Blegging for photo: apathy in the U.S.

Bleg for a remembered photo: a political rally where most people aren’t watching the stage.

This is a naked bleg, I’m afraid, but I don’t do this often and the results could be fun.

A while ago–high school, I’m thinking, or perhaps early in college (i.e. probably around 1985-89) I saw in a textbook (American history? Possibly psychology?) a photo of a political rally.  The funny thing was that lots of people in the rally–if you looked closely, something like a majority–weren’t watching the stage.  They were looking at each other, laughing at friends’ jokes, looking at the ground or into space, whatever. I seem to remember the caption telling me that this was a classic photo whose detail had caused social scientists to rethink the false collective of an “audience” uniformly paying attention to the action.  And the photo certainly seemed to replicate the feeling of every rally I’ve been at, except at the climax of a big speech. Rallies are long, and nobody has the patience to pay attention to every introductory speech by a deputy assistant city councilperson.

Does anybody have any idea what picture I’m talking about and where to find it? It’s not an exciting question, I know, but might be an easy one for the right person–especially if I’m right and it really is a classic. And if it’s out of copyright, I promise to post it so you can see why it struck me so much.

Author: Andrew Sabl

Andrew Sabl, a political theorist, is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto. He is the author of Ruling Passions: Political Offices and Democratic Ethics and Hume’s Politics: Coordination and Crisis in the History of England, both from Princeton University Press. His research interests include political ethics, liberal and democratic theory, toleration, the work of David Hume, and the realist school of contemporary political thought. He is currently finishing a book for Harvard University Press titled The Uses of Hypocrisy: An Essay on Toleration. He divides his time between Toronto and Brooklyn.