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"Are you gonna believe us, or your lying eyes?"

Yesterday should have been a good day for Adobe's stock prices. Two major organizations were caught manipulating photos of public events, and in both cases everyone called it "Photoshopping." That's the kind of brand recognition money can't buy.

First, the Council on American-Islam Relations (CAIR) released photos of a press conference they held. But apparently the fine folks who want to make sure that anyone who speaks unpleasantness about Islam (especially the truthful ones) gets condemned, threatened, and/or sued into silence decided, after the fact, that the people in the photo weren't Muslim enough. Well, the women weren't suitably oppressed and concealed. So they fired up Photoshop and (very ineptly) put hijabs on all of them, covering their hair to prevent their evil hair rays from corrupting and tainting any good, wholesome, devout Muslim men who might be driven into insane fits of rage and rape from that indecent, obscene display.

Next, we have the story of Reuters, who discovered photographic evidence that George W. Bush not only has a bladder, but was successfully potty-trained at some point. Unfortunately, the photo didn't quite capture the evidence as clearly as they hoped, so once again Photoshop was called to duty and the citation of a Presidential Potty Break became seared -- seared -- into the national zeitgeist.

A while ago there was a huge dustup of the Supreme Court citing foreign laws in making its rulings, but I think we might have a valid use for it: about 30 years ago, one or another of the British tabloids got a picture of Prince Charles in the altogether. A judge ruled that the picture of the Crown Jewels could not be published, and summarized his ruling in one brilliant phrase: "'The public interest' is not synonymous with 'interesting to the public.'"

So the next time you see a photo from CAIR, or Reuters, don't take it with a grain of salt. Call Morton's and have 'em deliver you a truckload.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference "Are you gonna believe us, or your lying eyes?":

» Point Five linked with CAIR Doctored Photo, Before and After

» T. Longren linked with Bush Needs Potty Break

» Plains Feeder linked with No Photoshopping at Plains Feeder

» Kerfuffles linked with No Hijab - No Problema

Comments (32)

Personal experience speakin... (Below threshold)

Personal experience speaking here, I've now concluded that whatever a Republican does or does not do, Democrats/liberals will make a deal out of whatever you've done or not done.

If they can create a huge thing out of George Bush notifying the person conducting a meeting that he will be needing a bathroom break soon, they can and will make a very big deal of out anything. In my experience, you can write kind and thoughtful things to and about whomever, but the minute you reveal your voting preferences, you're the subject of the liberal gossip mongering. And, they sure do so love the gossip mongering...I think most of it boils down to whether or not you are religious and don't "support" (much less "believe in") "gay marriage" more than anything. Once revealed (if you're not doing their nutty dance), there's no end to the harassment, ridicule, wacky allegations and downright lies.

This issue about Bush's request for a bathroom break, however, is similar to the peep and otherwise usage holes in some men's bathrooms. Honestly, it's just as debased, the fact that this issue has occupied several hundred thousands of liberals for -- what -- a day or two now?

I'm asking because I've been away and only now reading about it. I can barely believe how grotesque is this obsession by Democrats and it reminds me of the fly-eating incarcerated madman in "Dracula" (Coppola's version)...oh, yeah, they're 'immortal' alright, the master says so.

That last sentence was sarcasm, lest it buzz over the heads of liberals.

If you want to complain abo... (Below threshold)

If you want to complain about the appropriateness of the note being published, there's certainly an argument that can be made there, although I think it was harmless and a little silly. But just because "Photoshop" has entered the vernacular as meaning "altered" doesn't mean that the use of Photoshop on a photo is by definition deceptive. One of the purposes of Photoshop is to make photos clearer. If all Reuters did was brighten that paprt of the photo in order to make it readable, then it's hardly deceptive. News photos are Photoshopped on a daily basis in order to make them mpore understandable. The photo of John Cornyn doing a crossword puzzle during the Roberts hearings is funny and newsworthy. Would it be better to run a photo of Cornyn looking at a fuzzy newspaper and captioning it "You can't see it, but he's doing a crossword puzzle?" I hardly think the use of Photoshop in this case is the example of MSM deception you make it out to be.

