Jewish newspaper edits Hillary Clinton out of ‘Situation Room’ photo

HO REUTERS U.S. President Barack Obama (2nd L) and Vice President Joe Biden (L), along with members of the national … Continued

HO

REUTERS

U.S. President Barack Obama (2nd L) and Vice President Joe Biden (L), along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011

The Brooklyn-based Hasidic newspaper, Der Zeitung, published the now iconic photograph of President Obama and his team watching as events unfolded in the Pakistan raid which killed Osama Bin Laden, but they did so with two notable changes – they removed both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the only other woman in the shot, Audrey Tomason. That kind of manipulation, not only violates the terms under which the White House makes such images available to the press, but suggests some real problems with the paper and its readership which presumably supports such manipulation.

To fully address the question of why they did this, the staff of the Yiddish language paper issued a lengthy statement, excerpted here:

That understanding of sexual modesty is pretty extreme even relative to other members of the Ultra-Orthodox community, but that is not the real issue here. For starters, the publishers of the paper confuse what they have the right to do, with what is right to do.

Without entering a protracted debate about modesty or what Jewish law does and doesn’t allow, their statement fails to recognize that in exercising their right to edit the photo (they claim that White House policy forbid such editing), they needed to assume a related obligation – to inform their readership that they were looking at a re-touched image. In failing to make that clear, the editors avoided a very real challenge for themselves and for their community.

The manipulation of the photo makes it clear that those who read this paper need “facts” which conform to their beliefs, and when those facts are not available, they alter the real ones to conform to their beliefs. That’s not simply bad journalism or a violation of fundamental ethics; it’s actually dangerous for the community itself. No community, at least in America, will succeed for long if they cannot at least appreciate and make sense of what is actually going on around them.

It is also interesting to note that extreme discomfort with the presence of women or even images of women is common to virtually all totalitarian religious communities, regardless of the tradition involved. And in this case especially, it’s not something of which the editors of the paper should be proud.

Among the things for which radical Islam is most well known is its harsh repression of women’s rights. And while there are vast differences between how women function in the most conservative versions of the Jewish and Muslim worlds, the fact that both are often lead by men who seem utterly panicked by the presence of women in public life is only going to be highlighted by the paper’s actions.

The fact that they Photoshopped the image reminds us that even the most inward-looking communities can be technologically sophisticated. Technological sophistication has been shown, in some studies, to be inversely proportional to a community’s degree of religious openness.

The issue is not having technological capacity; it’s the ends to which we use that capacity. Communities may become increasingly sophisticated about keeping the world at bay, and even at using technology to do so, but ultimately that approach fails all those who avail themselves of it.

Of course, we all have versions of Der Zeitung’s editing process going on in our own lives – wanting to see the world as we would like it to be instead of how it really is. No, not as extreme for most of us, but if it weren’t a powerful impulse the news industry, especially on TV and radio would look quite different. If this story reminds us of how foolish that approach is, this Hasidic paper did us, if not themselves, a favor.

Brad Hirschfield
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  • DrLou1

    Perhaps Der Zeitung would have been more comfortable had Ms. Clinton and Ms. Tomason had on full burkas. If this paper truly felt images of women were improper for their paper, they simply should not have used this photograph. As the author of this commentary correctly points out, the manipulation of reality is hardly the same as adhering to established belief. The editorial staff of Der Zeitung should be ashamed. And as a Jew, I am ashamed of them.

  • mjrmike39157

    This is a very backward view of the World — If there are many of this ilk in Palestine , then making a ” Just Peace Settlement ” with ” The Palestinian People ” will be very difficult.

  • Pyre

    If they don’t want to publish photos of women, then they could have chosen not to publish this photo at all (since it included women); that would have made more sense.

    Did they also report the Royal Wedding with a photo of Prince William kissing empty space at the church door?

  • MattiSimonAhO

    If a religion don’t accept images of female (as by definition ‘Image of God’) published, don’t sell any pictures to such papers. If a religion don’t accept females in pictures (as by definition ‘Image of God’) , don’t buy any pictures containing female(s). If a religion in a land don’t accept female images (as by definition ‘Images of God’), then let the female population move to a country, where females are accepted as they are by definition ‘Images of God’, and what is left can live isolated from the rest of the world till The End. Simply as that.

