An extremely revealing piece at Daily Kos on the Qana Affair (hattip LGF) Smintheus, who has been known to rail against the MSM for getting their stories wrong, expresses his serene confidence in the MSM getting it right. One has to ask — as with the critics of Qana — how much what one wants to believe effects the evidence… in this case, apparently, a deep desire to believe Israel guilty, and the Hizbullah and the MSM innocent. Let the evidence and forensic reasoning prevail; but in the meantime, since smintheus thinks it’s already case closed, let’s look closely at his forensic reasoning and those he cites with approval.
[smintheus in bold, blockquote]
The Paradox of Idiocy: Wingers ‘expose’ Qana photos as staged
Wed Aug 02, 2006 at 02:52:54 PM PDT
Between my orchard and flower bed sits an overgrown thicket of scrub and poison ivy. Years ago, you could occasionally venture in to pick a few mediocre grapes growing in a tangle there. But it’s become an outright nuisance in what ought to be a central part of our landscape. Only a colossal effort could make it productive again.
So too the territory occupied by right wingers in the U.S. If they’ve anything valuable to say, you couldn’t discover it midst the chaotic and noxious weeds of their minds. And the bombs raining down in Lebanon have just watered the gardens of the superpatriots’ hatred.
A perfect specimen is an absurd little weed that the true-believers rushed to cultivate when it first popped up the other day. After a British blogger managed to convince himself that wire service photos from Qana had been staged, wingers in the U.S. competed to embellish the baseless accusation. And though the AP published an article rebutting the charge, fevered minds on the right are having none of it.
Nice literary introduction, but in a sense quite damning. This is not a man with an open mind, nor is he addressing an audience with an open mind. The text is apparently written by a bien-pensant for an audience of bien-pensants: we all know what to think here. And of course before examining the evidence, we know that one side is inhabited by fevered minds, true believers, chaotic, noxious haters. If this sounds like a description of Hizbullah and an introduction to the possibility that they staged the death and evacuation of their own people for the sake of a PR victory through the agency of a predictabley salivating press, it’s not.
Here is really all that you need to know about the Bush partisans. Mere facts stand little chance against their cherished fictions. Bile points the way toward ‘truth’. Any inconvenient news can be chalked up to a corrupt media. The enemies of Oceania are expert propagandists. Nothing can be the matter with any of Bush & Co.’s wars. The right wingers’ ability to uncover the various reasons why that is so, day after day, when leftists meekly accept biased news coverage, reveals their own deeper intellectual powers.
It’s the paradox of idiocy. The idiot treats his own misinformed foolishness as a mark of distinction, the height of sophistication. The refusal to see sense is a natural corollary of the inability to see it.
I wonder if smintheus is capable of reversing his rhetoric’s referent: might it not be he and his audience who treat their beliefs as a mark of distinction and the height of sophistication. Might they not “refuse to see.” Might there be some of us who find neither sides’ partisanship appealing and long for independent thinkers who examine the evidence and abide by the feedback of the real world?
The real issue, especially here, is how we reason about the evidence. For someone about to help us analyze controversial evidence, this is hardly a promising start. We have yet to learn one detail, and already we know which side we’re on. And why, a priori, that side should include Hizbullah and the press under their tutelage, I honestly don’t understand.
The facts are easily explained. On July 31, a rather badly misinformed superpatriot in Britain, Richard North, wrote that the photos taken of the rescue efforts at Qana by Reuters, Associated Press, and AFP photographers had been staged. He claimed, improbably, that bodies extracted from the bombed building had been manipulated by rescuers in order to create propaganda for Hizbollah, and that the photographers had gone along with the fiction; that the bodies were paraded around again and again by various rescuers; that they were loaded in ambulances, unloaded and then loaded again; that the rescuers amplified and exaggerated the physical damage to the bodies for the cameras.
Now why someone who questions the MSM’s reports should be labeled a “superpatriot” I’m not sure. Why he’s misinformed is neither clear nor will it become so. And finally why it’s improbable that the Lebanese would manipulate bodies to manipulate the press is beyond me. Apparently smintheus is still in the 20th century when it comes to awareness of how the Arab media manipulate ours.
It’s more than simply a charge of unethical behavior; the alleged perpetrators probably would have committed crimes in desecrating these bodies. North is unhappy that the Qana bombing turned into a PR disaster for Israel, and evidently he’s willing to create a lot of collateral damage in order to carry his point.
