09.03.2015 07:58 AM

KCCCC Day 32: the power of images


  • Words are about information. Pictures are about emotion. Emotion equals power.
  • Print folks – the ones who pour their souls into writing newspapers and magazines, the ones who craft profound essays for blogs, the ones who toil in government offices and conjure up grand speeches – like to believe that words matter still. But, mostly, they don’t.
  • The people who put together TV newscasts, as well as the best news photographers, have known this truism for a long time, but they’ve kept mostly quiet about it. Perhaps they don’t want to hurt the feelings of their colleagues, who still vainly cling to the belief that the written word can move hearts and minds. But the fact remains that for voters, for citizens, words don’t matter nearly as much as pictures do.
  • Which brings us to this morning, to two images.  One is horrible, the other isn’t.  The latter first.
  • Here is an image of Justin Trudeau in his latest ad.


  • You’ve probably seen the ad, or commentary about the ad.  The link to it is here; no less than CBC takes shots at it here. It “raised eyebrows” and was the butt of jokes, says CBC.
  • Trudeau is a great retail campaigner.  He had a good debate.  He’s avoided verbal gaffes.  But whoever is doing his paid campaign is playing to his weaknesses, not his strengths.
  • Okay, that’s that image.  The other one is all over the world, today and yesterday, and you’ve read all about it, too.




  1. bobbie says:

    This is an exceptional synopsis Warren!
    You’re bang-on!

  2. doconnor says:

    Once can debate the best way to deal with ISIS, but it has been clear from the beginning the dealing with the refugee crisis should have been the action and funding priority. Maybe now we won’t have to wait a few months for a new government to aggressively act on this.

  3. Matt says:

    Any VERIFIED information yet at to why the family’s refugee claim was rejected?

    680News in Toronto this morning reported the UN refused to recognize them as refugees because they didn’t meet the UN’s criteria for being declared refugees.

    They then tried to leave Turkey through official channels but were refused exit visas by the Turkish government.

    We need more information before jumping to conclusions.

  4. Derek Pearce says:

    Alexander was one of the bright young things, one of the non-fanatical when he was recruited to run. His Power & Politics appearance yesterday was a disgrace– it would be a disgrace no mater what party an Immigration Minister represents. I get the feeling that after he loses his seat he’ll be open publicly about how shitty it is to be controlled by the PMO.

    If Canada could take in over 50 000 Vietnamese refugees in 1979 when our population was roughly 24 million, we can definitely take in at least that many now that we’re at 35 million.

    • Mike says:

      Sorry but waiting until it is easy and convenient for you to expose something that is wrong (PMO control of MPs and ministers) is the cowards way out. And does nothing to change the situation. Until MPs and ministers take a stand and speak honestly and candidly not just regurgitate the PMO or party talking points nothing is going to change. And that applies regardless of what party forms government.

      Because if you think Mulcair and Trudeau are going to exercise significantly less control of their caucuses than Harper does you are sadly mistaken. And that’s the real problem with our system, not FPTP.

    • ralphonso says:

      I can forgive Alexander for failing the family, but for getting on TV and acting like that? What an ass. Deplorable.

    • cassandra says:

      yeah that alexander segment was just awful, how another human being can act so nasty with regards to such a horrific tragedy, means he has lost reason. I really think if con politicians are tired of being controlled by Harper, its time to step out and say so, publically and then step down as a con and run as an independent

  5. m5slib says:

    I see your point re: ISIS, but I’m not sure if the appetite is there. I think post Afghanistan and Iraq, Canadians and many in the West don’t have that sense of moral clarity around our role in these conflicts. We’re not the good guys vs “them”, the bad guys. This doesn’t mean people don’t see ISIS as terrible and needing to be eradicated, but I think Canadians wonder about involvement and the aftermath considering how the various conflicts in the Mideast have been connected.

    Re: the Trudeau ad, your response was the first thing I was looking for a couple days ago. I didn’t mind it, I liked the message. However, I think like everything Trudeau, either you love it or you hate it.

