E&P editor attacks bloggers over Reutersgate (Update: Zombie explodes the ambulance incident)

posted at 2:23 pm on August 23, 2006 by Allahpundit

I was going to make the title, “E&P editor attacks bloggers over Reutersgate, misrepresents pretty much everything,” but his article’s only the first of two parts. So perhaps the misrepresentations will be addressed in today’s exciting conclusion.

Although I wouldn’t bet on it.

Let’s begin by quoting from a piece I’ve asked you to read three times now. It’s David Perlmutter, professor of photojournalism and author of two books on the subject, writing last week in, ironically, E&P:

I’m not sure … if the craft I love is being murdered, committing suicide, or both.

Perhaps it would be more reassuring if the enemy at the gates was a familiar one—politicians, or maybe radio talk show hosts. But the photojournalist standing on the crumbling ramparts of her once proud citadel now sees the vandal army charging for the sack led by “zombietime,” “The Jawa Report,” “Powerline,” “Little Green Footballs,” “confederateyankee,” and many others.

In each case, these bloggers have engaged in the kind of probing, contextual, fact-based (if occasionally speculative) media criticism I have always asked of my students. And the results have been devastating: news photos and video shown to be miscaptioned, radically altered, or staged (and worse, re-staged) for the camera. Surely “green helmet guy,” “double smoke,” “the missiles that were actually flares,” “the wedding mannequin from nowhere,” the “magical burning Koran,” the “little girl who actually fell off a swing” and “keep filming!” will now enter the pantheon of shame of photojournalism.

Well, Greg Mitchell wasn’t about to let that stand unanswered. He responded yesterday with a rousing defense of photojournalists in the Middle East, which isn’t a defense at all but an attack on those of us who’ve suddenly made it harder for people in his industry to pass off crap as genuine news. The tone is set right away: photojournalists, says Mitchell, “are risking their lives while bloggers risk nothing but carpal tunnel syndrome.”

That’s a chickenhawk reference, in case you weren’t sure which team he’s on.

Now the meat of it. All emphases mine:

[O]ne American photographer in Lebanon, Bryan Denton, often cited by the blogs as backing their claims, has now apologized for his earlier “irresponsible” assertions at the Lightstalkers site, and stated flatly, “Any one out there who is trying to politicize that is just plain sick, and is moving this further away from the real issue at hand. There are hundreds of photographers working here now. Don’t let a few bad apples take the attention away from what the REAL story is, because by the looks of the blogs, THAT is exactly what is happening.” Don’t expect to find those second thoughts on any of the blogs.

At no point does Mitchell actually describe what Denton alleged — namely, that while in Lebanon he personally witnessed “one case where a group of wire photogs were choreographing the unearthing of bodies, directing emergency workers here and there, asking them to position bodies just so, even remove bodies that have already been put in graves so that they can photograph them in peoples arms.”

Nor does he mention that later in the same thread Denton repeated the allegation and asserted that he’d heard from friends in Lebanon that it wasn’t an isolated incident. To read Mitchell, you would think that Denton had “apologized” and retracted his accusation. Nothing of the sort. Here’s what Denton actually said:

again, i am terribly sorry for rattling the saber so hard….re-reading my words I too should have been a bit more responsible.

He was sorry that his accusation had caused so much commotion. He wasn’t suggesting that what he said was untrue. On the contrary.

Who knows, though? Maybe Mitchell’s planning to explain all this in part two.

As for Denton’s subsequent panicky caveat — which Mitchell creepily describes as “second thoughts,” as though Denton had come to his senses and “thought better” of exposing an egregious case of journalistic fraud — I’m reprinting it here in full, just because Mitchell doesn’t think bloggers have the stones to do so:

I want to make something very clear regarding the speculation that has arisen from my comments. I said what i said on this site as a caution to the photographic community, not to call the whole industry into question. I saw what i saw and i commented on it. That said, THE VAST MAJORITY of the many photographers i have come across here, both foreign and Lebanese, are doing exemplory work under extremely difficult and dangerous conditions covering the brutality this conflict has come to embody. However it is photographed, a man woman or child killed in an airstrike is still just that. What i brought up was a question of journalistic ethics which i have seen breached BY INDIVIDUALS during my time here. Any one out there who is trying to politicize that is just plain sick, and is moving this further away from the real issue at hand.

There are hundreds of photographers working here now. Don’t let a few bad apples take the attention away from what the REAL story is, because by the looks of the blogs THAT is exactly what is happening. If anything, I am more interested in the wires investing in their stringers, their work, training, and their careers, not ruining them. Because ultimately, they act as the filter, and are equally as responsible for the people they employ and the work they put out for mass consumption.

