Abstract

When side-by-side photographs of the 2009 and 2017 U.S. presidential inauguration crowds circulated after President Trump's inauguration, few doubted what they saw: the crowd in 2017 was significantly smaller than it had been eight years earlier. Whereas popular discourse around the photo obsessed over size of the crowds, I argue that differences in contrast, color, and clarity suggest a different narrative than the logic of quantity: Trump will return an orderly, white national body, cleansed of Obama's unruly, sepia swarm. This essay re-reads a key moment of recent U.S. visual politics, turning what came to be read as either a joke or a preview of the “death of facts” as something more sinister: a visual harbinger of Trump's white supremacist program.

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