Obama His Own Hero? (Updated)

Kate McMillan has discovered a treasure trove of photos at whitehouse.gov placed in a sub-subdirectory called “hero.”  All of the photos in that subdirectory include a certain resident of the White House.  Bob McCarty and Jeff Emanuel discovered the same thing independently.

Now, I’m pretty sure Obama doesn’t have time to upload photos to the White House website and that file naming conventions are delegated to some lower level official, such as Joe Biden.  But, seriously, What the Hell?

Above, our hero watches the Super Bowl on television. (Oddly, the original has the embedded caption “Basketball on South Grounds Super Bowl Party.”)

UPDATE: A little more digging finds plenty of photos in the directory not featuring Obama; some, including this one, include no people at all.

For the record, the Bush White House used a more standard nomenclature.   For example, this one is at /news/releases/2009/01/images/20090115_d-0376-6-515h.html.

UPDATE 2:  Commenter Urbaniac may have solved our little mystery:

“Hero: When viewing a proof sheet or selection of images, the Hero image is the image selected for final use i.e. typically the best image from the selection.”-Photography terms glossary

Not necessarily the most efficient way of cataloging the images but it makes some sense.  The folder is protected (as it should be) so I can’t review the images collectively but it would indeed be useful to have the “heroes” in a separate folder.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. I’d lay odds that this was a joke by somebody on his web staff, as they looked for a place to stash a bunch of photos until they were needed. It comes as no surprise to me at all that even someone on the White House web design team wouldn’t bother to think that this “hidden” url would get out. It happens all the time, even at big name companies with highly trained and paid web design teams – and whitehouse.gov is going to get a lot more scrutiny than most.

    I could be entirely wrong with that, though, and Team Obama could just be continuing to drink their own Kool-Aid and believe Obama to be the second coming.

  2. Davebo says:

    But, seriously, What the Hell?

    Excellent question. Red State?

    The Joyner decline continues. Losing must suck more than I remember.

  3. John Cole says:

    It will get even worse as time goes on. I am on right-wing email lists in which I am getting pictures of Obama saluting soldiers in which people who have never spent one day in uniform are critiquing his salute. Was it good enough? Did he look the soldier in the eye?

    I watched the far left do the same kind of lunatic nonsense to Bush in the early years.

  4. Urbaniak says:

    “Hero: When viewing a proof sheet or selection of images, the Hero image is the image selected for final use i.e. typically the best image from the selection.”-Photography terms glossary

    You’re welcome.

  5. I don’t think it sounds that inefficient. It’s probably a temporary holding file. I keep a temp file with random links on any given week that I label with quirky names as a mnemonic device.

  6. Dustin says:

    I’ve worked in graphic design and now web design for 10 years now, and the term “hero image” has long since referred to the lead image. My initial assumption was that these were photos that accompanied a story on the home page. Bob McCarty’s screen shot seems to bear this out as well.

    In fact, I launched a site just a recently with a number of random photos that loaded on the home page, and each of them is identified by the file name hero-whatever.jpg.

    Much ado about nothing.

  7. Dustin says:

    Worse, I’m seeing people claiming that “every single image of Obama” is in the hero folder. 2 minutes of searching finds that to be flat out false as well.

    In my opinion, every photo in the hero directory was most likely used with one of the lead stories. Currently the images tied to all 4 lead stories are in the hero directory.


    This image is currently on the home page, and is in the hero directory.

    This is a bigger version of the same image, that is not from the home page, and is not in the hero directory.

  8. Bithead says:

    James’ update number 2 makes some sense, but if that scenario is true, there’s an entire aspect of this that has been missed.

    Remember, last November when the incoming web admins cleaned out the robts text file of all the various directories, apparently being directed from on high to do it?

    Supposedly, this part of the meme that this was going to be a new era of openness and accountability Remember that nonsense?

    (Argue the actual merits and success rate of that policy, both in general and on the website if you will, it’s outside my main point)

    I think I better understand why the Bush robots.txt was so restrictive; It was for this precise scenario; items like these photos… which while not very secret, would allow an inner-workings view as to the system behind the website.

    Certainly the ‘hero’ directory wouldn’t have shown up on Google, had Google been instructed by means of the robots.txt not to crawl the thing.

    I can’t help but think there are other treasures to be found, that way, on that site. Likely nothing more harmful than ‘easter eggs’, but ya never know.

    OTOH, they may now be adding to that robots file, too. Amazing what a little exposure to reality will do.