But it’s not just a few INDIVIDUALS, is it?

Mitchell then devotes a paragraph to acknowledging Perlmutter’s piece and granting that a discussion about the use of unsupervised stringers is “overdue” before immediately qualifying it with this: “in general, the charges against the photographers, and their news organizations, have been hysterical, largely unfounded, and politically driven.” One example he gives is EU Referendum’s suggestion that “a kind of Hollywood ‘film-set’ was improvised at the site of the Qana killings ‘for the benefit of both Hezbollah and the media.’”

Does he mention the video from German TV catching Green Helmet and crew red-handed while staging a scene at Qana?

No, he does not. Again: maybe in part two.

Then he goes after something I’ve written about:

Often, the allegations of bogus photos amounts to nothing more than this: Showing, say, one picture of a badly-damaged car in Lebanon next to another shot of a totally destroyed auto, both said to be hit by Israeli bombs. Aha! Obviously the one that was only badly-damaged must have gotten wrecked in some other way. The possibility that one vehicle suffered a direct hit and the other a glancing blow — or that different Israeli missiles were used — apparently does not occur to these people.

I wrote two posts about purported airstrikes on automobiles in Lebanon. Read ‘em. Note in particular the opinions of specialists that I quoted in the first post (and that others added in the comments). And note the very unique “glancing blows” the cars seem to have suffered in the photos in the second post — which, he would have you believe, is representative of missile damage. The possibility that the damage was inflicted by someone at the scene to make the attack look worse than it was apparently does not occur to this person.

Who happens to be the editor of the industry’s leading trade periodical.

But here’s my absolute favorite part — the “tell,” if you will, that we may be dealing with someone whose disingenuousness is of Greenwaldian proportions. Quote:

One day last week I spent an entertaining ten minutes examining a long thread at one blog in which most of the posters were convinced that, for some unfathomable reason, a very dark-skinned Lebanese man in one photo MUST have been pasted into the scene — for everyone knows (?) Arabs are never that dark.

He … can’t be referring to this, can he?

tyler-hicks.jpg

Lay aside the fact our mystery man is most decidedly not Arab. Lay aside the fact that Charles Johnson, who first brought that photo to public attention, expressed skepticism that it was doctored from the very beginning, and that I myself attempted to prove it was genuine.

What Mitchell’s suggesting here is that the guy’s race, not the glaringly obvious photoshoppish artifacts on the top and back of his head, is what raised righty bloggers’ suspicions.

Editor in chief. Of Editor & Publisher magazine.

I’m going to stop there so there’s something left for Charles to write about. I leave you with this, yet another isolated incident involving an INDIVIDUAL which suggests nothing larger about the climate of journalistic freedom in Lebanon and the region generally.

Update: No wonder Mitchell doesn’t seem to have a big problem with advocates masquerading as journalists. He’s been known to dabble in that sort of thing himself.

Update: Patterico isn’t surprised. At all.

Update: This photo? Probably real. And if it isn’t, don’t tell me. I want to believe.

Update: I’d forgotten about this, but Confederate Yankee hadn’t. Mitchell wrote a piece back in April about the problem of George Bush being president of the United States for the next 33 months. And how we should “confront” that problem.

Update: One thing I didn’t address is Mitchell’s account of the New York Times “pieta” caption snafu. Spruiell responds to him here. Read it all, and note the conclusion: “Mitchell editorialized early and often against the Israeli campaign against Hezbollah. Is it a coincidence that now he is attacking the bloggers who exposed the staged and altered photographs that without exception served an anti-Israeli agenda?”

Update: I’m woozy at the thought of how much work Zombie put into this. Nothing to see here, though. Just another case of a few dozen INDIVIDUALS somehow all misinterpreting or actively distorting available evidence to concoct an Israeli atrocity that didn’t really happen. Means nothing.


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So when they write, for example, about people or props being “planted” at the site of an explosion — the only evidence for this being the apparent lack of dust on their surface — remember that sharp detail and true surface texture is not visible in Web photos.

Woo Hoo! A mention.

Still, what a moronic screed. This guy honestly believe it takes 300 dpi to see a layer of gray dust? In that case, what did we do before the web, when pictures were printed on…horror…newsprint?

Slublog on August 23, 2006 at 2:33 PM

I hope RightWinged checks in; Randy will want to know that Editor in chief. Of Editor & Publisher magazine. enjoyed that thread :)

But, another “erosion of standards” argument, is it? With bloggers as the bad guys? One day the irony has to present itself to them.

