The Eye of the Beholder: Two Photos Trigger Racial and Religious Controversies

617download-3Two stories this week show how the views of people can shape and deceive them in the perception of photos.  In Minnesota, Black Lives Matter advocates caused an uproar with a picture of what they claimed was the possible lynching of a black man in a St. Paul park.  In Norway, anti-immigrant bloggers circulated a photo of what they claimed to be a city bus filled with women in full burkas.  The lynching turned out to be the suicide of a middle aged white man and the Muslim women turned out to be empty cars.

Black Lives Matter St. Paul posted the picture of the hanging as a possible lynching of a black man by racists. Posters like Davion Gatlin posted the picture and said “They still killing us and we still killing each other!”  The post went viral as intended:

“This is just a few blocks from where my auntie live I was just at this damn park two nights ago! This so damn foul!! I’m so fed up with this s***! They still killing us and we still killing each other! #MakeGoViral

It turned out to be Michael Bringle, 50, (above) who committed suicide.  BLM posters said that the picture showed that his hands were tied behind his back.  Despite the Ramsey County medical examiner stating that the victim is “Caucasian” and that his hands were not tied behind his back, BLM St. Paul is quoted as rejecting the claim and stating that the man in the picture had been appeared “lynched” with his hands were tied behind his back.

The family struggled with both grief of Bringle’s death and the use of his picture erroneously to suggest a lynching of a black man.  They asked for people to stop posting the picture.  The family said in a statement that “Instead of mourning, his family members had to spend part of their day worrying about a photo posted on Facebook of him hanging from a tree and correcting misinformation about his death.” His sister said that he had a history of mental illness.


In Norway, the anti-immigrant group called “Fedrelandet viktigst” or “Fatherland first” circulated the picture on Facebook that it described as “terrifying” and “tragic.”  Johan Slattavik asked “What do people think of this?”

One person said “It looks really scary, should be banned. You can never know who is under there. Could be terrorists with weapons.”

Or it could be empty cars . . . which turned out to be the case.

Later Slattavik said he posted it as a “joke” but the response was anything but funny.

36 thoughts on “The Eye of the Beholder: Two Photos Trigger Racial and Religious Controversies”

  1. I opine that the burka was originally a protection worn when going out into the desert wind to fetch the water.

    I lived in the Mohave Desert for a year. Sandstorms are no fun.

  2. The benefit of a burka is the husband never has to answer the question: Do I look fat in this?

  3. My condolences to the family of Michael Bringle. I am so sorry that they have anything more on their plate to deal with right now.

    It is this sort of jumping to conclusions that leads to riots and protests before any evidence is in. Michael Brown’s hands were not up. Treymon Martin was not run down and tackled while he ate Skittles and drank tea.

    I’ve been burned before, believing headlines or things I’ve read online before, only to find out I was wrong. So now my motto is wait for an investigation and all the evidence is in, and then reassess.

    It is very troubling that every time a black suspect is shot by a white cop, too many people assume it must be a racist unjustified shooting of a completely innocent man. Here, their explanation for their error was that Mr Bringle looked black in the photos. So what if he was black instead of Caucasian? Why would his alleged skin color mean that he must have been lynched by white people? Why couldn’t it have been a suicidal black man? Or a black man murdered by other black men? Or any other number of reasons that does not involve the KKK? And when they pass on such inflammatory judgment, people get hysterical, and riot, and cities burn, businesses close, jobs leak away, and employers don’t want to set up shop and employ anyone in any volatile area that will go up in smoke because of a Facebook post.

    Come on! People have got to be more careful and thoughtful than this!

    Can I blame the public schools? Because people who jump to conclusions based on one picture sure did not receive a Classical education. Do we need to add a class or elective in high school on how to examine evidence and make rational conclusions? It might be useful for future jury duty, at the very least.

    As for the Norwegian photo – those empty bus seats look creepy! Why wouldn’t they give more head room? You’d have to sit rigidly upright! Is encroaching on other seats as you loll a big problem in Norway? This kind of thing happens all the time – I think it’s called pareidolia. You know – when people see a lady in photos of Mars, or Christ in toast. It’s a natural phenomenon we should all laugh at. Nothing to get worked up over.

    I am experiencing crisis fatigue!

  4. This St. Paul suicide is sad and anger provoking. We recently had a Somali cop execute a white woman. There were no outbursts, just reasonable questions about what happened. The BLM folk weren’t getting the attention they need so this horsesh!t! This minority of a-holes are turning good people against all black people. I CONSTANTLY think of the many black people I know to keep me from getting angry @ the entire race. Like so many things these angry people do, it is horribly self destructive.

  5. They still killing us and we still killing each other!

    Well, he got half of it right, instead of being completely wrong. That’s a good starting point to begin a dialogue on dealing with that problem.

    The burka bus may have been posted as a joke but it’s not as though there isn’t some truth behind this fear in Europe. It’s not as though the Amish are flooding their immigration system. The fear is rational, a burka bus, not so much.

  6. Women in full burkas should not be photographed. Or talked to. Or given any consideration.

    1. Because if you give them any consideration you will be accused of having paid a prostitute. Women in full burkas are ugly things that no male would pay for a role in the hay so they hide the face and get laid in disgrace.

