Comment Of The Day: “The Obama-Farrakhan Photo”

I don’t think I agree with this comment regarding the post about how a  photograph of Senator Obama smiling next to Louis Farrakhan came to be hidden from public view until now, and how its reappearance has launched speculation on the Right that Obama was elected by a public unaware of his radical, anti-white proclivities. It is a very interesting comment, though, and raises several excellent issues about how actions, motives and truth interact. I may author a detailed rebuttal in the comments, but the core question this raises is this: To what extent does the fact that an action was taken to hide something serve as material evidence that there that something that needed to be hidden?

The results of the Ethics Alarms poll asking what the photo proved, incidentally, was that 86% of those voting believed that it proved nothing regarding Obama’s feelings to toward Farrakhan  at all.

Here is johnburger2013‘s Comment of the Day on the post, The Obama-Farrakhan Photo:

Methinks our faithful ethics blogger is being, according to our friends across the pond, a bit “cheeky”, hoping to inspire a lively debate, knowing fully well that a photo of Trump with David Duke would be conclusive evidence that the present Chief Executive Officer of the US is merely waiting for his hood to come back from the cleaners so that he can don it and go out for a fun night on the town.

For me, the real ethics issue is not the photo, but that Congressional Black Caucus leaned on a journalist to kill its publication and the journalist capitulated. Other Bill, VPJ and Charles Marschner are correct: publication of the photo (probably) would not have changed the 2008 election results.

But, let’s ask the bigger question: Why kill it?

First, who is Askia Muhammad? According to Wikipedia, he is a poet, journalist, radio producer, commentator, and a photojournalist. He has served as the editor of Muhammad Speaks and as the head of the Washington office of The Final Call, the official newspapers of the Nation of Islam, which incidentally, is the organization headed by the right-honorable Louis Farrakhan, from Chicago, IL. (Who else was from Chicago? Might it have been a little-known senator but rising star in the Democrat party? Hmmm.)

Now, then, we have a journalist and photojournalist with deep and direct ties to Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam (declared a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization Progressives love to cite when declaring someone despicable), taking a photo of Farrakhan and a rising star Obama in 2005. Yet, rather than distributing the photo far and wide, the virtuous Mr. Muhammad gave it to the CBC without question (though he did make a copy – that little scamp). He published it when he was checking out his Facebook feed and that memory from 2005 popped and he said, “Well, that’s a nice picture of Minister Farrakhan, but who is that delightfully handsome fellow next to him? Maybe I should publish it and ask around. Someone’s got to know who that is. He might have a bright future some day. You never know.”

He killed the photo because the CBC demanded that he kill it. Yet, he is not just a photojournalist, according to his Twitter page, but as a journalist. Wikipedia defines as journalist as a person who collects, writes, or distributes news or other current information to the public. A journalist’s work is called journalism. A journalist can work with general issues or specialize in certain issues. However, most journalists tend to specialize, and by cooperating with other journalists, produce journals that span many topics. (Don’t yell at me, it is a link from his Wikipedia page to the definition of journalist on Wikipedia, so it must be true.)

Wikipedia also says that journalists sometimes expose themselves to danger, particularly when reporting in areas of armed conflict or in states that do not respect the freedom of the press. Additionally, the relationship between a professional journalist and a source can be rather complex; a source can actually impact the direction of the article written by the journalist. The article ‘A Compromised Fourth Estate’ uses Herbert Gans’ metaphor to capture their relationship.

Wikipedia, again: “Photojournalism is a particular form of journalism (the collecting, editing, and presenting of news material for publication or broadcast) that employs images in order to tell a news story. It is now usually understood to refer only to still images, but in some cases the term also refers to video used in broadcast journalism. Photojournalism is distinguished from other close branches of photography (e.g., documentary photography, social documentary photography, street photography or celebrity photography) by complying with a rigid ethical framework which demands that the work be both honest and impartial whilst telling the story in strictly journalistic terms. Photojournalists create pictures that contribute to the news media, and help communities connect with one other. Photojournalists must be well-informed and knowledgeable about events happening right outside their door. They deliver news in a creative format that is not only informative, but also entertaining.” So, a photojournalist is a subset of journalist. That seems pretty impressive, eh?

So, what I understand is that Muhammad is a journalist and not just some guy with a camera running around taking birthday party photos for the scrapbook. Surely not. He is important, part of a discipline. A profession. With rules and ethics and stuff. Yet, when called upon by the CBC, he sat on a photo, and in the greatest of journalism ethics, not only did he squash the photo, he turned it over the CBC. Got that? A journalist took a news-worthy photo of Obama with Farrakhan, and turned it over to the CBC.

