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January 5, 2009
Let the Media Fauxtography Games Begin!
What's a war in the Middle East without some faked photos or misleading captions to get your anti-Israeli blood up and show the world how beastly those nasty Jews are to the poor, peace loving terrorists of Hamas?
Previous conflicts in the Middle East have revealed wire services like Reuters and AP to be an extension of the propaganda arm of the Palestinians as photos purporting to show Israeli "atrocities" turn out to be staged tableaus or retouched.
The blog Mere Rhetoric gives us a primer (courtesy of Zombietime ) in the art of Fauxtography as practiced during the Israel-Lebanon War in 2006:
The four types of photographic fraud perpetrated by Reuters photographers and editors are: 1. Digitally manipulating images after the photographs have been taken. 2. Photographing scenes staged by Hezbollah and presenting the images as if they were of authentic spontaneous news events. 3. Photographers themselves staging scenes or moving objects, and presenting photos of the set-ups as if they were naturally occurring. 4. Giving false or misleading captions to otherwise real photos that were taken at a different time or place.As for the current violence, this picture appears to show a wounded young man being carried from the scene. But look closer:
Palestinians are... the only people on earth whose immediate urge, when their friends and fellows are injured, is to grab them and try to twist them into cruel and dangerous positions... The caption alleges that the young man being pulled and twisted like a quid of taffy by his friends here was shot by Israelis using live ammunition. Generally when someone is shot there would be a hole... accompanied by profuse bleeding. At first glance, the vivid red on the arms that hold the feet of the subject alarms the eye but on closer inspection... it is obvious that there is some combination of ugly clothing design... [and] obvious fakery.And how about this revelation that the media staged a scene of grieving mothers, giving stage instructions as if they were directing a situation comedy:
A] Palestinian journalist complains that the media and others are manipulating the images going out to the world: "A mother of one of the martyrs stood by the door of the intensive care unit while crying... relatives and those around her were telling her what she should say to the television cameras: 'Say your son [before he died] prayed and went out.' Another tells her: 'Curse the Arab leaders'... The journalists [in the hospitals] are going overboard in their insensitivity and taking advantage of the [difficult] moments, with the explanation that they are showing this to the world. One cameraman told a mourning mother: 'Hit your face, cry, do some action.'"
But the biggest propaganda coup to date has been a video, widely circulated, that supposedly shows the aftermath of an IDF attack on civilians. The problem is, the video is just slightly out of date - and shows the aftermath of the accidental explosion of a truck full of Hamas rockets:
Even after the video was proved to be a fraud, Reddit still has a link to it.
But hey, why should the truth interfere with the haters? They still believe everything wrong in the world is Israel's fault--thanks to the backing of the equally evil US.
Indeed, none other than liberal hysteric Glenn Greenwald fell for the fake video:
But everyone should also be permitted to view the devastating effects on actual human beings from these Israeli bombing and artillery raids in Gaza. This truly horrific video — purportedly of a recent Israeli bombing of a civilian Gazan market — has been widely cited. I can't and don't vouch for its authenticity.
Well Glenn, if you can't "vouch for its authenticity," why in God's name did you mention it in the first place and use its existence to prove Israel bombs civilians?
This is a point made by David Bernstein over at Volokh Conspiracy:
Greenwald responds in the comments that "I made clear from the beginning that while that video was being widely cited, I had obvious doubts about its authenticity." I'm not at all persuaded that simply refusing to vouch for a video's authenticity, but posting it anyway as if it represents some important truth, constitutes "clear" evidence of "obvious doubts about its authenticity." But if there were such doubts, why post it to begin with until its authenticity was established? We all make mistakes, but usually not ones that are quite so ironic, not only in that it turns out that Hamas was behind the carnage in the video, but because Greenwald previously accused yours truly of engaging in "emotionally manipulative means of argumentation".
Dependent as they are on Hamas to bring them to newsworthy sites and interview people (a similar set-up was noted during the Israeli-Lebanon war with Hezb'allah), one would think that both reporters and editors would take extra care to make sure they weren't being unduly manipulated by the terrorists. That's the kind of thing we should expect - and demand - from a free, unbiased press.
But with a wink and a nod, the press becomes complicit in this Kubuki show starring Hamas and their propaganda arm because in the end, this is the story their editors demand; Israel's "disproportionate response" with the Palestinian civilians bearing the brunt of it.
And, of course, not doing as Hamas wishes is probably not the healthiest course of action to take.