Friday, August 25, 2006

Photos from Lebanon: Propaganda or Journalism?

During the War in Lebanon, we were given a nightly bombardment of shocking images of the toll taken on the Lebanese people. This continued during the day as the press ran with disturbing photos of the dead and dying, and the aftermath of war. Some small mention was made of the photoshopped smoke clouds that Reuters' bought from one of their contract photographers, Hajj.

But at the same time, alternative media outlets like Zombietime and Little Green Footballs have been unearthing some shocking irregularities in the War in Lebanon images that Reuters, AP and other newswire services have been shopping around. The LA Times picked up on this two weeks ago:
““”There's more, and it's worth your time to take a look. That's one of the undeniable strengths of the Internet and of the blogosphere, and the fact that it is being employed to help keep journalism honest ultimately is to everybody's benefit.

What the major news organizations ought to be doing is to make their own analysis of the images coming out of Lebanon and if, as seems more than likely, they find widespread malfeasance, some hard questions need to be asked about why it occurred. Some of it may stem from the urge every photographer feels to make a photo perfect. Some of it probably flows from a simple economic imperative — a freelancer who produces dramatic images gets picked up more and paid more. Moreover, the obscenely anti-Israeli tenor of most of the European and world press means there's an eager market for pictures of dead Lebanese babies.”
At least Andrew Bolt is making a fair bit of noise on his blog (and here) about the Australian press' silence on their being taken in by the Hezbollah ambulance hoax.

Reuters has addressed some of these issues on their blog, but by and large they have only concerned themselves with photos that are blatantly and undeniably false. Their corrections page mentions that Hajj was posting straight to the Global News desk and not via a photo editor - a practice they claim to have tightened up on, but that does not address the root cause of many of these issues - which is that Hezbollah is blatantly manipulating the media - and getting away with it!

Finally, some fun has been poked at those who have accepted the fake images:


  1. Anonymous7:09 am

    Fuck off. We all know that journos lie, cheat and deceive in their work. It doesn't take away from the fact that kids have been murdered by the IDF, the infrastructure of a sovereign nation shattered by disgusting warmongerers and citizens in the North of Israel terrorized by nightly rockets and children and grandmothers killed.

    43 Israeli civilians and over a thousand lebanese civilians, a third of whom were under 12. Who gives a toss if a few pictures are photoshopped for the sake of a few readers.

  2. "We all know ...", how do we know? Because that's what's reported to us. If you can't look at the reports with a critical eye, then you would also say "we all know the IDF targets ambulances", which has just been manifestly proven to be bullshit. If you already know this, then congratulations - this post may be of less value to you. The worth of the lives lost is not discounted by this - but when our reaction affects the result (which I think it did), then we have a responsibility to tease out the truth from the lies.

    Consider this, Hezbollah was criticised by the UN for placing their military installations in the midst of civilian populations, and then crowing about how their civilians were dying from the IDF's attacks. Should we hold the IDF responsible for this? Let's not forget that its Hezbollah that deliberately targets civilan populations with their unguided rockets, and the IDF that tries to target as accurately as possible Hezbollah installations. The low Israeli headcount is partly because of the rockets lack of accuracy, and partly because Israel actually protects their civilians with bomb shelters and early warning of attacks.

    Having said that, I think the IDF were foolish for going to war over this, and they did some weird things like target infrastructure (bridges etc) and then not make use of their destruction (they never put Hezbollah in a position where they needed to use the bridges). So, I think in the end they lost this round with Hezbollah - partly because of the media allowing Hezbollah to blatantly manipulate them, and partly because they did not have a realistic goal going into the conflict. It's shocking to think of this as just one round in a longer conflict - but in truth that is exactly what strategists on both sides of the conlfict are doing.

    Lebanon seems to be a troubled state that allows local, partisan groups to wield greater influence and control than their own elected government - probably a hangover from the civil war, and the recent blatant Syrian control of their government. It is not however an innocent caught in the crossfire - they allow Hezbollah to operate with weapons and to cross their borders to make attacks on Israel. Any nation state that does this should expect reprisals - they were probably lucky that Israel tried to limit the attacks to Hezbollah, and some infrastructure (and that they announced their targets ahead of time) - one thing is for sure, Hezbollah are not the ones weeping, and their leader's children are probably safe in the bunkers with their leaders - so what does that say about their priorities?