Covers and Culture

Posted by Jay Livingston

September 27, 2006

Newsweek’s website shows the covers for their international editions. One of these things is not like the others. Can you tell me which one is not like the others? And why?

Is this just a “one-off” (as the British say), a unique occurrence? OK, here are the covers from the previous week (thanks to sociologist-blogger Kieran Healy).

Does Newsweek’s choice tell us something about American culture — that we prefer “lifestyle stories” to real news, especially when the news is bad? Annie Liebowitz, a very successful photographer who does portraits of the famous, here with her children; but spare us “losing Afghanistan.” Successful women— young, pretty, and smiling— but not China or Russia.
I’m reminded of a line from “The House of Sand and Fog.” Ben Kingsley as Behrani, an Iranian immigrant, a man who has worked hard and lived according to principle to achieve some moderate success, speaks to his son: “Americans, they do not deserve what they have. They have the eyes of small children who are forever looking for the next source of distraction, entertainment, sweet taste in the mouth.”

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