In the sciences, we call al... (Below threshold)

In the sciences, we call altering a photo "scientific misconduct" (fraud), unless specific explanation of the nature of the alteration is given, and evidence supplied that the alteration in no way affects the conclusions to be drawn from the photo.

Sorry, but the Reuters "Pho... (Below threshold)

Sorry, but the Reuters "Photoshop" issue is a bogus one. I periodically work for Reuters (sorry folks!) and know Gary Hershorn. "Enhancing" is not "altering". The basic ethics rule for photojournalism is "If a person standing next to you could see the same thing as what's shown in your image then you're OK." A person with a pair of binocs standing next to the Reuters shooter at the UN meeting could have read the message too. No foul.

Newsflash: almost EVERY photo published by AP, Reuters, AFP/Getty, etc. is "Photoshopped". PS is THE standard tool of the trade in photojournalism. However, the enhancements are usually limited to cropping, adjusting levels, adjusting curves, white balance correction, etc. This is what Hershorn had done to "enchance" the note. Much beyond that, is considered unethical in the photojournalism world. (Many media outlets even prohibit "red eye" removal in photos.) This is grossly different than the CAIR photo where something was clearly (and poorly) added that someone present would not have seen. Dittoes for when the LA Times shooter in Iraq cut-n-pasted two images to make it look as if a US soldier was leveling his rifle at a Iraqi father and child.

...add "sharpening" (if nee... (Below threshold)

...add "sharpening" (if needed) to the standard PS workflow too.

That hajib doesn't look lik... (Below threshold)

That hajib doesn't look like it was "photoshopped". It looks to me more like it was "Sharpie-d" and scanned.

So, when Time magazine arti... (Below threshold)
Lurking Observer:

So, when Time magazine artificially darkened OJ Simposon's picture, whilst putting it on the cover of the magazine, was that for purposes of clarity? Enhancement?

I should point out that Con... (Below threshold)

I should point out that Condi Rice has indeed confirmed that the content of the note is accurate. The photoshopping performed was to alter the exposure level and make it more legible; the content was not altered. Thus this is not a case of 'fake but accurate'.


Now, having said that, acco... (Below threshold)

Now, having said that, according to THIS article,


a Washington-based Reuters editor said that the specific type of Photoshopping performed on this photo is NOT standard practice, and is in fact a firing offense. The person who did the work says otherwise, but it looks like there is at least some uncertainty about that point.

Why would anyone pay for Ph... (Below threshold)

Why would anyone pay for Photoshop when Photo Filtre will do as good a job for free? I have both and I prefer Photo Filter, if Photoshop hadn't been free too I wouldn't have ever bothered to install it.

"So, when Time magazine art... (Below threshold)

"So, when Time magazine artificially darkened OJ Simposon's picture, whilst putting it on the cover of the magazine, was that for purposes of clarity? Enhancement?"

One could argue that Time changed the basic content of the image to the point that a "bystander" would not have witnessed the same scene, and thereby was unethical. It would be hard to make the same arguement in the case of the "potty" photo. Judicious use of "The Hand of God" in photojournalism is generally accepted as OK. For example, lightening the face to lessen the shadows of someone wearing a baseball cap outdoors is done routinely (film and digital doesn't have the dynamic range of our eyeballs). This has been done for ages, even back in the days of "film". If you've every worked in a darkroom and used an enlarger, odds are you know how to "dodge and burn" an image.

"Washington-based Reuters e... (Below threshold)

"Washington-based Reuters editor said that the specific type of Photoshopping performed on this photo is NOT standard practice, and is in fact a firing offense. The person who did the work says otherwise, but it looks like there is at least some uncertainty about that point."

The article, as well as the linked article, take a giant logical leap. The editor said that anyone "doctoring" a photo would be summarily fired. That's true. However, there's proof that it was "doctored". "Dodging and burning" ain't "doctoring".

As for the notion that Hershorn or anyone else cut-n-pasted the note.... Appy Occum's Razor here. If someone where to doctor an image and risk throwing away their career, would they likely do it by doctoring a note about Bush needing to use to the bathroom? Wouldn't a more newsworthy subject like "I knew there weren't any WMD..." be more likely if someone were going to take that personal risk?

