Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
May 8, 2011

Framing Osama (and Obama)

Bin Laden rehearsing DoD

Now that the perceptual war surrounding the bin Laden operation has fully transitioned to the post-raid stage, I wanted to look at the first of two images the DoD has strategically used to undermine “the evil one.” This screenshot, which I imagine most of you have already seen, is an outtake extracted from the trove of video captured in Abbottabad showcasing bin Laden rehearsing, and apparently flubbing a line.

If the point here is that bin Laden was overly scripted — as well as overly concerned with his image, given the fact his beard is jet black while in other time-related pics and vids it is grey — I give the DoD and the White House about a D- for the effort. Not only does the DoD know too well today’s wars are fought as much on TV by celebrity brands (basic basic production techniques being standard-operating-procedure), so does the public.

Obama photo Staged bin Laden Announcement

That being the case — and given the fact Obama re-staged the walk-out and first 30 seconds of his announcement of bin Laden’s death for still cameras after he finished the live announcement on TV, this particular rip on bin Laden is a FAIL. (It’s also a little funny, by the way, that the DoD would be ripping bin Laden for being a TV star after the GOP spent months attacking the charismatic, but then fresh-faced candidate Obama back in ’08 as “The Celebrity,” even likening him to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton).

Let me just be clear. I’m not ripping the DoD for propaganda, I get that’s a big part of their business. What I’m ripping them for is weak propaganda, each failed effort having the effect of undermining the effective stuff.

(photo 1: U.S. Department of Defense via  Denver Post caption: Osama bin Laden speaks in an undated image taken from videos seized by Navy SEALs in last weekend’s raid and released Saturday. photo2 : Jason Reed/Reuters)

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