Is the Obama White House photo policy reminiscent of Soviet propaganda?

posted at 10:01 am on November 27, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

It’s been fifteen months since the last mainstream media revolt against the White House, and this one looks less impressive than its predecessor.  The White House press corps began slamming the Obama administration for its failure to give them access to the President in the late summer of 2012, as Barack Obama chose to spend time with entertainment media and local news stations rather than answer tough questions about his record. Jake Tapper led the pushback in August 2012, but in the end Obama got the last laugh — and the national media played into the strategy by going after a much more accessible Mitt Romney instead.

The latest pushback is a wan imitation of the first. It started last month, when a photographer from the New York Times told Jay Carney that the exclusion of outside photographers at the White House was the equivalent of Soviet-era propaganda efforts. National Journal’s Ron Fournier captured the moment, and agreed with Doug Mills that the current administration was running a “monopolistic propaganda” machine with taxpayer funds:

New York Times photographer Doug Mills strode into Jay Carney’s office Oct. 29 with a pile of pictures taken exclusively by President Obama’s official photographer at events the White House press corps was forbidden to cover. “This one,” Mills said, sliding one picture after another off his stack and onto the press secretary’s desk. “This one, too–and this one and this one and …”

The red-faced photographer, joined by colleagues on the White House Correspondents’ Association board, finished his 10-minute presentation with a flourish that made Carney, a former Moscow correspondent for Time, wince.

“You guys,” Mills said, “are just like Tass.”

Comparing the White House to the Russian news agency is a hyperbole, of course, but less so with each new administration. Obama’s image-makers are taking advantage of new technologies that democratized the media, subverting independent news organizations that hold the president accountable. A generation ago, a few mainstream media organizations held a monopoly on public information about the White House. Today, the White House itself is behaving monopolistically.

The fast-moving trend is hampering reporters and videographers who cover the White House, but Mills’s profession has probably been hardest hit. “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,” reads a letter delivered today to Carney by the WHCA and several member news organizations including The Associated Press and The New York Times.

The letter includes examples of important news events that were not covered by media photographers, and yet pictures were taken by the White House image team and widely distributed via social media. This happens almost daily.

The White House responded by having their official photographer take a picture of the media photographers at the White House.  That didn’t quiet down the revolt, however. Today, Dana Milbank takes up where Fournier left off:

I asked Pete Souza, a White House photographer, whether other photos of his have been altered. He sent me to deputy press secretary Josh Earnest, who said that altering photos would be done only to protect classified information and that he didn’t know of other instances. He defended the photo releases generally, telling reporters, “There are certain circumstances where it is simply not feasible to have independent journalists in the room when the president is making decisions.”

Making decisions? Here are some of the big moments at which the White House replaced independent eyeballs with in-house eyeballs: The president and first lady waving to a sea of people, with the Washington Monument in the background, on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s march; Obama swimming with one of his daughters in the Gulf of Mexico to show that the water is clean; Obama embracing one of his daughters in Nelson Mandela’s prison cell; the president touring the West Bank church on the spot where Jesus is thought to have been born (news photographers were allowed to shoot images when George W. Bush toured that location); Obama alone on the Rosa Parks bus, sitting in the same row where the civil rights icon sat; Obama shaking hands on Veterans Day with the oldest living World War II veteran; Obama shaking hands with Mitt Romney in the Oval Office; the first lady and the president greeting kids the day White House tours resumed this month.

In the past few months, the White House has substituted in-house photography for independent images of Obama meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the co-chairs of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic DialogueHillary Clinton, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, African American faith leadersSens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham and Pakistani human rights activist Malala Yousafzai.

You don’t have to alter photographs to make them misleading. Releasing photos selected to show the president in the most flattering way can also create a less-than-honest portrait of history. These often go out on the White House’s Flickr account and are picked up for free and repackaged by disreputable news services and published by unsuspecting media outlets. News photographers are angry because it threatens their livelihood. We all should be concerned that it smacks of propaganda.

