August 07, 2006
Seeing Is Believing
How often in life do we prefer the evidence of our eyes over what we hear with our own ears? After all, words can be deceptive. People twist the truth, beguile our hearts with honeyed phrases or pour subtle poison in our ears to make us doubt where we once loved. But what we see with our own two eyes must be the truth, isn't it? The eyes don't deceive us. They are an unfiltered and neutral recorder of life's ups and downs, its glowing victories and bitter defeats; those quiet moments of beauty amid the storms of daily events.
They are, aren't they? Of course they are. We can trust our eyes.
Two months ago I wrote those words. The occasion was the use of this photo by the London Times with a misleading caption. The AP photo depicted the aftermath of an insurgent massacre which occurred over six months before the Haditha incident. It had absolutely nothing to do with the Haditha killings being investigated by the Marine Corps, yet not only was the photo run with a misleading and inflammatory caption, it was subsequently used by Jack Higgins of the Chicaco Sun-Times as the basis for an offensive and insulting political cartoon.
It became the lie heard round the world.
But this is hardly the first time the media have used photographs to spread politically based lies and calumny. The New York Times is a past master of the art. The Times did not shrink for a second from using a sensational photograph of a beaten and bloodied "Arab" student to whip up anti-Israel sentiment. The only trouble was that the supposedly menacing Israeli soldier was actually protecting the Jewish student from the Palestinian mob that had just beaten him unmercifully - a fact the Times somehow neglected to mention. The Times' caption?
An Israeli policeman and a Palestinian Student on the Temple Mount.
Times readers are left to draw their own conclusions from the fact that the policeman is standing over the bloody student with an unbloodied baton. How many readers, however, noticed that interesting little detail? No doubt the Times regrets the omission. But it really can't be responsible for what other people think, can it?
Just as the Times can't be responsible for not bothering to find out the difference between an ancient artillery shell (likely Russian) and a US missile when showing "damage from US airstrikes".
Last week I wrote about how the media's ignorance of military history and tradition can't help but taint its war reporting:
Daniel Schorr is used to producers popping into his Washington, D.C., office at National Public Radio to ask, on deadline: Which war came first, Korea or Vietnam? (Answer: Korea.) But when one asked, "You covered the Spanish-American War, didn't you?" Schorr couldn't help but respond, matter-of-factly: "That was 1898."
At the time, I observed:
Most Americans get their ideas of war, and how the war is going, from the media. And the media, as we're coming to learn, know next to nothing about the military and military history. They know next to nothing about how the military works, about how (and why) decisions are made, or about what is "normal" and expected in wartime, and they seldom trouble to find out. It used to infuriate me that they hyped men like John Kerry as "genuine war heroes" while ignoring men like Bob Dole or Jeremiah Denton. I always thought they were doing this on purpose.
It didn't occur to me until recently that a press corps this profoundly ignorant about the military simply can't tell the difference between a man who spent 7 years in a POW camp being brutally tortured and one who spent 3 months of a one year tour before pulling strings to come home early, then turned around and called his fellow soldiers war criminals. They simply don't understand how bad that looks to most people in the military.
It's like they're speaking a different language.
It occurs to me that a press corps with no military experience and no in house military experts is ill-equipped to spot fakery of the kind described above. Every profession has its frauds and charlatans, but it appears the press, with their intense pressure to produce on deadline, are more vulnerable than most to trickery like this and this.
But the most disturbing question of all is whether, in the propaganda war, the media are not institutionally biased against their own side? Over and over again we've seen journalists uncritically accept input from terrorists and insurgents while passing up easily verifiable stories provided by government stories as propaganda. Media apologists like Slate's John Dickerson disingenuously insist they "can't find" the good news about Iraq and Afghanistan: the bombs are too loud. Yet embedded reporters and military correspondents churn out this good news daily and offer it on the CENTCOM site. The Marine Corps web site serves up daily news free for the taking.
Posted by Cassandra at August 7, 2006 05:50 AM
My name is Spc. Patrick Ziegler and I am with U.S. Central Command Public Affairs. I would like to offer your readers an additional source of information. The U.S. CENTCOM website, ( www.centcom.mil ) is a good source of information from Iraq, Afghanistan and other places within the Central Command Area of Responsibility. If you look under the Newsroom tab you will find news stories and press releases. The website chronicles the day to day events in the A.O.R., much of this information is never picked up by the media. I hope you find this information useful.
Posted by: Spc. Patrick Ziegler at August 7, 2006 09:10 AM
Are you Googling CENTCOM again Spc? Get back to work!
Try putting this one out there:
If that doesn't make you stand up and cheer then you have no patriotic bone in your body! The LTC musta' been a Marine in a former life! ;-)
What else does this bring to mind Cassie? Remember Sites? Context? Now extrapolate it all to the "video evidence" being used against our young Marines in the Haditha incident. Our enemies are masters at creating fake video, news bits, and sound bytes.
Reminds me of a story that Da Grunt told me about an asshat during Fallujah April04. Seems this woe-be-gone "citizen" was wailing and dragging around what was purported to be a piece of an "American" rocket. The poor guy was just simply distraught over the deaths of "civilians". He could not be consoled his grief was so great. Distraught I tell you! Then Da Grunt's squad arrested the guy and hauled him off. Great TV. Problem was the asshat was on the most wanted list, was Syrian - not Iraqi, and he was pulling around a sheet of tin painted to look like an American rocket part. Complete with a US star and everything. The guy had hours earlier planted an IED witnessed by another platoon but had "faded" into the crowd. This made every news org. out there as a pitiful example of Marines targetting "civilians" and the brutality of arresting an "Iraqi civilian" whose only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time when the scared, unnerved 20 something Marines lost it. To this day the media continues to use those stills and video.
The sheeple in this country and their ignorant representatives in the media can't even tell the difference between a Syrian, Iranian, Iraqi, et al. Yet a young Marine can tell you from 100 yards away. A young man or woman not long out of high school. Coincidence? Yeah right. Unbiased media my ass! And you've gotta' love all that out of context 30 second video clips.
I'm still "feeling" shaken by the heartwrenching gut-check Sites had trying make up his mind whether to release the video that won him the Pulitzer. I "felt" so badly for him. Imagine the sheer "pain" he must of been going through agonizing over whether to throw a young Marine Grunt under the bus.
Distraught I tell you!
Posted by: JustADad at August 7, 2006 09:51 AM
Who are ya gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?
Posted by: Unkawill at August 7, 2006 11:31 AM
Thanks to the myriad of editing tools available now, and situations like those described above, one can't really believe one's eyes anymore.
Posted by: April at August 7, 2006 03:44 PM