In the last few years, the military has been repeatedly accused of altering photographs — causing policy changes in the military. However, the Associated Press suspended the use of photos provided by the Defense Department after it discovered major digital alteration of a photo of Army Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody, the U.S. military’s first female four-star general.
In the original photo, the general was sitting at a desk with a credenza and bookshelf behind her. Three stars on her uniform identify her as a lieutenant general — her lower prior rank. The altered photo, distributed by the Army shows Dunwoody in fatigues in front of an American flag. Her rank is obscured.
Col. Cathy Abbott, chief of the Army’s media relations division, insists that it can alter photographs so long as it does not change its meaning — a very dangerous standard for journalists to accept: “We’re not misrepresenting her. The image is still clearly Gen. Dunwoody.” Yiks, that is a pretty scary standard. The military decides what the import of a photo is and then enhances it to simply make that point stronger or downplay negative images. Could the military remove a double chin or love handle from a general? How about bulk the general up or place him in a more heroic setting? The point is that the photo is showing something that did not occur.
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