All true, and valid points.  However, while photojournalism is indeed important, it’s not as if Milbank’s associates in the WHCA made it their mission to push past the propaganda in ways wide open to them. Just to give a couple of examples: Barack Obama spent the last five-plus years as candidate and President insisting that his health-care plan would not force anyone to lose existing coverage or access to their current providers.  That was as demonstrably false three-plus years ago after the passage of ObamaCare as it is obvious today. Where was the WHCA in dealing with that propaganda?

Or another: For more than two weeks after the terrorist attack on our consulate in Benghazi on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the beat reporters at the White House seemed awfully willing to accept the idea that the entire incident was nothing more than a demonstration over a months-old YouTube video that got out of control.  Anyone questioning that explanation got dismissed as “playing politics,” until it became obvious that even the White House never believed that story.  And to this day, no one seems interested in demanding an accounting for Obama’s actions on that night.

Besides, as Steve Gutowski commented on Twitter when Fournier published his piece, it wasn’t the White House photographer that kept publishing photographs of Obama with ersatz halos around his head.

That doesn’t necessarily detract from the specific points Fournier and Milbank are making in these essays.  They are correct about the impact of state-controlled media coverage, which is essentially what we have regarding White House photography now.  It’s just that for most of Obama’s presidency, we haven’t seen much better from the rest of the industry either.


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He who controls the message controls the people. Just sayin…..

Johnnyreb on November 27, 2013 at 10:06 AM

Obama’s narcissism resembles that of Stalin.

rplat on November 27, 2013 at 10:08 AM

When Obama is sitting in the Rose Garden, a morbidly obese child next to him, signing Obamacare…….. Does it really matter if it is a government photographer or a photog from the White House press corpse?

Happy Nomad on November 27, 2013 at 10:09 AM

Maybe Obama got tired of wiping the media slobber off the nice, neat crease in his pants. I know I’m tired of seeing it there when he makes public appearances.

theotherone on November 27, 2013 at 10:10 AM

It is these very same media outlets who are Obama’s puppet masters. They instruct him to lie low and the pretend outrage is to make Republicans more accessible. The ‘rat propagandists are through when Republicans learn that they don’t have to treat them as legitimate media.

Buddahpundit on November 27, 2013 at 10:11 AM

deputy press secretary Josh Earnest, who said that altering photos would be done only to protect classified information

Making Barry look good is not protecting national security. Of course a free press would have exposed the traitor long ago, but we get stuck with a media complaining that Barry wears protections as they perform their kneepad duties.

Flange on November 27, 2013 at 10:12 AM

Celebrity. Paradise for the handler.

With that, off to bake a couple of homemade apple pies. Happy Thanksgiving, all. You too Ed.

Limerick on November 27, 2013 at 10:14 AM

Poor babies, they know they’re being left out and they want their chance to lie, grovel, ask set up questions, campaign for, control and praise this hapless slug in the WH. Photos, text, whatever, a slut is a slut and they have to do their thing.

arand on November 27, 2013 at 10:15 AM

The whole photography flap just gives me the giggles. As with Obama supporters who’ve been screwed by Obamacare, but were OK-fine when other people’s oxes were being gored, I’m inclined more toward Schadenfreude than sympathy.

ConservativeLA on November 27, 2013 at 10:16 AM

It’s time for the press to cover their backsides for the historical record. They can point to this type of thing as an example of non-bias.

Vince on November 27, 2013 at 10:20 AM

More like Arafat, Saddam, etc.

Access is more important than truth.

Any unofficial, unflattering or misplaced photo the puts The Obama in a bad light, will risk reduction of access.

Ben Hur on November 27, 2013 at 10:22 AM

Not surprising for a guy who absolutely bristled when somebody made a mild comment about his ears.

RushBaby on November 27, 2013 at 10:27 AM

Is that a trick question? Everything about this administration is Soviet style.

erp on November 27, 2013 at 10:30 AM

Hitler did well with staging news as well.

Hitler was winning when he was losing went the stories

Obamatrix on November 27, 2013 at 10:32 AM

Anybody who thinks Barack DIDN’T POSE for these photos has their head up their arse.

