Brian C. Ledbetter

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At 3:30 yesterday afternoon, CNN's Rick Sanchez described in exquisite detail how fair and balanced his network has been behaving during the 2008 Presidential election. Specifically, Rick pointed out that:

For the record, CNN has aired 22 reports from Alaska about Sarah Palin. We've aired 54 reports from Chicago about Obama, his minister, and other stories.

See? Contrary to our neanderthal conservative beliefs, CNN has been tougher on Obama than it has during its "vetting" of Republican VP Sarah Palin.

Of course, I think Rick might have left out a slight detail or two in his accounting of CNN's fairness.... (and you'll have to keep on reading to find out what it is!)

The Associated Press has issued a legal threat to left-leaning news and commentary site The Drudge Retort on Thursday, claiming copyright infringement in a series of articles. One example of infringement provided by site operator Rogers Cadenhead consisted of a 57-word citation, taken from a 442-word article—A small fraction of the entire article, and certainly not any more than is necessary to pique the reader's interest in clicking over to the main AP article. I ran into similar problems with the AP way back in March, so I can definitely empathize with Cadenhead's situation.

I do find it interesting, however, to see that a certain and unnamed large newspaper has taken immediate interest in the Drudge Retort's case.

Back in January, I reported on a particularly odd funeral over in the Palestinian territories of a 10-year-old girl named Abir Aramin, who was supposedly killed by the Israeli Defence Forces at an "anti-barrier" protest. Figure 1: Bassam Aramin, Jan. 20, 2007. Imagine my surprise, then, to learn from freelance journalist Hélène Keller-Lind over the weekend (en Anglais for we non-Francophiles) that this poor girl's father has been shamelessly using her death as an anti-Israeli prop, during a "neutral" peace conference hosted by the Shimon Peres Centre for Peace. The first sign of trouble was the fact that the event was scheduled on the 40-year anniversary of the Six Day War. For such a date to escape the notice of the "peace movement" by accident seems unlikely, so one is left to wonder whether the event organizers were trying purposefully to single out Israel for scorn by picking such a controversial date. The Al Quds Association for Democracy and Dialogue, in fact, confirmed that as far as they were concerned, the date was selected for that very reason! Which brings us back to Bassam Aramin, the father in question, who just happens to be associated with the Al-Quds group.

Ye Good Olde Days?... long live citizen journalism! I ran across this article from the Guardian last week on Lightstalkers, and didn't really get a chance to sit down and read it through until this morning. Is photography really dead? Andrew Brown, an accomplished English journalist in his own right, says it is. He points to the ease-of-use of modern photographic equipment, and lamenting the fact that it is "so easy" for the Everyman to take a photograph now, claims that the overall quality of pictorial stock is in decline. In some ways, Andrew seems to be on the right track. It is infinitely easier to take a photograph today than it was, say, 50 years ago. The equipment necessary to take high-quality photographs even through the 1970s was cumbersome, difficult to use, and required a great attention to detail in order to get a professional picture. Of course, the Polaroid camera existed back then for the amateurs, so it's not like "easy to use" is really all that new.

When in doubt, blame Israel.When a lie makes it into print once, it's happenstance. A mere accident, no doubt, due to a lapse of judgment in editing the news feed. What, then, is it called when a lie is repeated countless times without apology? Apparently, it's called "business as usual" for the media. Whenever a funeral is presented by photographers embedded in the Palestinian territories, we're faced with dozens of photographs of crowds of weeping, screaming, shouting people parading around in the streets. We're also inevitably presented with a caption describing how the Israeli occupiers are responsible for the deaths, and how Israel is pouring out suffering all over the innocent, helpless Palestinian people. While these photos always make for a powerful statement, and are picked up by news organizations worldwide for their raw emotional appeal, the information presented along with them isn't always what it appears at first glance to be.

Are these the tears of a crocodile?Last Friday, I was shocked to see a series of photographs on the news wires, sent across by Reuters photographer Kevin Frayer, one of the photographers of Qana fame. The pictures illustrated a picture of a large crowd, grieving the death of a ten-year-old Palestinian girl, Abir Aramin, who was reported to have been injured by a stray rubber bullet fired by none other than the Israeli Defence Forces, and whose subsequent death has "enraged" the local Palestinian population.

There were some immediate problems with Mr. Frayer's depiction of these events, though. First and foremost, as someone who is constantly monitoring the news wires, I can comfortably say that there are no pictures on the wire of any anti-barrier protest at Anata during this time, and certainly no pictures of what would be a very injured girl. Furthermore, there are no photos of her in the hospital, a scenario that would obviously be very sympathetic, something which would attract every photographer in the area!

In other words, there is no photographic evidence that the Palestinian version of this story happened at all!

So what did happen?

