April 25, 2007

Harvard: Hezbollah's Fauxtography Pawns in the MSM (LGF, Jawa Mention)

The Western press was duped by Hezbollah, a new Harvard report suggests. In the "framing war", Hezbollah won and our media did their part to help. Charles Johnson gets a quick mention in it, and The Jawa Report a nod but without attribution. That's okay, I don't mind playing second-fiddle to Charles. He's the one that got me blogging in the first place.

The entire thing focuses on how the media framed the Hizbollah/Lebanon-Israeli war. And that framing, and the images that led to it, was one of Israeli aggression, the loss of innocent Lebanese lives, and the ultimate defeat of Israel. Hizbollah was rarely shown as aggressor and carefully staged media manipulation on Hizbollah's part was rarely references.

Here's the relevant part of the report dealing with Adnan Hajj:

There was also the case of two other photographs shot and later altered by freelancer Adnan Hajj, who covered the war for Reuters until August 7, when he was fired. To wash its hands of Hajj, Reuters then quickly removed all 920 of his photographs from its database.52 One of the two photographs showed a suburb of Beirut after an Israeli air attack. Dark smoke rose from a devastated building. It was an arresting photograph that caught the horror of war, and naturally it appeared in newspapers around the world. Were it not for an American blog site called Little Green Footballs, run by Charles Johnson, it might have won a prize for wartime photography. But with determination and ingenuity, Johnson found that the photograph had almost certainly been doctored. He compared it with others shot of the same building at the same time and discovered that in Hajj’s photograph the dark smoke was darker—and there was more of it.53 The other Hajj photograph of an Israeli jet streaking across southern Lebanon showed three flares being dropped from the plane. Upon later examination, it was learned that only one had been dropped.

Twice Hajj had altered photographs, not presumably to contrive events where none existed but rather to heighten the drama of real events (“to hype the story,” an old journalistic sin) and perhaps deliberately to worsen Israel’s image in the world and, by comparison, to soften Hezbollah’s image. Hajj denied that he had wittingly doctored the two photographs, saying he was simply trying to remove dust marks in poor lighting. We may never know the absolute truth, but Hajj’s photographs served to heighten doubts about journalistic credibility. “Fauxtography,” they were called. Johnson (and many others in the West) thought the incident proved that Hezbollah would exploit any advantage to win the war of images—in its strategy, as crucial an element as winning the war itself.

Here's the rest of the report in PDF format, but be sure to read Charles' take on it as well.

Bonus video and more background below:

Just in case you're new around here, it was Charles that debunked the first photograph--the one of the smoke--and it was me that debunked the second photograph--the one of the "flares".

But the Harvard report is wrong about the additional "flares" being the important point. The important point was that in addition to adding "flares" to the photo, the Reuters caption said:

An Israeli F-16 warplane fires missiles during an air strike on Nabatiyeh in southern Lebanon, August 2, 2006. (LEBANON)
That is, the picture was proported to be of an Israeli F-16 firing multiple missiles on a village, presumably filled with innocent civilians. In fact, the undoctored photo was of an F-16 firing defensive flares against anti-aircraft missiles. Big. Difference.

Bonus video: All Your Fakes Are Belongs to Us!

Hat tip: Charles "The Blogfather" Johnson for the e-mail.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 12:31 PM | Comments |