Mahdi on November 27, 2013 at 10:34 AM

Anyone questioning that explanation got dismissed as “playing politics,” until it became obvious that even the White House never believed that story.

Another 100% proven unequivocal lie from Obama that was cravenly propagated by his servants in the news media in order to dishonestly influence the 2012 election.

forest on November 27, 2013 at 10:34 AM

We have become what we have demanded.

Well, at least what the majority has demanded.

No dictator, no Fascist government, ever came to power with promises of destruction. Clothed in the mantel of hope, change, helping out the working stiff, caring for the children, going after the evil rich, the capitalists, the exploiters…that is how they found root…same script, different times.

And, now, finally, after years of heading down the path toward a progressive utopia, toward a rapidly approaching end to individual liberty and freedoms, folks are just now complaining?

(sigh)

We deserve the governance we place upon ourselves.

coldwarrior on November 27, 2013 at 10:36 AM

The only reason the photographers complain is they don’t get credit for the photo, which is their livelyhood. The writers still get to writer their slobbering stories. Follow the money.

TerryW on November 27, 2013 at 10:38 AM

Obamatrix on November 27, 2013 at 10:32 AM

Heinrich Hoffman
was his guy. Dictators love those personal photographers.

forest on November 27, 2013 at 10:38 AM

This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

Hmm. Given that these pictures were taken using public funds, is any of the above legal?

unclesmrgol on November 27, 2013 at 10:39 AM

Obama = Castro

Ezekiel Emanuel = Che

APACHEWHOKNOWS on November 27, 2013 at 10:41 AM

I can’t wait for this Marxist to step down from the throne. No more White House propaganda machine. No more MSM ignoring his mistakes and exaggerating his illusory accomplishments. No more protective government bureaucrats whose very livelihood depend on his largesse. Obama will still do very well economically (as all ex-presidents do)but without the multiple spin machines, he will be exposed to the world as the WORST president EVAH!!!!!

MaiDee on November 27, 2013 at 10:41 AM

Besides, as Steve Gutowski commented on Twitter when Fournier published his piece, it wasn’t the White House photographer that kept publishing photographs of Obama with ersatz halos around his head.

The Organs’ response – “It’s our job to haloize Teh Won. In fact, we get paid by the halo.”

Steve Eggleston on November 27, 2013 at 10:43 AM

Perhaps they will wake up? Nah. Losing $$ year after year never made them curious. They will disappear – as will their desire to actually hold democrats responsible for anything.

Zomcon JEM on November 27, 2013 at 10:43 AM

unclesmrgol on November 27, 2013 at 10:39 AM

Legality? We don’ need no stinkin’ legality.

coldwarrior on November 27, 2013 at 10:43 AM

Then too, the White House TV camera filters who paid for those and for what?

“Obama the Lite” must be the filter VP Biden viewed Obama through back in the day.

APACHEWHOKNOWS on November 27, 2013 at 10:44 AM

USA Today and the News Tribune of Tacoma declared they will not use WH photos any longer, unless under extraordinary circumstances. If the rest of the MSM follows suit, the WH will have no choice but to allow press photographers.

http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Journalism/2013/11/26/Revolt-USA-Today-Tribune-Refuse-To-Publish-White-House-Photographs

GrannySunni on November 27, 2013 at 10:48 AM

It only took five years for them to notice.

TimBuk3 on November 27, 2013 at 10:49 AM

Oh, tsk, tsk.

They’ll be back in his corner come summer of 2014 no matter what he does, thus he can do anything he pleases.

Heck, while this tussle goes on, the AP publishes a new term “Urban Myth” in relation to the “Knockout Game”.

“We have a story to tell and sure isn’t about blacks targeting whites.”

Carnac on November 27, 2013 at 10:50 AM

Obama is the first moving staged play Pres. ever.

