It was inevitable, with the emergence and escalation of the "birther" campaign, that we would experience the same bizarre skepticism when it comes to Osama bin Laden. If there are a group of conspiracy theorists who insist on seeing proof of U.S. birth for President Obama, is it any surprise that there would be a concurrent call for proof of death for bin Laden?
President Obama has decided not to release a photo of the dead bin Laden. True, it would perhaps appease those who don’t really believe that the U.S. military and intelligence personnel, under Obama’s direction, completed the task of killing the hated bin Laden. But releasing a photo or video could also rally terrorist forces around the world, buttressing any movement to turn bin Laden into a martyr. [Vote now: Should the U.S. release a photo of Osama bin Laden's body?]
We’ve become unfortunately accustomed to a YouTube, reality TV, cell phone photo approach to living--a world where privacy and dignity are sacrificed for hyper-transparency and more commonly, pure voyeurism. But images matter, and sending provocative images or videos around the world can have a destructive effect. The Internet posting of a video showing the burning of a Koran in Florida is one such example, giving amplified attention to a local pastor whose narrow-mindedness and ignorance does not deserve to be promoted. [See photos of reactions to Osama bin Laden's death.]
What would be the purpose of releasing a photo? Would it really reassure Americans that bin Laden is really dead? Or would it just provoke a new wave of conspiracy theories about doctored photos and lies? There are people, remarkably, who still don’t believe Obama was born in Hawaii, despite indisputable evidence to the contrary. Why would a picture of a dead bin Laden be any more effective? At best, it would give some satisfaction to those of us who want to see the face of hate bloodied and lifeless. At worst, it will incite would-be terrorists around the world. [See a slide show of six potential terrorist targets.]
And at its heart, the demand for pictures of a deceased bin Laden are not much different from the demands for further proof of Obama’s domestic birth. In both cases, we are dealing with people who simply cannot believe that a mixed-race man became president, and further, will refuse to believe he could have accomplished something so great. The Obama haters will believe what they want to believe, regardless of what is shown them. Releasing photos won’t change their minds.