Axe on August 23, 2006 at 2:37 PM

Still, what a moronic screed. This guy honestly believe it takes 300 dpi to see a layer of gray dust?

You know, and this is worse, he might.

Axe on August 23, 2006 at 2:39 PM

You know, and this is worse, he might.

Yeah, that’s the depressing part. Willful ignorance would be better than outright self-deception.

Slublog on August 23, 2006 at 2:42 PM

There’s no question that the doctored Reuters pic was rediculous and dishonest and all that. Kudo to the fellah that caught it.

But to suggest that this sort of crap is endemic in the profession, particularly with regards to the second Lebanese war, in my opinion, is to attack the messenger for lack of response to the message. Things went terribly wrong there, and many innocents were killed. Should we not be discussing that?

Sometimes I feel that this whole world has gone completely insane.

THeDRiFTeR on August 23, 2006 at 2:57 PM

Things went terribly wrong there, and many innocents were killed.

How many posts about that war did I write here? 30-40?

Somehow, to left-leaning people, even a very minor yet interesting facet of the war, like the Reutersgate thing, is a “distraction” from the story of the war itself. Why is that?

Allahpundit on August 23, 2006 at 2:59 PM

But to suggest that this sort of crap is endemic in the profession, particularly with regards to the second Lebanese war, in my opinion, is to attack the messenger for lack of response to the message.

Actually, I believe that “sort of crap” is quite endemic in the journalism profession, especially as more media outlets increase competition for a dwindling pool of consumers.

Example: I was at an event where there were a group of protesters, most of them saying things and carrying signs that the average person would consider outside of the mainstream, to say the least. The local media that evening interviewed exactly two people – the grandmotherly woman and the only college student who retained his natural hair color.

Slublog on August 23, 2006 at 3:04 PM

Somehow, to left-leaning people, even a very minor yet interesting facet of the war, like the Reutersgate thing, is a “distraction” from the story of the war itself. Why is that?

Because fake photos tell the real story! Israel is evil and kills Arabs for sport. Wasting your time on any other facet draws attention from the real truthiness, the evilness of the Zionists.

Pablo on August 23, 2006 at 3:09 PM

Crap. Had more but hit the “submit button too quickly.”

The media reports on this protest did not accurately represent the majority of those who attended, and I believe that was the case because those in the media sympathized with those who protested. And no, it was not an anti-war protest – it was some union thing.

The newscasts basically ignored the substance of the event and focused on the whole ‘unions as underdog’ storyline. And I use the term ‘storyline’ deliberately. The media does not see itself in the business of telling people what happened anymore.

They see themselves instead as storytellers. And like most good stories, their tales have a good guy, and a bad guy. Why do they do this? Two major reasons, I think.

One, it fits their own biases.
Two, this crap sells. Just watch Oprah.

Slublog on August 23, 2006 at 3:10 PM

Things went terribly wrong there, and many innocents were killed.

Anytime you’re having to target civilian areas to thwart military attacks, something has gone terribly wrong. But what is it that went wrong?

Pablo on August 23, 2006 at 3:11 PM

To those who would say that this inflates the power or even role of the press in America today, I would reply: You don’t expect the Democrats to keep us out of war, do you? Just as they would not stand up to the president on Iraq for fear of appearing “weak on terror,” they would likely be wary of appearing “weak on the Tehran Bomb.” …

The media, usually only a middle-reliever or in a mop-up role on this playing field, might have to pitch with the game on the line.

(Selective) Objectivity at it’s best. I guess you can argue that at least he’s honest, unlike the rest of the MSM.

The elitist MSMers don’t know how to handle the blogosphere. What they fail to realize is that they are being checked, much like they claim to keep the government in check. Prior to the internet, we could only turn to the MSM for news – well, well, well, thanks to the internet we have come to realize what many suspected – the MSM had/has an agenda (political one at that).

Once again, thank you Al Gore for the internet.

Rick on August 23, 2006 at 3:22 PM

No, and you’re right Allahpundit. You’ve done a good amount of posting on the issue. There’s no denying that, so I won’t. Always very provocative, (in the positive sense of the word). You’ve enabled/forced me to consider angles I might not have otherwise. I’m not accusing you of anything indecorous, nor do I suggest that your motives are anything but ethical.

But now it seems like everyone is on a “fauxto” hunt, and frankly, judging from the comments from your readership, you seem to preaching to the choir. I mean, overlapping photocopied 100 dollar bills, black people in the crowd, etc… Where are we going with this. I don’t believe there’s anyone here, in their right mind, that wouldn’t agree that Hezbollah look to score real big on the propaganda front. So, who cares? I apply a different standard to Israel. They are, after all, supposed to be our allies.

