: Selfiegate

Postby Grant » 19 Dec 2013, 11:13

Kevin,
I saw your name followed by that tedious word and immediately thought of your namesake, the recently ejected Australian P M, Kevin Rudd who demeaned his office by posting a picture of himself with a shaving cut along with many other images of any moron who wanted to be seen leering along with our prime minister. It's a sad indictment on him and other leaders of his ilk whose egos need constant stroking and indulgence. I can't imagine Winston Churchill engaging in such an infantile activity. His self-deprecation endered him to his people. He knew his face was not one that launched a thousand ships. His words and deeds accomplished more than a thousand ships could. (Forgive the intended hyperbole)
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Re: Selfiegate

Postby Yessica » 19 Dec 2013, 17:04

Believe it or not... I never heard the word selfie until a few month's ago... I am actually fine with selfies when not taken at a funeral... but I learned about something far more depraved today. Bumfies. Selfies of your bum on the internet. O tempora, o mores.

Ten years ago a man had to pay a woman of ill repute in order to get such pictures. Today they seem to do it for free as long as it makes them "famous" for a minute.

We live in strange times when people are hailed for being drunken on TV - so small wonder people think taking a picture of their bum is a major accomplishment.
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Re: Selfiegate

Postby Jonathan » 21 Dec 2013, 12:55

Yessica wrote:Believe it or not... I never heard the word selfie until a few month's ago...


I also only heard of it very recently, a few weeks at most.

...small wonder people think taking a picture of their bum is a major accomplishment.


Maybe it only seems a major accomplishment to those of us who have never done it :)
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Re: Selfiegate

Postby Andrea » 25 Dec 2013, 20:26

Yessica wrote:Bumfies. Selfies of your bum on the internet. O tempora, o mores.


Yessica, that's just plain horrible!
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