UPDATE May 2016: With Hillary Clinton’s nomination for the Democratic Presidential nomination all but guaranteed at this point, expect to see the above photo making the rounds again.
The above photo has been causing trouble for Hillary Clinton for over a decade now. Since her campaign is ramping up for the Democratic Presidential nomination, it’s surfacing again.
In the photo, an unidentified soldier flashes the sign of coercion, taught to military graduates of survival school, as he poses with then Senator Hillary Clinton. The sign is meant to convey a forced situation, or distress, implying that the soldier did not actually want to take the photo and was not a fan of Clinton.
Before you head to the net to vet this story, everyone’s favorite online debunking site, Snopes, has already done it. According to their analysis they find that the story is TRUE:
The gesture of crossing one’s fingers is not unique to the military, of course; it is an ages-old symbol used to indicate that the finger-crosser does not mean what he is saying or is being compelled to act through coercion. (A typical kiddie trick is to surreptitiously cross one’s fingers behind one’s back while making a promise, a token that supposedly shields the finger-crosser from the obligation of upholding the terms of his oath.)
The implication of the photograph shown above (which began circulating on the Internet in early 2004 and was taken at one of the military facilities New York senator Hillary Clinton visited in Iraq during the Thanksgiving 2003 holidays), then, is that despite the smiling faces and friendly hand-shaking captured in the picture, the soldier is communicating that he was compelled against his wishes to greet Senator Clinton.
The “not really all that pleased” assessment, at least, is evidently accurate: the picture originally appeared online without any accompanying text, and the “coercion” caption was only added later to make the humor of the photograph more explicit. The soldier pictured with Senator Clinton (who asked that we not identify him by name) told us that he employed the gesture to indicate that he was not a fan of the senator’s and was not really as appreciative of having the opportunity to meet (and pose with) her as it might otherwise appear.
While we’re sure no one was holding a gun to the soldier’s head forcing him to appear in the photo op with the Senator, it’s pretty obvious he’s not too happy about it.