Make that "However, there's... (Below threshold)

Make that "However, there's NO proof that it was "doctored"."

As for the handwriting exam... (Below threshold)

As for the handwriting examples, I don't know about Bush... but personally my script doesn't look anything like my cursive.

sigh....IT DOESN'T MATTER T... (Below threshold)


sorry for yelling.

The photoshopping isn't the story.

It's the fact that Reuters that it worthy of publishing. It's pathetic. It's reaching deep into your bias to even consider it newsworthy.

I don't think for a second they faked it or else it would read like a love note or secret plans to kill Kofi. I'd give Reuters better credit than faking a note that says "I have to pee."

Hell, even Dan Rather went for an AWOL accusation.

No, no, the sad thing is that this was a story to begin with. It just seems so....so....stupid.

Exactly, Faith+1!!... (Below threshold)
Sheik Yur Bouty:

Exactly, Faith+1!!

Heaven help us all if he were to ever pass gas where it could be overheard by a recording device!!

That would be the lead story on each evening newscast.

From those many (and excell... (Below threshold)

From those many (and excellent) comments and later updates by newsbusters (thanks for that link, mcg), I agree with the last update there that quotes Reuters themself as saying the editing involved was not acceptable policy/practice.

While I am in no rush to agree with Reuters nor provide them any more publicity than is necessary, the point in this episode is not the manual techniques involved (at least, once it's established that the contents were not falsely created after the photograph was taken and I find from reading that that's not the case), but the "editing" involved in and of itself.

That the image was intentionally framed and abstracted as importance from those proceedings, involving whom, and then emphasized for whatever reason, IS the editing involved (includes the Photoshop/retouching, such as it is) and merits the penalty here, and, merits being discredited by those involved.

Because, the photojournalist is described by spokesperson from Reuters as "not being aware of what he" was photographing (saying, "if he had been aware...there would be [more images available versus just a few]") (indicates the specific interest and level of enthusiasm for that interest by the "photojournalist"), and Reuters obviously indicates where their editorial interest is in developing by whatever manipulations/retouching/whatever the available images and then running with them.

Such that, to my view, the "image manipulation" involved is rank and reveals Reuters to be on some sort of intention Get Game and quick to grab onto Potty "Humor" at that.

It might have been successful within these realities IF Reuters had made overt image manipulations and run that/those with captions along the lines of dark humor. BUT, the halfway point they're responsible for here -- "look what we captured but look what we didn't do" -- would only be successful media if it was a snap taken at the L.A. City Council meeting or perhaps the Creative Department with HBO or something similar...but this was a meeting with (name the names here) and about (name the import here) and look what Reuters did: tried to focus on bathroom requirements of the President of the United States and still maintain themselves as a "news" organization.

They did the former, and didn't accomplish the latter.

Thus, the sum-gain effect of the editing involved is that it's theatre, it's failed media because it poses as journalism, it's making Reuters look even more stupid than some of us already think that they are. And THAT's the "editing" -- the sum total "image manipulation" involved in this story, not limited to the mere letters on that sheet of paper, but the thing in total as a work, a "piece" as we call it, in creative arts.

Someone earlier mentioned that TIME cover image of O.J.Simpson as parallel example and the point of THAT was similar theatre: not so much a point that the image was manipulated but that the choice and intention were there theatrically to present Simpson as "dark" -- but I've always wondered as to how many people in our world have ever seen Simpson unshaven on a rough morning after. Answer to that is none-to-perhaps-a-few-dozen at most unless Simpson's had similar bad nights that the rest of us aren't aware of.

Sometimes the imagery manipulations, like body movements, physical gestures, body language itself, unless clearly defined as performance of a fantasy sort, are too well done to be unbelievable (ask some of our better actors or better yet, watch them in one moment transform from one statement physically to another and try not believing any parallel personality changes unless you're aware in that moment that they're performing a moment, gesture, a message).

This is one of those situations where a performance piece -- a conscious choice to create a moment and then aiding and assisting the physical materials available to make that piece "work" (to be effective) -- was used to mislead without counter introduction and that's where I find Reuters' as, perhaps, highly creative but badly intended, certainly intended to deceive. Which is about as bad as it gets in media.

