Guilt Comes In To Focus

In reporting on crime stories, media outlets commonly show photographs of involved parties. When a photo depicts a suspect along with people who’ve done nothing wrong, the identities of the uninvolved folks are protected by blurring their faces.

It is important to keep uninvolved parties from being associated with acts they had nothing to do with.  But these altered pictures look to me as if they are saying “here is the guilty party, among some decent, hard-working innocents”. This “guilty party” effect is so powerful that I believe that it can make innocent photos appear far more sinister than they actually are.

Allow me to offer an example.

I Was Framed

Here is a picture of me with two of my greatest friends. I’ve blurred them out as they would be if this photo were used in a television news story documenting my involvement in some hypothetical malfeasance. Because of the convention that tells us that the blurred out parties are not to blame for anything and those in focus are guilty, it looks as if I have done something wrong even though I haven’t.


Yeah, they look all blurry and virtuous. They aren’t. In fact, I should be blurred, not them.

In reality, just about everything that I am guilty of has happened around these two. And as far as them being innocent, I’ll have to borrow a line from Randy Newman – “Well, Pluto’s not a planet anymore either.”

Let’s look at another example of what can happen when images get blurred.

If It Quacks Like A Duck And Offers Women Pills Like A Duck…

Comedian/actor Bill Cosby has been in the news a lot recently. Unfortunately for him, it hasn’t been because of anything funny that he’s done or said.

An alarming number of women have come forward to say that Bill drugged and then had sexual contact with them. That is a shame. No always means no. So does unconscious.

The fact that Mr. Cosby once had a joke in his act about drugging women for sexual purposes doesn’t look good for him. Neither does the fact that the number of people who say that Cosby tried to give them his pudding pop may soon outnumber those who say that he didn’t.

Some are sure that Bill Cosby is a predator. Others won’t believe he was capable of such dastardly deeds unless the Dalai Lama comes forward with an eyewitness account. I’d have to say that, while it isn’t likely that these cases will make it in to a court room, I’ve heard enough to conclude that I’d feel concern for any woman who’d been within Cosby’s reach.

Let’s return, briefly, to my original theme of blurred photos –


Yeah, it’s starting to look bad. (original image, public domain)

As more of his accusers bravely step up, Bill is looking less like America’s Dad and more like the creepy uncle we don’t invite to the family reunions anymore. There’s no blurring that sad reality, with or without a photograph.


5 Comments on “Guilt Comes In To Focus”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I think you blurred the wrong faces in the top photo.

  2. I’ve always found the big black bars over the eyes of people to look much more guilty than these new-fangled blurred faces.

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