What Jill Greenberg Tells Us About the Left

From the New York Post via Instapundit:

“Controversial celebrity photographer Jill Greenberg, a self-professed ‘hard-core Dem,’ deliberately took a series of unflattering shots of Republican nominee John McCain for the current cover of The Atlantic – and then bragged about it on a blog.”

As I wrote in the case of Obama’s relationship to Bill Ayers [here and here], the importance of this incident arises less from what it reveals about Greenberg as a person and more for what it reveals about the political subculture of the far Left.

The important thing here is not that Greenberg took and altered the pictures. The important thing is that she felt comfortable bragging about what she did! She expected to receive accolades and approval from the Left for her dirty trick. This tells us a lot about what kind of ethics Greenberg believes the Left approves of. Given her immersion in the upper class, urban, articulate intellectual culture of the far Left, her assessment is probably correct.

The far Left has long since adopted the world view of the radical Marxist in which political utility equals truth. Incapable of believing themselves capable of intellectual error or moral failing, they see themselves obligated to acquire power by any means necessary. They view democracy as only a means of acquiring the legitimacy to use that power. If they must do so under false pretenses, then they will. They believe that the enormous benefits of their enlightened rule outweigh any consequences of the dishonest acts that bring about that rule.

Politics is an ugly business and dirty tricks abound. Individuals from every part of the political spectrum stoop to low tactics to win. What we see on the contemporary far Left, however, is a lack of shame about doing so and complete unwillingness to punish those who go too far.

We should worry if that mindset really does gain power.

45 thoughts on “What Jill Greenberg Tells Us About the Left”

  1. I think this episode tells a lot about Greenberg but not necessarily anyone else. She seems to be a publicity hound who seeks to stir up public outrage for marketing purposes. She is famous for having made a series of portraits of crying children in the moments after she took away their candy or did something similar. She edited the portraits to maximize the viewer’s impression that the children were harmed. Some bloggers took the bait and went on a righteous campaign against Greenberg for, as they saw it, abusing children. Meanwhile the angry bloggers were oblivious to the way in which Greenberg had manipulated them into creating a publicity storm for her.

    Greenberg is probably a leftist, but I suspect that she handled the Atlantic assignment in the way she did mainly with the intention of generating outrage — from conservatives rather than parents this time — that would bring her a lot of valuable publicity. Unfortunately for the rest of us, she will probably get what she wants, and it will be good for her business. People like Greenberg, who is essentially a troll, should be ignored rather than given the attention they want.

  2. Maybe it’s because I’m getting old and identifying with the parents and the conservatives, but how much of this random 4-letter word, Michael Moore desire to outrage arises from the somewhat natural but really tiresome desire not to grow up and be the parent – take responsibility, shoulder the load, etc. The series of f’s at the beginning of Four Weddings (or whatever) made me wonder if this was the rebellious cry of those in a strictly hierarchical, stiff upper lip society – and how little that seemed to be a necessary rebellion in modern England. And as the movie went on, the humor that it appeared to find in sheer rudeness seemed juvenile.

  3. Jonathan,

    She seems to be a publicity hound who seeks to stir up public outrage for marketing purposes.

    No doubt. However, she didn’t think this little stunt would hurt her career and that tells us something about her target audience. How much did the stunt with the children hurt her? She obviously thought this would not hurt her as well.

  4. The content of the message continually heard from the far left points to a bankruptcy of ideas. “McCain is a bloodthirsy war monger and sayer of the word cunt.” This is not a counter argument to the ideas on the right, but it seems to be all we ever hear.

  5. Sadly, she probably won’t be punished. Most publishers sympathize with her, and probably think it is quite amusing. Using her will give them an edgy cachet.
    Unless people take the list of corporations that use her from her website and enough write to say we will no longer buy Bud, Miller, Target, etc, until they publicly say they will no longer use her work, there will be no cost to her.
    No republican politician should sit for a portrait for any publication that uses her also. Frankly, I don’t know why any republican bothers to speak with Newsweek, Time et al.

