Ghosts in the Media Machine

Bloggers—and to a much lesser extent some media outlets—have paid
considerable attention to specific examples of media manipulation in
the war being fought between Hezbollah and the IDF in Lebanon and
Israel, but we seem be under-covering the overall framing of the
media's coverage, particularly when it comes to the subject matter
chosen for coverage.

This comes into sharp relief when contrasted against the coverage
we've become used to from the war in Iraq, particularly as it relates
to the media coverage allowed and provided by two different
insurgencies in Lebanon's Hezbollah and Iraq's predominately Sunni

In Iraq, we’ve become somewhat used to embedded reporters reporting
from both sides of the conflict with a fairly wide latitude to operate.
Stringers, both print media and photographers, have occasionally
embedded within the insurgency, providing coverage from ambushes and
sniper's nests alike. The insurgents themselves often seem to be media
hungry, filming operations themselves and often releasing the tapes to
the media or producing them on DVDs for public consumption in Iraq and
throughout the Middle East.

By and large, the vast majority of video reporting allowed and
encouraged by the Iraqi insurgency is combat-related. IED ambushes are
particularly popular, often released as montages set to Islamist music
as propaganda videos. The Iraqi insurgents have often seemed intent on
portraying themselves as rebel forces actively waging a war for the
people, whether or not the people would always agree.

Hezbollah, however, seems to be fighting a different kind of media war.

Hezbollah has far more control over their battlespace than does the
Iraqi insurgency, and has a much tighter rein on the media reporting
coming out of Lebanon. Mainstream media outlets have let this be know
albeit comparatively quietly, as I mentioned in the comments of
Jefferson Morely's Washington Post blog entry, The Qana Conspiracy Theory:

Anderson Cooper has already admitted that his crew has been handled by
Hezbollah media minders, and CNN's Nic Robertson has openly admitted
his coverage on July 18 was stage-managed by Hezbollah from start to
finish. Times' Christopher Allbritton has said that Hezbollah has
copies of every journalist's passport, and has "hassled many and
threatened one" to cover-up what journalists have seen of Hezbollah's
rocket launching operations. CBS's Elizabeth Palmer admits to being
handled by Hezbollah, and being allowed to only see what Hezbollah
wants them to see. They are the voices of a few, expressing the
experiences of the many.

Israel Insider
chronicled these disturbing examples of media control, but the media at
large has been loath to make the level of Hezbollah "minding" over
their reporting widely known.

With this control and the apparent complicity of many media
stringers both Arab and western, Hezbollah has chosen to fight a
completely different kind of media war than they one we have seen in
Iraq. A review of the Yahoo! photostreams (compilations of various
media photographers' work released throughout the day) coming out of Iraq and Lebanon
paint two very different pictures. While the Iraqi insurgency often
sought to crave media attention (especially when it was more active as
an insurgency in 2004 and 2005, as opposed to today's more conflict
between Sunni and Shiiite Iraqis), Hezbollah’s tightly-controlled media
war seeks to portray Hezbollah itself as something of a ghost.

Scan the photos coming out of Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon, and
you'll see and unending stream of dramatic photos of dead women and
children and anguished rescue workers climbing through the remains of
bombed-out residential buildings, and you will see heart-rending photos
of toys in the rubble. You will see mourning. You will see pain. You
will see a civilian infrastructure in tatters.

What you will not see, except in very rare cases, is Hezbollah.

The "Party of God," well-known for their parades of armed masked men
in the past, have vanished into the ether. You will see no Hezbollah
fighters brandishing their weapons with bravado. You will see no photos
of Hezbollah’s rocket launchers or rockets prepared to fire upon
Israel’s civilian population. You will see no photographs of shattered
launchers or weapons caches or even fighting aged men amid the rubble.
The media itself quietly reports that anyone who does take such
pictures may be killed, though you wouldn’t know it from the amount of
attention that disturbing detail has received in the press.

Hezbollah is fighting the Victim's War, hiding behind civilians that
they set up as targeted pawns by firing rockets from inside Lebanon's
villages, cites, and towns, from outside apartment buildings, hospitals
and schools in residential neighborhoods.

It is a war of cowards, largely covered by sympathetic Arab Muslim
stringers and their Hezbollah minders who determine what can and what
cannot be reported; a war in which the "professional" media is all too

Cross-posted at Confederate Yankee.