In Defense of Taking Selfies at Auschwitz and Other Depressing Places
A teenager from Alabama took a photo in front of a concentration camp where an estimated 1,000,000 people were killed. She did so while smiling. As you might have guessed, that did not sit well with the internet. In a New York Post article on the now-infamous Breanna Mitchell Auschwitz selfie, the writer quotes a particularly vitriolic response that simply said, “Did you manage to take any of you laughing inside a gas chamber or maybe one with your head stuck in a cremator?” A fair question which I don’t believe she took the time to answer.
In an instant, Breanna became as close to the Devil as you can get without being Donald Sterling. Business Insider collected some of the more amusing insults and reactionsfrom Twitter, which amounted to “fuck you” and little else. Despite this concerted effort to make her feel bad about herself, Breanna has continued to publicly defend her actions. It’s almost like she has so much self-esteem and so little self-awareness that she’d have to be the only kind of person who would be dumb enough to take a selfie at a concentration camp.
By being completely ignorant of how some would interpret her vague digital communication (the only thing that’s obvious from her photo is that she’s happy and she’s at Auschwitz. The rest is not clear), she’s influenced a global conversation on the limits of self-involvement. Some have come to her defense, reminding us all that she’s just a kid with a dead dad who shared her love of history. Others are plenty happy to keep fucking with her, which has pushed Breanna to make her Twitter page private. The internet is paying attention, and forming strong opinions about a picture she took over a month ago. Isn’t that something to be proud of? She’s already proud of herself for going to Auschwitz. Why not be proud of this too?
Even the President of the United States Must Sometimes Have to Paint Naked
Former president George W. Bush’s two most famous artworks are self-portraits. In one, he stands naked, reflected in the bathroom mirror from the waist up with his back to us, and in another, stretched out in the tub, from his own point-of-view. The latter is the creepier of the two. It’s as if our eyes and head correspond exactly to his—are we looking at our own knees raised in the milky bathtub; our feet and toes peeking out in the distance? Even for homespun realism/surrealism, it’s more than a little perverse. These are intimate moments that we would never be privy to—or particularly want to see—yet here they are, captured and put out into the world as paintings, made by the president himself.
A fashion shoot inspired by people taking photos of themselves when they shouldn’t be taking photos of themselves.
There’s No Such Thing As Selfie Addiction
Recently, the assembled hacks at the Sunday Mirror’s headquarters were deciding how best to cover the story of Danny Bowman, a teenager diagnosed with “selfie addiction.” Taking the sensitive, appropriate route, the British tabloid sent a photographer to take lots and lots of photos of him.
Selfies are the latest trend in popular art—the cave paintings of the Age of Aquarius, only much less inspiring than anything our ancient ancestors ever produced. They combine two of the most potent forces in the modern world—computer technology and celebrity-fueled narcissism—to create a form of expression so powerful that it can literally cure cancer.
Nevertheless, with great power comes great danger, as anyone who’s watched the popular New Zealand hiking documentary Lord of the Rings will remember. In it, a ring becomes so powerful that a small man is forced to walk a very long way for reasons that are never made entirely clear before throwing the offending piece of jewellery into a volcano. Someone else becomes so corrupted by the ring’s power that he starts talking to himself, loses all his friends, and ends up developing a pretty nasty skin condition from the stress of it all.
But is it possible to be addicted to taking selfies, the way you can be addicted to alcohol or nicotine or the One Ring? The case of Danny Bowman is certainly extreme. According to the Sunday Mirror article, “He dropped out of school, didn’t leave his house in six months, lost two stone [28 pounds] trying to make himself look better for the camera, and became aggressive with his parents when they tried to stop him. Finally, in a drastic attempt to escape his obsession, Danny took an overdose—but was saved by his mum, Penny.”
