Feb 12 2012

Photo of the Year

The international jury of the 55th annual World Press Photo Contest has selected a picture by Samuel Aranda from Spain as the World Press Photo of the Year 2011. The picture shows a woman holding a wounded relative in her arms, inside a mosque used as a field hospital by demonstrators against the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, during clashes in Sanaa, Yemen on 15 October 2011. Samuel Aranda was working in Yemen on assignment for The New York Times. He is represented by Corbis Images.

While I agree that the photo is beautiful and the photographer did a brilliant job capturing that very moment, I am not totally convinced that it’s good enough to be the ‘photo of the year’.

First of all, I don’t think the photo really captures the significance of the Arab Spring. The shot could have been taken anywhere in the world and at any time. If someone told me it’s been taken 10 years ago in Saudi, or Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iran, or France, or Belgium, or Canada, I would still have believed them. Okay, maybe not in France, Belgium or Canada, since they have banned Niqab.

More importantly, the photo was chosen because it shows a different image of how Niqabi women are preconceived. Basically, it humanizes them … and it is exactly that argument that I am opposed to. Just because a woman opted to wear a Niqab does not rid her of feelings. They are mothers, sisters and daughters, who have feelings and emotions. They are humans! The photo challenges a stereotype that in 2012 should no longer be a stereotype.

American documentary photographer, Nina Berman, commented on the photo:

“In the Western media, we seldom see veiled women in this way, at such an intimate moment. It is as if all of the events of the Arab Spring resulted in this single moment – in moments like this.”

Having said that, the photo of the year, and rightly so, could have reflect the Arab Spring in a better way, and I personally think there are dozens of photos out there that succeeded in illustrating the Arab Spring more gloriously. Here are my top 10 Arab Spring photos:

Feb 8 2011

A big lump in my throat

I went to sleep last night with a big lump in my throat.

Wael Ghonim’s interview on Dream 2 TV was not what I expected it to be.

The part that paralyzed me the most, as I watched a very emotional Wael shedding tears and tears of what probably is mixed feelings of pain, frustration, disbelief, angst, joy, sadness and pride, was the fact that Wael was truly one of us!

What I thought would be a young man talking about revolutions, rebellious ideologies, principles, socialism, patriotism, fundamentalism, hatred for fascism, totalitarianism, radicalism, and a lot of other affixes ending with –ism, turned out to be a very, VERY, normal person who had a dream. Just another guy who believed in something pure, something better, a dream he and other “dreamers” realized.

Obviously, Wael is not an ordinary guy. He did spark the revolution after all. But what’s astonishingly cool about him is how ordinary he makes it all look. He kept repeating, after being arrested and blind-folded for 12 days, how he’s not a hero, how he’s not to be symbolized, how he didn’t do anything but type a few words on a few websites on the internet.

But Wael typed the right words at the right time on the right websites and managed to attract the right audiences for the right cause … and lo and behold, Jan 25 was born.

You can watch the interview with English subtitles here.

Feb 6 2011

Kenneth Cole is a jerk

By now you must have heard about the cruel, insensitive, tasteless, inhuman, tweet that Kenneth Cole posted.

If you haven’t then here’s a quick recap: last Friday, the Friday of DepartureKenneth Cole‘s official twitter handle blurted:

To make it a perfect storm of a PR disaster for KC, the tweet was personally sent by the man himself, as described in his twitter bio: “Thoughts that end in -KC are from me personally“, which it did, because in my opinion, no social media guy, as ignorant as they may be sometimes, would tweet a line that obnoxious.

Obviously, once tweeted, all hell broke lose! The most interesting of all responses, though, was the creation of a parody Kenneth Cole PR twitter handle, tweeting Kenneth Cole-like heartless puns:

Parents of Hiroshima — you’ll melt when you see our new kids collection!
You’re gonna want to Abu Ghraib one of our hoodies before they’re gone.
Hey, Pope Benedict – there’s no way to fondle our spring shoes inappropriately!
Of course there are no gays in Iran, they’re all shopping at my new outlet in Dubai!
Rolling through Germany? Gestapo by our new Berlin store!

Later on, of course, KC deleted his tweet and issued an apology (interesting comments there by the way). But it was too little, too late. He has already misused a noble cause, stolen an honorable hashtag to associate with his shoes and mocked the hopes and aspirations of millions of people, of whom dozens have died so far and some are still MIA till this moment, struggling to outcast a dictator. Too little, too F—-N late, Kenneth!

Mind you, this is all not new to Cole. A bit of googling around the internets showed that insensitivity and lameness is his thing. Without them he’s just another shoe maker. It was not the first time he used obnoxious puns to promote his work. War in Iraq? Homelessness? AIDS? 9/11? Religion? Katrina, Bird FluFlight 1549 (the one that landed on the Hudson)? You name it! … It’s like this guy is anxiously waiting for the next disaster to occur to use it for his benefit.

But, LOL, unfortunately for Mr. Cole, and for our amusement, it doesn’t end there. That same night, an outraged prankster has, deservingly so, affixed a decal of the same tweet, word for word, on one of KC’s branches. Thank you, Mr. Prankster!

Kenneth Cole single-handedly managed to hurt his brand and he hurt it real bad. And unless he dedicates some time and effort to the Egyptian cause, I’m betting this is going to be a tough one for him to get out of.

Finally, here are some good tips to follow when tweeting, especially if you’re doing so on behalf of a brand:

  1. Be Sensitive. Never, ever use a political, environmental or civic crisis to promote your company or your products. It reeks of opportunism.
  2. Be Positive. As a business entity, you should never post negative comments about others on Twitter. You’re the only one that will end up looking bad.
  3. Be Clear. Make sure you have a policy regarding who in your company may post using the company’s official Twitter account, and make sure you offer them training on what is and isn’t appropriate. Make clear the ramifications for misuse.
  4. Be Clean. Never use profanities or other vulgar terms in a tweet. Once again, it will only make you look bad, and you’ll likely offend customers, too.
  5. Be Literate. Don’t follow in the footsteps of Sarah Palin or George W. Bush: Make sure it’s a word before you make it public.
  6. Be Careful. Last but definitely not least, remember that using social media is a little bit like driving. Don’t do it while intoxicated, and always think twice before you tweet.

Now having said all that, what’s the first adjective that comes to your mind which rhymes with Cole? Yep, that’s right.