Boycott on Officially Issued White House Photographs — Obama, President of Soviet-Style Propaganda?

Politics and photography don’t mix… I’ll give it nevertheless a try. You might wonder why he got the Nobel Peace Prize, but overall he may still be the better option and lesser of other evils. Problem is, White House photographers enjoy unobstructed access while nearly 40 news organizations accuse the Obama administration of improperly controlling images of the president by limiting the access granted to independent photojournalists.

A mutiny has erupted among photographers who cover the White House over its increasing practice of excluding them from events involving the president and then releasing its own photos or video.

Limitations on photographers’ access to President Obama create “a troubling precedent with a direct and adverse impact on the public’s ability to independently monitor and see what its government is doing,” charged a letter from the 38 news organizations.

President Barack Obama with probably White House photographer Pete Souza's Canon 5D Mark II...
President Barack Obama with probably Chief Official White House photographer Pete Souza‘s old Canon 5D Mark II… | Official White House Photostream

The White House talks of logistics limiting access and the desire to preserve a zone of privacy for the president and his family. Well, he’s the president. How much privacy should he have? And do we absolutely always need staged, enacted photos conveying an image of statesmanship and control.

Where’s the human being? That’s not caught by the White House photographers.

The issue has been pushed to the forefront by the expanding role of the Internet and websites like Flickr and Twitter, which allow the White House to quickly share images of Obama, his family and his staff. But only images that fit the desired profile.

The White House is, “in effect, replacing independent photojournalism with visual press releases,” charges the letter. Wouldn’t it the independent media who can give a true representation of what an event is?

The letter states:

As surely as if they were placing a hand over a journalist’s camera lens, officials in this administration are blocking the public from having an independent view of important functions of the executive branch of government.

Talking free world, there’s even a call to boycott the propaganda:

We urge those of you in news organisations to immediately refrain from publishing any of the photographs or videos released by the White House, just as you would refuse to run verbatim a press release from them.

Not only are more and more photojournalists being made redundant, their perspectives and angles just don’t count anymore…




  • One More Thought

    I’ve been a political junkie for years and this type of criticism is nothing new for Presidents.

    I remember Reagan was heavily criticized for staging Hollywood style events and photo ops, and always controlling the media message. He and his team were masters at it. And it wasn’t just the optics; Reagan was also a master at dodging and not answering questions.

    George W. Bush was heavily criticized for the same thing…and of course, for many of his photo ops. Who can forget the Mission Accomplished speech on the aircraft carrier?

    So I don’t think this is anything new…it seems to happen with every President, and to a lesser degree with all politicians. There is always a tension between the media and the President in terms of message control.

    I think the use of the term “Soviet style propaganda” is a bit over the top, and again, it’s been applied to Presidents of both parties. All Presidents have been and are subjected to a level of scrutiny and criticism that hardly resembles the old Soviet Union.

    • Stole that “Soviet-style” header from the Guardian, to be honest…