Kathleen Parker

Every historic moment has its iconic image.

Vietnam had Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Viet Cong on the street; the Oklahoma City bombing had a fireman holding a dying child in his arms; Abu Ghraib had the hooded torture victim standing on a box.

And today, the Israeli-Hezbollah war has Qana -- the Lebanese village where Israeli rockets killed civilians, including 16 children (down from the initially reported 27).

Or did they?

The blogosphere has been buzzing the past several days about doctored photographs, faked footage and even the possibility that Qana was manipulated, if not orchestrated, by Hezbollah.

True or false? That seems increasingly to be a question for news consumers, who have to be detectives as they digest the day's headlines and cutlines.

In the past week, for instance, at least two photos shot in Lebanon and distributed by Reuters were determined to have been doctored. Best known of the two is an image showing black smoke plumes allegedly caused by an Israeli strike on south Beirut.

The photo, snapped and enhanced by freelance photographer Adnan Hajj, was altered to make damage from the strike seem much worse than it was, as revealed by blogger Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs.

Subsequently, Reuters ended its relationship with Hajj and shut down his photo archive of more than 900 images. The news agency acknowledged that at least one other Hajj photo had been doctored to show three flares dropping from an Israeli jet instead of just one.

These distortions may not rise to the level of wholesale deceit, but they are intentionally misleading and prejudicial toward Israel at a time when the stakes are lethal.

Yet another Hajj photo series under close scrutiny from bloggers concerns a bombed-out bridge in southern Lebanon, though it's hard to tell exactly where. Two clearly different bridges are both labeled Qasmiya Bridge near Tyre, an honest-enough mistake. In several frames taken at one of the bridges, however, an overturned car appears to have been perhaps digitally moved to produce a more compelling image.

These photos can be viewed at Power Line (powerlineblog.com), where three attorneys keep close tabs on the various war fronts. These are the same fellows responsible for sizing up the fonts on the ``inaccurate-but-true'' documents Dan Rather presented as detailing President George W. Bush's military history.


Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
 
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