Should the White House Release a Photo?

Friday, May 06, 2011


Since Obama announced Osama Bin Laden's death last Sunday, reporters have besieged the White House for more information on the operation's details, including photos of the corpse. The administration mulled whether to release the photos, ultimately deciding not to. The New Yorker's Philip Gourevitch and The American Prospect's Paul Waldman debate the decision.

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Philip Gourevitch and Paul Waldman

Hosted by:

Bob Garfield

Comments [29]

Travion Mallette from Southeast

I should think a Death Certificate (long form, of course) and a picture of him in his death is sufficient.

May. 24 2011 11:40 AM
eoin from Pennsylvania

I sent a comment two weeks ago but perhaps you didn't get it - or you all just don't get it. My comment was about credibility, the credibility of the discussion vis-a-vis releasing the photo of the terrorist idol relative to the credibility of the guests and the host when an off-hand comment was made by Philip Gourevitch as to one of the flag raisings on Iwo Jima being a staged re-enactment and neither Mr. Waldman nor Mr. Garfield called him to task on that ludicrous statement, that lie. Re-read my earlier comment, please, and try to convince me how any of you, or your program, can be seen as giving credible information or commentary on any subject in the future. How credible was the kill report from the administration? Would the released photos be seen as credible? Gracious, you folks don't know the meaning of the word. I'll retturn to listening to classical music on my drive home from work in the mornings; less stressful.

May. 22 2011 11:22 PM
Elias Chapelle from Iowa

I listened to this podcast version a bit late but thought that I need to comment., Although the arguments presented by the guests were interesting, they both missed a crucial point. Photos or any other art icon have always been used to concentrate support by masses of people and to represent ideology. It matters little what kind of photo is released of Bin Laden, a hole through the eye or a burial at sea, the image will become an icon for the radical islamists of the world and hung on walls, published in newspapers, and worshipped everywhere. Your guests do not realize how important icons are, especially if your ideology is a cult of death as is radical Islam. At the risk of offending Christians everywhere, just think about how important it is for believers to display Jesus in either a benevolent portrait or a man hanging bloodied on a cross.

May. 16 2011 11:00 AM
fajr from nyc

the photos? jesus, what about the body? why did they get rid of the body? very suspect

May. 14 2011 12:16 PM
Erick Strickland

i agree with the president because i feel that this would have shown that America is unethical

May. 13 2011 02:10 PM
Tiffanie Johnson

i think the pictures should of been shown because the was an emotional moment for me

May. 13 2011 02:08 PM
Teyonna Smith

I don't think they should release the photos; that would be disrespectful to other countries that respect him

May. 13 2011 01:51 PM
charles mitchell

i think the photo should be shown because this would show american dominations

May. 13 2011 01:49 PM
charles mitchell

Should the White House Release a Photo
The name of our report is Should the White House Release a photo? The article was reported on May 6, 2011. The main idea of this report is would the United States be a bad place if they release the photos of Osama Bin Laden.The people that were asked about should they release the photos all had their own opinion on whether they should or not.
Everyone in the group thought that a least one photo should be released to the public. Its not that we want proof that he is dead but to the people who lost family member in 9/11 should deserve to see him. Also the reporter that was for seeing the photos said that there are any three main photos of Osama; and in all three he is dominate.
But then again we did see this from another view point as if we were the other country. Our group did see this as if the photos were to shown, then some people would be using his pictures in different forms of disrespect and this would probably make some people mad.

May. 13 2011 01:47 PM
Connor from Raleigh

I agree with thr presidents descion to not release the photos. I think there is no excuse to see them because if you dont befive what people are saying you need to move to another country where you can belive the government. I think all they would have done was insite violence and make him a rallying point.

May. 12 2011 07:00 PM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

I should think a Death Certificate (long form, of course) is sufficient.

May. 11 2011 01:25 PM
Demesha, Kaleisha, and Jejuan from OTM #5

OTM #5
The title of this report is Should the White House Release a Photo? The date that this report was aired was May 6, 2011. This report simply says that since Barack Obama announced Osama Bin Laden’s death, reporters have begged the White House for more details on the whole situation. But the question still remains so the White House needs to release that sort of information.
The main points between Geraldo Rivera and Brooke Gladstone is that Osama Bin Laden is dead; not what? They want to know more details on the situation at hand. They want to know the operations details and including the photos of the corpse. The administrations really do not want to release those photos and the New Yorker’s Philip Gourevitch and The American Prospect’s Paul Waldman wants to debate the decision.
There are two points of views. Many people want to see the photos and want to know the details of the situation. But the government believes that it’s in the best interest of others that they do not reveal the operation’s details or the photos of the corpse. Sometimes it’s best not to know because things that deal with the government can become very complicated.
My overall reaction to the report was shocking. I was shocked that the government hasn’t revealed the operation’s details and including the photos of the corpse. This very surprising but I thought that the government had already released the details. I would recommend this report to anyone that was concerned about the government in terms of Osama Bin Laden.

