Should the United States Release Osama Bin Laden Death Photos?

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At a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, White House spokesperson Jay Carney said that President Obama and his team do have visuals of Osama Bin Laden's dead body that are "being reviewed," but he declined to "get into specifics." Tuesday morning, Drudge Report claimed that President Obama had already decided to make photographic proof public, but was still working out the details of the release, while CNN detailed exactly the sort of media available that might prove to the world that Sunday's mission in Pakistan really did kill the most wanted terrorist of the last decade. (Fakes are already running rampant.) Inside our daily media column Press Clips, we ponder the current situation with the still-secret photos, in addition to potential problems with publication should the photo, or photos, be released. Plus, in non-Bin Laden media news, life at the Atlantic after Andrew Sullivan, an ambushed Rupert Murdoch and more.

Photo Op: CNN reported earlier on Tuesday that the decision process about which picture to release, if any, was complicated by the fact that "the picture that includes the most recognizable image of OBLs face -- from the hangar in Afghanistan -- is so gruesome and mangled its not appropriate for say the front page of the newspaper. On the other hand, this is the one that is most identifiable as him."

If the government did opt to put out just one photo, and it's the most gruesome but telling one, how will publications react? This is one case in which the uncensored internet could assert its influence over the mainstream print and news media, which considering the presumably guaranteed ubiquity of the photo online, no matter how brutal, could push more conservative publications (in terns of decency standards, not politics) to run an image that might in the past have been left out or at least censored.

But there are other options. Government officials received three sets of photos, according to CNN:

1. Photos of OBLs body at a hanger after he was brought back to Afghanistan. This is the most recognizable with a clear picture of his face. The picture is gruesome because he has a massive open head wound across both eyes. It's very bloody and gory.

2. Photos from the burial at sea on the USS Carl Vinson. Photos of OBL before the shroud was put on and then wrapped in the shroud.

3. There are photos of the raid itself that include photos of the two dead brothers, one of OBLs dead son (adult adolescent, maybe approx 18 yrs old) and some of the inside scene of the compound.

And then it becomes a question of why. Why are we clamoring to see this photo? According to Reuters, Taliban leaders in Afghanistan held off on commenting about Bin Laden's death, "As the Americans did not provide any acceptable evidence to back up their claim." To a rational person, this photo would be the necessary proof, expert photo-doctoring be damned, but denials about Bin Laden's death are guaranteed to persist no matter what form of media exists, as conspiracy theories of all stripes have forever in the face of fact. (See: moon landing, birthers and now deniers of Bin Laden's death.)

At the New Yorker, Philip Gourevitch has a take worth reading in which heargues that the photos should not be released:

If it's released, this is the image that will instantly supplant every other account of Sunday's raid as the iconic representation of America's moment of triumph over its most wanted enemy. Is that what we want--the official equivalent of the Saddam hanging video? Did we learn nothing from the past decade about the overwhelming power of crude images of violence to define and polarize our historical moment? The Abu Ghraib photographs were unofficial documents of an official policy that was supposed to be kept secret, but if nothing else, they should have taught us that a photograph of the violence you inflict is always, in very large measure, a self-portrait. In getting rid of bin Laden, Obama has made the greatest step yet toward being able to put that era behind us. Do we want a photo of bin Laden's bullet-punctured skull to eclipse this moment?

But there's an argument to be made that the "moment" is something of a farce; the murder of a mass murderer is not some magical thing to be celebrated in the abstract. Though a "symbol" was taken down on Sunday, as Rudy Giuliani said, so was a real man. In addition to a fear of being beaten by a competitor, it's this idea of a harsh reality that will probably put a grisly Bid Laden image on every newspaper and website in the world should it get released. And putting a visual to that reality, even if it's a hard one to stomach, might be good for the people of the world whose reactions, be they solemn or celebratory, will at least then be in response to something honest and concrete, scary as it may be.

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Internet Journalism: Elsewhere, AOL and Yahoo continue their move toward becoming journalistic operations and not just '90s relics with AOL/Huffington Post banner having promoted executive editor Nico Pitney to managing editor after losing Jai Singh to the Yahoo Media Network. And the New York Times is just happy to have not lost anyone in the shuffle.

Sullivan-less: Forbes reports that although Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish accounted for about 25% of TheAtlantic.com's online traffic, a generally improved website and the addition of the In Focus photo blog have offset the loss of Sullivan to The Daily Beast. In April, the first full month without the Daily Dish, The Atlantic had its second-best month ever online.

Portrait of Power: Lastly, here is a video of Rupert Murdoch being ambushed by a Media Matters reporter about the British newspapers' phone hacking scandal plaguing Murdoch's businesses. The mogul, cornered at brunch during the White House Correspondent's Dinner weekend extravaganza, doesn't seem shaken. "He's not going to give you an interview," says his wife Wendi, with attitude.

[jcoscarelli@villagevoice.com / @joecoscarelli]



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14 comments
Gwenhenrich Gw
Gwenhenrich Gw

Helloo...... another thought how come its so easy to release Gaddafi & his sons pre & post death videos but not Bin Laden's death photos?? Because our govt didn't pull the trigger for their deaths its okay??? I THINK GROSS OR NOT THE PPL NEED TO HAVE THAT VISUAL OF Bin Laden dead just like Lybia's ppl lined up to see Gaddafi & his sons bodies to verify their death!! ITS ONLY RIGHT

Gwenhenrich Gw
Gwenhenrich Gw

I think if the media & govt can show us the proof then more americans could rest much easier!!!! To know that 9/11 wasn't a conspiacy within our govt & theirs!

