A Tale of Two Photo-Ops
The term photo-op is short for photograph opportunity. According to wikipedia, the term was coined during the Nixon administration:
The term was coined by the administration of US President Richard Nixon. William Safire credited its coinage to Bruce Whelihan, an aide to Nixon Press Secretary Ron Ziegler. Ziegler would say Get ’em in for a picture, and Whelihan would dutifully announce to the White House press room, There will be a photo opportunity in the Oval Office.
The term has acquired a negative connotation, referring to a carefully planned pseudo-event, often masqueraded as news. It is associated with politicians who perform tasks such as planting trees, picking up litter, and visiting senior citizens, often during election cycles, with the intent of photographers catching the events on film, generating positive publicity.
The event that produced the two photo-ops, put on by Meals Wheels, is called Community Champions Day. In this Missoulian article featuring a photo of Missoula city councilwoman Caitlin Copple, the event is described as a day of awareness:
For Missoula City Councilwoman Caitlin Copple, volunteering with the Missoula Aging Services’ Meals on Wheels program is about more than dropping off a nutritious, hot meal to elderly and homebound clients. It’s also a chance to connect on a personal level with some of her constituents and meet people who she otherwise wouldn’t get to know.
“I’ve done it the past two years, and it’s a whole lot of fun,” she said. “I think it’s an important service to our community and it kind of exposes me to a different group of people than I come in contact with as a 30-year-old Missoulian.”
Copple, along with several other local and state officials, volunteered on Thursday to ride along with the regular drivers who volunteer for the Meals on Wheels program. They were taking part in Community Champions Day, an annual event meant to raise awareness for the Meals On Wheels Association of America, or MOWAA.
I think it would probably be unfair to depict Copple’s photo-op as a little media rehab for the hits she took leading the charge against sitting on sidewalks in downtown Missoula. I do wonder, though, when Copple is quoted as having “done it the past two years” if that just means doing this annual, one day event twice, or if there is more implied volunteering happening.
The photo-op that does deserve more acute criticism is Steve Daines, because he really is a Cylon corporatist shill. Count on Cowgirl for tossing out red meat so commenters can lash out at Daines and…Meals on Wheels? Apparently.
Why did the Area Agencies on Aging let him do this? Who’s in charge over there? So they just say –sure, we’ll let you pretend to support this and vote to cut it – why didn’t they say no, you voted to cut the program , that would be dishonest to Montana seniors? Show some backbone people and stop helping Daines lie to the public. Incompetence abounds.
Publius II agrees:
Excellent point, those coordinators – who volunteer (unlike the ‘paid’ DO nothing congressman) – should NOT have been ‘swooned’ by this guy, but
put him on the spot and tell him to show some moral courage….the little funding and volunteers are HELPING a heck of a lot more seniors than ‘Do Nothing, Shut Down’ Steve can accomplish, denying healthcare to the grand-children (remember GOP always ‘whining’ about the burden on future generations, but don’t acknowledge a polluted world) while
peddling his ‘snake oi’……………
The best part of the Cowgirl comment thread comes from a Meals on Wheels staff member, Curt Hammond, who says this:
I’m the Nutrition Program Manager for the Meals on Wheels Program in Missoula. Mr. Daines was our guest on Monday. This photo-op was not “staged” as you imply. We asked him to participate in our “Community Champions Day” which is part of a month-long fundraising campaign to support our local program. Mr Daines packed up the meals for his route and went out into the community and our CEO drove him to deliver about 10 meals to the clients on that route (it was a small route to accommodate his schedule). He was able to see some of the homes of our most at risk clients. We gave Mr. Daines an opportunity to learn what the impact our program has on a person’s ability to remain safe and independent in their own home, and I appreciated that he listened to our concerns about budget cuts. While I may not agree with his politics, I applaud him for participating in our event and for delivering meals that day.
What does Hammond get in response? Comments like this:
Wow. Yikes – you make him a community champion for voting to cut and even eliminate the program! Incredible.
Daines does not have a soul, he sold it a long time ago
Hammond makes one more reply:
All those who chose to participate in this event were given the opportunity to see first-hand the importance of the program. Perhaps as a result he will become our advocate – perhaps not, but we are doing our part to educate all participants on the realities of senior hunger.
The shots at Meals on Wheels are grossly misplaced, and Hammond does a good job taking the risk of commenting on a blog to counter the smears.
Spring is the season makes crocuses and photo-ops bloom.