Two 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.