Crossed Fingers

Claim:   Photograph shows soldier shaking hands with Sen. Hillary Clinton while crossing his fingers.

Status:   True.

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2004]

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Picture shows that this guy has been thru Survival School. He's giving the sign of "coercion" with his left hand. These hand signs are taught in survival school to be used by future POW's to send messages back to our intelligence services viewing the photo or video. This guy was being coerced into holding hands with Hillary. Little did she know that he would tell us.

Origins:   Military history includes many instances when soldiers who fell into the hands of the enemy were trotted out before photographers or television cameras by their captors for purposes of propaganda: — to create false images intended to trick audiences into believing that the prisoners were actually well-cared for, sympathized with their captors, or were voluntarily denouncing the political policies of their home countries. Likewise, military history includes many instances in which such captured soldiers managed to inserted subtle and furtive signs into propagandistic images to express their defiance, to indicate that the information they were relaying was false, or to signal that they were acting under duress. (One of the most well-known examples of this phenomenon is the infamous middle finger gesture employed by the crew of the USS Pueblo in photographs after their ship was captured by North Korea in 1968.)

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 is not really all that pleased to be meeting Senator Clinton.

The "not really all that pleased" assessment is evidently accurate — although the picture originally appeared without any accompanying text, and the "coercion" caption was only added later to make the humor of the photograph more explicit — as 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 as appreciative of having the opportunity to meet (and pose with) her as it might otherwise appear.

Last updated:   29 March 2005