Long ago, a Pennsylvania governor named William Scranton ran for the Republican nomination. He wasn’t a bad-looking man, but he was given to extreme facial expressions, the most grotesque or silly of which always seemed to be captured by photographers and put on front pages. I was a kid, but just reading my dad’s Time Magazines was sufficient to make me feel sorry for Scranton. The photos made him look like lunatic or a drunk. Yet on TV there was nothing unusual about Bill Scranton at all. He had an expressive face, and a fleeting look that might pass his countenance in a nanosecond, barely visible to observers, could make him appear frightening or ridiculous when captured and frozen in time. I wondered then why editors chose and published such misleading and unflattering photographs.
Now I know. They do it because they can, and because they are mean and irresponsible.
As a victim of this tactic, Scranton got off easy compared to Hillary Clinton. Camera technology now permits even more fleeting expressions to be captured, and while the largely Clinton-protecting newspapers shy away from unflattering Clinton photographs, the web is teeming with them. Like Scranton, Hillary has a very expressive face, and one that has become more expressive with age. Unfortunately, this means that she has left a damaging trail of photos of her split-second facial reactions that make her look crazy, sinister, or ridiculous. Matt Drudge, in particular, revels in them. Yes, I have used them myself; like Clinton or not, they are almost irresistible. I’m not proud of it. I’m not doing it any more.
I have concluded, belatedly, that using these misleading and unflattering photos of Mrs. Clinton is very unfair, and the visual equivalent of an ad hominem attack. I know all the rationalizations: The camera doesn’t lie (but we know it does), the camera captures the soul (suuure it does), it’s a joke, and she can take it ( a double rationalization there); everybody does it.
None of them are persuasive. Doing this to anyone, celebrity or not, funny or not, is cruel and unfair; I think most people know it’s cruel and unfair.
It is also conduct that violates the Golden Rule. Your host knows this as well as anyone: I’m not hideous in real life, but photos of me often make me looks deranged or worse. Like these, for example:
(It’s too bad the middle one is so small..my wandering left eye in that photo is especially impressive…)
Just so there’s no confusion about the kind of Hillary Clinton photographs it is mean-spirited and unfair to use, what follows are some of the worst. None of them are an accurate depiction of Clinton’s demeanor, face OR soul. If Clinton actually looked like any of them except for mere seconds, they wouldn’t be unethical to use, but she doesn’t. The only reason to use them is to mock and denigrate her, not merely based on her appearance, which is itself unethical, but based on a false representation of her appearance.
I’m sure you’ve seen many of them before…and don’t ask me what the hell was going on in that last one in the lower right. It appears to be genuine, and Drudge used it yesterday:
In summation: using such misleading and unflattering photos is no better than name-calling, and in my ethics estimation, worse. Hillary Clinton should be opposed based on what she does and says, not according to how she looks in a split second captured by a a merciless camera lens.
Mean is mean no matter who the victim is. There are plenty of legitimate and substantive ways to attack Hillary. This tactic is lower than low, if tempting and sometimes mordantly amusing. I apologize for using such photos myself in the past. The ethics alarms just didn’t ring, and they should have.
I’m sorry, Mrs. Clinton. I was wrong.