When most people look at the photo behind Rachel Maddow, they see a campaign rally for Barack Obama in 2008. But when the National Organization for Marriage found the same picture, they claim to have seen "tens of thousands of New Hampshire voters who are part of our effort" to repeal marriage equality.
NOM's president Brian Brown tried to explain today in a blog post why his group had taken the copyrighted image and manipulated it to look like those same thousands of people were actually at a much, much smaller NOM rally in New Hampshire. They've since removed the image, Brown says, "to avoid the distraction" — not because of the copyright issues raised by those who caught NOM's fakery.
The re-imagining of history was first caught by the Good As You blog, run by Jeremy Hooper, who noted that the picture of thousands of cheering supporters was actually from Reuters and of a rally in Columbus, Ohio.
Then MSNBC's Rachel Maddow directed her large audience to Hooper's discovery, and now NOM is trying to explain it all away.
"They object to us using a photo of a crowd scene, which symbolizes the tens of thousands of New Hampshire voters who are part of our effort," Brown wrote. "They're upset that the photo was not taken at a NOM rally. Seriously?! NOM using a common use photo in the public domain is considered a great scandal, yet they can redefine marriage?"
Of course, the photo in question isn't in the "public domain," as Brown contends. In fact, bloggers discovered that the two other photos used in the NOM "collage" (that's what Brown is calling it) were from pro-gay photographers keeping tabs on the group. The photographers had posted their pictures on Flickr under a license that requires them to be credited if used (and they weren't credited).
The Human Rights Campaign issued a news release calling on NOM to account for the "stolen" images.
"While I know that NOM has never been above misleading the public to further its cause, this new phoniness is an example of just how far you will go to make people believe your pursuit — the denial of equal treatment under the law — is supported by New Hampshire voters and Americans in general," wrote HRC president Joe Solmonese.
Hooper reacted in amazement on his blog to Brown's explanation.
"Seriously?!" he wrote. NOM is "really acting like it's some sort of standard practice for an organization to take the historically sized crowds of one of their biggest political foes and Photoshop said crowd into the organization's own collage, as a de facto symbol for their own support base?! That's fair and common use in NOM world?!"
Hooper was among a chorus of bloggers astounded by NOM's response, and he points out that NOM decided to use the Obama photo over its own pictures.
"It's even more galling when you consider that NOM has its own crowd shots from its own New Hampshire rallies," he wrote. "It's just that the Obama crowds are infinitely larger and are not half-filled with counter protestors."