The photos the media reports on… and those it doesn’t.
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical left and Islamic terrorism.
This week, a major news story broke. A 2-year-old girl was photographed looking at a really terrible painting of Michelle Obama.
"'A moment of awe': Photo of little girl captivated by Michelle Obama portrait goes viral," the Washington Post cheered. "Little girl awestruck by Michelle Obama's portrait believes she's a queen," urgently reported CNN. The sum total of this story is that a little girl looked at a portrait of Michelle.
Eat your heart out, North Korea. Our fake news propaganda is even tackier than yours.
Recently, a photo was released of Barack Obama meeting with Louis Farrakhan. The photo had been suppressed all these years to protect Obama’s career. Farrakhan was the racist leader of a hate group who had praised Hitler and described Jews as “satanic”. And yet he had met with the future president at a Congressional Black Caucus event. A CBC member, Rep. Danny Davis, had even praised Farrakhan.
You might think there’s a story in all that. And you would be wrong.
There isn’t a single Washington Post story on the photo. Not one. The same paper that believed its readers needed to be informed that a little girl had been photographed looking at a bad painting of Michelle Obama hasn’t found the time to report on the cover up of a meeting between top Democrats, including a future president, and the leader of a racist hate group that had once allied with the KKK.
It’s not that the Washington Post can’t report on Farrakhan. Or use Farrakhan to attack a president.
In ’15, the Post ran, “The bigotry of Trump and Farrakhan” and in ’16, “Why the Nation of Islam is praising Donald Trump”. Its stories about Obama and Farrakhan insist that the two men hate each other. A ’15 piece even attempted to link Farrakhan to Clarence Thomas, instead of Obama.
The Washington Post can report on Farrakhan when attacking Republicans. It just won’t report on Obama’s links to Farrakhan. Neither will CNN. The only mentions of the photo on its site come from CNN personalities like Jake Tapper and Michael Smerconish. CNN found the time to report on a photo of a dog’s ear that it claimed looked like President Trump. But not on a photo of Obama and Farrakhan.
I reached out to Washington Post editor Marty Baron and media columnist Margaret Sullivan asking them to explain their paper’s embargo on the Farrakhan photo. There has been no response.
Instead of coverage, the Washington Post has engaged in a cover up.
Ever since Obama left office, the media has reported on all sorts of photos of him. None of these photos are actually significant. The stories are puff pieces of the kind you expect to find in North Korea.
The New York Times, the Washington Post, Time and other media outlets found it vital over the years to report on a photo of a boy patting Obama on the head. They continued revisiting the photo even after Obama was out of office. And then ran stories of the boy looking back on that “historic” head patting.
If only they had done a fraction of the research on a photo of Obama meeting with a hate group leader at an official Democrat function as they did on a photo of him mugging for the camera with a little boy.
"Photo speaks volumes about Obama and race," is how the Washington Post wrote it up. Does the photo of Obama with a black nationalist racist leader who praised Hitler say anything about race?
The Washington Post dedicated yet another piece to yet another photo of Obama and a little boy. “A touched cheek and hope for the future,” it declared. CNN, for its part, ran, "Obama reacts to child's White House tantrum." The media finds staged photos of its beloved leader as newsworthy as any state propaganda agency in a dictatorship. But actual newsworthy photos get buried out back at midnight.
The propaganda photos were mostly taken by Pete Souza, Obama's Official White House Photographer. Souza had been brought on board to do his best Leni Riefenstahl shtick since 2005 when the Chicago Tribune assigned him to "document" Obama's first year in the Senate. That turned into a book, “The Rise of Barack Obama”, released just in time for the full launch of the Obama presidential campaign.
New senators don't normally have a former White House photog following them around. But Obama was being groomed for the White House even before he walked into the Senate. Souza was selected for the Chief Photo Propagandist gig by the Tribune’s Jeff Zeleny in ’04. Zeleny later became infamous, after switching to the New York Times, for asking Obama how “enchanted” he was by his first 100 days.
Obama wasn’t enchanted, but the media was. It was the Chicago Tribune whose dirty trick of unsealing the divorce records of Obama’s Republican opponent got him to the Senate. And having used dirty tricks to get him there, it funded his hagiography without reporting it as a campaign contribution.
Behind the cute propaganda photos was a darker truth.
The White House Correspondents Association protested the ban on independent photographers. “Journalists are routinely being denied the right to photograph or videotape the President while he is performing his official duties,” they complained.
While President Trump allows the media to photograph him as much as its shutterbugs want, Obama’s official image was a carefully manufactured collaboration made to appear casual and natural.
Instead of risking unflattering shots, Obama Inc. just tossed out propaganda pics from Pete. But photojournalists also participated in staging photos of Obama. During his live speeches, still photographers would be kept out to avoid any unflattering pictures of the beloved leader moving his simpering lips. Then when he had finished speaking, the photogs were allowed in to take posed shots of Obama pretending to speak even while he was saying nothing.
That is a good summary of how the media covered Obama and how it’s still covering for him.
The media found the time to turn 5 different photos of Obama posing with kids into stories. It pretended that some of these photos, taken with African-American children, said something about race.
No, they didn’t.
The photo that does say something about race is the one of Obama smiling next to a notorious racist. And how many other photos like it remain buried? How many are locked away in a vault somewhere, like the Los Angeles Times’ infamous Obama Khalidi tape, awaiting the day when they no longer matter?
The Obama Farrakhan photo can’t be locked up again. But mention of it can be locked away by the media which will instead urgently report on a photo of a little girl looking at a portrait of Michelle Obama. Or a photo of a little boy patting Obama on the head. Or Obama with a baby.
Just like the countless propaganda photos and posters of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Kim Jong-un with the kiddies. Here’s an adorable photo of the North Korean dictator at an orphanage. You won’t believe how cute this photo of Stalin holding a little girl is. Especially once you find out he murdered her parents. This snap of Hitler with the daughter of his chief propagandist, who was murdered when Hitler’s doctor forced cyanide tablets into her mouth, was meant to make people think he wasn’t a monster.
And this shot of Saddam Hussein ruffling the hair of a 5-year-old British hostage will melt your heart.
There’s a reason that dictators are often depicted with children. Yes, it makes them seem cuddlier. But it’s also the essence of tyranny for the servants of the people to play the parents of the people instead.
The people are their children who need to be told what to do and disciplined when we misbehave.
Soviet propaganda named Stalin, “Father of Nations”. (When he invaded other nations, he was just exercising his parental prerogatives.) Hitler was the “Father of the German People”. And Obama?
“The President of the United States is, you know, our boss. But also, you know, the president and the first lady are kind of like the mom and the dad of the country. And when your dad says something, you listen, “ said Chris Rock, at a gun control rally back in the Obama era.
And you don’t need to ask why daddy is kissing Louis Farrakhan. It’s none of your business.
That’s what the media is really telling us. And it’s telling that we have the same media as Russia, China and North Korea that runs propaganda photos of its beloved leader while smearing his opponents.
The media’s Obama kiddy photos and its sullen silence about the Farrakhan photos do tell us something. They tell us that we narrowly survived a cult of personality. And that we aren’t out of the woods yet.
The dictator is out of the White House. But his lackeys still control the news.
Change will come when the Berlin Wall of silence about the Farrakhan photo falls and when the Fuhrerbunker in which the Khalidi tape is buried pops open. We’ll know when the spying, the lies, the dirty tricks of the tyranny under which we’re still living come crashing down around its heads.
And then we’ll know that we are finally free.