Fake, Take Two

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Aug 07, 2006 1:03 AM
Sleuths who are smarter than I about these kind of things have caught Reuters' prolific Adnan Hajj faking another photo to superimpose more carnage on Lebanon than Israel is actually inflicting. This time he's turning flares into missiles with the magic of the inaccurate cutline, and he's adding "missiles" to the picture with the magic of incompetent Photoshopping.

No one-trick pony, he.

The Jawa Report reports.

The Shape of Days explains.

Captain's Quarters wants more explanation-- from Reuters.

Ed Driscoll gives all the pertinent history on Reuters' excuse-making and faking for terrorists.

The American Thinker thinks Reuters needs independent review.

As of yet, the organization apparently has no plans to investigate any more of Hajj's photos. Frankly, they won't have to because the blogs will do it for them, but that should be all Reuters is doing right now. We've now identified a man, in their employ, who seems to have been a serial Photoshopper, and who always seemed to Photoshop more missiles, more smoke, more indiscriminate carnage coming from the Israeli side. A pattern of those kinds of images can have a profound effect on public opinion.

When I looked at the smoke photo last night, I didn't immediately ascribe political motives to Hajj's creative up-touching, though it was certainly in the back of my mind. But in that photo, it just looked like he might have been on deadline and needed more drama in the photo than he got. But seeing this second cloned photo, in which Israeli flares become missiles and missiles multiply in his hands, I gotta say it looks like politics.

And the question is how many stringers does Reuters have who are similarly motivated? What do they know about their stringers? How many doctored photos have gotten through before? As many have pointed out, Hajj's smoke was badly done, indeed. Anyone in the chain of command could and should have caught it, but no one did. What does that mean for the rest of the photos Reuters presents to us as factual  representations of the fighting going on the Middle East?

It means we have reason to suspect every single one of them, and Reuters has an obligation to explain and show us, in great detail, why we should ever stop suspecting them. Unfortunately, the media is very good at subjecting others to such a thorough mea culpa-ing process, but they're not so keen on doing it themselves.

They ignore their obligation to earn back trust once lost at their own peril. I have a feeling Reuters will learn that lesson the hard way.

I've often wondered why moral equivalence is so prevalent on the Israel question here in America. Perfectly reasonable people I know remark to me all the time, "well, really who's to say who's to blame?" or "it's a cycle of violence and Israel should just stop it," or "well, look at all the civilians Israel kills."

They seem to ignore the fact that stopping the cycle of violence would only mean curling up in a fetal position and waiting for the next Hezbollah missile to arrive. They ignore the fact that, while civilians are killed on both sides, Israel actively tries to avoid killing them while Hezbollah actively puts them in danger and then uses their bodies for political gain when an obliging photographer such as Hajj comes along. They ignore the fact that Hezbollah's flag has a frickin' machine gun on it. On. The. Flag. Not stars or stripes or bars or fields of varying colors-- a machine gun.

Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations have known for years how to manipulate a self-loathing Western press corps. Heck, they've even got a department for it, with business cards and everything. And, a self-loathing Western press corps has always known how to manipulate obligingly self-loathing Westerners back home.

They've done it with the photos they pick, the stories they run, the subjects they interview. Not all of them, no, but there's a detectable anti-Israel bias in the bulk of reporting from the Middle East. Now, it's apparent one photojournalist isn't just picking certain truths to tell, but creating truths to report, which undoubtedly fall into the "fake but accurate" category according to his world view. How many others have done if before him and not been caught? How many of those images have changed minds and hearts, chipped away at the confidence in Israel's moral standing, blurred the line between good and evil with the click of an electronic paintbrush?

Why do my friends tell me, "it's a cycle of violence and Israel should just stop?" Because that is the picture being painted for them, quite literally it seems.