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November 10, 2012

Thoughts on the Most Liked and Tweeted Photo of all Time

Obama Michelle bear hug

Twitter,  Tumblr and the blogosphere are generally more cool platforms than warm ones. They do a lot better job with critique, shock and the voyeurism than they do with comfort or “feel good.” (You could say the regular supply of food imagery and kittens aspires to fill the gap.)

Which leads us to, yes, the most liked and tweeted photo of all time. I believe the Obama photo hits home because, after all the vitriol and the spin and the arm twisting, the photo was just such an antidote to the cynicism. Given how many people electronically, at least, touched this photo, it was also the closest thing you could have after the election to a group hug.

(photo: Barack Obama – twitter)

  • Minor Heretic

    Yes, sweet, but.

    He’s still the man who sits in a room once a week with two other men and decides who will die in extrajudicial killings in Central Asia. He’s the man who is willing to tolerate women and children being killed in the resulting missile attacks. He is the man who authorized the firing of second missiles at the rescuers who show up at the site of the first explosion.

    He’s still the man who took on the extra-constitutional power to indefinitely detain anyone he defines as an enemy.

    He’s still the man who allows warrantless wiretapping and data mining.

    He’s still the man who hasn’t prosecuted the bankers.

    I’m sure that if we searched long enough we could find a photo of John
    Gotti hugging his wife. That sounds harsh, but abstract your emotional
    response to presidents as opposed to mobsters, and look at the actual
    body counts.

    We’ve got to get past the personalities, and even the policies, and look at the political mechanism that produces all of these people. It produces compartmentalized sociopaths who commit war crimes during the day and then go home and tell their children to be nice to each other. And hug their wives.

    Again, before you flame me on this, abstract your emotional
    response to presidents as opposed to mobsters, and look at the actual
    body counts.

    • bks3bks

      Very true. But at least we don’t have to listen to Romney anymore. I don’t really understand the allure of this photo, but I don’t really understand why people spend much time on Twitter.


    • Michael Shaw

      No flaming due. Your point is completely valid, especially the John Gotti example (though I’m not sure what his relationship with his wife was like). What’s worth pointing out, though, is that we look at pictures in a lot of different contexts here. The focus/question in this particular case is: what it is about the photo that produced the historic response on Twitter and FB? Does the photo also happen to be propaganda. Of course it is, And it’s a slam dunk. I just wanted to say that we’re very conscious about the spinning, too, and Obama doesn’t get a free pass.

  • Kailuahale

    You guys are missing an important part of this photo … the “She.”

    • bks3bks

      As in “She” is “Us”?


  • GeorgeMokray

    That’s a man who loves the woman in his arms at that moment very much.

  • Cactus

    Perhaps the reason this one hits the sweet spot for people is that the
    Obamas are REALLY hugging. It’s the kind of hug one gives to a truly loved one
    after a long absence. It is not the hands-on-hips and hands-on-shoulders kind
    of hug we have been seeing with the Romneys. In fact, the entire teapublican
    campaign over the past 18 months has given us nothing but facades and lies.
    This photo may indeed be propaganda, but it is not a facade.

  • gasho

    I’m happy to see this picture – it’s a clear indication of the victory achieved by Obama.

    I’m also very happy to read Minor Heretic’s comment and to know that there are other people who are concerned about the unchecked powers of the president in today’s America. I nearly lost my mind when Bush pushed the envelope so far.. and I’m saddened to see that Obama didn’t even bring us back from that insanity. It really is the new normal. I believe it is our job to remember that the law of the land says that the kings aren’t above the law and to call that $hit out when we see it, so bravo, Minor Heretic.

    That said, it’s become a bloody(,) complicated world. I’m sure the office of the president in 2012 feels like taking a Moral Conundrum seminar final exam at least once a week (where the questions aren’t hypothetical!!). [You are in a watery cave with 12 other people, including a child, and the tide is coming in and the only exit is blocked by a severely overweight man and you have one stick of dynamite and a match... (this was an actual example from my Moral Philosophy class, btw)] Can you imagine having to *actually* make those ridiculous decisions??

    Bush was led astray by his own ego, but also by the NeoCons, who took advantage of his weak moral fiber. He was also re-assured by Rove and others that he was doing the right thing. However, I believe he is psychologically tortured by what he’s done. After all, he *started* an unjustifiable war.

    This photo of Obama suggests to me that while he’s making all of these impossibly hard calls, in his heart of hearts, he thinks he’s doing his best. His heart is still relatively at peace – at least enough to still love and be loved. I’m sure he still has his sleepless nights, too, though.

  • Minor Heretic

    It’s one of the benefits and problems of the presidency that everything the president does is symbolic. The president himself is a symbol as much as a person to 99.9% of the world. The First Family is our family. If they were an anonymous couple that photo would give me a little lift, but I’d theorize that our mirror neurons fire in an extra special way when we see those two particular people hug. For partisans, it is both a loving hug and a victory hug, aimed right at the anterior cingulate cortex of the Blue Tribe. It manifests the exultation, the sense of solidarity after a hard battle, and the relief that many feel.

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