What? The reputation of Hizbullah PR people is collateral damage about which we should be very careful? They certainly don’t think that they’ve committed crimes in using these bodies or splashing these pictures on newspapers around the world. Desecrating is smintheus’ concern (cognitive egocentrism), and apparently he won’t let anyone smear Hizbullah with a crime he finds odious. So in order to protect Hizbullah operatives from committing a crime by our definition, we should not question these matters?
But what is his evidence for the charge? Essentially this: that the time stamps on the photos published on line are all over the map. For example, a photo of a child’s corpse lying inside an ambulance has a time stamp that predates by several hours the stamp on a photo of the same body being lifted into the ambulance. According to North, this is proof that the photographers staged these photos for purposes of propaganda.
This is only a fraction of the evidence which includes enormous discrepencies, the extreme pallor of the victims suggesting they may have been dead for much longer, the time gap between the bombing and the collapse, between the time of arrival of the ambulances and the time of evacuation (waiting for the cameras), the numbers of the dead, the reason why they were still there and asleep when the building was (allegedly) so badly weakened and firing was going on during the night. Indeed this focus merely on the time stamps, which is still unresolved, is a straw man.
You don’t need time stamps to be aware that there’s something ghoulish about this picture.
If you were the sort of person who listens to Rush Limbaugh, you’d know that he trampled all over this ‘story’ on the day North posted it.
If we don’t start really kicking butt in this war, including not just allowing, but in fact urging Israel to viciously attack this enemy, we’re going to end up losing it, and then it’s going to take something worse than this to wake everybody back up, and I’m afraid that’s going to be a nuclear weapon in the hands of an Islamofascist group….
The truth of what happened at Qana has been as distorted as what has happened and did happen in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It’s almost identical. The Media is proving that they are incapable of accurately covering a war now, perhaps because they don’t want to. You’ll see what I mean when you take a look at this website. It’s eureferendum.blogspot. When you see this photo display, this guy has gone through a lot of work to show how the Hezbos are milking this, parading their own dead in front of the cameras, posing them at different times, taking them in and out of ambulances, covering them with dust, holding them for hours on end, and these are still photographers taking the pictures, obviously, and these photographers are obviously willing to participate in propaganda. They know exactly what’s being done, all these photos, bringing the bodies out of the rubble, posing them for the cameras, it’s all staged.
Every bit of it is staged and the still photographers know it. Yet they send these pictures out without saying all of this is being staged for us. They send these pictures out as though they are in a timeline of an exact sequence, which they are not, which you will see when you read it. So the point is, Israel is probably not even killing all these civilians….
The photographs are grisly. They are quite disturbing. I should warn you about that before you go see them, but you have to see how the PR and the spin war is being managed and how our Drive-By Media and the rest of the world media is just falling for it hook, line, and sinker because it’s their action line. Action line is, Bush is wrong, Israel sucks, Rice is bad, Bolton’s bad, gotta get rid of Rumsfeld and all these people, Bush is horrible, Israel’s horrible. In fact, Israel may have replaced Bush now in terms of being the primary target of the Drive-By Media. Bush will get it back. But they’re covering Israel in this war the way they’ve covered Bush in practically everything since he was inaugurated back in 2001.
I can’t understand any of Limbaugh’s premises, beginning with the assumption that bombing Lebanon is ‘our’ war,
I guess we have a good illustration of Blair’s comment about the realization that Israel is fighting the same war as the rest of the West: “But I fear that a vast part of Western opinion is not remotely near this yet.” I wonder how much he understands about the nature of global Jihad. But he’d probably find anything I’d cite to be winger zealotry.
or his conclusions, for example the business about nuclear weapons ending up in some ill-defined group’s hands.
Why ill-defined? Ahmadenijad has already made clear his intentions. smintheus doesn’t believe them because…? Evidence for global warming? No problem. Evidence for global jihad warming? What are you talking about?
But never mind, let this selection of his blatherings stand as a warning that the man is an idiot.
Meanwhile, most of the other fatheads on the right were huffing and puffing this story up. If you were that sort of person, you could check out the oeuvre of Michelle Malkin to get a sense of how much play the nuts were giving an allegation that, say what you will, involved neither Dan Rather nor kerning.