  6. Unfortunately, this will probably end up being a financial boon for her. At the first hint of a client dropping her, she’ll scream “McCarthyism”. She’ll claim she is being punished for her beliefs, rather than for her unprofessional behavior, an assertion that will garner quite a bit of sympathy from her fellow travelers on the left. This is the group that controls most of the media outlets, her potential customer base. So, rather than harming her financially, it is likely to enhance her celebrity status and wallet.

  7. Well somebody at the Atlantic had to approve those photos for publication. I’m just not going to read the Atlantic at the library anymore…….which kind of tells you when I look at info on dead trees these days.

  8. They won’t (gain power, that is). Their inability to act as adults pretty much ensures it. See Gore, Al, 2000 and Kerry, John, 2004.

  9. Shannon:

    On another thread you and I had talked about McCain’s dealings with the MSM. I had suggested that Republicans start filming interviews to prevent a repeat of ABC’s dishonest trick, but Glenn Reynolds apparently beat me to the punch.

    In the Instapundit article you quoted from, Glenn also suggested that maybe we should start bringing our own photographers as well as camera crews to interviews. Which then raises the following question: why bother with the MSM at all if you are going to end up doing their work for them? I am not impressed that The Atlantic might be upset with Greenberg’s sleazebag trick. I will be impressed if they fire her, since there is really no defense for what she did (if they are serious about journalistic ethics).

  10. If the Atlantic was worried about journalistic ethics thay would fire Andrew Sullivan (the concern-troll over Trig Palin’s parentage).

  11. Mwalimu Daudi,

    Which then raises the following question: why bother with the MSM at all if you are going to end up doing their work for them?

    Interesting point. At the moment, the MSM are still the gatekeepers for the physical infrastructure of the old MSM technology. If you want your message on television at all, for example, you have to deal with them. Going forward to a time when the internet becomes ubiquitous and the primary source of information, we might see people just by passing the “media” and talking straight to consumers.

  12. Funnily enough, the shot that The Atlantic used on the cover is quite flattering and aesthetically appealing. I really like her style (it’s really commercial, hence all the blue-chip clients) but I totally agree — she’s a disgraceful human being. Shame on her.

    PS I wonder what the official photographer guilds and associations out there are saying about this? I thought photographers at that level took great pride in their work. Wouldn’t they be furious with her behavior?

  13. As I see it, Greenberg has just provided the viewing public with a pretty alarming series of self-portraits.

    She would hardly accept something half as offensive to Obama (not to mention half the voting public) being proffered as “art”, or a clever joke. What alarms me about gestures like this is the (ironic) religiosity of its condemnation; the idea that its political opponents are “bad people”, worthy of that level of hatred. Where do leaders like Mugabe, Putin, Bashir, Kim Jong Il, etc. fit into a world-view that confused?

  14. This is certainly getting her press — and if she wants to do edgy so-called “artistic” work, this might help her career.

    But, she will never again work in the field she was working in here. Whether or not any leftist publisher might consider hiring her, to be “edgy” or something, no public figure with access to Google will sit for a photo shoot with this loon.

  15. I read that the Atlantic used one of her more ‘normal’ pix for the cover.

    I think though if she used her time to photgraph McCain for *her* own purposes, when the only reason she had access to him was as a contract photographer for The Atlantic, that she has stolen something of value.

    Do photographers have clauses in their contracts which gives them ownership of anything they take pictyures of while on a shoot? (Inventors / creators most often don’t get to keep what they produce on company time for themselves — the Bratz/Mattell flap.)

    Just wondering.

    We have to suffer fools. It’s the gig in this time and place. Just the unity and tolerance and love of diversity that amazes me.

  16. Apparently Jill doesn’t hate John McCain enough to take money from the magazine for photographing him. But in light of your excellent assessment of the Left’s mindset I shouldn’t be surprised. Jill probably felt entitled to take money for that job, regardless of what she intended to do with images that don’t belong to her. Surely she WILL receive accolades from the Left, but on the other hand, I hope she and others like her continue with their petulant behavior. They are very close to losing yet another election for their party.

  17. First sentence above should read, “to NOT take money from the magazine…” What a huge difference a little work makes.

  18. Part of Jill Greenberg’s popularity stems from literally stealing candy from babies–http://www.popphoto.com/inamericanphotomagazine/2552/cry-babies.html.

