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PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Mainstream Media Critic Speaks Out Forcefully on Bias, Doctored Photos in Israeli-Hezbollah Conflict

Posted by kinchendavid on August 16, 2006

By David M. Kinchen
Editor, Huntington News Network

Hinton, WV – Now that the Israeli-Hezbollah ceasefire seems to be taking hold, we’re being bombarded – pun intended – with video clips from CNN and the other cable networks of Lebanese refugees – many driving Mercedes-Benz cars, I’ve noted – returning to South Lebanon.

I’m looking in vain for similar video footage of the extensive bomb damage in Northern Israel and stories of the 1 million Israelis who’ve been in bomb shelters or have been evacuated in the wake of more than 4,000 Katyusha rockets raining down on them from Hezbollah terrorist positions among civilians in South Lebanon. (For more about the history of Katyushas, check out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katyusha).

Don’t hold your breath.

I was delighted to find that my newspaper home from 1976 to 1990 – the Los Angeles Times – has weighed in on the faked photos from Reuters and the anti-Israel media bias of European news agencies. LA Times Media Writer Tim Rutten wrote on Aug. 12, 2006 – four days after my Parallel Universe column on the subject – that the “controversy this week over Reuters’ distribution of digitally manipulated, falsely labeled and – probably – staged photos of the fighting in Lebanon hasn’t been nearly as large as it should have been.”

As I did in my Aug. 8, 2006 column, Rutten gives full credit to LA-based blogger Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs for bringing the faked photos to light. Here’s what Rutten says: “Reuters, which is headquartered in London, transmitted two photographs by one of its regular Lebanese freelance photographers, Adnan Hajj, whose work for the agency has appeared in many American newspapers since 1993. An anonymous tipster reportedly drew Johnson’s attention to the photos, and he immediately recognized that one purporting to show the aftermath of an Israeli airstrike on Beirut had been digitally enhanced. It subsequently emerged that another image allegedly showing an Israeli fighter launching multiple air-to-ground missiles also had been altered using the common Photoshop computer program.”

Here’s the url for the complete Rutten story, which is worth reading and re-reading for those who still doubt that there is news bias:

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-rutten12aug12,1,640725.column?coll=la-news-column Here are two more paragraphs from Rutten’s no-holds-barred commentary – the best I’ve seen on the subject: “There are, however, two problems here, and they’re the reason this controversy shouldn’t be allowed to sputter to its inglorious conclusion just yet: One of these has to do with the scope of what strongly appears to be wider fabrication in the photojournalism Reuters and other news agencies are obtaining from their freelancers in Lebanon. The other is the U.S. news media’s grudging response to the revelation of Hajj’s misconduct and its utter lack of interest in exploring whether his is a unique or representative case. ”Thus far, only a handful of relatively brief stories on this affair have appeared in major American papers. The Times picked up one from the Washington Post, which focused mainly on the politics of Johnson’s website. The New York Times, which ran one of Hajj’s photos on its front page Saturday, reported that it has published eight of his pictures since 2003, but none were altered. It then went on to quote other papers about steps they take to detect fraudulent images. No paper has taken up the challenge of determining whether there’s anything dodgy about the flow of freelance photos Reuters and other news agencies — including the Associated Press, which also transmitted images made by Hajj — are sending out of tormented Lebanon.” Just as I’ve not seen any CNN, MSNBC or even FOX coverage of the plight of the 1 million Israeli refugees, so too, Rutten notes, that the Israelis haven’t been using the war as effectively for propaganda purposes as the Arabs have. Rutten writes: “It’s worth noting in this context that there is no similar flow of propagandistic images coming from the Israeli side of the border. That’s because one side — the democratically elected government of Israel — views death as a tragedy and the other — the Iranian financed terrorist organization Hezbollah — sees it as an opportunity. In this case, turning their own dead children into material creates an opportunity to cloud the fact that every Lebanese casualty, tragic as he or she is, was killed or injured as an unavoidable consequence of Israel’s pursuit of terrorists who use their own people as human shields. Every Israeli civilian killed or injured was the victim of a terrorist attack intended to harm civilians. That alone ought to wash away any blood-stained suggestion of moral equivalency. ”That brings us to the most troubling of the possible explanations for these fraudulent photos, which is that some of the photojournalists involved are either intimidated by or sympathetic to the Hezbollah terrorists. It’s a possibility fraught with harsh implications, but it needs to be examined thoroughly and openly.” Again, I’m proud of my old paper for having the guts to print the truth about this propaganda war. This is the L.A. Times to which I devoted so much of my energies for 14½ years. For more coverage of the ongoing subject of flawed journalism ethics – increasingly as much of an oxymoron as “military justice” — check out Romenesko’s journalism site: http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=45

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