Archive for Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Iconic images not always accurate

August 9, 2006


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 (, 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 Bush's military history.

Power Line's treatment of the bridge photos is fair and open-minded - they're asking rather than asserting whether something might not be quite right in Tyre. Meanwhile, others are questioning whether the Qana tragedy might have been staged by Hezbollah based on various perceived inconsistencies.

Thus are conspiracy theories born. When the media fail to carefully police their own, others will. And in that dead space between a forged document - or a faked photograph - and the "gotcha" reflex among bloggers are lost trust and moral confusion.

How can citizens make honest judgments about events - whether the war on terror, the war in Iraq or Israel's response to Hezbollah - if they can't rely on news from the front?

Equally troubling is the fact that these iconic images have the power to sway public opinion and to alter the course of history. After pictures of the Qana children were flashed around the world, for instance, public outrage was directed at Israel, prompting Israeli officials to declare a 48-hour cease-fire. The emotional power of imagery can't be underestimated, nor can its manipulative power be ignored.

In yet another series of photographs being closely reviewed for staging, British blogger Dr. Richard North of EU Referendum has raised questions about Qana based on photos and frames captured from video.

He identifies two men - "Mr. White Tee-Shirt" and "Mr. Green Helmet" - who seem to be calculating their actions, and their emotions, for the cameras. Away from cameras, they're dispassionate, even bored-looking bystanders to the rubble and death. Closer to photographers, they seem to emote as if on cue.

It's by no means conclusive that the men's emotions are necessarily manufactured, but as presented by North, they can be viewed as false. Does that make the pictures inaccurate? Unfair? Misleading? North, at least, seems to conclude that the men are more likely Hezbollah apparatchiks than mere civilians wracked by grief.

These few examples remind us that the digital media age is both a curse and a blessing. We have access to more information than imaginable even a decade ago, and yet we seem to have less reliable truth than ever.

The iconic image for these times may well be the humble Underwood typewriter - symbol of simpler times when a thousand words could paint a good enough picture.

Kathleen Parker is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


xenophonschild 11 years, 8 months ago

Of course, the Israelis aren't killing innocent children. That would make them monsters - evil, vicious, mindless killers - wouldn't it?

tell_it_like_it_is 11 years, 8 months ago

Of course Israel is above that..just because they're overreaction is killing 100's of innocent people... But the US will stick up for them no matter what. And then we all sit around with our heads up our @ss and wonder why those people over there hate us so bad.

oldgranny 11 years, 8 months ago

Take a good look at those images. And look at those little kids about 4 or 5 years old that have just lost a mother or father or brother or sister. What you see is a future terrorist or at least a supporter.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 8 months ago

"then invited attack by repeatedly launching military rockets from the immediate area"

By that logic, Israel is responsible for its own civilian deaths from these rocket attacks because it escalated a border skirmish into a full-out invasion of a neighboring country.

badger 11 years, 8 months ago

If the pictures aren't doctored, then the fact that kids are being killed in the numbers they are is deeply troubling.

If the pictures are doctored, then I am glad that fewer children are being killed, absolutely. I'm still troubled by the fact that so many people, basing their opinions on the pictures being real, responded to pictures of dead children with the somewhat cavalier response that there wasn't anything wrong with it or that they didn't expect Israel to have worked to avoid clearly civilian targets.

An ex-military friend is confused by the whole situation, because as he puts it, "Part of my training was that no matter what, there are certain situations you just don't fire into, and one of those is a target surrounded by bystanders and civilians." I was always taught that, too, that if you absolutely had to hit a target that was in a crowded area, you did everything possible to minimize the loss of civilian life. What Israel is doing seems counterintuitive to me; it seems like they're letting the enemy and its willingness to disregard civilian safety set the tone, being dictated to by Hezbollah that their only choices are to be destroyed or to be willing to blow up children.

Sun Tzu has many things to say about the importance of dictating your own terms of battle, about not letting your enemy determine the rules of engagement. Perhaps a re-reading of those things might benefit a lot of people who say, "Well, it's ok for Israel to blow up kids and civilians and whomever they have to, because Hezbollah made them."

bearded_gnome 11 years, 8 months ago

Great collumn Parker!

no sympathy for the lebanese civilians who now whine about civilian deaths in their midst.
1. hezbollah killed hundreds of americans, hijacked hundreds of americans, visciously tortured (none of this abu graib namby pamby stuff!) americans, kidnapped several americans, all before GWB was governor of texas.
2. the lebanese allowed this obvious terrorist force to take root among them and welcomed hezbollah. 3. hezbollah's anti-israel anti-semitic rantings aren't hard to figger out. 4. lebanese civs are partly responsible 5. israel pulled out of lebanon, and in response, they get kidnappings and rockets now missiles.
6. those who say israel should not use disproportionate force are displaying historic ignorance. history shows that disproportionate force actually saves lives by ending conflicts instead of the failed u.n. model of keep-on-kicking-the-can-down-the-roadism.
7. the sooner hezbollah is wiped out, the better. they cannot agree to peace because it is against their founding principles to destroy israel kill jews and kill americans.

hezbollah seems to have cells in the u.s. this conflict is part of our war on terror. do we fight it or surrender to islamofascists?

vanman 11 years, 8 months ago

What needs to happen is we need to stop our undying support for Israel. For some reason they can do whatever they want in our book and we will stand by them, even if their actions constitute war crimes. True, they will never be charged with war crimes, because we decide who gets charged.

