Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
September 24, 2013

Putting Those al-Shabab Terrorists to Shame

Screen Shot 2013 09 25 at 1 44 02 AM via Mirror.co.uk

Screen Shot 2013 09 25 at 1 47 15 AMvia NY Daily News

Screen Shot 2013 09 25 at 1 29 05 AM

via TheWeek.uk

Screen Shot 2013 09 25 at 1 20 23 AM

via the Mirror

Now that the shooting phase is over, we enter the spin room.

As vociferously as both sides were in trash talking and breast beating over Twitter while the siege was actually going on, we can watch now as the Kenyans, al-Shabab and their Western media proxies join the fray to establish winners and losers in the battle for hearts and minds. The best example of the perceptual jockeying involves the case of Elliott and Amelie Prior who were photographed during the attack outside the mall looking thoroughly traumatized in the foreground of a corpse.

Not forty-eight hours later, however, the picture has been completely reframed with the news of Elliot’s encounter with one of the militants. (Yes, Gawker’s got a good summary, as sordid and incestual as the relationship between war and PR has become.) With the news, The Week goes so far as to completely refashion the caption, now fashioned this way:

British children Elliott, four, and Amelie, six, stand outside the shopping centre holding Mars bars, given to them by one of the terrorists. In one of the most extraordinary stories to come out of the siege, Elliott saved his family by telling one of the militants: “You’re a bad man, let us leave.” The gunman let them go, reportedly saying: “Please forgive me, we are not monsters.”

If nothing else, it’s a reflection of how much Western ego there is to protect (or narcissistic injury to avoid) to claim that a tiny boy stood up to the bloodthirsty al-Shabab in their death mission to undermine the Kenyans, the  sanctity of these commercial temples and, as widely characterized in Western media, move up the world terrorism scoreboard..  There in the symbolic mix as well, it seems, is little Elliot proving that hitting us in NOT just like stealing candy from a baby but that the evil doers have, in fact, recognized their hypocrisy and moral weakness by actually giving us our candy back.

And then, the I HEART NY t-shirt wouldn’t have any symbolic resonance here in helping to de-legitimizing those Islamic terrorists, would it?

(Ending slightly edited.)

(photo: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)

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