From the point of audience,... (Below threshold)

From the point of audience, however, once the impression is made -- the image as it's been presented by Reuters is published and available to the public, the "audience" -- the statement is made, the performance has communicated it's message and people, from what I see over the past day or two, obsessed critically about a man in the Presidency trying to summon quietly an official meeting break for a bathroom moment.

If it's "real" in that sense -- a break for the President, a break requested by the President for someone else, a break requested by someone else for the President, whatever -- the audience response has been to dwell with complete stupidity about a very primary human need by SOMEone and that is, "I need a break."

I'm curious how many people who ridiculed the idea that President Bush would request a break in a meeting for a trip to a bathroom, I'm wondering how many of those foolish ninnies would be ridiculing Michael Moore his gas passing moments (they are many with someone that obese), would ridicule themselves for dashing to the bathroom from their home computers, would ridicule...

It's a stupid issue. Reuters did an ugly thing and from the look of it, did so with intention to encourage ridicule, and everyone ridiculing the scenario are not desperate so much as they're ill. We have bathrooms in public meeting places and homes and planes and buses because the bathroom needs are entirely unpredictable for almost everyone, up to a point. And that includes Presidents.

But, that Bush would be considerate enough to requst, privately, a bathroom break seems commendable to my view, hardly denigratable. It seems he's showing the meeting's leader, C. Rice, simple courtesy and respect, or at least, someone was, or tried to.

I can't believe Reuters even pushed this forward. It's tawdry and stupid.

"From those many (and excel... (Below threshold)

"From those many (and excellent) comments and later updates by newsbusters (thanks for that link, mcg), I agree with the last update there that quotes Reuters themself as saying the editing involved was not acceptable policy/practice."

Nowhere in that article, nor in the one it refers to, does it state that was Hershorn did was "not acceptable". The person that wrote the article takes a quote from a Reuters employee that says that Reuters maintains "very, very strong policies and rules against any doctoring of our photos" and then ASSUMES what Hershorn did would be considered "doctoring". What was done to the image would not be considered "doctoring". Nowhere in the article does anyone, other than the author, make such a claim. No one in a position of authority (either from Reuters or elsewhere in the news industry) is consulted for an opinion on the matter.

As for Reuters having an anti-Bush motive for running this photo, if you looks back (as one other photographer I heard comment on this) "Anytime a top official, especially a President, trips, sneezes, vomits, naps, laughs, cries...." it usually gets ran! Such photos have run during every modern Presidency... LBJ showing off his surgical scar, Ford tripping on his jetway, Bush 41 barfing, etc. etc.

I'm confused.We'd ... (Below threshold)

I'm confused.

We'd only know how much it'd been altered (I used The Gimp to adjust the contrast because I couldn't read the "Is this possible?" line) if we've seen the original image, right?

Is that available?

Actually, Narins, just look... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Actually, Narins, just looking at it shows that it's been altered severely.

1) Bush is shown using a pencil.

2) Pencils tend to leave gray marks.

3) The lettering looks blacker than you'd get from a Sharpie.

4) The typed text on the page under the binder clip shifts radically from heavy black to faded along a clearly-defined line of demarcation.

I'm no Photoshop expert, but that looks to me like pretty damning evidence that someone took a hunk of that photo (excluding Bush's hand and the pencil, preserving the natural tones) and cranked up the contrast something fierce to make the lettering clearer. Or something like that.


Sorry guys, I agree that Re... (Below threshold)

Sorry guys, I agree that Reuters' choice of featured photos is stupid and childish, but what Reuters did to the image is not "doctoring" in any negative sense of the word.

Enhancing the contrast of an under- or overexposed image to make details clearer is as old as photography itself, and it's likely that 99% of the non-studio news photos you've ever seen have had something similar done either electronically or in a darkroom. In fact, the wide dynamic range of a digital camera -- the ability to capture and keep detail in "blown out" or shadowed areas -- is a huge selling point. Before digital became king in photojournamism same was true with the professional-grade film stocks they used.

But what does bother me is that there's a simple, almost trivial way that all news agencies could both police themselves and address these complex ethical concerns: Make the original, unedited, raw image files available for download with every photo they feature. I've been ranting about this onmy blog for a while now.

