The Secret Message in This Rand Paul Pic


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 New Republic

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.

Liberty London

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.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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