May. 11 2011 10:52 AM
Olivier Barthelemy from Paris, France

The US have had the technology to fake video since the 60s (remember that fake moon landing ?), so a photo would not really put paid to whatever rumors the friges choose to believe in.

Then there's the issue of whether to put out a battlefield photo of an old unarmed man shot in the head, a more dignified photo of an islamic burial...some people are going to be incensed either way.

I'd release a the video of him trying to hide behind his wife, if they have it, and if it's true. Otherwise, the null hypothesis sounds good.

PS: let's not forget 9/11 killed 4,000 innocents, and the war in Iraq, launched under false premises, 100,000 to 1,000,000.

May. 10 2011 07:30 PM
Bee from Jer-Z

So end up listening to this on Monday Morning. From what I've noticed on the news. On Sunday the Whitehouse released some great images of Bin Laden that will definitely change the charachterization of Bin Laden embedded in the minds memory. The Whitehouse must have been listening to OTM!
Five videos in which Bin Laden is in the compound, a guy wrapped up in a shawl watching news videos of himself.
It makes him look imputent, and narcisitc. this will over shadow the video images of bin laden the warrior shooting the ak47, bin laden the cunning man treking the mountains of Afghanistan, and Bin Laden the "Leader" There's also another video of him missing his"cues" and sounding feeble a bit demented when creating a video message for his masses.

I think this was well handled. We don't need to show ourselves being like animals and showing death photos!

May. 09 2011 11:57 AM
KadeKo from suburban northeast

Show a couple photos to a few meaningful media types.

By the way, is this Deatherism more reserved than the Birtherism, or is it simply not fluffed into "respectability" yet?

We'll know when Virginia Foxx and Louis Gomert ask for the photos.

May. 09 2011 11:06 AM
cat rowan from little rock arkansas

The photo won't be released because there is not one.
One of BHO's advisors said today that "a photo of laden shot in the face, uh, I mean shot in the head" would be too gruesome, etc. Yada Yada! There is already of photo of Laden shot in the yes, 'face'. cruising the internet, from the past, and that advisor just convinced us that the photo of Laden shot in the 'face' was legitimate.

May. 08 2011 11:18 PM
The Sanity Inspector from Atlanta

How much more could the jihadists hate us than they already do?

Plus, I don't care for the tone of this argument: America has been depraved and savaged by a decade of war, and now liberals must begin the hard task of restoring civility and humanity to the national character. Nonsense! Not all liberals, but more than a few, spoke and acted as though they believed America deserved 9/11, and spent the whole time since then naysaying everything we did in retaliation. It is they, those deracinated relativists, who need to restore their humanity,.

May. 08 2011 10:07 PM
Taryn from St. Louis

I was surprised and disappointed that this interview favored Waldman's perspective. This bias was expressed when Garfield insinuated that a visual representation of this milestone in American history is necessary given the lack of "transparency" with which the White House is currently operating. A photograph of Bin Laden's body, in whatever form, is not an appropriate form of communication that he is truly dead, nor is it even sensible. As the President has said, and as has been echoed by journalists, activists, and others, a photograph of Bin Laden's body would only serve to symbolize us as a nation: our insensitivity, our militaristic prowess, our sense of political entitlement. It would not serve a positive purpose in any possible way. Americans would be satisfied, the media would go berzerk, and our children would grow up thinking passive aggression is an acceptable form of anger management or vengeance.
In addition, isn't it clear from the way the Taliban and other Bin Laden supporters have reacted that Bin Laden is dead? Don't we have enough evidence from their recent threats that their leader has actually died? We don't need to verify anything on our part: they've already confirmed that Bin Laden is gone.
There truly is no intelligent reason to release those photographs. The White House has plenty of opportunities to achieve transparency without publishing wordless photographs as official documents.

May. 08 2011 06:46 PM
Chris from Chicago

I would like to see the photo released. I know it seems wrong to some people, but our country was hurt badly on September 11th, and most people I know couldn't help but feel happy when we heard of his death.

War is Hell and there's no shortage of pictures detailing that. The Abu Gharib pictures, the kill team pictures, the towers collapsing, etc. We're a visual people who use images to tell our stories. A picture of bin Laden dead, while brutal, would help millions of people feel a little bit of closure in this situation.

As a country, we went pretty crazy after 9/11. Maybe seeing bin Laden dead would help some people finally feel a little less crazy now, almost a decade later.