Jihad Selfies: British Extremists in Syria Love Social Media
After being publicly sacked by al Qaeda leader Aymann al-Zawahiri and accidentally beheadinga fighter from one of their main allies in Syria, it’s fair to say the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)’s PR campaign has suffered in recent weeks. So, like any half decent group of militant extremists, they obviously want to address this slip. Unfortunately, a traditional media outreach is very difficult for them, given ISIS’s policy of kidnapping journalists. So they’ve turned, like many before them, to social media.
Over the past few weeks, foreign fighters from ISIS and their subgroup the Muhajireen Brigade have been busy uploading selfies across Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, in an effort to publicize their cause and win more recruits to the Syrian jihad. They offer a bizarre and fascinating look inside Syria’s most feared and least understood militant groups.
On paper, the Muhajireen Brigade are separate to ISIS, but they’re considered by some analysts to be a front group for the larger jihadist outfit. The social media evidence seems to support this view.
This picture (above) shows British fighter Ibrahim al-Mazwagi in battle with Omar Shishani, a Georgian Chechen who formerly led the Muhajireen Brigade, and is now ISIS’s military commander in Northern Syria.
Al-Mazwagi was killed in battle in February, aged 21. This is a collage made to honor him as a martyr, along with his friend and fellow casualty, Abu Qudama.
Above are two other recent British martyrs, Choukri Ellekhlifi, 22, and Mohammed el-Araj, 23. The pair are shown here at a jihadist internet café in Atmeh, a Syrian border town that is now firmly under ISIS control.
Vice/Noisey asked me to send them 5 exclusive selfies because there are no more important world news stories to report on.
You can see them & read the captions: HERE
Mexican Drug Cartels Love Social Media
Above: “Broly”, an alleged member of the Knights Templar Cartel, posing for a selfie with his handgun. (All images courtesy of Antoine Nouvet / Open Empowerment Initiative.)
Members of Mexico’s drug cartels are really starting to harness the power of the internet, using it to run positive PR campaigns, post selfies with their pistols, and hunt down targets by tracking their movements on social media.
Antoine Nouvet from the SecDev Foundation, a Canadian research organization, has been working with drug policy think-tank the Igarapé Institute on a project called the Open Empowerment Initiative. The project looks into “how cyberspace is empowering individuals and rewiring relations in Latin America” and has uncovered a wealth of information about how cartels are using the internet to their own nefarious ends.
Some gold weapons posted on a cartel member’s Facebook page.
The first point Antoine touched on was how cartels have utilized cyberspace in much the same way as a TV company’s PR department might: “They advertise their activities, they conduct public relations initiatives, and they have basically turned themselves into their own media company,” he explained. “Colombia’s cartel groups or drug traffickers in Myanmar in the 1990s were very sophisticated at public relations, but they didn’t have this massive broadcasting platform.”
MrPimpGoodGame Is the King of the Instagram Selfie
At first glance, Benny Winfield Jr. seems like a normal 37-year-old who works as a customer-service rep, lives in the suburbs of Houston, and tutors children in his spare time. But online, he’s MrPimpGoodGame, the self-proclaimed “King of the Selfie Movement,” whose prolific Instagram gallery has garnered a cult following due to his signature look: an honest smirk and a shiny head. Although the selfie has been criticized among the ranks of pseudointellectuals, girls who watch Girls, and actual psychiatrists for its seemingly trivial implications on mainstream culture, MrPimpGoodGame takes it all at face value, because according to him, a selfie is face value.
Instead of talking to some Freudian dork about the psychosemantics of the selfie, I wanted to get in touch with a professional. So I web-chatted with MrPimpGoodGame to talk about his newfound fame, business ventures, and women.
MrPimpGoodGame: I was trying to be funny at first. I didn’t think it would take off like this.
Did you have a normal person Instagram before?
No, I’ve always been doing this because it’s what I do. My original account was PimpGoodGame and I was getting so much attention that I had to shut it down because I had co-workers on there. So then I started MrPimpGoodGame and really pushed the selfie movement.
What’s the movement about?
The selfie movement is about loving the way you look, even if you’re having a bad hair day. No matter what. It’s always appropriate to take a selfie.