The Intersection

Time Co-Opts the Elephant’s Ass

i-ba415909fb2885c481b5c2da8882f622-Time Elephant's Ass.jpg

Um, maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t the above image look an awful lot like the image below?

i-b7892218defef18f66c872c7ad285ca0-RWOS Cover.jpg

What do you think, should I be annoyed by this, or flattered?


  1. #1 Drake Milton
    October 9, 2006

    You originally wrote: “What do you think, should I be pissed off, or flattered?”

    Neither. What’s next, you claim ownership of all broken glassware. It’s just an elephant. Get back to your book.

  2. #2 coby
    October 9, 2006

    you should trademark the elephant’s butt, and then next time sue!

  3. #3 Steve Reuland
    October 9, 2006

    I smell a lawsuit!

    Just kidding. You don’t have enough money for them to bother.

  4. #4 Brian
    October 9, 2006

    My direct impression is while similar, the visual metaphor is different. The book cover implies the elephant has just had a leisurely stroll over the scientific establishment, and the magazine cover is merely indicating departure.

    As far as the actual photo goes, there is no shortage of elephant photos.

  5. #5 Tyler DiPietro
    October 9, 2006

    You should be flattered. The image of gigantic, bumbling animals ass is a perfect form of iconography for the current state of the GOP. You invented it, they copied it.

  6. #6 Chris Mooney
    October 9, 2006

    I’m not claiming ownership of all images of elephants (or even all rear-view depictions), but it’s nevertheless a striking visual echo….

  7. #7 coturnix
    October 9, 2006

    Where are the droppings?

  8. #8 Rob Knop
    October 9, 2006

    There may be some inspiration … but it’s not really all that tremendously novel an idea. Elephants are the symbol of the GOP, and either showing one turning its back on you, or showing it’s mighty butt, is symbolism that is just asking to be used.

    I’d point to the confluence as an emerging meme and hope that we can exploit it to wake up the general voting populace as to just what this party is all about nowadays….

  9. #9 SMC
    October 9, 2006

    should I be annoyed by this, or flattered?

    This is, as I am fond of saying, not necessarily an “or” situation.

    But personally, I’d advise “amused”.

  10. #10 Ick of the East
    October 10, 2006

    I would say that Time’s image makes more sense. Especially with the tail swinging to the left.

    You should have had your elephant in a full frontal, and with a blank, stupid look on his face, plowing through a laboratory.

  11. #11 SkookumPlanet
    October 10, 2006

    Annoyance effects one’s thinking. If you’re flattered, you could then write a one- or two-sentence, humorous letter to the editor which mentions your book, of course. If they print it, being flattered just got you some great, free advertising

  12. #12 Chris Mooney
    October 10, 2006

    Good idea, Skookum. In any event, this will do wonders for my PowerPoint presentation.

  13. #13 Will
    October 10, 2006

    Clearly a different elephant ass. Yours has more of a hump and the feet are in a difference stance. Unless we’re talking about intellectual property? Whose elephant is on your cover?

  14. #14 Matthew C. Nisbet
    October 10, 2006

    This is a classic example of a “frame device,” a catchphrase, image, slogan, or symbol that immediately communicates a more complex underlying interpretation of an issue. It’s similar to the old adage that “A picture is worth a thousand words…”

    In the ROS cover, the frame device communicates a GOP trampling on science. The cover, much like the book, resonates with a more general interpretation of public accountability: who holds the GOP accountable for bending science to serve ideological goals?

    Other than being well written, well researched, and very entertaining, ROS has sold so well because it resonates with this frame, and the cover does an effective job of communicating this interpretation almost instantly.

    Frame devices float around out there in the media system. Sometimes a frame device that appears in one ideological segment of the media system will suddenly be adopted by a mainstream media outlet when that frame device resonates powerfully with a focusing event or emerging trend.

    Time magazine’s adoption of the elephant’s ass is similar to what Newsweek did last year just after Katrina with the “Bush in the Bubble” cover, and a similar frame device is being used to sell Woodward’s book “State of Denial.” See this post at Framing Science for more:

  15. #15 Jon Winsor
    October 10, 2006

    Frame devices float around out there in the media system.

    Yes, but in this case could it be any more obvious a knockoff?

    As T.S. Elliott said, amateurs borrow, professionals steal. It was a good idea, Chris, that’s why they stole it.

    At any rate, it will make a good addition to your opening spiel at book signings…

  16. #16 Matthew C. Nisbet
    October 10, 2006

    Since we are on the topic of framing…

    For those in the DC area, tomorrow I will be giving the following presentation at AAAS HQ as part of the Science Policy Alliance speaker series. Breakfast is at 730 and the talk kick-offs at 815. I’m told about 180 people have RSVPed. I hope some readers of the Intersection can make it!

    In the presentation, I explain why the dominant models of science communication–the science literacy and public engagement models–are incomplete, especially when thinking about how the public makes up its mind about contemporary controversies such as those over stem cell research or global warming.

    In fact, when thinking about the ‘mass public”–or how most Americans, most of the time make up their minds about these issues–there is nothing unique about science debates relative to ordinary political ones. The same rules and general patterns apply in understanding the interactions between strategic communication efforts, media coverage, and public opinion.

    I explain the widely misunderstood concept of framing, and show how framing is being used to activate partisanship and religious identity as “perceptual screens” that guide interpretations of controversial topics such as stem cell research and global warming. I also discuss how framing can be used as an engagement tool that complements current efforts focused on formal science education, mass mediated popular science, and deliberative forum/town hall type meetings.

  17. #17 llewelly
    October 10, 2006

    Where are the droppings?

    I believe GrrlScientist started that discussion

  18. #18 Carlie
    October 12, 2006

    I think that it would be fabulous if it became a meme, especially since my first thought on seeing it is Republican=elephant droppings. Can’t spread that message enough at the moment. Given the top headline of “What a mess”, I can’t help but think that was the message Time wanted to get across as well.

  19. #19 gspezio
    October 12, 2006

    Although, it is clearly cognitively incorrect (Lakoff et al) to even think about elephants, here I am knee deep in frames of gigantic elephant arses and giant piles of droppings. Once you let the goddamn elephants in, you have to deal with the inevitable poo-poo. A combination of humble materialism and literary theory, you might say.

    For the unsophistcated, poo-poo imagery is a slick framing device. Dumb droppings imagery is cleverly reframed to be scat catchy as in framing “science” and junior high school discourse. In Levi-Strauss (gallic framing science) it would frame out as elephant + pooh + CH4 = the hero’s arse as in Joseph Campbell. Man gotta scribble and type. Les poseurs gotta frame and reframe. Tenure good.

    Big Dick Cheney’s skillful framers may be clever and filthy rich, but they won’t get the best of me. Don’t think of elephant poo-poo either, you stupid schmuck. Change the frame. Get a new story and a new life. All is language (le discourse) and the stories we tell as in junior high school, linguistic theory, the laughing Buddha, and almost anything labelled spiritual.

    “Frame devices” are powerful tools like (similar to a simile but not completely) old black and white French post card pictures of hairy nekked ladies that poisoned our minds in junior high school. Getcha engaged and thinking big awlright. Crikey!

  20. #20 Phobos
    October 16, 2006

    flattered or annoyed? My first reaction was along the lines of annoyed…then flattered…but perhaps you should simply be thankful for the free advertising to coincide with the release of your paperback. 🙂

  21. #21 coturnix
    November 6, 2006

    Here are the droppings! Finally!

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