Unethical Quote of the Week: Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.)

“It’s an accurate historical record of who the Democratic women of Congress are. It also is an accurate record that it was freezing cold and our members had been waiting a long time for everyone to arrive and that they had to get back into the building to greet constituents, family members, to get ready to go to the floor.”

—- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, lamely and absurdly defending  her posting of a digitally altered photograph of female Democrats in the House, which added several members who were unable to attend to shoot to the members actually in attendance.

Except for the fact that a digitally-altered photo is not an accurate historical record and she knows it, Pelosi’s statement is completely reasonable and honest. The Washington Post published the unaltered photo.

A digitally altered photograph that misrepresents an event by inserting individuals who were not present is ethically indistinguishable from the old Soviet Union practice of excising the images of purged officials from official photographs. It is a lie. It represents an effort to alter history, and mislead viewers of the historical record. Which is more disturbing: that a high-ranking U.S. government official blandly endorses this deceptive practice with connections to totalitarian propaganda, or that Nancy Pelosi calls a doctored photo an accurate historical record?

She is and has ever been an ethically-deficient disgrace to her district, her state and Congress.

[And as an aside, I believe that a gender-segregated photo of female legislators is sexist, prejudicial and hypocritical. Every one of these women would scream if, for example, Republican House members posed for a photo excluding the women in their number.]

_______________________________

Facts: Washington Post

43 Comments

Filed under Ethics Quotes, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics

43 responses to “Unethical Quote of the Week: Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.)

  1. It’s worse. The others weren’t “unable to attend.” They were late.

  2. And it’s not that California needs any more embarassment. There’s plenty to go around in our “poor-excuse-of-a” State.

  3. Altering history is a practice that Nancy Pelosi and her cohorts are adept at. This is actually small potatoes for her. It merely once again reveals her casual mindset toward the truth when inconvenient.

  4. Re the photo: The only thing that bugs me (other than how poorly done the Photoshop job was) is that it wasn’t announced when the photo was posted.

    If they had posted the exact same (altered) photo, accompanied by a caption identifying the four figures that had been inserted digitally, then it would have been fine with me. They wanted an illustration of their new record (this is the most women ever in the Democratic caucus), and I don’t see anything wrong with using digital means to make an illustration, as long as there’s full disclosure.

    About your claim of sexism, I think you’re being ridiculous. Many of these women are now in their 60s and 70s, and the near-total exclusion of women from congress is something that happened during their lifetimes, and that they themselves have been part of reversing. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a photo commemorating that achievement.

    Since there has, in fact, been no exclusion of men from Congress to be painstakingly overcome, your “what if they excluded the women from an all-male photo” reversal is, frankly, idiotic. An all-male photo such as you describe would not be commemorating overcoming a prejudice; it would be, if anything, objecting to that prejudice being overcome. That’s a huge contextual difference, and ignoring that context is not reasonable.

    What next, are you going to complain that if Black people celebrate how far Blacks have come in the last fifty years, that’s racist against White people? Such a complaint would be exactly as groundless and foolish as the complaint you make in this post. It would, in fact, be the same complaint.

    • I don’t see anything wrong with using digital means to make an illustration, as long as there’s full disclosure.

      Just to be clear: In this case, there wasn’t full disclosure. So I agree with you that what happened was definitely unethical. I just don’t think digital alternation is, by definition, unethical; it was the lack of disclosure, in this case, that made it unethical.

      • I think the deception makes the conduct a lot worse, yes. The digital manipulation still changes the photo from what purports to be a record of what really occurred to something else. You can’t say: and here we have a historic photo of all the women in the house (oh, by the way, the following 17 images–or one–are of people who really weren’t there.) What’s preventing the explanation from being separated from the photo 100 years from now? Maybe that photo showing John Wilkes Booth and his conspirators lurking in the crowd during Lincoln’s Second Inauguration originally had a note from the photographer that said “After the tragic assassination, I decided my photo would be more interesting if I added Booth and his gang into the crowd.”

