May 9, 2007

Iwo Jima, Kansas

edited for content 2:36 pm EST



Oh, the picture of patriotism….

This color shot — photographed yesterday in Greensburg, Kansas — is one of the more editorially-deceptive newswire photos I’ve seen in a while.  In the photo, Kansas National Guardsman and postal workers raise an American flag over a U.S. Post Office destroyed by Friday’s killer tornado.

The image becomes even more duplicitous in light of the pissing contest that broke out the same day between the White House and Kansas’ (Democratic) Governor Kathleen Sebelius.  Addressing recovery efforts following the disaster, the Governor attacked the Administration for weakening federal disaster relief by railroading employing the National Guard in Iraq.

Said the Governor:

“I don’t think there is any question if you are missing trucks, Humvees, and helicopters that the response is going to be slower…. The real victims here will be the residents of Greensburg, because the recovery will be at a slower pace.”

Evidenced by the bubbles, I doubt you can look at this image without also conjuring American troops planting the flag on Iwo Jima.  In the simplest terms, however, the connection creates something of a whitewash.  At face value, the patriotic reflex is that, when the troops are needed, you can always count on them.

The twist, however, involves the true story behind political role of Joe Rosenthal’s famous Iwo Jima photo (b&w above).  Rosenthal’s picture was actually a PR recreation staged With his version in hand, to the government employed the photo to make the WW II struggle against the Japanese look that much more impressive — and fully-equipped. 

Most people who see this newswire pic probably wouldn’t think past its patriotic value, and the uncomplicated credit paid to (federal, as well as state) first-responders.  Any reading more historically true to the marketing of the Iwo Jima shot, however, tilts the Governor’s way.  In those terms, this “uplifting” message from the heartlands is essentially a gift to the Government and a free piece of propaganda.

For example, who’s to say — if the Administration hadn’t turned the National Guard into the International Guard — that there wouldn’t have been three, four or even five guardsman hoisting old glory, instead of just two?

(image: Karen Wagner/AP. Greensburg, Kansas.  May 8, 2007. via YahooNews)

Post By

Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

The Big Picture

Follow us on Instagram (@readingthepictures) and Twitter (@readingthepix), and


A curated collection of pieces related to our most-popular subject matter.


Comments Powered by Disqus