Look at the number of civilians killed by hezbollah or hamas and then look at the number of civilians killed by Israel. I dont even have to look to know which number is higher. And im also pretty sure even the civilian-combatant ratio is out of whack too.

vanman 11 years, 8 months ago

id like to know what rightthinkers definition of "someone other than terrorists"(sorry to correct you spelling) is.

vanman 11 years, 8 months ago

please , do explain if you are so learned and wise

vanman 11 years, 8 months ago

No answer.

I guess you do live up to your name rightthinker

vanman 11 years, 8 months ago

rightthinker said "I'd have more troube trying to explain that error away than trying to explain why liberals think the way they do"

also, my question, or statement rather, was "id like to know what rightthinkers definition of 'someone other than terrorists'(sorry to correct you spelling) is."

vanman 11 years, 8 months ago


im glad someone else doesn't see their point of view as "conservative"(which is mislabeled) but see it for what it clearly is "extremism"

Its good to see that im not standing in a room by myself, even though sometimes people sit across that room because "I stink"

vanman 11 years, 8 months ago

holygraile said:

"The way the RightThinker protocol works, eventually EVERYBODY becomes a terrorist or supports a terrorist.

Arminius (another noted extremist on this forum) provided an example of this when he accused Nancy Boyda of being "objectively pro-terrorist"."

Only a sith deals in absolutes. lol

vanman 11 years, 8 months ago

Rightthinker makes statements he claims to be able to make good arguments for, but then only unleashes a string of rambling, nonsensicle gibberish. Explain your views, dont just say ,more or less, "look on the internet, youll see what I mean. All the info for my platform can be found somewhere on the internet, i think"

vanman 11 years, 8 months ago

Darn, this whole time I was hoping to maybe engage in an intellectual discussion or debate. I was hoping we could solve this Lib/Cons debacle once and for all.

It figures, so called conservates usually only want to yell the loudest, then stutter when asked to explain what they are yelling

xenophonschild 11 years, 8 months ago


You understand their essence completely. They do not understand, or welcome, complexities - and quickly attack anyone who broaches said complexities. The conflict in the Middle East is as complex as it gets; still, they insist on a few simple slogans and operating concepts. Anyone who suggests that Israel is wrong, that we should limit or end our support of them, is an anti-semite traitor. Anyone who suggests that both Jews and Muslims are wrong, and a pox on both their houses, is walking, breathing evil.

vanman 11 years, 8 months ago

anti-israel does not equal anti-semite

vanman 11 years, 8 months ago

If I dont like Denmark, does that make me a racist?

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 8 months ago

round and round we go where we stop nobody knows.

vanman 11 years, 8 months ago

"Maybe if some or your partys' leaders made a lick of sense, I could be won over...why don't you work on that for me, would you?"

This coming from a party with the most non-scensicle leader in history. Definitely the Lowest IQ i've ever witnessed on television. And remember, I've seen Tom Green

vanman 11 years, 8 months ago

Oh, and I don't have a party that I really claim as my own, I just side with the side who is clearly more rational and Intelligent

vanman 11 years, 8 months ago


very true, very true

good observation

vanman 11 years, 8 months ago

65, What a good guess. I'm so proud of you. And you rode the bus all by yourself today! And the teacher tells me you did a good job letting him/her know when you needed to be changed.

vanman 11 years, 8 months ago

Not really trying to be funny, but okay. I guess maybe I should go on star search. Then maybe you all can hitch a wagon to my star and, zip , straight to the top! With a wagon full of hope.

vanman 11 years, 8 months ago

I just realized this I can only think of two catch phrases from the Clinton Administration, and both of them were unintentional. " I did not have sexual relations with that woman." & "I didn't Inhale." Can anyone remember any others? I'm sure there were some, just cant think of em.

Laura 11 years, 8 months ago

Vanman, you are well-spoken, but exasperating with your comment about Denmark. Going with your analogy, do you dislike Israel? How can one "dislike" an entire country? One can disagree with its policies or its leaders or its agenda or even dislike its climate, but to dislike a country?

