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

I'm a political theorist and Visiting Professor (through 2017) in the Program on Ethics, Politics and Economics at Yale. My interests include the history of political thought, toleration, democratic theory, political ethics, problems of coordination and convention, the realist movement in political theory, and the thought of David Hume. My first book, Ruling Passions: Political Offices and Democratic Ethics (Princeton, 2002) covered many of these topics, with a special focus on the varieties of democratic politics and the disparate qualities of mind and character appropriate to those who practice each of them. My second book Hume's Politics: Coordination and Crisis in the History of England was published in 2012; I am currently finishing a book on toleration, with the working title The Virtues of Hypocrisy, under contract with Harvard University Press. A Los Angeles native, I got my B.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard. Before coming to Yale I taught at Vanderbilt and at UCLA, where I was an Assistant, Associate, and Full Professor; and held visiting positions at Williams, Harvard, and Princeton. I am married to Miriam Laugesen, who teaches health policy and the politics of health care at the Mailman School of public health at Columbia, and we have a twelve-year-old son.