This is, of course, pure ad hominem. Is this the kind of argument that passes for probative over at Daily Kos (he asks innocently)? It surely offers meager nourishment for someone interested in the relevant evidence.
The larger problem was that it was untrue. The Associated Press went so far as to publish an article on Aug. 1 demolishing the allegations.
Three news agencies on Tuesday rejected challenges to the veracity of photographs of bodies taken in the aftermath of an Israeli airstrike in Lebanon, strongly denying that the images were staged.
Photographers from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse all covered rescue operations Sunday in Qana, where 56 Lebanese were killed. Many of their photos depicted rescue workers carrying dead children.
A British Web site, the EU Referendum blog, built an argument that chicanery may have been involved by citing time stamps that went with captions of the photographs.
Given how much trouble we had to go to last summer just to get the AP to report about a real and significant story, the Downing Street Memo, it’s a sign of progress I suppose that they’re now issuing immediate reports on hare-brained blog posts about, well, nothing at all.
In this case, the nothing was concocted by Richard North out of his confusion between published time stamps, which reflect the time when a photo is posted on line, and the camera’s own time meter. Had he or any of his frenzied American readers taken the slightest trouble to inquire about the extremely basic question of how wire service time stamps function, the entire ‘story’ would have collapsed in upon itself.
But since they didn’t bother, they weren’t about to allow a trivial matter of fact get in the way of the conspiracy theory. North himself, who has been writing obsessively about inconsequential aspects of the dress and location of rescuers in these pictures, finally tried to bolster his mistake by denouncing the AP, earning a rebuke from the Guardian blogger Roy Greenslade.
I would have said that either smintheus has not read North’s work, or he is misleading his readers. North’s challenges include far more than the time stamps, and to reduce it to that is either dishonest or very sloppy. But then smintheus informs us that the rest of North’s work is “writing obsessively about inconsequential details.” This comment reveals quite nicely what happens when someone with a predisposition to reject the argument, reads uncomfortable material (like me reading tax forms). Apparently knowing that this kind of thing could not happen, smintheus feels free not to bother with details that suggest that it might.
More to the point, the American superpatriots leapt upon the AP story and tore flesh. True to form, Malkin kept up her unsteady drumbeat in the face of facts. Little Green Goofballs expressed the opinion that the AP rebuttal was actually the first crack in the façade; then an update demanded that the wire services release info about the time when each photo was taken; then a second update announced that the time stamps don’t really matter because North’s (inconsequential) observations carry the day anyhow.
I invite any reader to read the various postings and ask yourself whether you felt well informed by this summary. As someone who has, I certainly would give this kind of work, done by a history student, a D (and that would be generous, on the assumption that it’s by a first year graduate student who still doesn’t understand what it is to summarize someone else’s arguments). Just as a taste, for those who do not have the time, let me cite two decisive arguments offered by the articles smintheus cites with approval:
AP’s senior vice president and executive editor, Kathleen Carroll, said: “I know from 30 years of experience in this business that you can’t get competitive journalists to participate in the kind of (staging) experience that is being described”.
Well that’s precisely what happened with the feeding frenzy around Muhammad al Durah. I think Ms. Carroll also needs to get up to 21st century speed.
And then this clincher from AFP, one of the key players in the al Durah affair:
“Do you really think these people would risk their lives under Israeli shelling to set up a digging ceremony for dead Lebanese kids?” asked Patrick Baz, Mideast photo director for AFP. “I’m totally stunned by first the question, and I can’t imagine that somebody would think something like that would have happened.”
There was no sign or report of Israeli shelling throughout the time of the pictures, so why even mention it, much less present it as a proof that the photographers weren’t “attending a ceremony”? As for the second answer, it reminds me of Charles Enderlin’s remark to me that his Palestinian photographer never would have even thought of faking the Al Durah scene because he would have known right away he couldn’t get away with it.
And of course it’s probably unthinkable to these good folks that their photographers, if they’re not already heavy sympathizers with the anti-zionist resistance, might be intimidated (Hat tip HRP), as in:
CNN “senior international correspondent” Nic Robertson admitted that his anti-Israel report from Beirut on July 18 about civilian casualties in Lebanon, was stage-managed from start to finish by Hizbullah. He revealed that his story was heavily influenced by Hizbullah’s “press officer” and that Hizbullah has “very, very sophisticated and slick media operations.”