This photo, made famous by its incorrect caption, has finally been explained!Early on in the recent Israel/Lebanon war, there was a photograph published by both U.S. News and World Report and Time Magazine, which according to captions published with the picture was of a burning Israeli jet, shot down by Hezbullah missiles. The blogosphere was quick to dispute the picture in question, and the widely-circulated story was that the photograph was actually that of a tire dump.

Well, it seems that the photographer responsible for taking the photograph, Bruno Stevens, has finally sounded off on Lightstalkers (the professional photographer's forum), explaining the photograph and telling the true story of how things ended up the way they did. He also notes that the site was not a tire dump, but was rather an old Lebanese Army base that had either been hit by an Israeli jet, or by a misfired Hezbullah rocket (both possibilites he appears to have recounted in his original captions). The key point that Bruno makes is that, while he sent in a fairly balanced caption to accompany the photograph, the wire services rewrote the caption completely, changing the pertinent facts surrounding the story. Where have we heard that before?

Bruno's story is available in full at Lightstalkers, and I recommend checking it out, even though it is mostly written as a response to someone who has been alleging that he was somehow covering up a civilian massacre or other indiscriminate act by the Israeli Air Force.

Photographer Emilio Morenatti, 37, of the Associated Press, was taken captive in the Gaza Strip this morning. No word from the captors yet, but my prayers are with Emilio and his family for his safe return! According to the captions on the photo wires, Emilio was accosted as he was leaving his apartment for an Associated Press vehicle, and was forced into the captors' vehicle. I'll fill in with more details as they come in. Hajed Hamdan, the AP driver assigned to pick up Emilio, was confronted by the captors, who stole his phone and keys, and instructed him at gunpoint to turn away.

The Brussels Journal reported today (via FreeRepublic) that the third day of rioting in the Marollen district of Brussels commenced today, events which were sparked by the apparent murder of a Moroccan prisoner in a Brussels prison. What makes this story unusual is that so far, there has only been one report issued across the newswires (by Reuters) covering the events, and even though the rioting is entering its third day, not a single photographer has been dispatched to document the activities of the Muslim mob.

It was da JOOS!What do you get when you ask the Syrian puppet-President of Lebanon what the cause of the recent "conflict" between Hezbullah and Israel was? Well, apparently, it was "da joos!" I should've known! Notice that Emile choses to use one of the the disputed Qana photographs (possibly even one by disgraced photographer Adnan Hajj) to illustrate his point. I'm sure he won't be getting many questions from the world's laughingstock for bringing that up! From Emile's speech, which you can read here, we learn that Hezbullah is blameless in the recent conflict, as Zionist oppression is the sole cause of every conflict in the world. Thanks for the wisdom there, Emile.

This is damage, too.Well, finally. Nearly a month after the conflict between Israel and Hezbullah has ended, the news wires finally give us some glimpses of some of the distruction caused by Hezbullah's unguided, ball-brearing-filled rockets. Too little, too late, guys. If you genuinely wanted to be fair, you would've sent these photos over the wires a month ago. We're also learning from these captions that Amnesty International has suggested that Hezbullah may have committed war crimes by targeting civilians deliberately. Hello? Any mention of their hiding behind civilians would be nice. This report, of course, makes no mention of anything of the sort, even though Amnesty has previously said they would investigate the use of the population of South Lebanon as human shields.

YES, MR. BALLAS, I CALLED YOU A COWARD!Once again, here's a dramatic picture of our press, embedded with the enemy as usual. Notice, however, how many "innocent civilians" this man is surrounding himself with, while firing at Israeli troops. The Israelis, of course, will not fire back, as the likelihood of them hitting any number of people behind this coward is too high. Our cowardly photojournalist, of course, reports the official terrorist line:—11 "unarmed" Palestinians were injured. (Note: Content has been re-written now that I've cooled off some.)

Just like the UNMuch like the UN's credibility, this cluster bomb seems to be hanging by a thread. But, for starters, is it really likely that it landed there by itself? Or is it more likely that someone identified it as a dud and hung it from a tree? And secondly, how's this for moral equivalence: Is there ANY distinction between Israel "raining down cluster bombs when a cease-fire was in sight," and Hezbullah "firing rockets at Haifa AFTER THE CEASE-FIRE WENT INTO EFFECT?" Why is one REGULARLY condemned in articles written by the dhimmis in Europe, and one REGULARLY ignored? Jan Egeland, who according to the caption accompanying this picture, is shocked and appalled at Israel's "completely immoral" behavior. strike this...[Jan presumably has no problem whatsoever with terrorists hiding behind civilians, as he has yet to utter a single word condemning that behavior]... (Correction: As pointed out by reader "truth squad," Jan Egeland has in fact condemned that behavior:
But a day after criticizing Israel for "disproportionate" strikes against civilians, U.N. humanitarian chief Jan Egeland accused Hezbollah of "cowardly blending" among Lebanese civilians.
Thanks for pointing that out, TS. Sorry for the mistake on my part!) Figures. Cross-posted over at Snapped Shot. While you're waiting for the press to cover events in the middle east fairly, you might try seeing if you can find Li'l Kim.