        For decades, missing members in team photos were indicted by insets or a caption that reads “unavailable were…”. The injection of an image into a scene where the individual was not is false, whereas those methods are fully truthful, and allow the photo to maintain integrity as a historical record.

        • You can’t say: and here we have a historic photo of all the women in the house (oh, by the way, the following 17 images–or one–are of people who really weren’t there.) What’s preventing the explanation from being separated from the photo 100 years from now?

          Well, that’s one benefit of a really crappy Photoshop job, I guess; no photo historian who glanced at that photo for more than five seconds could fail to spot the inserted figures. :-p

          Your argument is an argument for never printing or posting any photo, since any photo could end up being distorted by time. Let’s say I take a photo of Obama and Romney together at a charity event; what’s to prevent the photo from being cropped to make it seem that one of them wasn’t present, a hundred years from now? Should we therefore not print the photo?

          Your argument is also an argument against innovation. New technologies give us new ways of producing images that some people get pleasure out of; as long as there’s full disclosure, I don’t think it benefits anyone to say “well, this is new and they didn’t do it in Grampa’s day, so it must be wrong.” Which is what your “they didn’t used to do it this way” argument boils down to.

          I don’t think we’re ethically at fault for the hypothetical acts of people 50 or 100 years from now. And I don’t beleive “you can’t communicate in X fashion, even with full disclosure; only communication in Y fashion is acceptable” is an attitude that’s compatible with a healthy free speech society. Printing the photo with a true explanation of how it was produced is more than fair, both to current viewers and to history. Preventing all future hypothetical misinterpretations is impossible, and because it’s impossible, it is an unfair standard to hold anyone to.

          • Your argument is an argument for never printing or posting any photo, since any photo could end up being distorted by time. Let’s say I take a photo of Obama and Romney together at a charity event; what’s to prevent the photo from being cropped to make it seem that one of them wasn’t present, a hundred years from now? Should we therefore not print the photo?

            Come on. You are really saying that a fake photo and a real photo are just as unethical because someone can come along and alter the real photo to make it fake? makes no sense whatsoever.

            • Jack, that isn’t at all what I’m saying. Please put more effort into actually reading what I write, instead of making up straw men.

              I’m saying an honest report is an honest report. A digitally altered photograph with full disclosure of how it was made is honest; an unaltered photo is also honest.

              Both digitally composed photos and unaltered photos are subject to having their context snipped out by later reproductions. If (as you claim) the hypothetical possibility of having important context removed makes a photograph unethical, then it logically must do so for both kinds of photo, not just for digitally altered photos.

              • I wrote:

                Please put more effort into actually reading what I write, instead of making up straw men.

                This sentence is obnoxious, and I regret it and apologize for it.

              • I don’t agree with that, Barry. In one case part of the photo is being changed. In the other text relating to the photo has been changed. I don’t think its too much to ask that history be recorded accurately in photographs, so the photo either speaks for itself or can be relied upon for research purposes. Are you really saying that the photo is ethical because it was photoshopped badly?

                • Are you really saying that the photo is ethical because it was photoshopped badly?

                  No, I’m not saying that.

                  I’m saying that the photo was unethical because it lacked full disclosure. And that if Pelosi’s staff had released it with a full disclosure of how the photograph was produced, then that would have been ethical.

    • Re: the sexism. A photograph of all Representatives would illustrate the large number of women without making a chauvinistic statement. This is the typical double standard, and it will always be hypocritical: Our team, what we need is more women (and less men) —several of these women, this year, will scream sexism because some references or stray word or fashion comment distinguishes them by gender as if “women are different.” Well, if they aren’t different, then stop making photos like this. I don’t see how a message like “how far we’ve come” justifies an official gender or race photo. Voters shouldn’t vote on the basis of race and gender, but this is the whole strategy of one major party—tactical divisiveness and one-way bigotry. Unless you’d say that an all male or all white “how well we’ve held our own” message photo would be swell.

      • A photograph of all Representatives would illustrate the large number of women without making a chauvinistic statement.