Who is the CBC? The Congressional Black Caucus is a political organization made up of the African-American members of the United States Congress. While race and party affiliation are not official requirements for membership, all of its members have been African American and most have been Democrats. Its chair is Representative Cedric Richmond of Louisiana. (Yeah, I know. Wikipedia again.)

Now, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Tex., has said: “The Congressional Black Caucus is one of the world’s most esteemed bodies, with a history of positive activism unparalleled in our nation’s history. Whether the issue is popular or unpopular, simple or complex, the CBC has fought for thirty years to protect the fundamentals of democracy. Its impact is recognized throughout the world. The Congressional Black Caucus is probably the closest group of legislators on the Hill. We work together almost incessantly, we are friends and, more importantly, a family of freedom fighters. Our diversity makes us stronger, and the expertise of all of our members has helped us be effective beyond our numbers.” Rep. Bernice Johnson clearly understands the role of the CBC; after all, she was its 17th Chairperson.

So, her group called upon a journalist to squelch a story that may have a negative impact on Obama’s political aspirations. And the journalist agreed.

That, then, leads to the next question: Why did the CBC demand possession of the photo and forbid its publication? Who, what or why did the CBC have to fear? Tic toc. Could it be that, perhaps, Obama’s true political alliances, ties and positions were far more radical than many people knew or were led to believe? After all, he cavorted with Bill Ayers, Bernadine Dorn and the good Reverend Wright, all of whom are very hard-left icons, but dismissed by the CNNs as political outliers or political expedients for a Chicago area politician.

Would Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam have been a death sentence for his political future? Quite possibly – look at what Prof. Dershowitz said. Could liberal New York and West Coast donors have supported Obama if it were widely known that he had ties to an admitted anti-Semite and foe of Israel? Would the Clinton Campaign have hung that photo around his proverbial neck if they had it? No. Never. Uh-uh. Forget it.

Additionally, could it also mean the CBC, Farrakhan, and the Nation of Islam are far more closely connected than we know? After all, why would the CBC care about a photo op with a neophyte Illinois senator smiling with the Minister? Either way you shift that picture, it has broader implications. For instance, did Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam play a larger role in the Obama Administration policies? (Yeah, I know – I will be putting on my tinfoil hat in a few minutes because the Illuminati are scanning my brainwaves, or what’s left of them.)

So, yeah, killing the photo is a big deal and not just because that bozo Sean Hannity says it is.

15 Comments

Filed under Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Race

15 responses to “Comment Of The Day: “The Obama-Farrakhan Photo”

  1. JP

    I think one thing to consider would be the cultural impact at the time. 2005 was still new all things considering when one examines the war on terror. Look at the second Iraq war. There was a brief conflict between March-April 2003. I believe this is when Bush did his Mission Accomplished on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier (May 1). However, It was until June 2004 Saddam was captured in a trial that ended in the verdict of Crimes against humanity resulting in his execution in 2006. During this time the disorganized army that fought the US army in the brief combat period become more organized and serious damages were made against allied troops. It wasn’t until 2007 that violence finally started to de-escalate. It was estimated that 3000 allied soldiers died between 2004-2007.

    However, I gave the history lesson above to point out it might have been a possibility for the CBC in the grooming of the first black president. Our culture is very quick to judge and even quicker to forget. But as I’ve been told many times, the internet is forever. Perhaps they thought it best to protect someone’s integrity, even that when a person is guilty of nothing more than ignorance. That in itself was the wrong thing to do. Obama is not a child. It was not their job to hide anything. That is what is sinister here. If they thought it necessary to protect Obama from this one issue, what else did they protect him from? When we see how much the news media fawned over him, who’s to say they weren’t also hiding issues we deem important. Public trust in the media is already very low. According to Gallup in 2005 it was 50%.

    Now does this make Obama guilty by association? No. As a senator, I imagine Obama met a lot of people he knew nothing about. It isn’t fair of people to judge him because he appeared in a photo with someone. I imagine the only thing Obama is guilty of here is ignorance.Now if more of a material connection could be established which johnburger2013 alludes to maybe more could be said on the subject. I don’t care to speculate on it.

    Regarding the journalist who listened to the CBC. I don’t know if it was ethical or not for him to give the CBC the photo. It was after all his photo. He must have sensed something amiss when he decided to keep a copy. Perhaps he was worried about blowback and want to keep it as insurance. At the very least his journalist integrity should have been ringing when the CBC asked for it. Public trust in the media is already very low. According to Gallup in 2005 it was 50%. In 2016 it was 32%. I bet it is even lower today.

    In conclusion,
    Shame on the CBC for attempting to bury the photo.
    Shame on the journalist for not upholding journalistic standards.
    Shame on the journalist for waiting 13 years to write about it.
    Shame on the right for making it more than it is.