  7. That comment by Squeeky Fromm is the last straw. Jonathan Turley promotes free speech. That is laudable. However I will not read Mr Turley’s blog again since he allows himself to be associated with such vile and pernicious commentators. Mr. Turley, you should be ashamed of yourself.

    1. Here we go again “It’s my way or the highway” or “Mr Turley your blog has gone to far to the right”. Many here want freedom of speech as long as it’s your speech and you agree with what someone has to say, good ole political correctness. The n word, the g word, you can’t call someone a male or female it’s hurtful. When you were kids did you always get your way or did you take your ball and go home.

      1. JT does try to be fair sometimes but, some readers that live in the world of reality is irrelevant, post-factual, post-ethical and insists on its own reality in ways that cannot be condoned has been here on this site gotten worse. Try just try to go against that reasoning and you will be attacked with everything that I have mention. So yes sometimes its better to take your ball and go home when the laws of the game change at the drop of the hat.

      2. Standing up to the vile and hateful language about lynching from Squeaky Fromm is not a Left/Right issue. Politically correct? Good grief. Lynching doesn’t hurt ones feelings. It’s unjust murder! Plain and simple. Sometimes the victim’s neck stretches until suffocation, sometimes the neck snaps and, sometimes, the head pops right off shoulder if the fall is far enough. Make no mistake,Pismo Clam, if lynching is in your political playbook you can have my ball while I run away from your scary and, hopefully, lonely playground.

  8. Somewhere I saw a article about the current ability to make a perfect video of anybody doing anything to propagate Faux Neuz widely.

  9. I feel particular sympathy for the family of the man who committed suicide. I would be absolutely horrified about the misuse of their family tragedy if I were in their shoes.

    As for the people who freaked out because they saw Burkas, they are turds. Why do I say that? Well, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a 1000 turds.

  10. Sounds to me like some black folks are psychologically projecting. . . that they think they deserve to be lynched. Which, many of them of do but our society opts to lock them up instead of just executing them. Kind of like Poe’s Tattle-Tale Heart.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

    1. BLM is a danger to itself and others. Personally, I think burkas should be against the law. I don/t trust anyone whose face I cannot see.

      1. Agreed. Seems to me the reaction to the burka is human and visceral. Look at the scary warrior outfits in the Metropolitan museum: They provoke anxiety by covering faces. (Also, see featureless masks the krewe of Comus wears at Mardi Gras). I think the burka is intentionally designed to provoke foreboding. It very helpfully reminds a young man seeking love that death and horror await him. If your object is to dehumanize someone, the burka is your best bet. As for BLM, it’s just intellectually bankrupt.

    2. The Tell-Tale-Heart To some a study of paranoia and guilt that in excess leads to one’s own destruction. In its subtle form we can see this on the blog. Some believe in their own guilt to such an extent that they kill the good they seemingly wish to further. [guilt of white privilege]

      Enigma, in furtherance of your education I want you to know that this was written before the Civil War and after Mexico’s independence. All of these things come in the century after The American Revolution and the Constitution.

    3. Squeeky:

      I’m bad at remote diagnosis even when it’s in my field. But I do say that some folks believe the “facts” they want, not the facts they have.

      1. I am not even sure if it is a “want to” as opposed to a “have to.” Take Chris the Roach above, for example. He has the world all figured out and racism is the world’s great evil, and his job is to confront it, to save all the poor suffering black folks.

        What happens to him on the day that he realizes that Blacks in America cause 95% of their own problems by their own screwed up life choices, and that racism is the least of their problems? And that he has been a complete idiot? What happens to Chris psychologically on that day?

        Does something take the place of his silly belief system? Does he switch to a new belief system, and maybe become a rabid vegan, or a Neo-Nazi, or a Stalinist??? Does he become an evangelical Christian, or does he just dissolve in an orgy of booze, drugs, or sex?

        This is what the whole cognitive dissonance thing is about. How people face those events of disconfirmation. Usually, they just double down on the erroneous belief, particularly if there are other true believers in their group.

        I think it is more of a mindset thing, and that it transcends time and generations and some people just have an inner need to be rabid about something, and that the search for a suitable object d’ rabidity will latch on to something. Hence, yesterday’s WCTU folks who busted up saloons are today’s SJW’s busting up conservative speaker’s venues, and yesterday’s hellfire and brimstone Puritans are today’s global warming fanatics and PC Thought Police. Yesterday’s Nazi’s are today’s Democratic Left Activists.

        I am not at all sure that they have any real control over it.

        Squeeky Fromm
        Girl Reporter

        1. It’s akin to the great pestilence of the mid 14th century when people tried to cure the underlying problem with self flagellation. It didn’t work.

      2. But I do say that some folks believe the “facts” they want, not the facts they have.

        Absolutely! Gender Identity is a prime example. We are living in an age where logic and reason are often absent from rational debate. I know we will never have everyone agreeing on one worldview. I believe that is actually a good thing in many regards. But if we cannot remain open to the possibility our facts are wrong, then that means every worldview will demand legitimacy and if that is the norm, then no one will be secure in their life, liberty or property.

        This is where we are today.

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Res ipsa loquitur – The thing itself speaks
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