  6. ottawacon says:

    Like so many issues in this campaign, none of the parties looks anything less than terrible. There is a palpable sense that this could be a turning point, but each parties has a crippling liability on it. To me it is a defining moral question, and when I look at how that translates politically, there isn’t much there that does not disgust.

  7. Christian says:

    Agree on all points Warren. One of the things that disturbs and angers me about that second picture (among the many things not the least of which is the fact that I’m looking at a dead child who’s world was destroyed by adult fuck-ups) is that dead mgrants and refugees have been washing up on the beaches of Mediterranean countries for years now and ONLY now do we decide something has to be done. Absolutely shameful. And as you said I hope it changes both the NDP and Liberal positions RE ISIS. But I won’t hold my breath.

    As for Trudeau, totally agree. I used to run up the down escalator when I was a kid (and rightly got in shit for it). Not serious, not Prime Ministerial, a kid who just isn’t ready. For the meat-loving, koolaid drinkers defending this ad ask yourselves this: Would Trudeau senior do this ad? How about Mulroney or Chretien? Or even Harper? Would Stockwell Day do an ad like this? Exactly. It would have been far better to have the ad feature a middle class family on the escalator with Justin at the top or in voiceover. The Liberals should definitely fire whoever came up with this stupid ad.

    • Eeeeetienne says:

      Looks like I’m of the very few, but I like the ad. I like the mute-test, and I use it. It doesn’t work well with this one. Except, if you know just a little bit about Trudeau’s argument for the top job – that Canadians, or the middle-class, if you prefer, are falling behind and that government needs to do things differently – it kinds does work with the sound off.
      Would Mulroney, Chretien, Harper or Mulcair do an ad like this? Would his father? No. Of course not. But the young one is all about doing politics differently. This IS different. And this is 2015, where electors might very well be more disengaged than they were for any of those listed.
      What is it not? It’s not numbers and statistics, it’s not quotes from newspapers or experts, because who really feels convinced by those anymore? It’s not an attack on a opponent’s character. It’s not set in an office, or heard over scenery from the great Canadian wilderness or some other overused cliché. It’s not about the team but the team is not under attack, and the team isn’t what electors are making up their minds about. Besides, wouldn’t talking about the team be tantamount to admitting defeat, suggesting that the leader isn’t really up to it on his own? And speaking of the team, that didn’t really work out in 2006, 2008 or 2011. Lastly, it’s not like meeting Trudeau in person at a rally, which apparently is his forte, but it might be about as close to that as you can come to that through a screen.

  8. ralphonso says:

    It feels horrible and cheap to comment on the Justin Trudeau ad after reading the rest of the post, but when he gets to the top of the escalator I always expect him to say “SAVE. YO MONEY.”

    • Mark says:

      Do you mean like an ING/Tangerine commercial? That is definitely the vibe when you watch it without sound.

      With sound on, I thought the metaphor and the message were actually pretty good. But maybe if they had used an “average Canadian” on the escalator, or a whole line of people on the escalator or something? Maybe Justin is the one that flips the switch to Up? I don’t know, I’m no expert. But the visual, as it is now, is not flattering for Trudeau.

      • ralphonso says:

        Yeah, that guy. I got that feeling with the sound on, though.

        I don’t think the ad is terrible – but not top notch either. It’s a bit gimmicky and I feel like Trudeau is actually going past the viewer, not staying with them. But it is good enough.

  9. james norris says:

    drowned in the med
    assad and isis
    russia and china
    iraq war
    bush cheney

    In loving memory
    too slow to act
    too dumb to survive

  10. Curt says:

    Trudeau Ad. How come his lips are not in sync with his voice?

  11. doconnor says:

    Perhaps the ad would have been better if they used another actor.

    • Ridiculosity says:

      You’re right. They should have used Harper.

      He’s been delivering scripted lines for almost a decade.

      Albeit, badly.

  12. Lance says:

    I have five boys, one is this boy’s age. After seeing the picture of that poor little boy I can’t even find it in me to comment on Trudeau’s ad. Or ANY party’s political ad. It just all seems so…….fucking frivolous and depressing. 🙁

    If that was your point, Mr. Kinsella, then you made it like no other. If it wasn’t, you succeeded in doing that anyway. Thank you.

