Obama Administration staged photo ops assailed for blatant propaganda

The White House has brushed off the Stalinist comparisons, saying it has only barred the press from photographing the president when he is “making decisions.” And it’s argued that flooding the digital world with images of the president is, more or less, a public service.

However, the White House will also have its own staff photographer on hand to ensure it gets an official, Obama-friendly rendition of the big event. And that, according to a growing chorus of press organizations, exposes a serious problem of calculated image management that verges on outright propaganda.

It’s not just the turkey pardoning. News organizations have griped for some time about the Obama White House’s restrictions on photographing the president, and its careful distribution of self-flattering pictures — an effort enhanced by Obama’s enormous social media presence.

The White House is “simultaneously restricting access of independent media while flooding the public with state-run media,” as National Journal’s Ron Fournier put it. Fournier compiled a list of instances in which the White House not only curtailed press access to events, but produced images that benefited from inside access, essentially upping the odds that the news organizations would run Obama-friendly images over their own.

The White House, critics say, is exerting an unprecedented level of control over what the public sees of the president.

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The complaints intensified last week, when the AP and three dozen other news organizations signed a letter to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney likening the White House’s in-house photography to Soviet-era government propaganda.

“As surely as if they were placing a hand over a journalist’s camera lens,” the letter read, “officials in this administration are blocking the public from having an independent view of important functions of the executive branch of government.”

USA Today and McClatchy took their criticism further, announcing this week that they would no longer run virtually any White House photos. While news agencies still typically run administration-distributed images of places where the press isn’t allowed — the Situation Room photos of the Osama bin Laden raid, for instance — they bristle at running official pictures from supposedly public places, like the Oval Office.

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