Saturday, May 28, 2016

Sometimes You Can’t Believe Your Eyes

(re-post from my other blog, the now-defunct Facile Nation, 9/30/2009)

A liberal friend of mine posted a video on her Facebook page that gathered a lot of outraged comments: it was this video of President Obama’s proffered hand being refused while every person shook President Medvedev’s hand as he followed behind. A tremendous sense of outrage was expressed over the rude and racist reaction of these Russians. Out of a couple of dozen comments, one person said, “that’s not what’s happening, take a closer look, Obama is introducing these people to Medvedev.”

Hmmm. I was bothered by the video because it’s looks terrible and the expression on President Obama’s face isn’t happy but somewhat resigned – but I was also intrigued by the one comment expressing another point of view. So I went seeking source material and found the original video (linked above) on YouTube rather than the Facebook page where I first saw it. And then I started looking for larger, longer versions of this meeting between world leaders. And I discovered a video referencing “the snub that wasn’t” but I was put off by the goofy soundtrack so I dug a little further and found the video without added music. Those folks who refused to shake the President’s hand? They weren’t Russians and they really hadn’t refused to shake hands: take a look. You can see that first President Medvedev introduces the American President and the Russians shake President Obama’s hand and *not* Medvedev’s. Then President Obama introduces his people to the Russian leader and they shake Medvedev’s hand.

The confusion arises from President Obama using his right hand to indicate an individual, extending it partly across his body, rather than his left hand, and the angle of the camera foreshortens the distance between President Obama and the person(s) he introduces.

So I posted a response which linked the second video and asked if the person who said, “that’s not what’s happening” might be right. A bunch more people comment about how awful & racist those (Russians) are and I figured that most of them didn’t read the comments which preceded their own. Another woman posts a link to Snopes which explains the confusion in detail and presents both videos as well (I felt vindicated; the materials I found were the same ones that Snopes referenced). But even after the clarification, some people refused to believe that their President was NOT suffering a racially-based snub at the hands of the Russians.

Happily my friend put up the link to Snopes and said, “I’ve been had!” and apologized for not doing her own research to confirm what was going on; she also took down the original video and the long comment thread (which I wish she’d left up; it was instructive). But I don’t think she did anything wrong in the first place: she saw a video and took it at face value – then, when she had more information, she posted a correction – what more could one possibly ask? Not everyone has the time or inclination to go sleuthing before posting; what’s important is the willingness to let go of the error and embrace reality.

But don’t you just love those guards who open the doors at the beginning of the second video?!

note: original you-tube links are no longer working but here is a similar video of news coverage from Canada.

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