This article argues that while the linguistic turn in mainstream IR is important in broadening how IR approaches global communications, the linguistic turn has its limitations because mainstream IR tends to, in Mattelart’s terms, ‘ex-communicate’ the visual from the linguistic. This is highly problematic, considering, firstly, that popular visual language is increasingly the language that amateurs and experts rely upon in order to claim contemporary literacy and, secondly, that much politics is conducted through popular visual language. If the challenge of this Special Issue is to think about how to bring the discipline of IR to meaningful, political life, then a very good place to start is by asking mainstream IR (again) to take popular visual language seriously as an important aspect of contemporary global communication. This article makes this demand of the discipline of IR. It does so by presenting a case-study – the official US remediation of United Airlines Flight 93 – as an illustration of how contemporary global communications move from the textual to the visual and of what is lost in not taking this move seriously. In particular, it claims that by failing to analyse popular visual language as integral to global communications, mainstream IR risks misunderstanding contemporary subjectivity, spatiality, and temporality.