Gus Wono
Gus Wono

Les't make a talken pictures those came out even better than the REALS, because someone is going to make money out of this later.

MissMorgan
MissMorgan

Damn right we should have the opportunity to see the pictures! I completely agree with Richard: his body should have been stuffed and mounted! Pardon the pun, but to hell with his "religion". He did not care anything about the religion(s) of the people he murdered in the WTC, why should we care about his??

Sandy Brown
Sandy Brown

I don´t believe American politicians.I don´t believe CNN. Nor BBC

Americans/Europeans have killed many more innocent civilians than terrorists´ organisations.

Release the pics please just foe us to believe you , at least once!!!

Remember Bush - Bin Laden businessesDid the Twin Towers collapse or were they demolished? Ask the experts

YOU REAP WHAT YOU SOW

CAMSHEEL
CAMSHEEL

WE need to see that photo of him dead Gross or not unsure I beleive he is really dead!

Chris Shaefer
Chris Shaefer

There is no need to release the photos. If the logic behind releasing them is to prevent any conspiracy theories then that logic is flawed. If they are released, the same birthers, deathers, and trumpers will immediately claim "photoshop". The fact is, the crazies can not accept that an intelligent, well-spoken, black man was legitimately elected to office and is doing things the previous president could not.

Lets approach this from a different perspective and dive into the hypothetical. IF Bin Laden was NOT KILLED as reported by the government; then the next video UBL released would disprove our gov's claim and have such negative political consequences for President Obama and the democratic party that it would eliminate any possibility for a democrat to be elected for the next 16 years. Not something any smart politician would be willing to risk for a 9% spike in approval ratings. The intelligence community provided the intel, President Obama made the call, and the military executed the plan exceptionally well. Big win for America. Big win for the administration. Big win for all.

togwoo
togwoo

Yes, the Sheeple have a right to see the imagines. Just label them as GRAPHIC and those who dont want to see it, dont have to.

www.real-privacy.es.tc

MediaMentions
MediaMentions

Version:1.0 StartHTML:0000000167 EndHTML:0000001824 StartFragment:0000000484 EndFragment:0000001808 As of the death of Osama Bin Laden, I find there's been a metaphorical cloud of mystery surrounding the consequences. I myslef have been doing a bit of reading and have found the following article one of the more clear and reliable ones. (here's a link, if you'd like a look:http://www.pressdisplay.com/pr... Well anyway, hope this helped a little with context, and I'm sure more will come up as the media fuss calms down a little.

mossberg
mossberg

Not a complicated question. Answer is yes

richard
richard

wHY ARE WE TALKING ABOUT THIS.. oBAMA GAINED A TINY BIT OF RESPECT FOR FINISHING bIN Ladin.. and then started the muslim butt kissing act as soon as he did it.. bin Laden didn't need a burial.. he should ha/e had his body stuffed and mounted in a circus side show.. and the pictures with his head blown off.. not released.. will release.. soon.. later.. being discussed.. maybe.. some day.. WTF.. these people beheaded people and sent the pictures of the whole thing out.. show his stupid dead a%%, make a documentary and include the real camera shots of the take down.. these scum are still coming for us.. are you going to hide.. or kick their a%% into the 31st century. They strut like lions.. but they bark like dogs.. stuff it too them.. screw their pride,

Expat39520
Expat39520

I think they're going to have to offer some evidence or the conspiracy theorists will never shut up about it.

Elend
Elend

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Every religion has its extremists. It is hypocritical to look at bin Laden as the figurehead/model for all of Islam . What about the Crusades? The Inquisition? This is how other people view us. It might be wrong for them to do so, but that might be their experience of our religion/the religion of those that were killed. And how can we say that it is wrong for someone to make judgements about an entire culture/religion/country based on limited experience when that is exactly what we find ourselves doing? If we have animosity and enmity toward one another, it is no surprise that the fighting will continue. 

And for what? Can we not grow up and put our differences behind us? Someone has to make the first move so that the killing can stop. We cannot sit back and point the finger at the other side and say how they are being so awful to us when we are dropping bombs and killing their children.

We wish it could be simple, and so we label the "other side" as evil to make ourselves feel better. But it is not simple. It never is. 

Elend
Elend

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Why is it that we think that we have the right to take revenge for something that we are not direct victims of? If my son or daughter was a murder victim and their murderer was killed, I would not want to see the gory picture of the person so that I could celebrate their death. I would want to put it behind me in order to move on with my life and be able to remember my child without having those memories tainted by their murderer. 

In order for what little relations there are between America and the Middle East to be able to heal, it is important that we do not act like bloodthirsty barbarians. What do we have to gain by blowing bin Laden's death out of proportion? We can claim to say that he has harmed us because he has harmed our country, but then it makes the most logical sense that the country should be the one to administer retribution (which has now been paid out). Our main concern should be for bin Laden's immediate victims - which means that our main concern should be that he is stopped. Well, he has been. What more is there to be done then? If our main concern, however, is to feel vindicated because we somehow feel that we have the right to have a personal vendetta against bin Laden, then we are not arguing the same question. 

Instead of beating the dead horse (pardon the pun) and dwelling on past injustice, perhaps we should use our energies to look to other injustice in the world that is still happening today - that we ourselves are able to stop. 

Perhaps then those that seek to hurt us will find themselves unable to hate us. We do have a tendency as a nation to stick our noses where they do not belong and are not wanted; after all, bin Laden's reign of terror is mostly America's fault. 

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