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?
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.