        A photo of the entire Democratic caucus together wouldn’t have emphasized that this year set a new record for women; it would have emphasized that there are over twice as many men as women. (Still better than the GOP, where there are almost ten times as many men.) Instead of illustrating “look at how much we’ve achieved! Yay!,” the photo you suggest would have said, at best, “look at how far we still have to go.” (Or, more likely, it simply wouldn’t have carried any striking message at all.)

        “Look at how far we have to go” is a legitimate message. But so is “yay, look at how far we’ve come!” That’s a legitimate thing to want to commemorate with a photo.

        People like my mother and grandmother spent their entire lives working to make this nation more equal and just; why do you think that shouldn’t be celebrated?

        Unless you’d say that an all male or all white “how well we’ve held our own” message photo would be swell.

        I don’t think that would be swell, because I don’t think disproportionate male and white majorities are anything to be proud of.

        It’s not the photo itself which is offensive or not offensive; it’s the idea behind the photo. “Look how far we’ve come towards equality” is a laudable message; “look how well we’ve resisted equality” is an appalling message.

        Voters shouldn’t vote on the basis of race and gender, but this is the whole strategy of one major party—tactical divisiveness and one-way bigotry.

        I know you intended this as a dig at the Democrats, but in fact it’s far more accurate as a description of the GOP’s “appeal to whites and virtually no one else” strategy.

        • 1) When the Republicans actually state that they have a “appeal to whites and virtually no one else” strategy, rather than this being a very effective tactical lie perpetrated by Democrats and a partisan media, I’ll agree with you.

          2) I just heard the new Democratic female Senator from ND claim that “men don’t work as well together as women.” How would that fly, with genders reversed? This is part of the whole package, along with Nancy’s photo: celebrated, one way gender bigotry.

          3) The objective is to have blacks and women judged on their abilities, not to elect more blacks and women because of their chromosomes and the color of their skin. They will have truly “come far” when that is the case. That Democrats get so many candidates elected based primarily on physical characteristics beyond their control—the President comes to mind—is nothing to crow about, or to use to justify fake photos.

          • 1. Can you quote the Democrats actually stating that “the whole strategy” of their party is “tactical divisiveness and one-way bigotry”? If not, then I think it’s hypocritical of you to demand such evidence of me, when you don’t demand it of yourself.

            2. Holding Nancy Pelosi responsible for something Heidi Heitkamp allegedly said (because both are female Dems, therefore they are the same person?) is obviously illogical, and also unfair and unethical. Talk about a desperate and shameless argument, Jack!

            Also, I’m not going to take your word for it that Heitkamp said anything unless you provide a link to the full quote in context. You’ve proven yourself an unreliable witness – and always in ways that support your partisan opinions – multiple times in the past.

            (I’m not saying you’re dishonest; but all of us have faulty memories, and humans usually recall things in a way that favors our beliefs. Therefore, you should not expect me to treat unsourced quotes you allegedly recall as if they were evidence of anything.)

            3.

            The objective is to have blacks and women judged on their abilities, not to elect more blacks and women because of their chromosomes and the color of their skin.

            The unpopularity of Herman Cain among Black voters, and Democrats in general, is proof that Democrats are judging candidates by something other than the color of their skin.

            Had Romney been Black and Obama white, the race would have gone the same way. Because the overwhelming majority of voters, vote based on policy and party first, and consider other traits second if at all. (Although I do think that voting based on seeking gender and race parity, IF all other things are genuinely equal, is legitimate).

            Democrats get so many candidates elected based primarily on physical characteristics beyond their control—the President comes to mind—is nothing to crow about…

            I guess that for a sore loser – and that’s what you’re acting like here, Jack, a sore loser – the temptation to slander the people who voted for winning candidates is strong. But you’ve resisted it at other times, and I wish you’d resist it now.

            To respond to your argument (if a nasty smear, delivered with no evidence, can even be called an argument): Just because most American voters disagree with you doesn’t mean that they didn’t vote in good faith, based on what they honestly felt was best, and based on substantive notions of policy and character.

