October 27, 2012

Oh Doctor: Romney Instagram Etch-a-Sketches Campaign Photo

From the analysis at BuzzFeed, it looks pretty clear the Romney campaign doctored a photo of a rally in Nevada this week to make the event, and crowd size look bigger. Indeed, they are working off the original Romney Instagram post here, this link good for as long as the Romney camp dares to keep it online. (As of now, there are 1155 comments, the most recent about the photoshopping.)

Because the photoshopping is ridiculously amateurish, there isn’t a lot of work involved in backing up BuzzFeed. To highlight two elements they call out, for example, the fact the crossbeams at Henderson Pavilion no longer line up and that an extra letter now appears in Romney’s name hanging from above, check out the Getty photo below (featuring the candidate himself). As you can tell, the laws of physics have not been contravened, nor has Romnesia so affected the team that they’ve forgotten how to spell their champion’s name)

(click for full size)

What I don’t get is how Romney’s social media folks even thought to try this in the first place. If you’ve been following the campaign on Instagram, you know that a couple handful of people in the press pool are shooting the same events, the photos all posting about the same time. This was uploaded by Maeve Reston of the LA Times. (Notice, by the way, no double guard rails up those aisles.)

Talking presidential campaign optics, photoshop and desperation, of course we can talk about character, ethics and the tendency to mess with reality and digitally lie. If a wire photographer did such a thing, for instance, he or she would be headed for the abyss. I imagine whoever is responsible under the Romney tent, on the other hand, is more likely facing a tongue lashing for being so incompetent.


Certainly, this isn’t the first time such a thing has happened, however.

The instance that immediately comes to mind is a still frame from a Bush commercial in ’04. In it, his campaign alters the composition of an audience of soldiers, the scene captured during a speech at a military base. (You can read my analysis here, my thesis as to motive having to do with racial balancing and Karl Rove’s determination that year to incrementally up Bush’s percentage of the African-American vote). Not that I’m differentiating these two example on a moral scale, by the way. Of course, exploiting our troops is appalling, reflective of how Bush, Rove and Co. trumped things up to sell the Iraq intervention in the first place. At the same time, duping citizens, whether etch-a-sketching words or pictures, is duping citizens.

(screenshots: Buzzfeed via Instagram. photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images. caption: Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (L) speaks during a campaign rally as his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) looks on at Henderson Pavillion on October 23, 2012 in Henderson, Nevada. A day after the final Presidential debate, Mitt Romney is campaigning in Nevada and Colorado. photo: Maeve Reston/LA Times – Instagram.)

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Michael Shaw
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