Doesn’t that title sound silly?
We have always been able to lie with words. Humans have told lies of omission, lies of commission, duplicitous lies, lies of complicity and so on. And we have done it with words. Tall tales, telling tales, spinning yarns, fairy tales–and we could list more names we affix to half-truths that might have come from life but have been twisting in the winds of time until they are, out-n-out, downright, dirty lies. Or stories we tell children.
We have regularly also created fictional worlds with words (technically, fiction in print or on flim are lies according to the Thermians from the Klaatu Nebula). And in fiction, or even nonfiction, we make choices about what we choose to include or not. Omission.
We do it with images, too. Remember the scandals surrounding various starlets who said the camera “lied”? The camera puts on 10 pounds or takes off 25 pounds or whatever. There’s also Photoshop. Sarah Palin in a bikini holding a rifle anyone? And there was photographic “evidence” of fairies (the Cottingley Fairies, they are known) that everyone thought were real, too, once upon a time–only the kids who did it finally confessed it was all a big fat lie.
We lied with paintings, too–the human race, I mean (not sure the painting elephant purposely evades “truth”). Ever see Napoleon I on his horse by David, ascending the Alps to embody the supreme conqueror of all time? It took the artist years to “compose.”
(Lies, Damned Lies, & Statistics–courtesy of Mark Twain, famous 19th century American author, and perhaps before him, Benjamin Disraeli, Victorian Prime Minister).
Napoleon I (bound for glory!) by Jacques-Louis David (1801-1805)
I think it’s gorgeous, don’t you? The red cape is stunning against the dramatic blue skies. Napoleon is so dramatically leader-like, as I imagine he was in real life–look what he did.
But I have a few issues with this particular portrait.
- Napoleon is not that big.
- Or that’s the smallest horse in the history of the world.
He was only about as tall as I am (5’7″)–not a giant, but this looks massive here and commanding in relation to the powerful horse.
My. Wonder whose idea that was? But it’s not the “truth”–it’s a metaphor for Power.
Soon we’ll be looking at maps through the lens of visual rhetoric. I want to bring the ideas in collision that words and images have ever been used to create feelings, thoughts, evoke responses in readers and viewers throughout our recorded history. This business isn’t new, the visual rhetoric; it’s as old as the cave paintings at Chauvet-Pont-D’Arc. Visual rhetoric is as old as Holy Roman Emperors who used coins for propaganda or created images of themselves as saints in the windows of cathedrals to let people know the order of things: God-King-the rest of you.
The thing about communication is that it’s worthy of investigation and thinking and questioning, always. No communicative moment is entirely perfect (well, not usually–though, you can certainly have a moment when you and your best friend just “know” it’s time for ice cream). We are in a place of higher education to think about communicative moments, and in this particular learning place, in Honors Comp 2, online and blogging to explore and delve deep into how truth and lies are told in words and images (and even through sounds, too–playlists from fall term!).
And that is exactly what we are doing.