May. 08 2011 04:07 PM
Donna Franklin from NYC

@ David J. Muskera Huntington, WV
"I was very disappointed in this production...both the biased lead-in and the many loaded words used in hopes of influencing listeners. "

That is standard for this show.

If he had a photo, he would have released it. He is lying and lost all credibility ALONG with the MSM.

No news info? Are you out of your mind? Supposedly the biggest terrorist is killed - but the photo of it offers no news? I killed my TV years ago, looks like it's time to do the same to the radio.

May. 08 2011 03:17 PM
Toby Saunders from Georgia

The guy said images from Abu Gharaib & from the Iraq invasion did damage to US... more accurately, the US did damage by getting about a million people killed in Iraq for no good reason, and did damage to itself by ordering the torture of people. The US acted like a tyrant, and photos are part of journalism: the only occupation explicitly protected in the constitution. We should keep a check on power with images; as for debating photo releases, that topic doesn't do much for me. Clearly, DNA evidence is enough... contriving a crystallising event of a photo is rather shallow and could get some people with some ignorant views worked up too much.

May. 08 2011 11:19 AM
W Gordon Tree from East Coast USA

The photos should be released because those drunken college revelers should be shown the truth of what they were celebrating. Perhaps that is the reason no photo is forthcoming, to spare the vaulted "youth" from embarressment.

As to the recruitment argument, that goes both ways. There are thousand of gullible minions prepared to believe any posuer with charisma.

Loyalty to a corpse however will only take them so far.

May. 07 2011 04:15 PM
David J. Muskera from Huntington, WV

One more comment: With todays sophisticated software, there is nothing more easily altered than a photograph. You can just bet than any bin Laden photo released would be immediately criticized as being a fake or doctored in some way. So what is the use of doing it in the first place? Again, on this issue, Obama is right. Let's move on to more important matters...please.

May. 07 2011 03:44 PM
David J. Muskera from Huntington, WV

I was very disappointed in this production...both the biased lead-in and the many loaded words used in hopes of influencing listeners. I am doubly disappointed that NPR would give so much airtime to this matter. Let it be, for gosh sakes. Imagine the formal release of the picture in question and the blame Obama would receive when that image was used as an excuse to suicide bomb even more people. The one guy interviewed insisting the picture were needed"bookends" sounded idiotic. Obama made the right decision here and please - get off the business of "changing the story"...Its an unfolding event even to the President. Move on NPR and drop the obvious bias.

May. 07 2011 03:30 PM
Michael Carraher from Philadelphia, PA

This is not who we are? Unfortunately, it is who we are. This is evident in Obama ordering this mob style assassination and in the public cheering for it. Then Obama shows himself to be a hypocrite because he wants to keep people from seeing what he did - not unlike those who favor the death penalty but want executions carried out in secret. Just like the military doesn't want people to see the horrible effect of war. The American public should see the actions carried out in their name and if this country has a conscience left be revolted by them.

Obama must be happy. Kennedy wasn't able to assassinate Castro and he succeeded where Kennedy failed.

May. 07 2011 02:19 PM
Anne Hubbard from Cambridge, MA

No, it should not be released. I did not agree with celebration of his death-- I was not saddened, I thought it was necessary, but the cheers and flag-waving seemed akin to the joy expressed by Bin Laden post-911. Obama is right-- "this is not who we are."

There is something midieval about gloating over a body-- and I believe that's what this is about. I have no doubt that the image would show up on t-shirts and targets. I would be fascinated to see polling checking the opinions of men vs. women on this.

May. 07 2011 01:17 PM
ray from Windsor, Canada

I'm not surprised that a small majority would like to see these pics, I wonder if these are the same 60% of the church goers in America that believe people should be tortured. People should remember some of those people who are tortured could be completely innocent. Who is wrong then?

May. 07 2011 07:14 AM
Tom Fiorillo

The photo should not be released. Al Quida knows he's dead. Who cares who thinks he's not. The picture will only be used to insight more foment. The raid was performed with perfect execution. We now have terabytes of information that we can use to fight Al Quida. For years I have thought we should fight smarter not harder, and finally we are.

May. 07 2011 06:17 AM
Bill Scott

I believe releasing an identifiable picture of a dead Bin Laden is necessary because I have spent time with Arabs and they are so ready to believe conspiracies it is the only thing that will convince many of them that Bin Laden is dead and the US isn't lying.
You mentioned a picture of Hitler's corpse. I believe that would have prevented the many conspiracies theories that he was alive, in hiding, waiting for the Nazi party to rise again.
But you don't want it to be something like the picture of Che Guivera and become a rallying point for the movement. The picture must be just right, not something that can be used in Bin Laden's expected martyrdom.

May. 06 2011 06:47 PM

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