When pressed a few days later about his reporting on the CNN program “Reliable Sources,” Robertson acknowledged that Hizbullah militants had instructed the CNN camera team where and what to film. Hizbullah “had control of the situation,” Robertson said. “They designated the places that we went to, and we certainly didn’t have time to go into the houses or lift up the rubble to see what was underneath.”
Another journalist let the cat out of the bag last week. Writing on his blog while reporting from southern Lebanon, Time magazine contributor Christopher Allbritton, casually mentioned in the middle of a posting: “To the south, along the curve of the coast, Hizbullah is launching Katyushas, but I’m loathe to say too much about them. The Party of God has a copy of every journalist’s passport, and they’ve already hassled a number of us and threatened one.”
No, that doesn’t happen to intrepid Western journalists. (Oh wait, some of them are not Western journalists, and they have a record of manipulating images.)
And pictures don’t lie. Impossible! How could they?
That was followed by this surreal post showing, I suppose, that AP outlandishly refuses to admit its reporters have been exposed as frauds by the fighting keyboardists.
This last post at LGF is to an actually quite surreal post in which AP not only congratulates itself on getting its photos out first and to the whole world, but rewards its photographers for their brilliant work. Given the serious challenges to their work, it does seem a bit premature. De Villepin did the same thing, rewarding Charles Enderlin in early 2003 for his brilliant reporting as a way of strengthening him when he was under attack.
You’ll look in vain for any admission at these sites that many innocents died a horrible death as a result of the bombings, the photographic evidence of which the wingers are pawing over, looking for any weakness. In this world view, death is an act of terrorism; it must be defeated, at any cost.
What’s this supposed to mean? That because there’s a dispute about who did what the people involved in the investigation don’t care about the dead civilians? If indeed the Qana affair turns out to be manipulation — something that may even go as far as Hizbullah causing the deaths deliberately, then the death of these innocents, and all the outrage they produce in the kind of compassionate progressive that smintheus wants us to believe he is, should be directed at Hizbullah, not Israel. Indeed, even if its the worst scenario for Israel — they bombed a building with civilians by error because they were fired upon from that area — the blame belongs with Hizbullah for its criminal use of civilians as human shields… but one would “look in vain for any admission [from smintheus] that many innocents died a horrible death” as a result of Hizbullah’s behavior.
For all his empathy for the victim, his real interest seems to be nailing his target, Israel, not following the evidence. As this begins to sort out, it will be interesting to see how — if the evidence calls for it — smintheus retracts his comments.
One of the great ironies is that, for all their confidence in their own mental acuity, the Republican superpatriots (but I’m repeating myself) put their minds in a blind trust when Bush was elected. All the evidence suggests that, for many of the Bush partisans, there won’t be much value in retrieving them after 2008.
How ironic all the mirroring that goes on here. This bizarrely self-confident, shallow, ad-hominem summary of the issue, addressed apparently to an eager audience happy with this rhetoric strikes me as a good example of Bush Derangement Syndrome. Anything that might help Bush must be opposed, even if it means whitewashing one of the ugliest death cults in the history. smintheus and his approving readers seem to think that North, and anyone who agrees with him, must be stereotypical right-winger conspiracy nuts, enamored of Bush, denying evolution (not to mention the Holocaust). What about the rest of us who smell a rat when we see one? Whose brain is on hold while W is president?
But what remains with me most after reading this piece is:
the knee-jerk incredulity at the possibility that the major news agencies might have been fooled — by Arab photographers and stringers no less!
the incredulity that someone of another political persuasion might have caught something that someone of my political persuasion did not
the sense that the larger political agendas determine what smintheus and his friends believe
the notion that name-calling is a substitute for argumentation, and that if the author calls people the nasty names, then I don’t have to go read what they say.
And in the end, as they rub their hands in combined agony and glee, clucking over how Israel’s crimes have intensified global jihadi sentiments around the world, they protect one of the major sources of our woe: a deeply irresponsible media.
Tragedy amplified by smug partisanship.
But where does this smug hostility come from? What on earth possesses smenthius and his friends to think they know what’s going on in Lebanon? I guess, when it tells them what they want to hear, they believe the MSM. My question is, why is this what you want to hear?
UPDATE: Excellent discussion of my question at Shrinkwrapped.