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8/24/2006
WAS ANYTHING TRUE?
CATEGORY: Media

I have nothing but the greatest respect for journalists as well as a deep appreciation for the almost impossible job they have when trying to cover a war. The danger, the confusion, the rush to fill air time and to make deadlines - all this is a contributing factor to the difficulty in placing yourself in the midst of warring parties and report what is going on.

I also am trying to appreciate how hard it is to separate fact from propaganda and try your best not to be manipulated by either side into skewing your story. I got an earful the last time I visited this issue from a genuine photojournalist who has covered numerous conflicts around the globe. He told me in a series of fascinating emails that it is at times unavoidable to pass along propaganda from one side or another. I accept this is a price of being in a war zone. But then there are things that should not be accepted by my friend the photo journalist or anyone concerned with the credibility of the media.

As I predicted in this post the debunking of war reporting by the MSM that started with the exposure of Reuters as a shill for Hizbullah has not gone away and indeed, has gotten more intense.

The microscopic scrutiny being applied by the conservative blogosphere to how the MSM screwed the pooch in their coverage of the war (lefty blogs have dismissed the issue as “one picture” that was only “slightly altered”) has continued despite the media moving on to more important matters - like the fake confession in a 10 year old murder case by a disturbed pedophile. After all, why deal with the media’s assistance to a terrorist group in getting their propaganda out when you can garner ratings and viewers by devoting absurd amounts of time and effort to titillating your audience with pictures of an unfortunate little girl dressed up to look like an adult?

The latest episode in this slow motion car wreck for the media comes to us via Michelle Malkin. The story of those evil Joooooos targeting ambulances with missile strikes that was reported by many so-called reputable news agencies has been debunked by a woman who calls herself “Zombie.” Read both Michelle’s post and Zombie’s analysis to get the complete picture of what we’ve only guessed at prior to this; that the media was, if not a willing partner, a gaggle of “useful idiots” for Hizbullah during the coverage of the war.

We know of Zombie from her frontline photo reports of various protests by radical leftists over the past few years. In this instance, Zombie used her analytical skills and knowledge of photography to offer up a definitive and devastating account of how Hizbullah fed the media’s preconceived notions about Israel and banked on the laziness of editors in order to perpetrate a fraud upon the world.

The ease with which they accomplished this is breathtaking in its implications. What Zombie’s work shows is that the media was not concerned with reporting the “truth” or even the “facts” but rather with telling “the story.” In the recently concluded Israeli-Islamist war, the “story” was Israel heartlessly bombing civilians which in turn gave substance and urgency to the UN’s efforts to stop the war short of Israel achieving its military objectives.

There is little doubt that the IDF was pounding the hell out of Hizbullah, especially the last 72 hours before the cease fire. While it is doubtful that the outcome of the “war of perceptions” would have been different (Hizbullah was not going to be “destroyed” hence they would be declared the winner by the world press regardless of how much damage they sustained), the shattering conclusion to be reached by examining Zombie’s analysis, as well as the analysis of several bloggers who have debunked other photos and stories, is that Hizbullah military assets and fighters were saved thanks to their expert propaganda campaign. They successfully manipulated the press through heartbreaking visuals and carefully choreographed stories into reporting the war in such a way as to place political pressure on the United States to force the issue of a cease fire at the UN.

Were there civilians killed in Lebanon? There is no doubt of this. How many? The Lebanese government says over 1000 were killed but there is absolutely no independent verification of that number nor is there any reason to believe that all of those deaths were indeed “civilian” in nature. The work of Zombie and others places the burden of proof now on the Lebanese government and the news media to give an accurate accounting of civilian deaths in Lebanon during the war. Numbers from any other source - including the UN - can now legitimately be questioned and indeed, can rightly be called exaggerations since it is clear that so much of what we heard and saw from Lebanon was a lie.

It cannot be stated forcefully enough that the media absolutely must undertake a massive re-examination of their coverage of this war, ideally using independent investigators, in order to find out how so much of their coverage was so easily co-opted by Hizbullah propagandists. Was it simple laziness? Was it competitive pressures? Was it gullibility? Any way you look at it, the entire media comes out looking like dupes. And their already damaged credibility has suffered another blow that means from here on out, bloggers are going to take nothing from them for granted. If they thought they were being fact checked prior to these incidents, they haven’t experienced anything yet.

Will they reform? I believe that we have not seen the last of these revelatory investigations about MSM coverage during the war. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop on this story - that “stringers” used by many in the print media to help in compiling stories on the war were also either Hizbullah operatives or sympathizers. I feel confident that someone with the resources and the time will be able to ferret that story out of the shadows eventually also. But even if that aspect never materializes, the mainstream press is going to have to come to grips with the fact that the way they gather news and report it must change or whatever credibility they have left will be lost.

UPDATE

In a related story, Allah has the jaw dropping response of Editor and Publisher to all the charges of fakery, flummoxing, and stagecraft by the media during the war.

I don’t know quite what to say. But Allah does:

I don’t know what to say, except that if these guys see no higher ethical obligation in war photography than press-conference photography; if they have no moral objection to enabling the exploitation of children’s corpses for propaganda purposes; if they detect no corruption in their presence at the scene of a newsworthy event shaping the participants’ actions during the event; then David Perlmutter’s got a bigger job ahead of him than he realizes.

Perlmutter is the journalism professor whose article in last week’s E & P set off Greg Mitchell and was the reason for this two part screed on how bloggers suck and it’s okay to print propaganda pictures.

That’s an oversimplification but after reading Mitchell’s piece and the comments of several war photogs, one can hardly come away thinking anything else.

By: Rick Moran at 3:59 pm
6 Responses to “WAS ANYTHING TRUE?”
  1. 1
    larry z Said:
    4:48 pm 

    The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information. I’ve been reading this kind of statement in the majority of the news articles and I even hear the news Anchormen say this when they report the news on TV; It’s usually a politician using this kind tactics on a willing reporter. It’s like I can’t tell his name, but believe what I say, he says {smile}.

  2. 2
    sknabt Said:
    7:42 pm 

    Since media bias bothers you so much I’m sure your next rant will be on this http://www.eyesonfox.org/?p=43.

  3. 3
    DaveG Said:
    6:51 am 

    sknabt:

    Do you really not see a difference between “photo-journalism” that professes to be an unbiased view of events and a bunch of talking heads on TV sharing their opinions?

  4. 4
    Joel Said:
    2:52 pm 

    Rick:
    zombie is a woman.

  5. 5
    Drewsmom Said:
    6:08 pm 

    The coverage and pictures were rigged ..plain and simple.

  6. 6
    Chris Said:
    5:42 pm 

    I keep seeing words like “must” and “obviously” and “no choice” in commentary on the media’s propensity to manipulate their product in order to achieve whatever they feel is the maximum effect intended. I fail to see why anyone would believe that because some people on the internet know about the manipulation, the media will decide to admit that they have problems with quality control and editorial bias.

    Until someone breaks ranks within the established media, the calls for reform and the like are just so much hot air. I wish it were not so, but the reactions to this scandal certainly seem to bear me out.

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