    .

  2. Chris marschner

    I did not consider the CBC demand for the photo. JB offers a well developed thesis which I found compelling.

    With that said, my comments focused on photos taken without any other context. We can easily jump to conclusions about the main subject based on what is in the periphery.

    JB is absolutely correct in saying that if a photo emerged with Trump in the foreground and David Duke in the background there would be a rush to push the racist angle by his critics. Without having any contextual information about this photo I was unwilling to leap to the conclusion that Obama supports the beliefs of Farakhan. That is the only fair thing to do.

  3. Tippy Scales

    This should be a huge scandal in the journalism community, and it pisses me off that it isn’t.

    The ethical breaches so-called journalists are committing now make fabulists like Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass, or plagiarists like Alex Haley look like Boy Scouts. The harm they did is far less than what what’s happening these days.

    They made a movie about Glass. I doubt Hollywood will come running to tell the story of Brian Ross, or the piece of garbage at NBC who edited the George Zimmerman audio to make him look like a racist? That guy or gal never got outed, and it should have been a way bigger scandal than Blair or Glass.

    What’s sad is, most journalists I encounter are convinced they, and the media, are not biased. I’m sure some of them realize deep down that they’re dishonest, unethical pieces of shit, but most honestly believe they’re making the world a better place. Those kind of people — zealots who think they’re on a mission from God — are the scariest of all.

    Every television in my newsroom is tuned to CNN. It’s difficult to have a conversation without someone injecting their hatred of Trump into the discussion.

    I’ve gotten so I don’t even complain to others in the newsroom when I see another reporter commit a serious ethical breach. I’ve stopped pointing out the jaw-dropping bias I see from NBC, NYT, WaPo, CNN, etc. Most don’t want to hear it, although they’ll talk all day about a biased report they saw on Fox News Channel.

    The number of so-called journalists who are walking around with notebooks in their left hands and heads up their asses is nauseating.

    • Thanks for the view from the inside, Tippy. We appreciate the personal and professional jeopardy you place yourself in for giving us this peek into your world.

      I am not surprised, as this tallies with human nature, and the natural tendencies of group dynamics. Absent some sort of check, any group will go the route journalists have taken. Echo chambers are that way, after all.

      • Tippy Scales

        Thanks. Unfortunately, the reverberations in this echo chamber only seem to be getting stronger.

        A former reporter at my paper who is now a university journalism instructor recently brought a bunch of students to the newsroom to give a tour. I told her, given the low pay and uncertainty in our business, that I imagined it was difficult to find students interested in journalism. She told me quite the opposite was true: “Ever since Trump, people want to become reporters so they can bring down people like that.”

        Knowing this former colleague’s political bent, I didn’t bother trying to explain that this is absolutely the wrong reason to get into journalism. You shouldn’t get into this business because you want to “take down people like that (read: Republicans).” I hear so many young reporters say they “want to make the world a better place,” which is also the wrong way of looking at this job.

        Our goal should be to tell readers what happened, so that people in the present will be informed, and to put an honest, unbiased account of events on the record so that those in the future will know what happened. Period.

        I still am convinced journalism is a noble profession, but many so-called reporters are turning it to crap. What they are doing isn’t journalism.

        • My wife teaches High School photojournalism, and is conservative as only a Texas Hill Country raised German can be. No chance any of her students are going into this as a career: she removes the romance and exposes the hypocrisy routinely… as a journalist should. Her students get a FINE taste of the sewer water modern journalism has turned into.

  4. Jack,

    Please know that this “[m]ethinks our faithful ethics blogger is being, according to our friends across the pond, a bit ‘cheeky’” was not intended as an insult, snark, or sarcasm. When I wrote it, I thought it was clear that I intended to lay a foundation, recognizing that you used the Socratic method of taking a position to start a discussion.

    However, when I reread it last night, I realized that my words could be taken as an insult. I apologize for my loose language. I do honor and respect the hard work, thought, and dedication you put into this blog and I am grateful for the times you have recognized my posts/comments as Comments of the Day. I means very much to me. Furthermore, I look forward to your response to my comment.

    jvb

  5. I do stand by my belief that the underlying issue is much bigger that it appears. This is a link to local radio talk show host in Houston, TX (Michael Berry):

    https://ktrh.iheart.com/featured/michael-berry/content/2018-01-31-houstons-rep-al-green/

    It supports my theory that the CBC went to great pains to shield Obama’s political future by killing the story, with a journalist only too happy to comply. Also, the CBC and the likes of Farrakhan are not necessarily simply cordial to each other, but much more intimately intertwined.

    jvb

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