A photo of a white cop hugging a young black teen holding up a “Free Hugs” sign in Portland, Ore., has gone viral. But its popularity may say more about what we don’t want to see than what we do, argues Guardian columnist Jonathan Jones.

The Guardian:

The camera is a superb liar. It only shows one moment, and has no obligation to explain the bigger picture behind it. The selective use of photographs can therefore replace truth with whatever visual detail we choose to fix on. Horror or schmaltz, the effect is the same, to simplify reality and turn a story into a deceptively straightforward image…The protests in America against a grand jury’s decision not to indict white police officer Darren Wilson for shooting dead unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, have thrown up a sickly sweet instance of this modern dishonesty.

Of all the disturbing images of streets on fire and crowds unappeased that have seethed since the grand jury decision in Ferguson set off protests across America, one of the most popular online turns out to be a touching moment of interracial togetherness. You heard me. Like a supermarket Christmas ad, this photograph taken at a Ferguson protest in Portland, Oregon, feasts on a moment of truce and peace amid the anger.

What nonsense. It is one moment among many, and the choice to look at it and celebrate it is clearly a choice to be lulled by cotton candy. It has got more than 400,000 Facebook shares. Each one of those shares is a choice of what to see and what not to see. In the context of the completely unresolved and immensely troubling situation, not just in Ferguson but across the United States, where Ferguson has opened wounds that go back centuries, this picture is a blatant lie.

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—Posted by Natasha Hakimi Zapata

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