Xeno, you make me weary with your repetitive posts on anti-semitism and poxes. Please just move to another thread. We all know--all too well--how you feel about muslims and jews. Okay? Please, . . . enough.

vanman 11 years, 8 months ago

Laura, What I dislike is the way Israel expects its neighbors to do what it and the international community say, but then don't feel obliged to do the same when its suggested at a critical point in a conflict which can affect the whole world.

vanman 11 years, 8 months ago

thanks rightthinker, those were some good ones. I can't believe I let that "is-is" one slip my mind. CLASSIC

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 8 months ago

ok but what married man would come out and admit to cheating until it slaps him in the face?? None that I know. That goes for woman as well hide it until you can't anymore it is human nature. The point of my rant get over the whole cheating thing many of presidents have done it.

vanman 11 years, 8 months ago

Good point momma also, whos to say that Hillary didn't know and approve of it? We wouldn't know any of this because its NONE OF OUR BUSINESS

oldgranny 11 years, 8 months ago

Clinton Clinton Clinton. Who gives a good God D@mn what Clinton did or didn't do. He's been out of office for close to 6 years now. Live in the present for pete sakes. And just for the record I would like for someone to tell me just what exactly he did that was so wrong aside from the Monica thing? And who the h@ll aside from Hillary cares about that? I would like for someone to tell me just exactly how you are better off with the disgrace in the white house? $3.00 a gallon gas and finacial hard times really turn you on or what? Name one thing that disgrace has done for the people besides supposedly protect us from mostly imaginary and invented threats? If he could keep his cocky attitude under control we probably wouldn't have to worry so much about that either.

oldgranny 11 years, 8 months ago

At least Armunius tried to answer my question intellegently. All you righthinker know how to do is insult and spout at the mouth. Try using your brain for once young man. I know you must surely have one in that head somewhere. So how are you better off know that he is in the whitehouse?

hottruckinmama 11 years, 8 months ago

whoa righthinker i think granny's mad at you!

oldgranny 11 years, 8 months ago

And you young lady hottruckinmama. Why on earth did you name yourself such a name? I've seen a make some good points but know one takes you seriously when you sound like a streetwalker.

hottruckinmama 11 years, 8 months ago

opps! i think granny is mad at me too! i didn't mean to be a smarty pants granny. just having some fun. i was brought up to respect old people. about the name..well it just started as kind of a hoot. i meant to post a couple of times and leave it alone. but then something funny happened and it just kind of grew on me (the posting that is..not the name :). i do wish i had choosen a little wiser handle but such is life.

oldgranny 11 years, 8 months ago

One of the best ways to respect your elders may not be to call them old people young lady!

hottruckinmama 11 years, 8 months ago

rightthink..thank you. and you are right of course. granny (if you really are) you are right to. i should have said elderly instead. okay. i am done putting my foot in my mouth for tonight! (i hope!)

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 8 months ago

what forum you guys lost me way up there around # 30 don't know what granny said and not even gonna look. Have fun night all.

as_I_live_and_breathe 11 years, 8 months ago

Posted by vanman (anonymous) on August 9, 2006 at 10:21 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I dont even have to look to know which number is higher. And im also pretty sure even the civilian-combatant ratio is out of whack too.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ that's the scary part .... nobody feels like they HAVE to look ... we all just make it up to suit our own reality.....

Klickhammer 11 years, 8 months ago

"How can citizens make honest judgments about events - whether the war on terror, the war in Iraq or Israel's response to Hezbollah - if they can't rely on news from the front?"

What about doctored pretexts, perspectives, sympathies, and support? What about selection and corporate worldview? What about the US media's establishment bias? How can citizens make honest judgments when the news is designed to sell them a perspective? Unfortunately, these are rhetorical questions. When you rig the news, you have to expect some blowback.

bearded_gnome 11 years, 8 months ago

sceneboosterino said:

"no sympathy for the lebanese civilians who now whine about civilian deaths in their midst. "

How very Christian of you! Dead kids, oh well, acceptable by-product...

each of those kids would be walkin' around alive today if: hezbollah did not exist; if their parents hadn't been harboring hezbollah; if hezbollah hadn't started the current violence; and, if hezbollah and other radical groups simply accepted israel's right to exist at all!

please refrain from infantilizing the parents of these dead children; they made bad choices, now they have lost their kids for those choices. kinda like others similar who strap bombs to their kids as homicide bombers, eh?

Klickhammer 11 years, 8 months ago

Except that Israel is occupying Palestinian land illegally and has been doing so for nearly 30 years -- in direct violation of UN Security Council Resolution 446. Let's not forget all of the demolitions, the harassment by checkpoints, the racist water rationing, the continual military presence in their land, and all of the atrocities wrought by the Israelis, including bombing children, the mass graves, bulldozing of thousands of legitimate Palestinian houses, and blatant theft of property.

Kids ought not to pay the price for their parent's deeds, and it is rather difficult to justify the death of children in this conflict, especially when the person judging them doesn't understand the context of the conflict and blindly takes the side of the real terrorists the ones that started an all out war to protect their illegally held land. Terrorism has many faces sometimes it can be sanctioned by a state in order to legitimize its deeds.

But the pro-Israel propaganda machine appears to have done its job once again.

tell_it_like_it_is 11 years, 8 months ago

Granny..there is no reason to argue with these folks. Just post and go on your way. They are on the way out and they know it. Normal reasonable people are sick and tried of being bled dry by oil companies insurance companies and taxes. They are sick of working all week to buy a tank of gas and pay for their insurance. The voting this Nov. and in Nov. of 08 will reflect that I am sure.

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