A professional image-enhancer's view of the Reuters scandal

Hajj's fraudulent photo for Reuters, uncovered by Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs, is a laughably amateurish job.  He created 'smoke, clearly using a common tool in retouching software called the cloning brush.  To use a cloning brush, you sample one section of an image, and the software copies that section anywhere you 'paint'.  Done carefully, you can remove smudges, dust specks and other artifacts from digital images.  The trick is to not clone a hunk in such a way that a repeating pattern is visible, creating a 'tile' effect, something Hajj completely failed to do.

Disturbingly, there are a lot more tools available for the digital counterfeiter than the cloning tool.  I've been retouching digital images for 15 years.  Folks are routinely amazed at what I can do with an image using Adobe Photoshop.  In one case, a man had passed away, and the only photo of him with his whole family included a much loathed ex—wife.  I was asked to redact this woman from the photo so it could be used without controversy at the man's funeral.  Like a Winston Smith for pictures, I removed the ex—wife and rearranged the family, placing a little girl seamlessly on the man's lap to create an aesthetically pleasing arrangement.  A forensic examiner would likely have recognized small telltales of the digital fraud, but your average person would not question the genuineness of the photo.

What if Hajj had not chosen to fake smoke in such an incredibly bad fashion, but instead faked something more sinister and with greater skill?  What if he had cleared away wrecked heavy weapons from a hospital where Hezbollah had invited Israeli bombs with their presence?  What if the rifle held by a youth killed by a soldier had been digitally replaced by a broomstick?  If Reuters' image editors lack the skill, interest, or both to catch such an obvious fake, one wonders how many false images have slipped past their lazy, uncritical eyes? 

Free, civilized nations already work at a great disadvantage against tyranny in the war of ideas.  Free people give the media access to their mistakes, but the enemies of freedom do not welcome cameras to the sites of their atrocities.  For this reason alone the numbers of gruesome images available from errors or outright crimes from Western—style combatants are far more plentiful than what you'll see from the terrorists and their allies.  Must we now heap upon that disadvantage phony images of destruction dispensed as if they were the God's Honest Truth?

Western media have demonstrated time and again that they lack the requisite skepticism to investigate extraordinary claims from the enemy.  This incident is an example of why we can't trust the international media.  I've known for months that Reuters is biased, but now I know they are sloppy, lazy, stupid or a combination of all.  Their reputation ought to be shot in any fair—minded consumer of news, and shouldn't get it back until they at the very least fire the fools who let this crime against truth slide into the public with their imprimatur

Tim McNabb  8 07 06

Hajj's fraudulent photo for Reuters, uncovered by Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs, is a laughably amateurish job.  He created 'smoke, clearly using a common tool in retouching software called the cloning brush.  To use a cloning brush, you sample one section of an image, and the software copies that section anywhere you 'paint'.  Done carefully, you can remove smudges, dust specks and other artifacts from digital images.  The trick is to not clone a hunk in such a way that a repeating pattern is visible, creating a 'tile' effect, something Hajj completely failed to do.

Disturbingly, there are a lot more tools available for the digital counterfeiter than the cloning tool.  I've been retouching digital images for 15 years.  Folks are routinely amazed at what I can do with an image using Adobe Photoshop.  In one case, a man had passed away, and the only photo of him with his whole family included a much loathed ex—wife.  I was asked to redact this woman from the photo so it could be used without controversy at the man's funeral.  Like a Winston Smith for pictures, I removed the ex—wife and rearranged the family, placing a little girl seamlessly on the man's lap to create an aesthetically pleasing arrangement.  A forensic examiner would likely have recognized small telltales of the digital fraud, but your average person would not question the genuineness of the photo.

What if Hajj had not chosen to fake smoke in such an incredibly bad fashion, but instead faked something more sinister and with greater skill?  What if he had cleared away wrecked heavy weapons from a hospital where Hezbollah had invited Israeli bombs with their presence?  What if the rifle held by a youth killed by a soldier had been digitally replaced by a broomstick?  If Reuters' image editors lack the skill, interest, or both to catch such an obvious fake, one wonders how many false images have slipped past their lazy, uncritical eyes? 

Free, civilized nations already work at a great disadvantage against tyranny in the war of ideas.  Free people give the media access to their mistakes, but the enemies of freedom do not welcome cameras to the sites of their atrocities.  For this reason alone the numbers of gruesome images available from errors or outright crimes from Western—style combatants are far more plentiful than what you'll see from the terrorists and their allies.  Must we now heap upon that disadvantage phony images of destruction dispensed as if they were the God's Honest Truth?

Western media have demonstrated time and again that they lack the requisite skepticism to investigate extraordinary claims from the enemy.  This incident is an example of why we can't trust the international media.  I've known for months that Reuters is biased, but now I know they are sloppy, lazy, stupid or a combination of all.  Their reputation ought to be shot in any fair—minded consumer of news, and shouldn't get it back until they at the very least fire the fools who let this crime against truth slide into the public with their imprimatur

Tim McNabb  8 07 06