Left-leaning? Maybe, though anyone who knows me would be shocked by that characterization. Why is it that since this gang hijacked my party, its been forgotten that Begin lied to Reagan, (who was 10 times the president our boy wonder is), about his intentions in Lebanon? Why did mossad keep information from us that could have saved some 241 of our men (see Victor Ostrovsky: By Way of Deception)? What say you to the fighting men of the USS Liberty? Liars, all of them?

Paranoid? Delusional? Again, maybe. But I would like some straight answers, and I’m not getting any.

THeDRiFTeR on August 23, 2006 at 3:33 PM

What they fail to realize is that they are being checked, much like they claim to keep the government in check.

And that’s what scares the sh*t out of them. That’s why reutersgate etal become such huge issues. we are ‘calling’ them on their incompetency. they are having to give up control of the news. it’s a classic shoot the messenger when instead they should be doing a TREMENDOUS amount of soul searching…

pullingmyhairout on August 23, 2006 at 3:47 PM

I read Ostrovsky, Drifter. He’s a hack who’s making crap up. I could tell because I know more about guns than this “Mossad Agent” did.

see-dubya on August 23, 2006 at 4:06 PM

Let’s begin by quoting from a piece I’ve asked you to read three times now. It’s David Perlmutter

AP, I promise I have read that article. The first time you posted it. Really. Twice even.

I mention this only because nobody wants to see the vengeful, angry, vindictive Allah come back. Everybody is much happier with the Allah of peace and blessings and good witty commentary.

EFG on August 23, 2006 at 4:06 PM

Anyone got more of the Will Press Put Out Fire on Iran? material that Rick quotes? The LFG link is paid, and that material sounds like a confession. I’d like to read it. I mean I don’t want to become a subscriber and would like to read it.

Axe on August 23, 2006 at 4:24 PM

“Paranoid? Delusional?”

Pretty much.
But more than that, irrelevant.

Knemon on August 23, 2006 at 4:29 PM

the Drifter

But to suggest that this sort of crap is endemic in the profession, particularly with regards to the second Lebanese war, in my opinion, is to attack the messenger for lack of response to the message. Things went terribly wrong there, and many innocents were killed. Should we not be discussing that?

The innocents weren’t killed primarily due to something “going wrong”, they were killed due to terrorists hiding within the population and launching rockets at Israel.

And to respond to that comment as well as your follow-up, you seem to be asking “why post on this?” Like it’s not important, or not that important. But it is. Even with the blogger overload, the majority still has no clue what happened over there, and what happens daily in the media. It’s pretty sad because the news directs public opinion which directs voting, but the news consistently lies and misrepresents. It’s an honesty in media issue. Why do you think the left side of the blogosphere didn’t cover it? Because this is the media that works for them.

Luckily I have a renewed sense of hope…. because as I learned and posted about yesterday, states as liberal as California may be decidedly conservative by 2020, due to a “fertility gap” of conservatives cranking out way more babies, and 80% of kids growing up to vote like their parents. It seems that this is why the media’s full-court deception press is on, and why liberals, realizing what a mistake it’s been to abort 10s of millions of babies, are hoping to put in an express lane for illegals to get here and get voting rights.

RightWinged on August 23, 2006 at 4:53 PM

WOOOWOO! Great thread. So many detailed deconstructions of the massive amounts of fauxtography going on. Yes, it is endemic-don’t you remember the canoe lady during the “huge flood” last year? Not even related to the war.
Or how about the media freakout over the staged Sheehan at the grave fauxto? It’s everywhere.

Thank goodness for all the attention to detail and watchdogging the blogosphere can do. When the phonies start hitting back, you know they’re feeling the heat. The big question: how much more outing must be done before the MSM actually gets back to the principles of real reporting? And until the profs of journalism start teaching and REQUIRING ethics in their profession?

NTWR on August 23, 2006 at 5:09 PM

RightWinged, I read that article with glee myself. Especially the sanctimonious crap that liberal wrote about “not wantonly breeding like animals.” What a kook.

I disagree that Califonia will become a red state, at least not until we slam the border shut and stop importing illegal socialists, then giving them motor-voter rights to vote both here and in Mexico for their Reconquista. You wonder why enviro-nuts would want people who don’t smog their cars coming in droves, then you realize they need the voters.

NTWR on August 23, 2006 at 5:15 PM

For years the MSM considered itself the 4th column of Government. And they were unchecked, and liked it that way.

If they are (which they are not, as the Canadian PM reminded the MSM up North recently), then we can be the 5th.

