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Tricks of the trade

"Tricks of the trade" Continued...

Issue: "Katrina: One year later," Aug. 26, 2006

Others say that photographers have to keep Hezbollah happy to gain access to sites; if they don't have access they can't shoot and then sell their photographs; if they don't sell they don't eat. As CNN's Nic Robertson said last month, "Hezbollah has very, very sophisticated and slick media operations . . . [and] control over its areas in the south of Beirut. . . . You don't get in there without their permission."

Still others say that stringers are competing for sales by producing photos more dramatic than real life brings them. That defense, though, raises questions about the gullibility of editors who forget the need to be skeptical about stories or photos that are too good to be true.

None of the Lebanon manipulation is brand new. A WORLD interview with author Stephanie Guttman detailed anti-Israel bias from 2000 to 2004 (see "Photographic negative," March 4, 2006). WORLD also reported that after Saddam Hussein's fall some journalists confessed their playing along with him to maintain Baghdad access-twisting the news to get "the news." Most recently, reports circulated of a 5-year-old Palestinian girl killed by an Israeli military strike-but doctors said she died after sustaining head injuries during a fall from a swing.

The deeper question some ask is whether these questions about manipulation should be primary: After all, the corpses generally are real (although in one case bloggers discovered a propagandist posing himself as a dead man and springing back to life moments after the shutters twitched). People in civilian clothes are dying (note, though, that terrorists rarely wear uniforms). Some innocent people, including children, have died-that is true-and if it takes a Mickey Mouse or a wedding dress to draw our attention to the bombings, so be it.

Some photographers have thought through questions of responsibility for those deaths. Daniel Etter wrote on one blog, "The real staging happens before the rescue worker shows the dead children to photographers. It happens when the Hezbollah builds [a] kindergarten right next to their positions."

Etter went on, though, to note that propaganda is common: "PR agencies fly to Kuwait just before the American troops arrive to distribute small American flags." But is that action morally equivalent to launching missiles next to a school? Rutten of the Los Angeles Times criticized Hezbollah's media control and noted "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."

Rutten noted that Hezbollah terrorists "use their own people as human shields," but "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."

For additional evidence of photo manipulation, see articles and links on www.worldmagblog.com of Aug. 10, 11, and 14.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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