What I don't get is how I c... (Below threshold)

What I don't get is how I can see through the top sheet and nearly read the text on the second page of the document on the top right. That's one hell of a flash.

I actually agree with Gizmo... (Below threshold)

I actually agree with Gizmo on the enhancement/doctoring issue. -S-, I recommend you follow the link to the actual story that quotes the Reuters editor.

Where will it take you? Cybercast News Service.

Well, that's just great. Look, I'm a conservative fellow and I like to read an occasional Newsmax or CNSNews, but first-tier reporters they are not. (Where is that WMD report you said you had, CNSNews?) I find it plausible that they "cooked" the questions they asked the editor so that he'd say categorically that "doctoring" was wrong. Note that he ALSO said that he was sure that the people involved were very professional in what they did.

So I'm inclined to believe that what Reuters did to the photo was uncontroversial and standard practice.

And I agree with others who say that it is the fact that they published it in the first place that was the real problem.

Just to clarify. If you go ... (Below threshold)

Just to clarify. If you go to the Newsbusters article, and then click the link THERE to go to the article quoting the Reuters editor, THAT will take your to CNSNews.

Hmmmm.Interesting.... (Below threshold)



The Washington Post couldn't be bothered that Clinton was getting hummers in the Oval Office, but Al-Reuters thinks a private message for a bathroom break by Bush is big news.

MSM. At least they're consistent, they hate all Republicans.

Gizmo: You have to scroll ... (Below threshold)

Gizmo: You have to scroll to access the comments I was referring to.

You DID indicate you work for Reuters, so I am not surprised that the glaring reality of the statement you question was beyond you.

Go read the link again. Scroll to the bottom of the article. Read the content and the site's statements.

Working for Reuters may not be the credibility that you may assume it to be. I am also betting that most of the rest of what I wrote earlier here has not been comprehensible to you. In which case, I am again not at all surprised.

mcg: go and read the artic... (Below threshold)

mcg: go and read the article again.

mcg:You also seem ... (Below threshold)


You also seem to have missed my point as to what I wrote earlier, in addition to the information I was referring to from the other site.

Editing in and of itself involves a choice. So does photography, which is, in fact, editing in and of itself, in and of itself as an application, an activity of editing information.

The Reuters photographer was described by Reuters as being anticipated/known to them to, had he been "aware" of what he photographed (I'm suspect already, but this continues to support the unreliability, surely lack of objectivity, by Reuters in this specific incident), he'd have photographed more of the scene, that perspective.

Reuters seems proud of the fact that the editing process was able to emphasize something that even their very own nonobjective employee, the photographer, would have found glee in, the exploitation of that moment, President Bush, a bathroom break.

They manipulated the contents -- of the few obtained photographic images afterward -- for purposes, if you rely on Gizmo's opinion, to amplify and improve, mere cosmetics and not content changes.

That everyone does it, so it must be alright.

Nearly, if not all, image content in print is "manipulated," yes, for cosmetic purposes. Yes, I do agree with that having been responsible for supervising a huge amount of very fine and noteworthy image retouching in my lifetime. It is not, not at all, unusual to retouch for cosmetic improvements and there wouldn't exist many respected celebrities, such as those are, without image retouching.

But this particular situation is a case of retouching both by acceptable cosmetic revisions (dots, scratches, blemishes, focus, color balance) in the resulting image itself (or images since there are almost always, if you're capable, several copies of an important image in the works) AND editorial content.

The editorial content choices were made by the photograph itself being taken (and later statement by Reuters confirming the photographers' keenest interest and that it was a source of enthusiasm for that person, their employee, to capture an image that would be expositional where President Bush is concerned), and by the editorial process that resulted in publishing the image and how.

There was no disclaimer in that act of publishing that the image was retouched. Not a big deal if and when an image is not one of handwriting and handwritten content by someone as significant as the President of the U.S., or, for that matter, anyone else where handwritten content is being reproduced by photographed process.

Which ALSO emphasises an unacceptable standard of editing, an editorial process that, by it's omissions and inclusions, created a fraudulent, for lack of a better term here, a false impression.