  • MattiSimonAhO

    Women, are part of the reality of this world, and have been since the First Mother and The First Father of each Nation walked on this planet. Live by and in the reality, not in and by unreal “beliefs”.

  • dryrunfarm1

    A tempest in a teapot.

    The readership of der Zeittung describe themselves as “haredim” – the “people who fear [Heaven]“. They strongly believe that G-d can and will hold them accountable for their thoughts and feelings, among which are mental wanderings that stray to women other than their mothers, wives, sisters and daughters. A rule forbidding images only of “attractive” or “pretty” women would be impossible to enforce – what’s “attractive”? what’s, “pretty”? Besides, just consider the offense implied by printing a photo of Mrs. Clinton, if printing images of pretty and attractive women is forbidden.

    So they print no images of women, at all. Not because of any attitudes about women, but because of a presumption about men: give one a chance, and he’ll leer at and get hot and bothered by anything with breasts bigger than his own. And they have better manners than to call any woman revolting by printing images of women that no breathing man could get excited about.

    A little “over the top”? Maybe. But it’s their standard. If you don’t like it, don’t become an haredish’e Yid (Jew), and don’t read der Zeittung.

    A tempest in a teapot.

  • LMF1

    Thank you for the interesting article. But “it’s” readership? Where are your grammarians at the Post? Did they get laid off, too?

  • DjangoSteinheart

    I notice none of the fellows in the room were trying to peek down her blouse. Pray, how did they manage that?

  • kurthunt

    Bunch o’ weirdos. They look ridiculous with their poorly-fitting black suites and that awful thing they do with their hair. I snub them.

  • mytwocents

    Grammatical errors in the Post are very common. Also, “Photoshop” is not a verb, it is a proper noun.

  • CINQDOIGTS

    These guys view of women’s place in society and the Taliban’s are pretty preetyyyy close!

  • ilane1

    Every monotheistic religion has its own, home-grown loonies.
    If they violated the terms under which the White House makes such images available to the press, slap them with a fine and/or sanctions.
    I don’t agree that they could have published the altered pic and state it was altered. Their only honest option was not to publish a photo.

  • ilane1

    I move that “photoshop” may be deemed a common noun by now.
    Anyone care to second?

  • kurthunt

    a common noun and a verb.

  • fridaolay

    “Fearing their mental wanderings that stray to other women other than their mothers, wives, sisters and mothers” Gee! I never realized that there is so much similarity between these Hassidic Jews and the Islamic Fundamentalists. The only missing from these Jewish Talibans is requiring that their women were a burqa.

  • fridaolay

    Ah! So much temptation. My family used to be very proud of Golda Mier, because of her brilliant mind and her many accomplishments. I wonder if the misogynists from Der Zeitung refused to publish her picture too, just because they feared that their minds would wander off in the wrong direction. Gee! They must have a very dirty mind. I never thought of Golda Mier as a sex symbol– just as I would never think that Hillary Clinton looks like a sex symbol these days. As a Jew, I am embarrassed for them. Refusing to show Hillary Clinton’s picture in the Situation Room, diminishes her accomplishments. It looks like sexual discrimination.

  • klakey1

    So, in the name of religion, one that forbids lying, this paper told a lie. And it calls itself a newspaper, too. Another lie. This outfit should fold into FOX News.

  • Carstonio

    “Modesty”? Oh, please. That’s the same mentality as in some varieties of Islam, where women must conceal themselves from head to toe to avoid exposing men to temptation. I don’t know whether this stems from men’s shame at their impulses or their fear that other men will steal their women. Either way, it’s an excuse for controlling and marginalizing women. If the sight of a woman on the street or in print makes a man uncomfortable, that’s *his* problem and not hers.

  • nardone22

    Oh, if it were only that easy to photoshop Hillary Clinton out of our lives.

    It was a sad day for the republic when Senator Pat Moynihan stepped down.

  • sqewedvu

    seems to me they should stop showing pictures of men too, since they might tempt women