Fog and Pestilence
Satire is ironic ridicule with a militant edge. Raised to a high art by the Romans, satire is commonly deployed to critique folly, vice, abuse, or failure. The best satire operates just off the edge of reality. Consequently, it can be misunderstood as real, especially when it takes photographic form.
In the early hours of January 20, 2021—after the morning departure of Donald Trump and just before Joe Biden assumes the presidency—hazmat-suited fumigators fog the Oval Office. In some circles, the symbolism is greeted with glee and with wide circulation of the photograph.
The fumigation photograph is a composite. The base image shows the replica Oval Office at the Clinton Presidential Center and Library in Little Rock, Arkansas in 2016. (A 4000 x 2667 pixel version is free for the taking at Shutterstock.) The fumigators are government employees in Buenos Aires spraying for Aedes aegypti mosquitos, also a stock image. ($49.99 from Alamy.)
The Oval Office fumigating image was assembled in 2017 by the satirical newspaper Waterford Whispers News, described as the Irish equivalent of The Onion. They posted it on May 10, 2017 under the headline “Oval Office Fumigated After Complaints of Overwhelming Smell of Bullshit.” A delicate membrane, however, separates satire and the real world. Ironically, this image is false, but the White House and Oval Office are, in fact, quickly and thoroughly cleaned in the moment of presidential transition. In truth, after the Trumpian pandemic year, an extra $200,000 was spent on the White House chemical blitz.