            If you’re not willing to assume good faith on the part of people you disagree with, how can you expect anyone else to assume good faith on your part?

            • Ampersand: Are you taking lessons from TGT?
              1. Divide & Conquer/Bread & Circus is what the Democrat Party has been about since it started in Tammany Hall.
              2. Nancy Pelosi is not only the Democrat minority leader, but was responsible for the photo being doctored. It’s called “deception”… anyway you dress it up. Another hallmark of Democrat politics.
              3. Herman Cain is exactly the reason- along with many others- as to why Democrat politics is race oriented while character is the prime consideration with their opponents. You just shot your own foot off!
              4. Sore loser? When we see a criminal organization gaining power through deceit and treason- then engaging in a pointed campaign to overthrow America’s security, prosperity, heritage and freedom itself… THEN it becomes a lot more than a matter of politics.
              5. “Good faith:- from your perspective- equates capitulation. We learned that a long time ago.

            • 1. Can you quote the Democrats actually stating that “the whole strategy” of their party is “tactical divisiveness and one-way bigotry”? If not, then I think it’s hypocritical of you to demand such evidence of me, when you don’t demand it of yourself.

              The entire election was proof, Barry. The convention, all of it. Res Ipsa Loquitur.

              2. Holding Nancy Pelosi responsible for something Heidi Heitkamp allegedly said (because both are female Dems, therefore they are the same person?) is obviously illogical, and also unfair and unethical. Talk about a desperate and shameless argument, Jack!

              I’m saying Heitkamp’s statement is representative, and accurately so. (Thanks for her name…I couldn’t spell it.) Remember Amanpour’s round table with all the women saying men are the problem? The quotes from media and Democratic women that the problem was that the GOP had too many men? I’m saying the comment and the point of the photo are aprt of the same phenomenon.

              3. Also, I’m not going to take your word for it that Heitkamp said anything unless you provide a link to the full quote in context. You’ve proven yourself an unreliable witness – and always in ways that support your partisan opinions – multiple times in the past.

              (I’m not saying you’re dishonest; but all of us have faulty memories, and humans usually recall things in a way that favors our beliefs. Therefore, you should not expect me to treat unsourced quotes you allegedly recall as if they were evidence of anything.)

              That’s fair, but in this case, impossible (so far.) Know what happened? I was watching ABC’s “Sunday Morning” and the Senator was a guest. George began the interview by citing that quote. She didn’t correct him. I ran up to answer your comment immediately. That said, I can’t find any other reference to it so far. Would it matter to you if she said this or not? Do you agree that it’s inappropriate?

              4. The unpopularity of Herman Cain among Black voters, and Democrats in general, is proof that Democrats are judging candidates by something other than the color of their skin. Please. Yes, blacks will dislike a Republican first and foremost, no matter what color he or she is. The again, Herman Cain was a buffoon.

              5.Had Romney been Black and Obama white, the race would have gone the same way.
              Barry. You cannot possibly believe that! I doubt even Obama believes that!
              If Obama were white, he’d be an asst. professor at the University of Hawaii. If her were white, there would have been an angry black march on the White House. If he were white, the equivalent of a black Barack Obama would have challenged him in the primaries, and won. If he were white, he couldn’t have received 4 years of protection from the mainstream media, which feared being labelled as racist if they did their jobs and pointed out how weak and ineffective he was. If he was white, he would have had a white incompetent Attorney General rather than a black one, and Fast and Furious would be the scandal it deserves to be. If he were white, he would only have gotten about 90% of the black vote rather than 98%, which alone would have lost him the election.

              5. I guess that for a sore loser – and that’s what you’re acting like here, Jack, a sore loser – the temptation to slander the people who voted for winning candidates is strong. But you’ve resisted it at other times, and I wish you’d resist it now.

