John Bolton, who served as United Nations ambassador in the George W. Bush administration, was appointed as Donald Trump’s third national security adviser on April 9, 2018 — and by September 10, 2019, Bolton was fired. The firing was apparently the culmination of rapid deterioration in the relationship between Trump and Bolton. Trump was reportedly upset at Bolton, as The Inquisitr reported, because the national security adviser refused to appear on TV to defend Trump, after Trump revealed that he had invited leaders from Afghanistan’s extremist Taliban insurgent group to the United States.
Even as Trump fired him via Twitter, Bolton shot back saying, on his own Twitter account, that he had offered his resignation only to have Trump tell him, “Let’s talk about it tomorrow.” But Trump then fired him by tweet anyway, The Inquisitr reported.
Now, nearly six weeks after pushing Bolton out of the White House, in a bizarre development reminiscent of the Soviet Union’s longtime Communist dictator Josef Stalin, someone appears to have erased Bolton out of an official Defense Department photo alongside Trump, with an image of Trump’s local United States Attorney General William Barr — who is part of the Justice Department, not the Defense Department — Photoshopped in to the image where Bolton used to be.
The unsettling alteration was spotted by a sharp-eyed Twitter user.
UPDATE: The altered photo, according to Washington Post technology reporter Drew Harwell, appears to be of uncertain origin, and was not the product of a White House alteration. This story has been updated to reflect that uncertainty.
Disinformation about disinformation. @christoq tweeted that the White House had photoshopped Barr in for Bolton. But that photo (or, at least, one of the earliest sightings of it) didn't come from the White House, but from here, a viral joke: https://t.co/fG7M5zXZ4n pic.twitter.com/Q89CCYpWvY
— Drew Harwell (@drewharwell) October 23, 2019
As the Twitter user who posted the altered photo side-by-side with the original noted, the same technique was used by Josef Stalin, who was the leader — and dictator — of the Soviet Union from 1922 until his death on October 16, 1952.
Stalin frequently ordered the images of Soviet officials that had lost his favor — and in many cases been assassinated as a result — simply erased from official photographs, according to an account of the practice by History.com.
“At the height of the Soviet Union’s international power, (Stalin) rewrote history using photo alteration,” the site wrote, explaining that Stalin’s political foes would often simply disappear from their homes, never to be seen again.
“And since Stalin knew the value of photographs in both the historical record and his use of mass media to influence the Soviet Union, they often disappeared from photos, too,” according to History.com.
Of course, in Stalin’s era, digital photography was years away from being invented — meaning that Photoshop and similar photo-altering tools were also just science fiction. But according to a historical account by Open Culture, that did not stop Stalin and his team of photo-altering experts.
In fact, the site reports, not only would the Soviet retouchers erase Stalin’s enemies from photographic history, but they also used their skills to make Stalin himself appear more handsome, smoothing out his notoriously pockmarked facial complexion.
Altering photos of himself is something Trump shares with Stalin. As The Inquisitr reported, photos of Trump appearing on his official Instagram and Facebook accounts appear to have been digitally enhanced to make Trump appear thinner than he actually is — and to make his hands look bigger.