Corrupting our sight
Neil Munro at the National Journal has a major article on the pressure to alter Iraqi war news to suit an agenda. Munro asserts that never before has there been such a conflicts of which accounts of an event are actually true. He quotes Patrick Baz, AFP's photo director for Iraq.
Baz said that, today, unlike in wars past, journalists are constantly pressured to choose sides, and that many combatants on either side don't believe that journalistic neutrality exists. This wartime pressure on photographers is "terrible," Baz said. "It is absolutely unbelievable that you are automatically branded East or West, Muslim or Christian, and you have [to] go on one side or the other."
This pressure has resulted in patently faked versions of events or at least, disputed ones. For example, the UK Daily Mirror was embarrassed when the analysis of uniforms and soldier's equipment in a photo purporting to show British soldiers beating up a prisoner turned out to be dubious and probably bogus. Photos, later shown to depict unidentified individuals in a mish-mash of uniforms, were trotted out by the Voz de Azatlan, a leftist website purporting to show American soldiers raping Iraqi women. It was faked and though later discredited the damage had been done. Faced with these problems, Munro says that media organizations have taken steps to reduce the possibility of being misled by their sources.
The New York Times will not publish a picture "if it feels like it was done for us," said Flynn [Elizabeth Flynn, foreign-picture editor] and she cited an occasion when one of her photographers set aside dramatic photos taken in Africa because the crowd had reacted to an audience of 17 cameras and photographers. "People perform for the media.... [They] are very media-savvy; they know what will attract attention."
Still, there is the problem of context. One AP photographer took a track tread and turned it into a story, which may eventually have become two stories.
Last September 17, in Ramadi, Hussein took pictures after a battle at a dusty intersection. At least one U.S. armored vehicle had been damaged and towed away, leaving behind its 40-foot dull-gray metal track tread. Hussein's photographs showed the locals piling debris and auto tires onto the tread, and then celebrating as they lit a fire. Without the fire, smoke, and added debris, the photo would have presented a pretty uninteresting image of people looking at a leftover tank tread. With the smoke, fire, and debris, the image seemed to convey that a major battle had just taken place.
Weeks later, USA Today published a similar Hussein photograph from a different incident in Ramadi, which featured celebrating Sunnis, burning car tires, and a tank tread pulled over on its side.
The National Journal story is good background against which to post a guest column from the family of a veteran which was sent to me via Patrick Hynes of Ankle-biting Pundits. Hynes is getting bloggers to feature guest posts. Derek Bastain is an American soldier who died in Iraq and his parent's post is featured below. Derek helped make the news in the real sense. Which is why it is sometimes a shame to see it distorted.
Let us speak candidly; we have earned the right: The media is pathetic and it is a damn shame that they are unwilling to report more of the positive stories developing in Iraq.
We are not going to sit on the sidelines. With other similar families, we are determined to make a difference. Read more: http://washingtontimes.com/national/20060403-122152-1985r.htm
Our son, Derek, perished in the Iraqi dessert last May. He was proud of his service and his peers. Derek strongly believed that our Armed Serves were making progress and Derek knew that attacking insurgency camps abroad was the best way to keep his friends and family at home safe. Read more about him here: http://www.familiesunitedmission.com/docs/families/southwest/bastian.shtml
Three years ago next week Baghdad fell and so began the long road towards building a new Middle East democracy. Now 11 million Iraqis have voted and the Iraqi security forces have primary responsibility for protecting most of their own soil.
Who will remember Iraqi Liberation Week? Certainly not the media. But you can make a difference. Join us in signing a letter to the media and reminding them of our incredible sacrifice – AND our remarkable progress. Do it now; Iraqi Liberation Week begins on Sunday the 9th: http://www.familiesunitedmission.com/docs/signup_new/individual.shtml
Debra and Todd Bastain,
Gold Star Parents