              I didn’t lose. Any time we have a peaceful election and the candidate who gets the most votes wins honestly, I’m satisfied. Romney would be a sore loser if he said these things, but that’s because some facts are inconsistent with graciousness. I have no obligation to be gracious. My obligation is to be honest, as is yours. I think what I wrote is obvious and true.

              To respond to your argument (if a nasty smear, delivered with no evidence, can even be called an argument): Just because most American voters disagree with you doesn’t mean that they didn’t vote in good faith, based on what they honestly felt was best, and based on substantive notions of policy and character.

              True. But we both know that is not how a decisive component of the electorate votes, and that the strategies of both parties are planned accordingly.

              6. If you’re not willing to assume good faith on the part of people you disagree with, how can you expect anyone else to assume good faith on your part?

              I assume your good faith. Are you talking about the political parties? Pelosi? I don’t assume their bad faith because I disagree with them. I assume their bad faith because I have watched them act in bad faith repeatedly.

              • 1. In that case, Res Ipsa Loquitur is my basis for saying the GOP had an “appeal to whites and virtually no one else.”

                2. The point of the photo was to commemorate a record number of women in Congress, and a step forward towards greater equality. You haven’t provided a single coherent objection to that.

                3. I decline to comment on Heitkamp’s statement until I read the full statement in context. If the summary of her statement you provide is accurate, then I disagree with it, on the basis of painting with too broad a brush.

                4. I believe it. The vast majority of voters had closed minds – they were going to vote for the candidate of the party they favor, no matter what. This was in part what Romney meant when he talked about the 47%, although he forgot to mention that he likewise had 47% of already-decided voters on his side, too.

                The small minority of voters who decided the election – either because they were really undecided, or because they always favored one candidate but were on the fence about whether or not to vote at all – were probably influenced more by the ground games of the campaigns then by any other single factor. And, if we assume that Obama was white but was otherwise identical to the Obama we know, then he would still have had the advantage of a ground game that was light-years better and more effective than Romney’s. I see no reason to think that wouldn’t have won the election.

                (Remember, it wasn’t a close election. Obama won 51% to 47% – a very solid lead, and one that would be difficult to overcome by changing just one factor).

                Most of your argument is partisan rhetoric drawn straight from Fox News, and I think you’re wrong on all the particulars. But for the purposes of our argument, it’s enough to note that you’ve moved the goalposts; you’ve switched from arguing that voters only voted for Obama because he’s Black, to arguing that voters would never had have the change to vote for Obama were he not Black.

                It is the first argument – which I’d sum as “voters only voted for Obama because he’s Black” – I was arguing against: If voters had somehow been given a choice between a white Obama and a Black Romney, Obama would have still won. Because it would have still been an election between a charismatic candidate with an astoundingly good ground game, and a plutocrat candidate saddled to Ryan’s extremely unpopular budget plan, and with a mediocre ground game.

                The new argument you bring up here – which I’d sum as “voters would never had have the change to vote for Obama were he not Black” -isn’t relevant to your slanderous and disgusting claim that Obama voters only voted for his skin color.

                True. But we both know that is not how a decisive component of the electorate votes, and that the strategies of both parties are planned accordingly.

                I’ve read quite a bit of evidence about the so-called swing voters. I don’t know of any evidence indicating that any significant number of them vote based on skin color.

                6.

                I assume your good faith. Are you talking about the political parties? Pelosi?

                I’m talking about the large mass of American voters who voted for Obama, who you falsely claim voted based only or mainly on his skin color, or the large mass of Americans who voted for female candidates for Congress, who you falsely claim voted based only or mainly on the candidate’s sex.

          • Republicans don’t have to actually state that they wish to appeal to whites only. Their positions on immigration, voting rights, and social safety net programs says it all. Romney’s campaign was a blatant appeal to white, male voters. What he forgot is that they are not the majority of voters anymore and never will be again.

            I was thrilled to see the photo. I’m one of those 60-year-old women who marched in Washington in the 70’s. I agree with Ampersand that their should have been a disclaimer in the beginning, but the overall message of the photo is not unethical. There are more women in Congress than ever, and it is a historic moment that should be preserved. A photo of all the men wouldn’t bother me at all, but it would be stupid.

