Against the Release of the Bin Laden Photo

It seems fairly obvious to Goldblog that the release of the Bin Laden photo, however gruesome it is, will do nothing to stop conspiracy theorists from peddling their conspiracy theories. Conspiracists are definitionally immune to evidence, particularly photographic evidence, which they believe is even more manipulable than other forms of evidence. So what would be the point, then?

My colleague James Fallows weighed in on this question: "I have already heard from a number of people, including one friend, who warn me against believing the "official" story that bin Laden was killed three days ago. (In some of their versions, he died long ago; in others, he's still alive.) I cannot imagine any "official" photo changing their minds, but I can imagine a general coarsening because of the photos, and  specific blowback among those prone to considering bin Laden a "martyr." Pictures of his disfigured head would become the lasting historic image of this episode."

And Friend-of-Goldblog Philip Gourevitch warns of the distorting power of violent images:

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?


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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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