Take the deal in San Fran.. where the kid jumps up and demands an end to “deportee” , no one gets near him, Obama is all ready to talk kind and gentle to the kid, just to the left of the kid on the vid, an older guy,,, sits smiling. The guy never attempts to get the kid to sit down, just smiles as the kid recites the lies rehearsed prior.

It is all fake.

Brought to you by Producer George Soros, directed by William Ayers.

View at your own liberties risk.

APACHEWHOKNOWS on November 27, 2013 at 10:51 AM

Yes.

So what are we going to do about it?

We’ve been whining about this for years. It doesn’t get us anything.

What is the plan?

happytobehere on November 27, 2013 at 10:51 AM

The medium is the message…And the medium created this monster occupying the White House by neglecting their duty to the citizenry.

I’m not particularly sympathetic to their pearl clutching now…Nope!

You have a Republic Sir…If you can keep it – Ben Franklin

workingclass artist on November 27, 2013 at 10:52 AM

As far as I’m concerned, the fewer pictures of the rat-eared, dog-eating bastard, the better.

TXUS on November 27, 2013 at 10:52 AM

Predictable… Illegal Alien Heckler Was Invited By White House to Obama Speech (Video)

http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2013/11/stunner-illegal-alien-heckler-was-invited-by-white-house-to-obama-speech-video/

workingclass artist on November 27, 2013 at 10:55 AM

Perhaps they will wake up? Nah. Losing $$ year after year never made them curious. They will disappear – as will their desire to actually hold democrats responsible for anything.

Zomcon JEM on November 27, 2013 at 10:43 AM

I’m increasingly convinced that they will not disappear due to economic failure. The outlets will continue to be bought up by wealthy individuals and organizations to be used as pure propaganda organs disconnected from direct economic consequences.

forest on November 27, 2013 at 10:56 AM

Comparing the White House press efforts to Tass is accurate, NOT hyperbole.

Comparing the mainstream media to Pravda is accurate.

Phil Byler on November 27, 2013 at 10:56 AM

Milbank is complaining that the press doesn’t get to kiss Obama’s ass enough?

Go Eff yourself.

RobertE on November 27, 2013 at 11:00 AM

“Comparing the White House to the Russian news agency is a hyperbole, of course…”

Oh, really?

KS Rex on November 27, 2013 at 11:01 AM

He always looks like the result of sex among Lenin and Mussolini.

Schadenfreude on November 27, 2013 at 11:01 AM

happytobehere

More Ted Cruz’s.

More Tea Party Conservatives (note no use of Republican)

These commies have been cutting our guts from the inside for 100 years from Woodrow Wilson to now.

It will take at least 20 years to get’r done.

Get in the deal, go to a precinct convention, get in phone banks, walk your area get out conservative voters, help reg. voters.

more, faster, harder, push, push, push,

APACHEWHOKNOWS on November 27, 2013 at 11:05 AM

90% of the output of these Washington photographers is drivel anyway. What’s the point of a gaggle of shutterbugs crouched in front of congressional committees, snapping thousands of pix? Who cares if 30 photogs record Obummer picking his nose while “deciding” something that Valerie already decided for him?

KS Rex on November 27, 2013 at 11:05 AM

Let me get this straight, the mainstream propagandists for the progressive-fascist agenda are complaining about the WH propaganda efforts to highlight the Dear Leader and his progressive-fascist Administration?

I’ll concede that the since much of the lapdog media emulates TASS and Pravda in their reporting of the state, they are experts in Soviet style propaganda. But they are upset they aren’t the ones highlighting the President in the most glowing light?

I’m slightly amused by this kerfuffle – given the lapdog media’s history of propagandizing Barack Obama. That the WH is holding the line it does just confirms that the primary focus on this petulant narcissistic community organizer is campaigning / selling his divisive and bankrupt agenda…and not governing or leading. It’s all about politics and imagery – not unlike what we see from totalitarians around the world.

Athos on November 27, 2013 at 11:07 AM

Obama is expected to swim across the Yangtze sometime next month, with photos…..

Staged photos and fake news stories suggesting the anomoly of ObamaCare success is the norm…

Of course it is propaganda. It’s all staged and fake.