    • Eeeeetienne says:

      I can’t look at that picture. I have to turn away.

    • Nicole says:

      Even if the escalator ad was a mistake, I don’t think it is going to make an impact either way with Aylan’s picture dominating the news cycle today. And if the Reuters report is correct in that they have now offered Aylan’s father Canadian citizenship, then this undercuts what Alexander and the Conservatives were trying to use the justify why the rejection happened in the first place, which hasn’t been fully explained, but has something to do with Turkey and the UN not defining the family as refugees.

      It probably would have been a little easier to deal with this situation had the election not been called so early.

    • Jon Powers says:

      Have no fear – there’s a new twitter campaign: #refugeeswelcome. Problem solved, thanks to the brave hashtagging of the heroic progressives of the West. Why send CF-18’s, when we can all tweet from the comfort of our homes? Take that, ISIS.

      • Derek Pearce says:

        I’m not on Twitter so I don’t know how effective “hashtag activism” is, but we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can have our jets bombing ISIL while simultaneously taking in thousands more refugees, and at that much quicker, than the govt has so far been willing to do. I think that’s the point of #refugeeswelcome.

      • james norris says:

        art is the only way we can express the pain we feel for these children. have you seen the stunning images appearing in response on twitter. this is a tipping point not for a soulless cons ut for those of us who can still feel anything after ten years of soul deadening con talking points and lies.

  13. Scott says:

    I probably watch one ad out of one hundred with the sound off. Who the heck watches ads with the sound off? I’ve heard mainly positive comments on the ad.

  14. Mitch says:

    We cannot solve a problem created by the unthinking use of force in 2003 with more force in 2015. We have been bombing and fighting in this part of the world for 12 years and all we have done is make matters worse. If we spent a fraction of what we spend on arms on poverty reduction and aid we could save millions of people every year. Not as glamorous as blowing up “bad guys” but much more effective.

    As for the Trudeau add I thought it was excellent and I am more of an NDP guy most of the time.

    • Mervyn Norton says:

      Agreed, on both points. Unlike the robotic (soulless) Harper, Trudeau demonstrates that he can walk and talk at the same time. (The roving rant also works for Rick Mercer. His successors at This Hour Has 22 Minutes poke fun at Trudeau because that is their job.)

  15. Ridiculosity says:

    I am deeply saddened by the photo of the young Syrian boy.

    I am tired of being embarrassed by my government.

    I am certain that when Chris Alexander faces his God he will be unable to talk his way out of this one by trying to switch the topic to Iraq.

    Canada was once renowned for its compassion.

    What happened?


    Enough is enough.

    • James norris says:

      thank you

    • DougM says:

      From this afternoon’s news:

      The Canadian government says it never denied refugee applications from the family of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, whose lifeless body on a Turkish beach Wednesday sparked an international fervour.

      Earlier reports said Canada rejected a refugee application from the boy’s family in June. But the boy’s B.C.-based aunt clarified Thursday, saying she had not yet submitted an application to sponsor his immediate family. In fact, she had applied for another member of her family, she said.

    • cassandra says:

      well said!

  16. CanadianKate says:

    Warren: Personally I do feel we haven’t progressed in the past decade (except for Netflix and faster internet and more cheap stuff from China, India, etc.) so at first I liked the metaphor although I felt it had problems (for instance, you don’t reverse an escalator, you get on the right one – the image should have had him jumping the handrail onto the up escalator.)

    Would the ad been better had he used a treadmill and showed it speeding up (to represent working harder) and still not getting anywhere? He could then get off and and started walking with a a tag line – “In order to get ahead, it is time for a change” or something along that line?

  17. Michael Bluth says:

    Lawrence Summers was a paid keynote speaker at a party convention.

    Does that value of his endorsement tweet? Said tweet is in the ad that plays right after the elevator ad on the youtube channel.

  18. Dawn says:

    While I agree with your analysis, I just wonder if the emotional impact of this horrific image trumps the rational political calculations. Voters are often persuaded by less.