The possibility of that actuality is what scares them witless. And the downtrend of their stocks in the last few years…

Entelechy on August 23, 2006 at 5:43 PM

Right versus Left fertility gap article RightWinged mentioned…highly interesting!

Entelechy on August 23, 2006 at 5:48 PM

Allah, thanks again for hitting the nail on the head. With all of the information you have made availiable it is easy to see that Greg Mitchell the E&P editor is at least partially culpable in Reutergate by his raising an alarm of there being a Bush Administration [?!?!], and requesting that they “begin to explore the ways to confront it.” Mitchell is such a tool.

DannoJyd on August 23, 2006 at 5:48 PM

Meanwhile at Harper’s Magazine today, “Mr. Anonymous” Michael Sheuer (chief of Clinton’s bin Laden unit at CIA’s Counterterrorist Center from 1996 to 1999)– who now asserts, “Al Qaeda is not a terrorist organization, but is rather part of and attempting to lead a global Muslim insurgency“– shares his special insight on the Taliban;

Six Questions for Michael Scheuer on National Security

…We paid a great price for demonizing the Taliban. We saw them as evil because they didn’t let women work, but [but, But BUT! ] that’s largely irrelevant in Afghanistan.

Largely irrelevant?

Terp Mole on August 23, 2006 at 5:51 PM

“Paranoid? Delusional?”

Pretty much.
But more than that, irrelevant.

Knemon on August 23, 2006 at 4:29 PM

Thanks for you insight there knemon. Helpful. Knowing this now, I guess I just withdraw, and not post an opinion. I needed someone “relevant”, like you to point this out to me.

What a maroon!

THeDRiFTeR on August 23, 2006 at 6:07 PM

Ugh, that update is truly scary! How do we get the MSM to stand up and take notice of this chicanery, and report on it? Truthfully?

NTWR on August 23, 2006 at 6:09 PM

I’m woozy at the thought of how much work Zombie put into this. Nothing to see here, though. Just another case of a few dozen INDIVIDUALS somehow all misinterpreting or actively distorting available evidence to concoct an Israeli atrocity that didn’t really happen.

Zombie is just ridiculously plugged in. I dare anyone to fisk that.

The media lies to you. Zombie sneaks the truth out in a brown paper bag.

Pablo on August 23, 2006 at 6:17 PM

It’s been this way for decades.

The then current “public editor” of the Chicago Tribune published a series of columns on how the news is presented. I’m pretty sure they were published in September of 1992.

The Chicago Tribune, as have most of the big newspapers and a good many smaller ones, has moved steadily over the last decade toward writing stories that give context and perspective to the most important news. Instead of just laying out one purported fact after another, we have increasingly tried to explain and analyze to give your our best understanding of the truth to which those facts add up.

This is not something new. The weekly news magazines have been doing it since their beginnings, often especially in their earlier years, with what, frequently seemed to be transparent points of view. With cable television and other 24-hours sources of immediate news available, the major newspapers have more and more turned to putting out daily something resembling the old weekly news magazines in content, heavy on behind-the-scenes reporting, explanation and analysis, but hopefully without the overtones of partisanship.

. . . Sometimes we are not as shophisticated as we should be and allow gratuitous opinion to substitute for needed context and factual wisdom. We must avoid point of view and polemics.

[Any typos are mine]

The media thinks they are beyond questioning and do not have to answer to their end consumers for false reporting, for staged and phony pictures.

They are finding out that the 21st Century is not going to be “THEIR” century.

georgej on August 23, 2006 at 8:49 PM

I worked with a predecessor of Photoshop in the ’80s. One of my jobs was to impress visiting clients by manipulating scanned photographs for them in realtime. We forget; before Photoshop, it was so difficult to alter photos convincingly, people had a touching and innate trust of images. It was my privilege to watch that trust dissolve before my very eyes, time and again.

I predicted then that photos would quickly become unacceptable as evidence. I had no idea that, twenty years later, the lesson would still be incompletely learned.

S. Weasel on August 24, 2006 at 12:11 PM

GeorgeJ,

The then current “public editor” of the Chicago Tribune

The then-current Public Editor is the same ninny — Don Wycliff — who declared that Andrew McCarthy writes “propaganda”, as compared to the great Molly Ivins, whom he called “a journalist.”

He has taken his great wisdom to Notre Dame to inspire your kids…

Jaibones on August 24, 2006 at 1:43 PM

Great post Allah. Knew these “industry watchers” were out to lunch generally, but this Greg Mitchell character really takes the bran muffin. You got this joker right where you want ‘im, and it’ll be fun watching him squirm.

And exceptional links (Spruiell, Patterico, …).

RD on August 24, 2006 at 10:40 PM