The New Republic's profile of Sen. Rand Paul is well worth a look—and so is the remarkable cover photograph, which captures the Kentucky lawmaker crossing his fingers:
The amazing photo set off a round of accusations that the image had been Photoshopped to make Paul look bad. But the picture, by the esteemed photographer Platon, wasn't doctored. Nor, as TNR senior editor Noam Scheiber points out, did Platon ask Paul to pose in this fashion. It wasn't until Platon was reviewing his photographs after their shoot that he noticed the money shot.
So why was Paul crossing his fingers? As some internet commenters have observed, there may be deeper significance to this "good luck" hand gesture. The crossed fingers have traditionally been used by POWs trotted out for propaganda purposes to indicate that the subject is participating under duress. Perhaps Paul was embracing the role he's carved out in Washington from Day One—that of a conservative freedom fighter deep in enemy territory.
The hidden messages may not stop there. Paul's choice of neck tie may also be sending a signal. As Matthew Schmitz, the deputy editor of the conservative religious magazine First Things, notes on Twitter, the libertarian-leaning lawmaker appears to be wearing a floral tie from a London-based company: Liberty.
Paul's office didn't respond to an inquiry about whether he was photographed under duress, or about whether the symbolism of his attire was intentional.
Tim Murphy is a senior reporter at Mother Jones. Reach him at email@example.com.