“Is Seeing Believing?”

I was struck by a response to my post about aging and the Cover Girl model. The writer suggested that the image had been Photoshopped. That seems very likely. Much has been written recently about how the widespread photoshopped images of women throughout the media have convinced ordinary women that there is something ugly about them. While that is disturbing, at least many of us have become aware of that practice.

More upsetting, however, is the kind of photo manipulation now prevalent in many arenas. Most recently the National Archives of the United States mounted an exhibit about women’s suffrage. In the first image they displayed they had altered the image to remove, among others, mentions of Trump, the word vagina and the word pussy. They defended this travesty with the excuse that they wanted to be nonpolitical and not offend children. How can an exhibit about women’s suffrage be nonpolitical? And what American child over the age of 6 hasn’t heard the words vagina and pussy?

Fortunately a sharp eyed reporter noticed something odd about the image and confronted the National Archives. After the lame excuses, they took the photo down and replaced it with the original unaltered picture. But if a place created to store an archive of American history feels free to manipulate images, there is no stopping others with more nefarious intents.

Sadly most adults past middle age had no training in manipulated photos. In fact, if we wanted to change a photo we had to use a pair of scissors. I have seen photo albums with holes where the face of a disgraced person once appeared. Now the person can be deftly removed from the photo as if he had never been there. But someone can easily be swayed by the “evidence” presented.

The media will be filled with manipulated images in the months leading to the national election here. May we be alert and not fall victim to the trap of “seeing is believing.”

23 thoughts on ““Is Seeing Believing?”

  1. They can do it with videos as well. Such as saying a president said this or that. They can also clip comments out of context and rearrange them and do whatever they want. You think governments are in control? Oh my, no. The media is. So much control and they don’t want to lose it. I worked for small newspapers for 14 years and I never saw one person manipulate a photo and only once did I see someone manipulate a story to benefit someone else. Anything else we were accused of was not intentional. I attended a conference about ethics in journalism maybe 17 years ago and we were told to never edit things out to change the meaning of a photo – not even a telephone wire. It was a different time and I can bet they never hold those conferences now. Instead they probably hold conferences on how to manipulate it instead. Also, I know plenty of children over the age of six who haven’t heard the word pussy unless it’s a cat and I don’t think they should have to. If you are going to use crude language to condemn a person for being crude then what makes you better than that person? Not much. What I see today is nastiness being used to fight nastiness and I don’t see how that helps. I disagree with those photos being manipulated – If children see them then explain the context, I’d say.

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    1. I am glad that there are children who haven’t been exposed to that knowledge either on the playground or from cable news. I don’t think they should learn it either, just acknowledge that many do. I don’t agree with responding to nastiness with nastiness either.

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        1. I just think off the top of my head sometimes and it sounds like arguing instead of sharing my thoughts. I either under explain or over explain and with that comment I over explained. I was annoyed at the media, not you at all. I sincerely apologize for that coming out that way! I loved your post.

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  2. Sadly, it is not a modern invention. During the early Soviet Era, Stalin had the lives and images of those he had ‘purged’. They disappeared from group photos, and their names vanished from books and captions. I bought this book, many years ago.
    As far back as Ancient Rome, faces were removed from statues, and names from graves and official plaques.
    https://www.amazon.com/Commissar-Vanishes-Falsification-Photographs-Stalins/dp/1849762511
    Best wishes, Pete.

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  3. The manipulation of data doesn’t stop at photographs, Elizabeth. Books and other written communications can also be easily doctored. You have read 1984 by George Orwell I am sure. That book is a real eye opener about where this could go.

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  4. Thank you for this post, Elizabeth. I found it alarming, as you did, that an exhibit at the National Archives of the United States would manipulate an image this way – to me that tells a lie about history.

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