What's Trending

When good sense and truth are eclipsed

Public outcry over insensitive post by US Treasury chief's wife and 'illustration' of solar eclipse

A COSTLY INSTAGRAM POST

There is a high chance that anything ostentatious or excessive that is posted on social media will be closely scrutinised, more so if you are well known.

Scottish actress Louise Linton, wife of US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, found that out the hard way with a showy Instagram post last Monday, which showed the couple disembarking a US military jet.

They had just returned from a quick trip to Kentucky to visit Fort Knox with Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.

In her post, Linton tagged her husband, as well as the official accounts of the various brands responsible for her outfit.

These included Tom Ford (sunglasses), Hermes (scarf and bag), Valentino (shoes) and Roland Mouret (pants).

Curious Instagram users estimated the cost of her outfit to be at least US$14,000 (S$19,000).


National Geographic got flak for an image by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Ken Geiger, which it posted on its website and Instagram account. It showed an image of five suns, in various stages of the eclipse, taken at the Grand Teton National Park. PHOTO: NAT GEO/ INSTAGRAM

But what really ignited the controversy was her snide response.

"Glad we could pay for your little getaway. #deplorable", said Instagram user Jenni Miller, who hails from Oregon.

Another user said: "Please don't tag your Hermes scarf. Distasteful."

In a snarky reply, Linton said: "Aw!!! Have you given more to the economy than me and my husband?"

  • NOTABLE TRENDS

  • SING! CHINA: The popular singing contest continues to dominate the YouTube charts as local contestant Olinda Cho and Curley Gao, a Chinese student based in Singapore, make it through to the third round.

    SAMSUNG NOTE8: The South Korean tech giant's latest phablet was one of the top Google trends when it was unveiled on Wednesday. The pricey handset costs $1,398 and goes on sale next month.

    GAME OF THRONES: There is much anticipation and questions as the fantasy drama heads to its seventh season finale. It was one of the top trending terms on Google.

She continued her tirade: "I'm pretty sure we paid more taxes towards our day 'trip' than you did… You're adorably out of touch. Your kids look cute. Your life looks cute. Go chill out and watch the new Game of Thrones."

It quickly went viral, and her over-the-top response was widely mocked.

Many observers pointed to Linton's insensitivity, having just returned from a trip to Kentucky where it is estimated that one in four lives in poverty.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington - a watchdog group - accused the couple of planning a trip to Kentucky, out of taxpayers' pockets, largely to catch the solar eclipse as it was "out of the ordinary for a secretary of the Treasury to visit Fort Knox".

The last secretary to visit the army post was seven decades ago.

The group is now asking the Treasury Department for the records of costs and authorisation for the couple to travel there.

A Treasury spokesman, however, said the government officials had undertaken a business trip.

Linton's travel expenses were to be reimbursed by her husband.

After the backlash, Linton deleted the post and issued an apology, admitting that it was "inappropriate and highly insensitive".

She also made her Instagram account private.

ILLUSTRATION FUELS PUBLIC HEAT

The total solar eclipse last Monday, the first in nearly a century, was a sight to behold.

Photographers were out in droves to document the full glory of the moon eating the sun.

But National Geographic has received flak for an image by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Ken Geiger, which it posted on its website and Instagram account last week.

It showed an image of five suns, in various stages of the eclipse, taken at the Grand Teton National Park.

The original caption on its website was sparse. "A compilation image of the phases of the eclipse over the Teton Range."

But sharp-eyed netizens and organisations soon realised that the post, which drew more than two million likes, was too good to be true.

The sunrise over the mountain, for example, was facing west but the eclipse took place in a different direction, said non-profit journalism outfit Poynter.

The eclipse also looked larger in the image than what other photographers saw.

After some readers voiced their concerns, Nat Geo later added to the caption that the image was meant as an "illustration, a composite of two frames - the morning sunrise of the Tetons and a timed multiple exposure of today's eclipse".

A spokesman said the caption was updated to more clearly define the technique used in creating the image.

National Press Photographers Association president Melissa Lyttle, however, said the image could be considered an "illustration" but not photojournalism as it had been severely altered.

She told Poynter: "The bigger questions are, does National Geographic magazine hold itself to (photojournalistic) standards? Or, is it merely a magazine with pretty pictures and illustrations? Does it intend to promote high-quality visual journalism or does it vacillate somewhere between the two worlds?

"When a reputable magazine publishes a questionable image that needs explanation, simply divulging that information would alleviate a lot of the questions and concerns," she added.

To be fair, Geiger never intended the image to be taken as photojournalism, and he was forthcoming when asked about it on his own Instagram account.

Geiger, who was not on assignment but had snapped the pictures in his personal capacity, said he did not think anybody would be confused.

"Everybody knows the eclipse doesn't happen in an arch."

But many believe Nat Geo could have done more to be more transparent about its images, particularly when "fake news" is such a hot topic.

Said Ms Lyttle: "Being open and honest about the process, and transparent from the get-go, could also have made this a non-issue."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 27, 2017, with the headline 'When good sense and truth are eclipsed'. Print Edition | Subscribe