The news photo of the Osama bin Laden war room has quickly become iconic in the annals of U.S. politics. Yet readers of the Hasidic Jewish newspaper Der Tzitung might have no idea that Hillary Clinton or counterterrorism analyst Audrey Thomason were in the room, as the paper’s editors decided to erase the women from the photo. That the White House released the photo to media outlets under the stipulation that the photograph could not be altered may only be the beginning of the trouble Der Tzitung may face for attempting to alter history.
The deceit of Photoshopping history
Rabbi Jason Miller of Detroit, Mich., reports for The Jewish Week that the image in its original form was far from offensive. Clinton is wearing a long-sleeved blazer and is covering her mouth, no doubt shocked by the intensity of the bin Laden raid. All that is visible of Thomason is her head. However, the editors of Der Tzitung chose not to print images of the women in concert with its interpretation of ultra-Orthodox Jewish laws regarding sexually suggestive images. The rest of the photo remained unaltered.
Miller suggests that by editing Clinton and Thomason out, Der Tzitung changed history, which could conceivably violate the Jewish legal principle of g’neivat da’at, or deceit. Photoshopping (or “Fauxtograpphing,” as Miller calls it) an image arguably alters the truthful depiction of events. The White House released the bin Laden war room photo to the media with the following disclaimer:
“This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.”
Der Tzitung’s reply
Der Tzitung admitted in a statement that the newspaper’s photo editor failed to notice the “fine print” added to the photo by the White House and acknowledged that the it should not have published the altered photo. The publication stated that “the Jewish religion does not allow for discrimination based on gender” and that it “respects all government officials.”
However, Der Tzitung also reminds all that it adheres to Constitutional tenet of freedom of religion and believes that takes precedence over freedom of the press. The newspaper argues that it does not relegate women to a lower status but does not publish pictures of women due to religious laws involving modesty:
“We are not allowed to publish pictures of women, and we regret if this gives an impression of disparaging to women, which is certainly never our intention. We apologize if this was seen as offensive.”
The Jewish Week: http://bit.ly/lWgFB2
Wikipedia entry for Hasidic Judaism: http://bit.ly/bXjdEJ
Hillary Clinton in the Osama bin Laden situation room
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