Against the Release of the Bin Laden Photo

By Jeffrey Goldberg

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?


This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/05/against-the-release-of-the-bin-laden-photo/238326/