The ZOOM Bookshelf

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How many of you try to identify books on the bookshelves of your favorite television pundits as they broadcast from home? (I’ve noticed that Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton and David McCullough’s biography of John Adams are popular).

When you are on a ZOOM call do you find yourself looking past the speaker to see what titles are on the shelves?

If so, you are not alone. Here is Amanda Hess at The New York Times:

Imagine that you are a member of the expert class — the kind of person invited to pontificate on television news programs. Under normal circumstances, your expertise might be signaled to the public by a gaudy photograph of skyscrapers superimposed behind your head. But now the formalities of the broadcast studio are a distant memory, and the only tools to convey that you truly belong on television are the objects within your own home. There’s only one move: You talk in front of a bookcase.

As the broadcast industry shelters in place, the bookcase has become the background of choice for television hosts, executives, politicians and anyone else keen on applying a patina of authority to their amateurish video feeds. In March, when the coronavirus put the handshaking and baby-kissing mode of presidential campaigning on pause, Joe Biden conspicuously retreated from public view for several long days as his team scrambled to project an air of competence from within Biden’s basement. When he finally re-emerged, it was in front of a carefully curated wall-length bookshelf punctuated with patriotic memorabilia like a worn leather football and a triangle-folded American flag.

In April, an anonymous Twitter account, Bookcase Credibility, emerged to keep an eye on the trend and quickly accumulated more than 30,000 followers. Its tagline is “What you say is not as important as the bookcase behind you,” and it offers arch commentary on the rapidly solidifying tropes of the genre as well as genuine respect for a well-executed specimen. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki appears before “a standard credibility wallpaper presentation in the unthreatening homely style.” The migrants’ rights activist Minnie Rahman’s Encyclopaedia Britannica collection “is a lazy hand wafted at convention.” And the British politician Liam Fox’s “bold grab at credibility is somewhat undermined by the hardback copy of The Da Vinci Code.”

Read the rest here.