Persona / faked
Book / ghost written ?
Speaking / infrequent and scripted ….he reads
Photos / staged
ObamaCare success stories / annomolies and manufactured

Whatever he says: expect the opposite:
Post racial / post partisan
Negotiation / reach across fence with Republicans
Heal the nation
Bring nation together
Most transparent ever
Most ethical ever
No lobby-policy
Restore american prestige in the world

Goes on and on…..Orwellian double speak…..

R Square on November 27, 2013 at 11:07 AM

working class

The whole thing was rehearsed prior, there was a “handler” sitting just to the kids left as you view the video.

Pure commie Pravda.

APACHEWHOKNOWS on November 27, 2013 at 11:07 AM

working class

see my post at 10:51 this thread above…

APACHEWHOKNOWS on November 27, 2013 at 11:08 AM

“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for”

obama is the most transparent president in history.

Just yesterday…goes to see the super-1%r-Katzenberg.

obama hates the middle/lower classes.

The land is full of Starnesvilles and destruction, economic or natural-disater-based, and the Thug in Chief goes to Hollyweird to rake in more dough.

Wake up moronic sheepleton, or go to Hell with him.

Schadenfreude on November 27, 2013 at 11:10 AM

If they’re so upset, and if its genuine, just vote with your ink.

Don’t print a single picture of him. Ever.

Without the press, there is no propaganda.

BobMbx on November 27, 2013 at 11:13 AM

The sob calls the Rule of Law , The Constitution,,,, “traditions” ,

he is evil to the core…

“I would do it by decree if I could.”

Only reason you have a problem is these dam native American’s who vote conservative Republican, Tea Party, just give me time and I’ll rule by decree full bore.

APACHEWHOKNOWS on November 27, 2013 at 11:13 AM

There’s a very simple response, the old media should forbid the use of any official White House photographer stock, and use old stuff no matter how unrelated to the story and no matter how uncomplimentary.

That’s not going to happen.

slickwillie2001 on November 27, 2013 at 11:15 AM

Is that a trick question? Everything about this administration is Soviet style.

erp on November 27, 2013 at 10:30 AM

Yep.

That stupid O icon has always given me the creeps, too. Reminds me of Red Storm Rising.

freedomfirst on November 27, 2013 at 11:15 AM

Border Security ,, its just an out of date tradition we no longer need.

King Obama.

APACHEWHOKNOWS on November 27, 2013 at 11:16 AM

Media, die in obama’s azz, intoxicated from his sh*t. It ain’t Beluga caviar, you utter fools.

You don’t deserve to be free. The constitution gives you so much and you destroy all.

Schadenfreude on November 27, 2013 at 11:21 AM

Colmes exposed himself to be what he always is, a horse’s azz. Carlson Tucker had him for b-fast and spit him out, and he was still going. Tucker “obama is hated in DC and across the land, had to go to Hollyweird to be ‘loved’ by the Katzenbergs, for green energy, amnesty and other bullchit…he hates the middle/lower classes and they are full of Starnesvilles across the land…why doesn’t he visit them and do something for them, instead of the fat cats?” a.s.o., paraphrased.

“Why is all about obama’care’ now…Romney…Bush…wonderful obama…gave insurance to all the poor who didn’t have it”….

“What about the millions who lost it?” Tucker

“Bla, bla, bla, obama is great for the stock market….same ol’” Colmes

Indeed. obama is a 1%r, who enriches them and himself, and destroys the middle class. Fall for him and be destroyed by him. Sheepleton, you deserve him and his destruction in full, you morons.

Schadenfreude on November 27, 2013 at 11:25 AM

Yes.

ProfShadow on November 27, 2013 at 11:34 AM

In today’s vernacular, duh!

tomshup on November 27, 2013 at 11:45 AM

Of course it is. If you want a more modern example, try North Korea…it’s very difficult to tell the difference between a lot of that propaganda and the stuff they’re shoveling out to us here. We even have a “monument” where he and Michelle first kissed, supposedly. Yeah, the press bought into it as well, because it’s mostly Democrat-run anyway, but that doesn’t lessen the lengths this admin has gone to create a cult of personality around him.

changer1701 on November 27, 2013 at 12:02 PM

Besides, as Steve Gutowski commented on Twitter when Fournier published his piece, it wasn’t the White House photographer that kept publishing photographs of Obama with ersatz halos around his head.