            It is an insult to the people who voted these women in to imply that their votes were based on their physical characteristics. Of course, there are people who voted for Obama because he is black or for Tammy Baldwin because she is gay. Many more people voted for them because they believe in the progressive policies they espouse. You may think Obama is “feckless,” and all the other pejorative adjectives you have used to describe him. I believe, with all his flaws (and he has many), he was the best choice to solve this country’s problems in a way that does not toss those without by the wayside. Improvement needed? You bet. But Romney was hopeless.

            • Go back to Nancy Pelosi, Jan, and tell her it didn’t work. There are too many people here who aren’t brain dead and ARE loyal Americans. It must be tough to go through life living from one lie to another and having nothing higher to look up to than criminals and your own ego.

            • Utter nonsense, Jan. The message of the Democratic party in the entire election cycle was specifically and intentionally divisive and group oriented. If you didn’t support free birth control, you were sexist. If you didn’t think President Obama was the greatest President since Lincoln, you were a racist. If you didn’t think we should take as much money as possible from entrepreneurs, professionals and people who worked and studied hard, got married, didn’t buy houses they couldn’t afford, didn’t have kids they couldn’t support, and didn’t get hooked on drugs, and give the money to anyone who had financial, domestic and career problems whether they were of their own making or not, you hated the poor. It worked—my hat’s off to them, if getting elected is all they care about, rather than a future for the next generation and the rule of law (Immigration).

              • Jack, please directly quote, with a link, a major Democrat saying that “If you didn’t think President Obama [is] the greatest President since Lincoln, you [are] a racist.”

                • You’re going to take all my fun away if you get literal when I employ obvious hyperbole. Surely you are aware of that theme in the partisan campaign rhetoric, as well as from media voices like Chris Matthews, that opposition to President Obama and his programs are based on racism rather than his performance and policies? If I was not sufficiently clear in my rhetorical short-hand, I apologize, and thanks for correcting me. The statement referred to statements like this, one of many:

                  “I do not understand what I think is the maligning and maliciousness [toward] this president,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. “Why is he different? And in my community, that is the question that we raise. In the minority community that is question that is being raised. Why is this president being treated so disrespectfully? Why has the debt limit been raised 60 times? Why did the leader of the Senate continually talk about his job is to bring the president down to make sure he is unelected?”

                  And, if you will be fair about this, the whole accusation that the Tea Party is racist was and is based on the idea that opposition to Obama and his policies was race-based.

              • janpchapman

                Your response is nothing but Fox News talking points.

                Asking that the wealthiest pay the same rate in taxes they used to before Bush became President is not divisive. It’s common sense. The idea that Obama is anti-success or anti-business is not proven by facts. He’s one of the best friends Wall Street ever had.

                No woman is asking for free birth control. They are asking that the insurance they pay into help cover the cost. The Republican’s stance on Planned Parenthood alone is enough to prove that they have disregard for women and poor women in particular.

                Romney’s 47% remark proved his contempt for the poor. He represented the Republic Party very well.

                Obama has plenty of critics on the left. I’m one of them and I hear about them every day. I just listen to the news and read. I hear people glorifying Reagan all the time, but I don’t generalize to all people who voted for him. I hear his critics because I listen to the news and read. Ampersand is right. You’re a sore loser.

                • 1. Jan, I don’t use talking points, and I watch Fox no more than any other network. If you read here, you know I support higher taxes on the wealthy, near wealthy, and everyone else. If you have not heard anti-success/evil rich rhetoric coming from the Democratic party, you had your fingers in your ears. Elizabeth Warren’s keynote speech was pretty clear. Pelosi and the President said that they were sympatico with Occupy Wall Street. What does this mean to you?
                  2. If the government decrees that existing insurance must pay for birth control, that makes it free. If my health insurance, without me having to pay more for it, is required to pay for my hair transplant, that’s called free.

