When an individual declares that something they said was taken out of context, it’s usually in the wake of an embarrassing or damaging remark having been made. This results in an attempt to control damage being handled by that person and the people assisting them.
However, in the world of news & entertainment, when it comes to politics, differing agendas can sometimes result in selective editing. Those changes often lead to drastically different takeaways emerging from the political spectrums. This can be used again and again to try and shape the historical perspective of what was actually said or done.
The Truth Isn’t Always Out There
The heat of a presidential campaign is often when such manipulation is at its most dramatic, given the stakes. During the 2016 presidential campaign, both major party nominees, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, found themselves the victims of misrepresentation with regard to actual past comments they had made.
Clinton had served as Secretary of State from 2009-2013 and took severe criticism in the wake of four deaths at the American Embassy in Benghazi, Libya in September 2012. A subsequent Congressional investigation resulted in her testifying about what took place.
Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson asked Clinton about the basis for the attack and the lingering uncertainty about it. That resulted in Clinton pointing out that the reason still needed to be clarified and in dismissing further speculation, she stated, “What difference at this point does it make?”
The remark was then used by Republicans to paint Clinton as apathetic about the tragedy, when in reality, her remark was focused on waiting for a full investigation to be completed.
In Trump’s case, his numerous negative remarks about women were used against him in an ad for a Super PAC supporting Clinton. Amid a barrage of legitimate quotes made by him, a crude comment from Trump that was used had nothing to do with women and instead referenced American businesses taking jobs away from the United States.
The Super PAC claimed that all of the comments weren’t meant to reference women, yet all of the other ones in question did. Their credibility was further compromised when it was disclosed that they promoted the ad as a presentation of Trump’s attitude toward women.
“Out of Contexte” is the new “Inaccurate”
Four years earlier, President Obama was running for re-election and speaking about the need to eliminate certain business tax breaks. Obama noted that government needs such revenue to pay for the various infrastructures, research and education components that helped such businesses succeed.
Making the comment, “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen,” Obama had offered a much broader take on the issue. However, his opponent, Mitt Romney, pounced on the comment as being insulting to small business owners.
Ads by Romney’s camp showed a number of those individuals expressing outrage, even though the full text of Obama’s comments were patriotic in nature.
Romney also fell victim to misrepresentation when he spoke about the value in being able to fire someone for poor work performance. The comment referenced the problem of government bureaucracy that kept inefficient people on the payroll.
Yet the only portion of his remarks that were used in an opposing ad was, “I like being able to fire people.” That was an attempt by his opponents to reinforce the notion that his past work involved purchasing struggling companies and then making larger profits by dismissing employees.
Photo manipulation supported by Photoshop
Photo manipulation is also something that remains an aspect of presidential campaigns, with a relatively recent example taking place in 2004, when John Kerry attempted to unseat incumbent George W. Bush. The latter camp sought to portray Vietnam War veteran Kerry as disloyal to the country, with one Super PAC funding a campaign to discredit his service.
During the course of the campaign, a photo was circulated that showed Kerry apparently listening to a speech by Jane Fonda. The actress was reviled as a traitor for her anti-war remarks during the Vietnam era, with Kerry also having been critical of the war upon his return from the conflict.
The problem with the photo is that Fonda’s image had been Photoshopped in to associate Kerry as one of her avid supporters. The original only showed Kerry sitting down.
Keeping Things Straight
Raw footage or images help deliver the most honest appraisal of commentary or action. While such things may not always be polished, the one certainty is that they’re true, something that can’t be said for something that ends up out of context.