And, admittedly, Reuters has acknowledged (again, by other statements but especially by the statement about the key interests of their employee, the photographer responsible for the original image) that their intentions were to embarrass Bush, somehow present Bush as compromised, available for ridicule, if not to ridicule by the very choices involved here.

I consider Reuters as acknowledging "admittedly" by the fact that they printed the manipulated image without accompanying it with caption and, perhaps, an editorial statement.

They may (or may not have) manipulated what President Bush actually wrote on that paper in that image that was photographed by Reuters but their failure here ethically is that, as they also have admitted, they extended somewhat their degree of "retouching" and made editorial choices intent on a message that deceived.

I'm curious how many editors at Reuters, photographers, too, bolt from a meeting for the bathroom when they need to without bit of an excuse, a social consideration of their behavior, or, if it's, say, an interview with a possible merger group and their job's on the line (just trying to suggest some importance of a meeting venue that someone at Reuters might recognize, since none of them are the President of the U.S. attending a meeting being conducted by someone else [Rice] who is discussing issues relative to the security of the planet with others who may or may not be reliably secure), and they get up and leave that meeting to go to the bathroom as needed without so much as a nod to the authority presence in the room.

But, that's another issue. As to this one, Reuters was gleeful in providing an image -- framed, editorial choices involved, manipulated afterward to or not to modify content but to modify image quality -- that compromised President Bush (AND the seriousness of the meeting itself because of that) without also providing an accompanying disclaimer, or explanation. Seems quite covert, certainly POLITICALLY ACTIVE and not at all "journalism."

About LBJ's stomach scar, he was aware he was among media photographers and exposed his scar when asked how he was recovering from his surgery. I never thought it was embarrassing and I don't think LBJ did, either (or he wouldn't have posed for the photograph).

Unless someone "retouched" that image to make his scar look diseased or incredulously awful, and LBJ's expression to be different about the scar, the moment, I see nor did I see anything wrong with that image. Not even a reasonable argument with the Bush-Handwriting-Reuters Scam.

mcg: you're referring to y... (Below threshold)

mcg: you're referring to your political interpretations. I'm writing about standards in the arts. Ethical things that are inherent to practice of artforms. Although Reuters does make itself known here for political authorship, I'm addressing their methods involved in the standards of their practice that depends upon artform, creative methods, for those expressions of authorship.

I guess I missed something ... (Below threshold)
David Davis:

I guess I missed something here. What I saw was simple evidence that the commander in chief, like all people, is subject to the call of nature and courteous enough to request a general break in the conference to allow it. Having sat through similar meetings, I'm not surprised at the note. I think it was a good photo, one that reminds us they are people just like us.

Jeez, -S-, how can you get ... (Below threshold)

Jeez, -S-, how can you get upset that people have misinterpreted you when you make such rambling, incoherent comments? I'm afraid there's not a comma left in the world. I'm not talking about your point of view. I sort of figured that out by masichistically forcing myself to read every word. But talk about incoherent.

And I don't see any evidence that Reuters "gleefully" published the photo. Of course the Left is ridiculing Bush; we can't stand the guy. But I do think it's of interest to learn that the President has to write such a note. I, and I'm sure many others, would assume he could just get up any time he wants and go to the bathroom. But when you think about it, the President walking out in the middle of a UN meeting could cause quite a stir. So it's just of some mild interest to know that he faces the same dilemmas we do. I think it's just bugging the Right to think that the Left might be having a laugh at Bush's expense. Get over it.

And by the way, as long as there's been photos there's been manipulation of images. We all see differently, so when a photo is exposed in a darkroom, it's exposed in a way that creates a certain effect. For news photos, it's usually to make them more legible. But photos are cropped and altered in every way. Do you think there's some Objective Truth about how a am image looked originally, and a photo is dishonest if it doesn't duplicate that truth? To show a piece of paper with writing on it, but not clarify it enought to actually read the writing, is just silly.

And as far as the OJ Simpson Time Magazine cover goes, no one ever considered it acceptable. It was a major black eye for Time, which made the unprecedented move of withdrawing the issue from newsstands and republishing it with a different cover.






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