                  I’ve argued about Romney and his off-the-cuff comments enough. Search for 47% on the Ethics Alarm search engine, and put “Dear Jan” in front of everything I wrote. I’ve got four ethics programs to write.

                  • 1. Like Jan, I see zero difference between your 11:44am response to her and Fox News talking points. I defy you to quote a single point from your 11:44am response that would not be at home on Fox.

                    2. The “if you read here” snark is unjustified – Jan has commented here dozens of times, on many different threads, and is obviously a regular reader. That you have quoted from other news sources at other times does not logically make Jan wrong about your 11:44am response.

                    3. Regarding birth control, you don’t seem familiar with the actual policy you’re criticizing. There is no requirement “that existing insurance must pay for birth control.” Plans that existed before March 23rd of last year and have not changed substantially are not required to cover birth control; it is only new plans or substantially changed plans that face that requirement. Of course, insurance companies know that, and include the cost of birth control coverage in what they change for their policies.

                    Jan is right, and you are mistaken. The Birth Control is not free.

                • By the way, Jan, I’m enjoying your comments, and hope you’ll visit my blog sometime, if time allows.

  5. Pingback: Using Photoshop To Alter A Photo Isn’t Deceptive If There’s Full Disclosure. Also, “Reverse Sexism” Raises Its Annoying Ugly Head | Alas, a Blog

  6. Everything’s been done before – check out this civil war photo, in which a general who missed the photo session was inserted later by the photographer. (Someone in my comments pointed it out.)

    • That would be me!

      I mentioned it on Amp’s blog and I mentioned it on mine, and I’ll go ahead and mention it again here: the technique is nearly as old as photography itself, and the reasoning behind it is pretty simple — a portrait photo isn’t meant to capture a moment in time, but rather a person or a group of persons.

      In the Civil War photo, Mathew Brady wanted a shot of William Sherman and his close staff. One guy couldn’t make it, so they edited him in later. His not being able to show up didn’t make him any less a part of the staff, and that’s what the photo was: a portrait of a specific group of men, rather than a record of a unique moment. They could have sat in the tent for hours if they’d needed to, and it wouldn’t have changed the photo much.

      Ditto the Democratic congresswomen shot. They wanted a record of everyone that was part of this historical group, so they edited in the ones who couldn’t make it. If we’re saying that’s dishonest, just having them pose — instead of waiting and hoping that all 61 walk down the steps coincidentally at the same time — is dishonest. It’s altering the record by creating an artificial event.

      It’s more than a bit of a stretch to turn basic portrait photography into a sign of chronic dishonesty endemic to the Democratic party.

  7. Pingback: Photoshopping before Photoshop: What Do the Women of the 113th Congress and Gen. William T. Sherman’s Staff Have in Common? « Misanthropology 101

  8. Chris

    This is just silly. Adding in someone to what basically amounts to a publicity shoot is in no way equivalent to the Soviet’s purging of history, and to compare the two is absurd. I usually agree with Amp, but I see nothing unethical about this at all. They were posing in front of a building, not marching into battle. Get a grip.

    • It’s not silly. A photograph on a Congresswoman’s website is a statement of fact, and this statement is a lie. The principle is exactly the same as the Soviet airbrushing—it’s just being ratioanalized because the intent in more benign. The method is what is unethical, not the objective. Don’t tell me to get a grip–you can learn something. Just because you support a politician’s goals doesn’t make her methods ethically acceptible,

      • Chris

        “Just because you support a politician’s goals doesn’t make her methods ethically acceptible.”

        I would find this equally acceptable if it were a group of female Republicans with a few members photoshopped in. You’re leaping to an assumption of bad faith.

        And it’s not just the intent that’s benign–the effect is benign as well. Whether or not one or two of these women was physically here for this publicity shoot has little to no historical importance. What is important is the record number of female Democrats in Congress, not whether they all had the chance to pose in front of a picture. I hardly think this is enough to invoke the black spirit of Stalin.

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