The me­dia’s faux­tog­ra­phy scan­dal con­tin­ues

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Michelle Malkin

It’s the story that the jour­nal­is­tic elite would rather just go away. In the af­ter­math of Reuters’ ad­mis­sion that one of its pho­tog­ra­phers, Ad­nan Hajj, had ma­nip­u­lated two war images from Le­banon af­ter blog­gers smoked out his crude Pho­to­shop al­ter­ations, and all 920 of his Reuters pho­tos were pulled, ev­i­dence of far more trou­bling photo stag­ing and me­dia de­cep­tion in the Mid­dle East con­tin­ues to pour in.

Charles John­son of Lit­tle Green Foot­balls (lit­tlegreenfoot­balls.com) calls it “faux­tog­ra­phy.”

One of Mr. Hajj’s pho­tos was an iconic im­age of a dusty dead child with a clean blue paci­fier clipped to his shirt, pa­raded by a corpse han­dler at the site of an Is­raeli airstrike in Qana, Le­banon. Main­stream jour­nal­ists have sneered at blog­gers’ sus­pi­cions, first raised at EU Ref­er­en­dum (euref­er­en­dum.blogspot.com), that some of the grue­some pho­tos from that scene may have been staged. Wash­ing­ton Post pho­tog­ra­pher Michael Robin­son-Chavez, who was at Qana, huffed: “Ev­ery­one was dead, many of them chil­dren. Noth­ing was set up.” But two weeks ago, a Ger­man television sta­tion aired damn­ing video footage from the scene show­ing a lead pro­pa­ganda di­rec­tor (dubbed the “Green Hel­met Guy”) po­si­tion­ing a young boy’s corpse, yank­ing it from an am­bu­lance,

plac­ing it on two

dif­fer­ent stretch­ers for the cam­eras and push­ing

by­standers out of

the way for

clearer shots.

This Le­banese

ver­sion of hor­ror

film di­rec­tor Wes

Craven was iden­ti­fied by the As­so­ci­ated Press in

a soft­ball profile

as “Salam Da­her,” who told the re­porter, “I am just a civil de­fense worker. I have done this job all my life.” To clear-eyed read­ers, that’s an in­cul­pa­tory state­ment, not an ex­cul­pa­tory one. How many more “jobs” has Mr. Da­her over­seen? And how many more me­dia stage man­agers like Mr. Da­her are out there?

Not all pho­tog­ra­phers over­seas have their heads in the sand. Two weeks ago, Mid­dle East-based pho­tog­ra­pher Bryan Den­ton, whose work has ap­peared in The New York Times, re­vealed on the pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­phy web­site Light Stalk­ers (light­stalk­ers.org) that he had ob­served rou­tine stag­ing of pho­tos — and even corpsedig­ging — by Le­banese stringers:

“[I] have been wit­ness to the daily prac­tice of di­rected shots, one case where a group of wire pho­togs were chore­ograph­ing the un­earthing of bod­ies, di­rect­ing emer­gency work­ers here and there, ask­ing them to po­si­tion bod­ies just so, even re­move bod­ies that have al­ready been put in graves so that they can pho­to­graph them in peo­ple[‘]s arms.” Mr. Den­ton noted that he had wit­nessed the photo chore­og­ra­phy at nu­mer­ous protests and evac­u­a­tions, as well as at an Is­raeli airstrike lo­ca­tion in Chiyeh, Le­banon. Mr. Den­ton fol­lowed up with a sec­ond post re­port­ing that re­spected pho­tog­ra­pher friends of his in Le­banon in­formed him that “this was not an iso­lated in­ci­dent” and that “this has been some­thing [I]’ve no­ticed hap­pen­ing here, more than any other place [I]’ve worked pre­vi­ously.”

Which is prob­a­bly why blog­gers have no­ticed so many co­pi­ous ex­am­ples of phony-look­ing scenes — from count­less pris­tine stuffed an­i­mals ly­ing in the fore­ground of de­stroyed build­ings (slublog.com/archives/2006/08/t he_­pas­sion_of.html), to art­fully placed Ko­rans amid scenes of de­struc­tion, to a snow-white wed­ding dress on a man­nequin stand­ing in the mid­dle of a street sur­rounded by piles of rub­ble, to in­tact cars pho­tographed on Le­banese road­sides and du­bi­ously la­beled as be­ing struck by Is­raeli mis­siles (see ho­tair.com/archives/2006/08/14/f aux­tog­ra­phy-amaz­ing-new-iafmis­siles-

Mis­cap­tion­ing (which al­ways makes Is­rael look worse, never Hezbol­lah, go fig­ure) adds an­other di­men­sion of fauxto de­cep­tion. One As­so­ci­ated Press im­age of an an­guished fa­ther car­ry­ing his dead 5-year-old daugh­ter into a Gaza City hospi­tal two weeks ago blamed the death on an Is­raeli airstrike. Charles John­son found a cor­rec­tion of the cap­tion re­veal­ing that the girl had been killed in a swingset ac­ci­dent. I found a Reuters photo of an 18month-old girl with two bro­ken legs that was pulled by the wire ser­vice in late July af­ter be­ing in­cluded among a photo set of hospi­tal pa­tients in­jured in an Is­raeli air raid. In truth, the girl had been ad­mit­ted for a “rou­tine hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tion.” Then there was The New York Times’ mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of a half-naked young man sprawled Pi­eta-like, ap­pear­ing dead, amid Tyre rub­ble. The orig­i­nal Times’ web­site photo cap­tion? “The mayor of Tyre said that in the worst-hit ar­eas, bod­ies were still buried un­der the rub­ble [. . .]” Turned out the “dead” man was a “res­cue worker” who was sup­pos­edly “in­jured” (with his base­ball cap tucked neatly in his ar­mas he closed his eyes and flung his head back) and had been pho­tographed in sev­eral other scenes run­ning around the bomb­ing site.

Iso­lated in­ci­dents? In a rare mo­ment of can­dor, CNN’s An­der­son Cooper re­vealed the rou­tine me­chan­ics of Hezbol­ly­wood pro­pa­ganda tours two weeks ago: “I was in Beirut, and they took me on this sort of guided tour of the Hezbol­lah-con­trolled ter­ri­to­ries in south­ern Le­banon that were heav­ily bombed [. . .] they clearly want the story of civil­ian ca­su­al­ties out. That is their — what they’re heav­ily push­ing, to the point where on this tour I was on, they were just mak­ing stuff up. They had six am­bu­lances lined up in a row and said, OK, you know, they brought re­porters there, they said you can talk to the am­bu­lance driv­ers. And then one by one, they told the am­bu­lances to turn on their sirens and to zoom off, and peo­ple tak­ing that pic­ture would be re­port­ing, I guess, the idea that th­ese am­bu­lances were zoom­ing off to treat civil­ian ca­su­al­ties, when in fact, th­ese am­bu­lances were lit­er­ally go­ing back and forth down the street just for peo­ple to take pic­tures of them.”

“Just mak­ing stuff up.” Re­mem­ber that.

Mean­while, the me­dia os­triches carry on. Joe El­bert, Wash­ing­ton Post as­sis­tant man­ag­ing ed­i­tor for pho­tog­ra­phy, told om­buds­man Deb­o­rah Howell smugly: “We don’t use tools to change re­al­ity.” News­flash: You are the tools be­ing used.

Michelle Malkin is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

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