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How pictures can lie

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On 9 August 1997, The Mirror printed an edited photo of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Dodi Fayed on its front page. The edited photo shows Diana and Fayed facing each other and about to kiss, although the unedited photo reveals that at that point Fayed was facing an entirely different direction. Did The Mirror lie to its readers?There is a broad understanding of lie on which the answer must be yes. On this understanding, most insincere acts can count as a lie. For example, I would count as lying if I were to stand by the window, pack my bags and leave the house in order to give my neighbours the (mistaken) impression that I am going on a journey. If the act of packing my bags can count as a lie, then surely the same must be possible for the act of printing and distributing an edited picture.However, on many occasions we use lie in a narrower sense that allows for a finer differentiation among insincere acts. On this narrow sense, I would be lying by telling my neighbours that I am going on a journey (without an intention of doing so), but I would not be lying by packing my bags. The act of packing my bags would be misleading, but it would not be a lie.So, given a narrow sense of lie, did The Mirror lie to its readers? Here the answer may be less clear. If we trust the philosophical mainstream it should be no. Prominent philosophical accounts of the nature of lying require liars to say something they believe to be false. If saying requires the use of words and sentences, as seems plausible, then printing and distributing a picture can be insincere and misleading, but it cannot count as lying.But is it really plausible to deny that The Mirror lied to its readers? In my view, a good case can be made to count the edited photo as a lie even on a narrow understanding of what it is to lie. For one thing, the act of printing and distributing the edited photo bears an important hallmark of lying: a lack of deniability. As an illustration of this hallmark, consider a case in. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

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