The Internet has erupted in a debate over the American flag, the U.S. military and respect.
At the center of the dispute: a photo shoot of a U.S. Navy serviceman holding his child in an American flag.
The photos were taken by Virginia photographer Vanessa Hicks, who posted them on Facebook on Sunday.
The next day, the Facebook page “You Call Yourself A Photographer” picked up the photos — and tore them apart.
“The flag is not a prop,” wrote the unnamed person behind the page, which focuses on highlighting bad photography from around the Internet. “To use the American flag in such a way is disrespectful, rude, tacky, disgusting, and against the U.S. Flag Code.”
The post continued, calling out both the photographer and the serviceman pictured for having “disgraced” the flag, saying:
This flag is a symbol of everything my son died for many years ago. It was of the utmost honor to have a flag laid upon your coffin as my son did. That honor is taken away when disrespectful photographers throw our flag code out the window. Although you can’t see it anymore, I posted another picture from this same photographer a few minutes ago who had a naked baby on that same flag I laid upon my son’s casket. She allowed that baby to pee and poop on that flag that is meant to honor our fallen soldiers. Disgusting.
Read the full thing below:
At first, Hicks said she was saddened by the “You Call Yourself a Photographer” posting and the attacks she endured afterwards, but by Tuesday, she posted again on Facebook saying that she wasn’t accepting any abuse.
“Yesterday, I woke up to see this photo was shared on a group site that is meant to bash other photographers,” Hicks wrote. “It was in their opinion I had disrespected our nations flag.”
Hicks, a Navy veteran who is married to a sailor, said the photo showed the “honor” of military families and was never meant to disrespect the flag.
“I almost let these cyber bullies get me yesterday,” she continued. “I could have easily deleted the picture off of my business page and ended it with that. I almost did. Then I thought, WHY? These cyber bullies would win! Hell no!”
Hicks was soon flooded with media requests, and on Thursday, she appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and “Fox and Friends.”
She said she had also received a torrent of requests for photo shoots, and in light of all the new business, Hicks said she’d be donating 15 percent of her profits to the USO.
One more promise from Hicks: “Free photo shoots for life” to the Clevengers, the Navy family who appeared in her controversial photos.
So, all being said and done, was Hicks in the wrong?
The U.S. flag code clearly states that, “No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume,” though as the Congressional Research Service report on the code notes, the code is a “voluntary guide” for civilians.
Hicks seems to be winning the popularity contest, at least: Her Facebook posts have received thousands of “likes” as of Thursday morning, while the “You Call Yourself a Photographer” post had only received a couple hundred.
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This story has been updated.
Follow Zach Noble (@thezachnoble) on Twitter