Everyone Calm Down About Obama's Selfie

It's all about context: Mashable writer
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 10, 2013 4:57 PM CST
Everyone Calm Down About Obama's Selfie
President Obama jokes with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, left, as first lady Michelle Obama looks on.   (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

One of the stranger stories out of today's memorial service for Nelson Mandela was the Internet furor that erupted when Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt took a selfie with President Obama and Britain's David Cameron. Lot of commenters, of course, picked up on the fact that a somber-looking Michelle Obama isn't in on the fun. (She looks "mortified," says the Stir.) Or they pounced on Obama for acting inappropriately given the circumstances. Ease up, writes Chris Taylor at Mashable. This was a celebratory memorial service, remember, not a funeral. "In other photos, we can see the leaders joking around, switching seats, looking bored—all the things you might find it hard to avoid doing if you were stuck in a stadium for four hours."

The upshot is that we don't know the full context, and "without that knowledge, a rush to judgment dishonors the memory of a man who spent decades fighting a society that systematically rushed to judgment." As for Michelle's reaction, don't read too much into it, adds Peter Grier at the Christian Science Monitor. "It’s impossible to really tell if she’s peeved, not paying attention, or (most likely) just got snapped at the micro-second she was looking in another direction," he writes. "We’ve seen enough photo meetings to know it’s easy to construct a narrative where none exists." (Yeah, but her reaction in other shots looks "dare we say disapproving," observes Caitlin Dewey at the Washington Post.) All that said, the creator of the "Selfies at Funerals" Tumblr may have gotten the last word. He quickly posted the image, then declared the Tumblr finished. "Our work here is done." (More Nelson Mandela stories.)

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