No Shame

Photoshopped propaganda imageThanks to PR Watch forums contributor "El Gringo" for calling our attention to a really atrocious example of dishonest propaganda. The graphic at right is by Linda Eddy, an artist for the website, Owned by Roger Hughes, chairman of the Republican Party in Hamilton County, Iowa, the website spent the recent U.S. presidential election calling Democratic candidate John Kerry a habitual liar and comparing him to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels -- which is awfully ironic in light of its own promotion of a big lie.

The image you see here might lead you to believe that the child in the picture has been made "glad" and secure thanks to the U.S. troop presence in Iraq. As "El Gringo" discovered, however, Lindy Eddy doctored the photograph. The original photo, taken by a journalist, depicted a young girl who had just received bullet wounds during a firefight in which her mother was killed and her father was wounded. Eddy doctored the photo by erasing the little girl's own face (which carries the listless expression you would expect from an injured child) and replacing it with someone else's face to make her look positively radiant and adoring.

The soldier holding the girl is Navy medic Richard Barnett of Camarilo, California, who was checking her heart when the photo was taken. Barnett himself wasn't "glad" about the circumstances. "If anything good comes from this nonsense, I haven't seen it yet," he said as she and her father were taken away for a medivac helicopter.

Linda Eddy is a small fry in the world of conservative propagandists, and usually I don't bother to write about someone this minor, but this obviously deliberate manipulation of the image of a wounded child makes me angry. I cannot for the life of me understand how a human being with any conscience whatsoever would engage in this shameless, exploitative falsification.


I posted this over at DailyKos, and a few facts came to light. <br><br> - Despite the Reuters' caption, the child in the picture is probably a boy, and it was his sister who was wounded (according to the <i>North County Times</i>). She appears in the background of the third photo El Gringo posted, and in other pictures in the Reuters gallery. The childrens' father was held in plastic handcuffs off-camera.<br><br> - The Reuters photo, taken by Damir Sagolj, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. <br><br> - The website was (is?) set up as a Political Action Committee. According to a commenter, an article in <i>Roll Call</i> stated the site was unaffiliated with any political party or candidate, and "despite its point of view, the site, rather than being harsh or shrill, is fairly straightforward and very informative."

<p>Hello, Sheldon,</p> <p>Here is the link to the website where I found the photo:</p> <p>Do YOU see any story about it? Any dead parents? Any reference to a photographer? Any quotes from the soldier photographed? Any photo credit whatsoever?</p> <p>Me either.</p> <p>I wrongly assumed it was a photo from the DoD public domain galleries (SAMPLE OF SUCH A LINK:</p> <p>I painted it in PhotoShop. Yes, I can paint. Here are other paintings I have done:</p> <p></p> <p>You wrongly assumed I knew all about this photo, the story behind it, and that I knowingly and willfully chose to depict it otherwise.</p> <p>I didn't.</p> <p>sincerely,</p> <p>Linda Eddy,</p>

<p>Sheldon, since you have credited "El Gringo" I checked into what he's had to say. It seems you haven't included <i>EVERYTHING</i> he found out about this. The following is his own logged comment from PR Watch: (<a href= ""><b>CLICK HERE</a></b> for direct URL, comment #15)</p> <p><font color= "CCOOOO">I've done some more Google Picture Searches today and I've found out that the original non-photoshopped picture has been misinterpreted by a number of webmasters who have included the scene on their respective websites. Here's a couple of examples: 1, 2 (scroll down to September 11, 2003), 3.</p> <p><font color= "CCOOOO">Unfortunately, the misinterpretation of the photograph seems to have been very common in American Press. The author of the picture, Damir Sagolj said in an interview to a Slovene Magazine: </p> <p><font color= "CCOOOO">" This photograph of the child was taken out of context and published on the covers and front pages of American national and local media, as if to say, see how our soldier tenderly holds an Iraqi child in his arms. I got a phone call from People, the largest American magazine, with a circulation of 22 million. They wanted to know whether this American soldier had any children of his own, what he was feeling at the time, and so on. They weren't interested in what had happened to the child in the picture, whose mother had been killed and whose father had been riddled with bullets by American soldiers."</p> <p><font color= "CCOOOO">More on this photographer and a partial translation of the interview, can be found here (about halfway down the page or do a text-search on Damir)</p> <p>Regarding my search into the originallity of another 'piece of art' by Linda Eddy (the Afghan Schoolgirl, I haven't been able yet to locate the original non-photoshopped picture, although I am sure it exists. Checking hundreds of reasonably recent news-images depicting Afghan and Iraqi children, many of them with horrific injuries, isn't very pleasant so I am limitting myself to that particular task only for a few moments each day.</p> <p><font color= "CCOOOO">Regards,</p> <p><font color= "CCOOOO">ElGringo</font color></p> <p><font color= "CCO"><i>ADDITIONAL NOTE from Linda Eddy: As for the search for a photo of the Afghan Schoolgirl... there isn't one. I PAINTED HER.</i></p>

Of course I didn't quote EVERYTHING that El Gringo had to say. If people want to read the entire thread, they can read it in our forum. The additional comments, however, change nothing about the basic facts here. As El Gringo has pointed out in <a href="">his latest comment</a>, the photograph from which Linda Eddy says she took her so-called "inspiration" included a byline with the name of the photographer and his news agency, so she has no excuse for pretending that she thought it was a DoD photo and for failing to ask the photographer for permission to use his work. El Gringo's comments suggest that there were people other than Eddy who also insensitively treated this photo as an opportunity to celebrate the compassion of our soldiers, while giving no thought whatsoever to the suffering child. However, the fact that other people also acted like ghouls does not in any way make Eddy's own ghoulish insensitivity any less appalling. And she's the only person who actually DOCTORED the photo.

I completely agree. Using an altered photo of a child victim of this horrific war to garner positive feelings for that same war is disgusting. To capitalize on the pain and grief of a child for publicity is sickening. This woman[Linda] and every other individual involved in using this childs suffering for political gain are worse than vultures.It is another example of altered or fictionalized journalism used to gain political leverage.

Before you use any image to uphold your political agenda, you should ALWAYS know its context. Ignorance is no excuse, it was stupid to use something that could be so potentially widely spread without knowing anything about the image.

The interview with photographer Damir Sagolj was published in the Slovene weekly magazine Mladina last June and is available at The text is in Slovene; the caption was translated by me and was made available on Danny Schechter's news dissector weblog at the time. I am glad to see it surfacing now in a number of blogs, thereby contributing to a more truthful depiction of what actually happened. I had offered to translate the whole of the interview for Media Channel; Danny gave an initial enthusiastic response, but nothing ever came of it, which is a pity because it was a very good interview.