May 9, 2011 at 2:50 PM ET
Note: See update at end of this post.
We've had a lot of fun with Photoshop since the White House first uploaded the "Situation Room" image to its Flickr account on May 2, complete with this disclaimer: "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."
Yeah, good luck with that White House.
By May 4, the now-iconic image showing President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and members of the national security team gathered inside the White House Situation Room as they received updates on the mission against bin Laden, was closing in on the most viewed photo on Flickr. It was also the victim of all manner of manipulation — a game controller in the hands of the president, Princess Beatrice's Cthulhu hat on the head of everyone in the room, The Situation of "Jersey Shore" fame (shirtless, natch) — if it was ridiculous, someone 'shopped it.
The most notorious, and arguably most amateur Situation Room Photoshop however, came from Orthodox Hasidic Jewish newspaper, Der Tzitung, in which Hillary Clinton is completely removed from the photo. Unlike the memes making the rounds, this 'shop wasn't done for lulz. The newspaper wasn't looking to visually change history either — just maintain its own. The highly religious newspaper never publishes pictures of women on account of it could be "sexually suggestive."
The Secretary of State wasn't the only temptress taken out of the photo. Counterterrorism analyst Audrey Thomason, seen standing way way in the back, was also obliterated from the photo.
Note: Not all Jews in journalism are cool with this fauxtograph, including the one writing this post. Seriously. My Bubbe could do a better Photoshop, and she's been dead for like, 20 years.
Jewish Week's Rabbi Jason is somewhat more articulate on the subject:
Der Tzitung edited Hillary Clinton out of the photo, thereby changing history. To my mind, this act of censorship is actually a violation of the Jewish legal principle of g'neivat da'at (deceit).
"Apparently, the concern was that this could lead to mixed dancing in the White House situation room," quipped Adam Dickter, also of Jewish Week. Then he said some really smart stuff:
If they think their readers can’t handle the image of powerful women, haredi or chasidic papers like Der Tzitung would do well to leave out future photos of mixed-sex gatherings instead of doctoring them again. Apart from being intellectually dishonest, it presents religious Judaism as ridiculous in the eyes of the world, a transgression far worse than casting eyes on a woman who has earned a position of authority.
Every other second in this country, a women is the victim of hideous Photoshopping. From a freakishly wasp-waisted Demi Moore to the bisected body of Christina Hendricks, the assault on our eyesight is never ending. At the very least, allow women their rightful place in history —or just don't use the picture.
Update: In an email statement sent to the Washington Post, Der Tzitung writes an explanation, "Our photo editor realized the significance of this historic moment, and published the picture, but in his haste he did not read the 'fine print' that accompanied the picture, forbidding any changes."
That’s cool, neither did the rest of the Internet.
The statement goes on to read, "We should not have published the altered picture, and we have conveyed our regrets and apologies to the White House and to the State Department." It also does a bang-up job of explaining the religious beliefs that prevent it from publishing pictures of women, and is aggressive in its defense: "The allegations that religious Jews denigrate women or do not respect women in public office, is a malicious slander and libel."
But like that one friend who’s sorry — sorry that you’re mad at him but not for what he did — Der Tzitung never really takes responsibility for the big issue.
Nobody cares that Der Tzitung broke White House photo publishing rules. Do you see us hating on Reddit? Then again, nobody believes everybody in the Situation Room was wearing Princess Beatrice’s Cthulhu hat.
Unlike Reddit, Der Tzitung is a newspaper, aka "history’s first draft." Women are rightfully sensitive about not getting our props, and everyone should be sensitive about consciously manipulated journalism. If Der Tzitung couldn’t use the image as it appeared, it shouldn’t have published a lie.
Read the full statement here.
More on the annoying way we live now: