Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Revising and Photoshopping

By now the "oylam" has read about how two (and counting) Yiddish newspapers recently published the famous photo of Barack Obama and his senior staff watching Osama bin Laden get taken down by the Navy SEALs  (Kol hakavod, by the way) but used Photoshop to remove the two women that were in the picture, in particular Hillary Clinton. 
Naturally there has been a storm of controversy over this decision.  On one side are the people who note that this kind of hypersensitivity to images of women in public, especially neutral ones in which the women in question are modestly dressed and supposed to be part of the picture, is not part of traditional Jewish sensitivities.  On the other side are the folks who say the opposite, that this is in fact a very mainstream Jewish sensitivity and if those on the first side think they're so religious why don't they know that?
Here's my thoughts on the issue.  On one hand, this matter did not have to go viral the way it did but the blame for that happening can be fixated on all the blogs that made the photoshop issue a headline one.  Yes, the decision to print the altered photo was stupid but had important Jewish blogs not picked up on it and given it all the publicity they did the outside world would not have discovered it either.  It would have remained the domain of the Yiddish speaking extremists these papers cater to.  If there is any ridiculing of Torah Judaism going on out there then the mainstream Jewish blogosphere has to take some of the blame.
On the other hand, there is the issue of photoshopping in the first place.  First of all, the photo was released by the White House to be used "as is".  Adjusting it was a breach of law as well as of establish protocol.  The newspapers in their apologies claimed that their right to religious freedom trumps everything and gives them the right to photoshop at will but claim doesn't stand up to scrutiny through the simple rejoinder: if you don't like the photo as is, don't print it!  In addition, the impression the rest of the world gets from these self-declared standard-bearers of Judaism is that our religious side is simply a shtreiml-wearing version of the Taliban, minus the suicide bombers.  All the protestations from the newspapers that they don't hold women to be second class citizens rings hollow.  They see them as lust objects that have to be kept out of sight lest their pure neshamos become tainted. (Judging by the idea that they consider Clinton a lust object, their standards are pretty damned low)  Do they not see the damage they are causing?
However, there is one more thing I'd like to consider.  Given the hyper-politically correct atmosphere in North America these days there are very few religious groups one can mock with impunity any more.  In fact, other than Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox Jews most other religions and ethnic groups guard their turf quite jealously to avoid being insulted.
All this makes me wonder: if the Yiddish newspapers were actually written in Arabic and catered to a Wahhabist population in the New York area, would the same photoshopping have come under such scrutiny and ridicule or would all the mainstream media outlets that picked up on this have looked the other way the better not to insult Islam?
Any way you look at it, this is a mess.


Bob Miller said...

Even the original unedited photo was only an exercise in PR. The great warrior Obama has shown no interest in bringing down other terrorist entities (nations, factions...) arrayed against the US and Israel, and often seems to encourage them.

SJ said...

The Charedim are at it again! I still don't see why you stand for this, Garnel. As a non-Charedi Orthodox Jew wouldn't you want to distance yourself as far as possible from these people?

But on the subject of Osama's defeat of Obama, I mean Obama's defeat of Osama... (Biiig difference!) XD

I must admit, I was very relieved to learn that Osama bin Laden is dead. In fact, I haven't wet my bed since! But I fear for this country. Osama bin Laden may be dead, but I think Al Quaeda is still a threat. The Islamofascist threat has certainly not yet been neutralized. Worse still, Obama bin Biden's economic policies could potentially do more damage to this great nation than the terrorists ever could! Hussein Obama gives me nightmares. I hope I don't resume wetting the bed.


P.S. Obama is still a douschbag!

Anonymous said...

What about spelling?

Bartley Kulp said...

But in all do seriousness what I would like to know is... How Chassidim in commonwealth countries are able to handle currency on their person. You know, with the erotic images of the Queen on it and all.

Garnel Ironheart said...

Bartley, money is always kosher!

Seriously though, remember the bills and coins have 2 sides and her majesty is only on one of those two.

SJ said...

For the record I did not write the above post in this thread. It is mostly something I would say though. O.o Except for the bed wetting part -.-

SJ said...

Blogger is finally up again and the above comment was not me.

Nishma said...

Your last point interests me. Would the press have treated this item in a similar fashion if it was an Arabic, Wahhabist paper? I am not sure but, in a certain way, the reason may actually have a positive aspect to it. First, there have been jokes made in the past regarding women within this Muslim world -- so there is the possibility that the same jokes would have also emerged in such circumstances. On the other hand, there is reason to believe that the jokes may not have been forthcoming because the treatment of women in this world is a serious matter. It may be that the media could joke about women in the Chassidic world because they know that essentially women still are not treated as badly as they are in this Muslim world. Honour killings of your sister don't happen in the Chassidic world because she was raped. Second, the Chassidim are still on seen as being on our side. The media could see themselves as laughing at friends rather than an enemy -- an enemy who might even want to blow them up because they were laughed at. In the end, it may be that an Arabic newspaper would not have been treated in the same manner but it may not be because their behaviours would be more respected. It may be that the ability to laugh at the Chassidim actually indicates a certain level of comraderie, as strange as that may seem.

Rabbi Ben Hecht