  19. Domenico says:

    I would take issue with part of your points. Refugees are coming primarily from Iraq, Syria and Libya. Iraq and Libya were “broken” by Western military intervention leading to the current instability/mayhem/exodus of refugees. And the intervention in Iraq directly lead to the emergence of Isil. How bombing Isil leads to a linear drop in refugees is a little difficult to comprehend. It sure hasn’t happened so far.

    • davie says:

      What Domenico says…we’ve been attacking Iraq (mostly Sunni Iraqis off and on ) since 1991, …1991, and the squalid Highway of Death butchery after the Iraqi army was complying with UNO resolutions to leave Kuwait.

      Our attack on Libya on behalf of NATO was surely a crime…we destroyed that society.

    • doconnor says:

      You may recall Libya was in a full scale civil war triggered by the Arab Spring before the West intervened. Now it is merely broken. There are no perfect solutions.

      Syria’s civil war was also triggered by the Arab Spring and the West didn’t intervene at first. It’s full scale civil war continues and will likely last for years and kill hundreds of thousands more.

      • davie says:

        1. Gaddafi regime was on the cusp of success of years getting Africa together to use a Libya financed currency for extraction and marketing of African commodities. RSA and Ghana were ready to join all the rest of Africa.
        2. West Europe and American financials are in a panic, especially in France and Britain (Keep in mind, Franc still collects yearly taxes “tribute’ from 13 of its former colonies)
        3. Benghazi uprising…where, it later turns out, Brit ‘diplomats’ and SAS are working- at something or other.
        4. Uprisings get closer to the capitol.
        5. African Union tries to get a cease fire.
        6. Regime forces capture town after town and restore regime’s hegemony…and are ready to move on Benghazi.
        7. Suddenly, we get warnings of a threatened massacre in Benghazi/
        8. We get reports on Al JI of regime war plane dropping a bomb on civilians in the capitol. No other agency reports this. No NGO reports this.
        9. African Union has deal on cease fire.
        10. NATO says R2p over Benghazi, and to prevent the massacre, attacks.
        11. Regime falls.
        12. African Union is irked. 30 journalist resign from Al Ji over alleged failure o ethics in reporting on Libya. Libya is in tatters. No more threat of an African currency for African commodities.

        Crime pays.

  20. zing says:

    Wow, that ad is really awful. Suits a discount auto insurance company or something similar…

  21. bobbie says:

    So as it turns out that rumour we heard, read about the gov’t rejecting the refugee claim was just turned on its head by the sister of the father of the two boys. Turns out the application was for another brother currently living in Germany with his family. The family of the two boys never made a claim.


  22. ottlib says:

    Regarding the terrible picture. Respectfully, those saying it somehow proves the Conservative approach to the conflict in the Middle East is the right one are wrong. The six Hornets and a few Air Weapons Control Officers did not prevent the tragic death of that young boy and they will not prevent the deaths of more as the refugee crisis continues. Only humanitarian aid and acceptance of more refugees could have and will prevent further tragedies. Or to put it another way, the approach proposed by both the Liberals and the NDP months ago might have prevented this tragedy. Or for that matter a hybrid of the Conservative and the Liberal/NDP approach. That is what outrages me the most about this whole thing. When the ISIS crisis hit Mr. Harper resorted to symbolism and jingoism over actual action that could have made a difference with the predictable tragic results.

    Regarding the not-so-terrible picture;

    There is a reason why Hollywood invented talkies.

    The highlighting of the weaknesses of an opponent’s position on a given issue while highlighting the strengths of your position is not negative. It is typical electioneering. When the Conservatives come out with ads, in the coming weeks, comparing Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Mulcair as reptilian kitten eaters, or some variation of that theme, that will be “going negative”.

    I agree the use of the first person in ads is kind of annoying but all of the Party Leaders have sidelined their teams during the first few weeks of the election. It is less an indication of a weakness of an individual campaign and more of an indication of the increasing presidentialization of Federal election campaigns in this country.

  23. Ted H says:

    Harper’s way of helping refugees by fighting ISIS (although Canada’s effectiveness is dubious) just shows that old adage ” If all you have in your toolbox is hammers, then every problem looks like a nail”.

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