Everything you think you know about this image is wrong, writes Darren Birks
This image of a cute little girl crying was beamed around the world by media companies such as CNN and The BBC with a fake story attached, that the girl was separated from her parents when attempting to cross the US border and that the girl was then locked in a cage. The little girl became the poster-child for a campaign to stop Donald Trump’s 'barbaric' practice of refusing some entry into the United States. The imagery became the graphic for a thousand articles on the ‘orange man bad’ theme, TIME magazine even ran the image adding Trump to it just to ram-home the point. This was ‘proof’ that the man was an animal, and not fit to govern. News reporters fought back tears, Leftists did Memes that tugged on the heartstrings and Democrats rubbed their hands with glee.
The original image was taken by Getty Images Special Correspondent John Moore at the US-Mexico Border. Moore, who had followed the Border issue for years, was somewhat vague about the details, stating “I fear they were split up." obviously implying they were. He clearly enjoyed the interest the world's media showed in the image. The fake story very quickly became ingrained with the image, another example of 'orange man bad' and the media couldn't wait to tell the world.
Except, the original photo wasn’t depicting a family separation at all. The mother, Sandra Sanchez, and the 2-year-old girl, Yanela, were never separated, and the little girl was never put in any cage, something the girl’s father, and Honduran and US officials, confirmed the following day. Mr Sanchez tweeted an image of the entire family the following day to reassure the public that his wife and daughter were safe, well and not in any compound.
However, TIME stood by its decision to use the photo on its controversial cover, but the White House and other critics seized on this as an example of “fake news,” a photo deliberately used to mislead the public about Trump’s policy. The BBC who'd also put the story front and centre for all its media, retracted it with just a three line Tweet. The difference was stark and utterly biased. But it made absolutely no difference to the story. The story had become 'truth' and millions of people still believe it to be true to this day.
This type of emotional manipulation to sell an ideology is nothing new. For decades newspapers, tv and digital media have been spinning stories based on emotive photographs. Take the environmentalists photo of a scrawny looking Polar Bear, or any number of Memes about Conspiracy Theories and you get the point, even the Nazis used this type of psychological-imagery with films showing hordes of rats whilst talking about Jews.
There is some correlation between how emotional the image is, with how much you believe the story. This is why charities will show images of the cutest animals and most idyllic children in their advertising campaigns. Images of snakes and jihadists don’t illicit the same emotions and you’re far less likely to part with your cash. It’s cynical manipulation, and we all fall for it in some way or another.