  19. “I think this episode tells a lot about Greenberg but not necessarily anyone else.”

    – – –

    Go read the comments left on many, many sites discussing this putz’s work of prostitution across the internet from (presumably) liberal commenters.

    Yesterday, I had concerns about specific positions held by Democrats.

    Today, I’ll fight very hard and with whatever I’ve got simply to keep such vile scum away from any semblance of governmental power.

  20. I wonder what the official photographer guilds and associations out there are saying about this?

    Photography is a freelance career – “guilds” and “associations” are immaterial, and have no influence on ethics, wages, conduct or anything else worth talking about. I’ve been in this business for over 20 years and I can say this with confidence – there’s only your reputation, which has more to do with your ability to make deadlines and deliver the photo that the art director imagined in their head. Except at newspapers, where full-time photographers are covered by union guilds, most photographers are entirely at the whim of a creative free market.

    What Greenberg’s done is shatter the trust photographer – or any high profile subject – will have walking into a shoot, but I don’t blame the handlers and reps who’ll have to work harder now to make sure their clients and bosses aren’t getting ambushed. They’d be stupid not to worry about this sort of thing now.

  21. @Tim- I must disagree with your appraisal of the cover shot- McCain’s left cheek looks a little too jowl-y.

    And as to photography organizations,etc caring about the profession’s reputation, where was the outcry from photographers over the myriad ‘fauxtography’ scandals?

  22. All Republicans should just stay the hell away from these Leftwing organs. The disgraceful Charlie Gibson represents the BEST treatment anyone who is not Barrak Obama can expect this season. Future seasons will no doubt be contested without input from these rapidly wasting assets. At least there is a lesson in here for McCain. As the broomstick in the wheels of the Republicans he enjoyed pampered treatment from the press for decades. No mas. Will he figure out who his friends and enemies really are? The nation is learning that the Left IS the greatest enemy America faces. If only they would start their little “revolution”….

  23. “Do photographers have clauses in their contracts which gives them ownership of anything they take pictures of while on a shoot?”

    It depends. The default contract that most publishers offer to artists treats the material as “work for hire”, which means that the publisher owns the work in perpetuity. Savvy artists insist on a “first publication rights” contract, which means that the publisher only has the right to use the work once (whether for magazine illustration, book cover, or whatever) and the artist retains ownership of the work itself and of all rights to subsequent republication, printing in books, etc. Of course, even with a favorable contract not everything necessarily goes well: A publisher might ignore the terms of the contract if they feel that they can get away with it. (Court costs might exceed what the artist would hope to win–a big thank-you to pugnacious folks like Harlan Ellison who are willing to fight even for a few dollars, for the sake of principle and on behalf of other artists.) I have heard artists describe how art department directors would shamelessly steal original artwork that was supposed to be returned to the artist. One artist told me of an incident in which, when he demanded the return of a painting, the art department sawed it in half before mailing it to him.

  24. Regarding what the photographers’ community thinks, read the comments to the PDN article; very enlightening. One of the more astute, David Hobby of Strobist.com, sums it up nicely:

    “…From here on, next time you shoot a politician be ready to produce your voter registration card to show your are “the right kind of person” and have every image reviewed by his or her handlers before you can leave with your photos.

    Ms. Greenberg has just managed to smear an entire industry in fifteen minutes. Thanks a lot, Jill.”

    However, while many of the commenters are disgusted and find her conduct reprehensible, many others clearly espouse the “end justifies the means” argument. Others seem to view it as an “artistic independence” issue.

    That deep-seated sadism and narcissism is required to justify tormenting children to advance one’s personal, financial and political goals is beyond doubt. To be willing to commit acts of personal dishonesty, deceiving both her client and her subject, bespeaks further character flaws. That not one but a substantial number appear willing to defend her, apparently because they share her political orientation, testifies to the moral degeneracy that pervades that gang of perverts.

  25. Like Picasso said LOL, “I paint what I sees, and see what I feel”. McCain is shown as the monster that he is, but if you wanna see a glamour shot see him in GQ.

