Editorial | Photo release should serve as a warning
Published: Thursday, October 25, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 1, 2012 09:11
Editor's note: The photos discussed in this article were actually digitally altered images published as a joke in Vanity Fair's humor section. We regret any confusion that may have resulted from our mistake.
On Oct. 22, Vanity Fair published never-before-seen photos of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney as he, “mocks gay classmates, slips a teacher a Mickey and even fires a beloved school janitor.” While the photos are generally accompanied by a humorous blurb acknowledging their relative insignificance, especially in exposing any of Romney’s character, they can serve as a warning to aspiring politicians and public figures currently posting their own questionable photos on the Internet: they will serve as an inevitable distraction, if not a career-tanking one, from pertinent political discourse.
Now, anything posted in the form of social media can be found in seconds. Indeed, today’s politicians have encountered their own difficulties with mistakenly sent tweets. Even something immediately deleted is liable to be archived somewhere or have been seen by someone. Anything posted, even nominally private things, are also able and likely to be released to everyone by anyone at any time.
While it is frightening that something uploaded by a 16-year-old might resurface when they are 40, what is more frightening is that these are a big part and could become an even bigger part of the electoral process.
While the photos released of Governor Romney are likely harmless and seem to have been published in jest, there was genuine uproar about Barack Obama’s college photos, in which he was captured smoking, something the President — then presidential candidate — owned up to. The relative availability of compromising photos today may become the recourse of political strategists in the future. While the slight possibility does exist that photos of this nature could be relevant in examining a candidate’s personal character — an important factor for most voters — most photos do not.
Despite rarely being pertinent, attacks on personal character are ubiquitous in today’s political environment. This obscures the issues that voters should be knowledgeable about, and as politicians’ personal lives become more freely accessible, the level of this irrelevant discourse will only increase.