God hates blur

Oh did they now.

The Post reports:

The large color photograph that greets visitors to a National Archives exhibit celebrating the centennial of women’s suffrage shows a massive crowd filling Pennsylvania Avenue NW for the Women’s March on Jan. 21, 2017, the day after President Trump’s inauguration.

The 49-by-69-inch photograph is a powerful display. Viewed from one perspective, it shows the 2017 march. Viewed from another angle, it shifts to show a 1913 black-and-white image of a women’s suffrage march also on Pennsylvania Avenue. The display links momentous demonstrations for women’s rights more than a century apart on the same stretch of pavement.

There’s just that one tiny problem.

The Archives acknowledged in a statement this week that it made multiple alterations to the photo of the 2017 Women’s March showcased at the museum, blurring signs held by marchers that were critical of Trump. Words on signs that referenced women’s anatomy were also blurred.

You know…there’s a reason there were words on signs that “referenced women’s anatomy”…i.e. used the word “pussy.” The reason is the fact that Trump himself used it in a bro-chat aka “locker room talk” in which he bragged about grabbing women by that bit of their anatomy. Blurring it in a photo of the march protects Trump, and no one else. It’s Trump who uses hostile contemptuous language to talk about women in the company of other men. That’s an important part of the story the Archive is curating, so they shouldn’t be blurring it out.

In the original version of the 2017 photograph, taken by Getty Images photographer Mario Tama, the street is packed with marchers carrying a variety of signs, with the Capitol in the background. In the Archives version, at least four of those signs are altered.

A placard that proclaims “God Hates Trump” has “Trump” blotted out so that it reads “God Hates.” A sign that reads “Trump & GOP — Hands Off Women” has the word Trump blurred out.

If they’re too squeamish to stage a display critical of the current president then they shouldn’t do the display at all.

“As a non-partisan, non-political federal agency, we blurred references to the President’s name on some posters, so as not to engage in current political controversy,” Archives spokeswoman Miriam Kleiman said in an emailed statement. “Our mission is to safeguard and provide access to the nation’s most important federal records, and our exhibits are one way in which we connect the American people to those records. Modifying the image was an attempt on our part to keep the focus on the records.”

Then just don’t do it. If displaying it requires censorship then don’t display it.

Archive officials did not respond to a request to provide examples of previous instances in which the Archives altered a document or photograph so as not to engage in political controversy.

Because there aren’t any? Or because they haven’t found any yet?

They explained that the image is a “graphic design component” but not an “artifact” and that they alter only the former, not the latter. It’s clear enough that a reproduction at the entry is not the same thing as archival material, but it still seems completely grotesque for the national archive to distort by censoring a reproduction of one of its images.

When told about the action taken by the Archives, prominent historians expressed dismay. “There’s no reason for the National Archives to ever digitally alter a historic photograph,” Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley said. “If they don’t want to use a specific image, then don’t use it. But to confuse the public is reprehensible. The head of the Archives has to very quickly fix this damage. A lot of history is messy, and there’s zero reason why the Archives can’t be upfront about a photo from a women’s march.”

Quite so – if they feel they can’t use the photo without censoring it, then don’t use the photo. Don’t lie to us.

Wendy Kline, a history professor at Purdue University, said it was disturbing that the Archives chose to edit out the words “vagina” and “pussy” from an image of the Women’s March, especially when it was part of an exhibit about the suffragist movement. Hundreds of thousands of people took part in the 2017 march in the District, which was widely seen as a protest of Trump’s victory.

“Doctoring a commemorative photograph buys right into the notion that it’s okay to silence women’s voice and actions,” Kline said in an email. “It is literally erasing something that was accurately captured on camera. That’s an attempt to erase a powerful message.”

But then, silencing women’s voices and actions is kind of the hot new trend right now.

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