  26. Like Picasso said LOL, “I paint what I sees, and see what I feel”. McCain is shown as the monster that he is, but if you wanna see a glamour shot see him in GQ.

    You mean, as the monster that you see. Thanks for confirming Shannon’s point. LOL.

  27. Ms. Greenberg strikes me as someone who has no understanding of or interest in ethics (professional or otherwise) but a pretty good handle on the ABC’s of self-promotion.

    Still, it is beyond comprehension that she could possibly take any pride in images that were possible only through deceitful acts involving the betrayal of her client (the Atlantic) and her subject (Senator McCain). Nevertheless, I believe the dishonest manipulation of the images of John McCain will prove, in the not-so-long-run, to be have been more clever than smart.

    As for the unsophisticated teleological tactics of the far left, surely Ms. Greenberg’s childish actions come as no surprise (and are actually one of the more modest blots on that particular political escutcheon).

  28. The Atlantic magazine is a Lib magazine and I believe the way the Greenberg photos of Senator McCain turned out is what they wanted and I think Greenberg not getting paid is a line of happy horse crap.

    BTW, you can find Greenberg’s address and phone number on a website called Zaba Search and she lives in California.

    It’s called public information folks.

    P.S. Libs keep up the extra nasty attacks the voters are paying attention.

  29. This lady is sick and disturbing!! Who would do this to a war hero and someone that is in the running to be our next president? I don’t care what your political position is; what she did is just plain wrong – no one deserves that!

    I am extremely sick of the slanted media. How do they expect a fair election when the majority of the media outlets are so liberal? People cannot get a clear and accurate picture of any politition with media as their tool.

  30. Does no one remember the Clinton years? We’ll just have to win, then” BC said to Dick Morris. Other examples of this ends justifies the means menace.

    What the Left lives by is morally grotesque. Even A recent buddy of mined evinced the same callow double standards. Our moral discourse has indeed coarsened a lot in 20 years. I don’t trust these folks. Obama learned the same utilitarian version of ideologically agenda driven self-interested truth from Bill Ayers, and has practiced it in his campaigns. (SEE “The Case Against….”)

    I may be libertine libertarian, but I loath these useless souls. I have no respect for them. May fellow American’s see the same light this election day.

  31. Jill Greenberg should be ashamed of herself. She’s hurting the Obama campaign as are so many others who just don’t seem to get it. If we lose in November, we will have the slimy photographers, the Lindsay Lohan’s of the world and the Chris Mathews types to thank.

  32. There is a historical precedent here of which I’m sure Greenburg was aware. It involved a photographer that did a shoot of the son of Herman Krupp in one of his German factories for, I believe, Fortune Magazine almost a quarter of a century ago, in which he mentions in the article that he intentionally lit him in a harsh light (much like the “long shadow” photo Greenburg did of McCain) so as to make him look like like evil incarnate in a hellish greenish-gray factory environment–a factory that in WWII had produced munitions destined to create hell on earth. Krupp was, as I remember, sitting with arms folded framed by factory machines in the background to give a Dante’s Inferno effect.

  33. PS: And just as in the McCain case, subtrafuge was involved in that Krupp thought himself photo-shot for a favorable business article.

  34. PPS: There is also another parallel in that the left so very much considers Conservatives to be warmongers and spawn of the Nazi’s anyway.

  35. That’s cuz they don’t remember the true name of the Nazis: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei. The key part is the “National Socialist” thing.

    **Socialists** of every stripe are part and parcel of the leviathan state apparatus of Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini. Some are just more skilled at murdering people and getting away with it.

    A socialist is a socialist is a socialist; and socialism is “equality” delivered from the barrel of a pistol.

    Too bad the top two candidates this election are both cut from the same “government is the solution” socialist cloth.

  36. Marc Montoni:

    Agreed, Marc, I’m always amazed, (although I don’t know why I should be) when I remind otherwise intelligent and educated individuals of that fact and get in return nothing but blank stares of incomprehension in the vast majority of cases. Just another spotlight on the glaring holes in our dysfunctional educational system and an indictment
    of over fourty years of creeping PC at all levels of society.

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