The Situation Room

The Situation Room

Part of a series on Osama Bin Laden's Death. [View Related Entries]

Updated Oct 11, 2012 at 10:30PM EDT by Brad.

Added May 04, 2011 at 12:53PM EDT by Andrew.

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The Situation Room is a photoshop meme based on an official photograph of Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, Joseph Biden and other members of the National Security Council gathered in the White House Situation Room for an updated briefing on Operation Neptune Spear, which resulted in capture and death of Osama bin Laden. Along with the news of bin Laden’s capture and death, the photograph received massive attention and spawned dozens of parodies in May 2011.


The official White House photo of President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and members of the national security team huddled in the Situation Room was taken by Pete Souza on May 1st, 2011. It has been claimed that the photo was taken while the group was receiving updates on the mission that would ultimately kill Osama bin Laden.[8]

The image was uploaded to the White House’s official Flickr[1] on May 2nd, the day after the announcement of bin Laden’s death, with a disclaimer stating that:

“The Photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.”

One of the earliest photoshopped versions of the image was a facebomb, posted to Reddit[19] on May 2nd, receiving 1,820 upvotes and 1,299 downvotes.


In the days following, the original photo was shared and discussed on many news and technology sites including NPR[13], TIME[14], Washington Post[15], Laughing Squid[16] and Wired.[17] A Reddit thread[18] linking to the photo received 20,772 upvotes and 17,620 downvotes by December 2011. After being online for 38 hours, the image had accrued 1,597,561 views[3], putting it half way towards becoming the most viewed Flickr photo of all time, a title which still belongs to a 2006 photo of Nohkalikai Falls, Cherraphunjee[9] with 2,978,625 views on May 3rd, 2011. That day, Mashable[10] and The Atlantic[5] both covered the photoshop meme.

By the next afternoon, the photo hit the top of Techmeme[2] and CNN aired a Jeanne Moos segment on the photo. Several additional blogs and tech sites covered the photoshops including WWD Media[4], Neatorama[11] and Buzzfeed[12]. Wired[21] announced a photoshop contest whose winners were chosen on May 6th.[20]

Notable Examples

Hillary Clinton Removed

Di Zeitung, a Hasidic newspaper in Brooklyn, New York, removed Hillary Clinton and Audrey Tomason from the photograph in their article about the event.[6] On May 9, Di Tzeitung released an official statement regarding the removal of the two women[7]:

Because we wanted to honor the President and our armed forces for the historic significance of the moment, we opted to publish the photo, but without the women included, as is our long standing editorial policy. As a fact, Secretary of State Clinton WAS mentioned prominently in the main write-up of the Situation Room, right after President Obama.

Our editorial policies are guided by a Rabbinical Board and because of laws of modesty, does not allow for the publishing of photos of women. The readership of the Tzeitung believe that women should be appreciated for who they are and what they do, not for what they look like, and the Jewish laws of modesty are an expression of respect for women, not the opposite.

Search Interest

Search queries for the situation room peaked in May 2011 but dropped off the next month.

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