The Scientific Fundamentalist

A look at the hard truths about human nature.

Who took the picture of Joe Wilson? And how?

Asking the Albert Brooks question

So here's what I don't understand. If Joe Wilson's outburst during Obama's speech Wednesday night was truly "spontaneous," as Wilson claims, and no one (including Wilson himself) could have anticipated it, how come there is a sharply focused and neatly centered picture of Wilson right at the moment he shouted "You lie!" when the outburst lasted less than a second? In the picture, Wilson's mouth is still open, apparently in the middle of his shouting "lie."

Joe Wilson 2

There are 535 members of Congress in attendance during the joint session, plus a few extras like Michelle Obama and Vicki Kennedy. Until last night, Wilson was just about the least well known member of Congress. Why did someone have a camera fixed and focused on him during Obama's speech? The picture in question has been variously credited to "Getty Images," "AFP" (Agence France-Presse) or "Chip Somodevilla." None of them are local press in South Carolina, which might have had a reason to pay particular attention to their local Congressman during the speech. I doubt local press photographers are allowed in the joint session of Congress during a Presidential speech anyway.

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Think about it. If you were one of the (probably) dozen press photographers in the chamber last night, generally taking pictures of the Congressmen and Senators during the speech, and if you suddenly heard a two-word, one-second outburst coming from somewhere in the chamber, uttered by one of the 535 members of Congress (okay, one of the Republicans), there is no way you could take a (well focused and neatly centered) picture of the culprit during the second word of the outburst. Whoever took the picture must have anticipated the outburst.

This is the question that Albert Brooks asked about William Hurt in Broadcast News, which eventually ended the relationship between Hurt and Holly Hunter. I just don't see how the picture could be possible. How can you capture someone's "spontaneous" moment, when there are more than 535 other people around to pay attention to?

Satoshi Kanazawa is an evolutionary psychologist at LSE and the coauthor (with the late Alan S. Miller) of Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters.

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