Topics: Social Media

White House designates 'selfie' area at policy summit; republic hardest hit

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Barack Obama,Twitter,Instagram,Social Media,Selfies,Blake Seitz

The president, top White House officials and lawmakers of all stripes have unleashed a plague upon the world: the political "selfie."

What started as extemporaneous photography with excited fans has morphed into something less excusable, culminating in the revelation Monday that selfies have been tacitly endorsed by the White House.

MSNBC's Irin Carmon reports that a White House policy summit on working families at the Omni Hotel in Washington featured a "selfie wall" to accommodate preening leaders of the ostensibly free world.

To date, no selfie wall has been erected in the White House, although in April, Vice President Joe Biden snapped a photo with President Obama in the belly of The Beast, the president's mobile fortress. This photograph was disseminated via the vice president's official Instagram account.

The list of high-ranking public figures implicated in selfie photography runs for miles. To name just a few: Secretary of State John Kerry, former secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice, along with governors Rick Perry and Martin O'Malley, have all engaged in selfie photography.

As this practice has been embraced by members of both parties, there appears to be no organized constituency to serve as a bulwark against the trend.

Former State Department counselor Eliot Cohen sounded the alarm about selfies and the emerging threat of hashtag statecraft earlier this year. He warned of the "teenage temperament" of politicians who have forgone "the old, adult virtues -- gravitas, sobriety, perseverance and constancy."

Cohen is joined by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has denounced selfie-takers as "slaves" to "electronic gadgets." (Although his hands are anything but clean.)

Just as American leaders have fallen over themselves to fawn over themselves, political selfies have proliferated beyond U.S. borders. Early adopters include nuclear club members such as Israel's Netanyahu, India's Narendra Modi, Britain's David Cameron, France's Francois Hollande and, in an abortive effort, Russia's Vladimir Putin.

Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tweeted a rudimentary selfie photograph in April.

Then there was the famous selfie with Obama and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt taken at Nelson Mandela's funeral in South Africa in December.

The White House considered unilaterally banning the selfie following blowback from a selfie photograph of Obama and baseball MVP David Ortiz. At the time, White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer mused that, much like the end of history, we may have witnessed "the end of all selfies."

Now just two months later, another White House adviser makes use of a selfie wall.

Pandora's Box will not be so easily closed.

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Blake Seitz

Special to the Examiner
The Washington Examiner

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