Bingo. It’s impossible to have any sympathy for these media-arm-of-the-donkey-party putzes, and it’s amusingly ironic to have one of them comparing Barry-O’s propaganda team to TASS — they consider that a compliment, not a slight.

Besides, every time I see one of those “Saint Barry” halo photos, I remember what happened every time John Ashcroft gave a press conference with that bare-breasted statue of Lady Justice in the background. The jerk-offs photographing the events would contort themselves and even lie down on the floor to get a shot of Ashcroft with a tit in the background; it finally got so pathetic that the statue was covered over, just to get them to knock it off.

That Barry-O and his handlers would use the donk media tools for what they are should surprise no one, least of all those same donk media tools.

Spurius Ligustinus on November 27, 2013 at 12:08 PM

mainstream media

Ed, the radical left media is not mainstream. Please stop labeling them with legitimacy they do not deserve.

paulsur on November 27, 2013 at 12:33 PM

Photographic propaganda worries me little. The LIV can be fully taken in with much less sophisticated tools than that. My concern is that Obummer consistently ignores and defiles the Constitution. We are not led, we are ruled, and the rule of law means nothing. And where is the public outcry for impeachment (the only legal and peaceful cure for a rogue President)? Crickets……………………………

tngmv on November 27, 2013 at 12:35 PM

Why ban the photo journalists, it’s not like they were printing the true picture of dear leader anyway. Something must be really amiss in the WH. This is just like Killary banning the msm from some of her speeches.

Kissmygrits on November 27, 2013 at 2:09 PM

EVERYTHING about White House policy is reminiscent of Marxism.

Axion on November 27, 2013 at 4:05 PM

First up against the wall, and all that, you know.

GWB on November 27, 2013 at 4:58 PM

It’s the presidential following that’s so sickening; When Bill and Hillary stopped at a restaurant in central NY I had the opportunity to talk to the staff at the restaurant and they said it was awful the way people acted and all wanted to see the First Couple standing on private property and in peoples flower beds and refusing to move off private property. The staff that accompany the First Couple stole ornaments and pictures hanging on the walls of the restaurant and were very rude while they were there; many didn’t pay for their meal and the waitresses said the ones that did pay were terrible tippers and the whole restaurant staff was glad to see them all leave for they left the place in a mess. The msm rarely covers stories like this.

mixplix on November 27, 2013 at 5:00 PM

It’s the presidential following that’s so sickening; When Bill and Hillary stopped at a restaurant in central NY I had the opportunity to talk to the staff at the restaurant and they said it was awful the way people acted and all wanted to see the First Couple standing on private property and in peoples flower beds and refusing to move off private property. The staff that accompany the First Couple stole ornaments and pictures hanging on the walls of the restaurant and were very rude while they were there; many didn’t pay for their meal and the waitresses said the ones that did pay were terrible tippers and the whole restaurant staff was glad to see them all leave for they left the place in a mess. The msm rarely covers stories like this.

mixplix on November 27, 2013 at 5:00 PM

You will always hear this about Democratics, in fact even from White House wait staff.

slickwillie2001 on November 27, 2013 at 5:31 PM

There has always been staged pictures for the media. I do not have problem with this concept. President Obama has his people in more control than other President do because he has made so many mistakes and done so many things corrupt that he has has to have damage control people on staff. They have done a good job. This perceived persona is what got him re-elected along with voter fraud.

Portia on November 27, 2013 at 7:56 PM

Is the Obama White House photo policy reminiscent of Soviet propaganda?

Of course it is. As President Obama wants to feel right at home and Communism is no doubt where he’s most comfortable.

RJL on November 27, 2013 at 7:59 PM