This week's Newsweek magazine features the cover on the right, which has not too surprisingly stirred outrage from conservatives (see here and here for some reactions) saying that the liberal media are out to get Michele Bachmann. Are they right? Yes and no. The charge some are making that the photo and headline represent sexism is hard to justify. Even if one granted that Bachmann was being treated unfairly, the fact that Newsweek selected an uncomplimentary photo of her doesn't mean that she's being treated differently specifically because of her gender. You'd have to produce some specifically gender-based evidence to sustain that charge, and as of yet, I haven't seen it.
On the other hand, they did pick a photo where she looks crazed. Bachmann does sometimes look that way, but presumably they had lots of shots from which to choose. I wouldn't be surprised if Newsweek chief Tina Brown, who knows a thing or two about buzz, picked that photo because she knew it would generate controversy. And it worked!
The "Queen of Rage" headline is where things get interesting. Is that accurate? To a degree, in the sense that Bachmann's primary appeal is to the GOP's angry wing. Her constituency is the resentful, the conspiracy-minded, the get-government's-hands-off-my-Medicare crowd (this applies to Bachmann herself, who personally profits from farm subsidies and Medicaid payments while decrying the tyranny of government spending). If you're looking for a sensible, experienced manager, Bachmann is not your candidate. What's interesting, though, is that as she stokes and profits from angry voters, she is extremely careful to keep a smile on her face. If Newsweek put an unflattering picture of Sarah Palin on its cover, you can bet she'd be whining about the lamestream media and their campaign to keep her down. But Bachmann hasn't said a thing about the Newsweek cover. She knows there's nothing to be gained by complaining, and the controversy is actually great for her. She's on the cover of a national newsmagazine, after all, and if Republicans want to portray her as a victim of the hated media, well that's more than fine. She'll be the happy warrior.
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