Mike Hornbrook, a CBC journalist on the ground in Lebanon, has popped in over at Snapped Shot, and informs us that from on the ground in Lebanon, that there are no indications that Hezbullah is handing out counterfeit money:
With all respect to bloggers who sometimes discover things missed by mainstream media, this story about Hezbollah handing out counterfeit $100 bills is completely insane! Unlike any of them, I am on the ground in Beirut reporting for CBC News and have checked it out. We could not find a single person complaining about phony money. Furthermore, the very idea shows a profound ignorance of Lebanon and Hezbollah. Lebanon is a major banking center, every bank has counterfeit scanners and other tools for detecting counterfeits. Not just the banks either, every money-changer and supermarket also has a scanner next to the cash register. From personal experience I can tell you they check out $100 USD bills very very carefully, phonies would be detected in an instant. This would bring outraged complaints from people in desperate circumstances that would be a huge embarassment to Hezbollah. No such scandal has emerged because the phony money story is itself phony. The people circulating the story are doing it for their own reasons, but as a journalist I can tell you they are absolutely, totally wrong.
Details are still brewing over at Snapped Shot!

In this photograph, we're told that Iranian President Ahadmadinejad inists that, "Iran is no threat to Israel." No threat to Israel? That's a relief. I could've sworn that the Prez didn't like those evil Zionists. In fact, I could've sworn he said,

[E]stablishment of the Zionist regime was a move by the world hegemonic system and arrogant powers against the world of Islam... Ahmadinejad pointed to the meeting dubbed "A World Without Zionism" and criticized those sowing the seed of disappointment in materializing such a goal and attempting to undermine the world of Islam.

So, would a world without Zionism include Israel?

He added that a world without the US and Israel would be possible.

Ahh, I see. So in other words, Iran is a threat to Israel! (As a side note, did'ya notice how respectful his photograph is?)

It seems that the Lebanese army is starting to inspect and neutralize all of the unexploded artillery and other ordinance that Shamnesty is so worried about. This photograph is rather odd, though.

Amnesty International seems to have missed the obvious. And, in other news, the sun rose in the East today.

Wow! It would seem that our original story is taking off in more directions than we'd ever imagined! For starting with a mere, "Hezbullah has been known for counterfeiting," and seeing the context of the discussion evolve into such a detailed analysis of the photographic evidence is awe-inspiring, to say the least. Once again, this proves to me that investigative journalism isn't dead:—it lives on in cyberspace, even if it's been dead in the mainstream media for a decade.

Let's be clear: The press does not want you to think about current events. They want you to "feel" them. By doing so, they control your entire thought process on what you're reading, and what you're seeing. This series of photographs, to me, is one of the basest examples of propaganda I've ever seen. There's no logical reason for a photograph like this—it contains no information, but merely reduces the entire argument over the war to base emotions. And, as we all have learned over time, information transmitted by raw emotion can only be referred to as one word:—Propaganda! Check out some of the latest examples of raw, context-free emotion. If anyone can come up with a reasonable explanation for this kind of photograph, that excludes the possibility of the wires merely distributing propaganda, please be sure to let me know or leave a comment!

Caption:... Hezbollah members began distributing US$12,000 in crisp cash bills Friday to those who lost their homes in the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla) Now that Hezbullah has suddenly morphed into a philanthropic organization, we learn from this photograph that they are distributing approximately US$12,000 to the needy in areas destroyed by Israel. Of course, what is our intrepid photographer obviously not curious enough to know? Well, that Hezbullah has already been dinged for counterfeiting U.S. currency:
One of the most prominent and influential members of the Hizballah terrorist organization, along with two of his companies, was designated by the Treasury Department today under Executive Order 13224. Assad Ahmad Barakat has close ties with Hizballah leadership and has worked closely with numerous Islamic extremists and suspected Hizballah associates in South America's tri-border area (TBA), made up of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. . . .
Once again, it's left to the Blogosphere to ask the questions the media isn't interested in asking. UPDATE 11:59 EST: I've collected some photographs of what's proving to be the world's newest charity. They are quite amusing. UPDATE 13:35 EST: Ok, just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, we're now being introduced to Hezbullah Engineering, presumably the only company in the world that can deal with those nasty Zionist craters. The transparency of the anti-American, anti-Israeli press is really starting to shine. UPDATE 19-AUG-2006 11:50 EST: MechEng has pointed out that $100 bills should have a security seal embedded in them roughly where the Treasury seal is on the front, yet on the wires, we see the silhouette of a bill that does not appear to have such a thread. While not 100% conclusive, I'd say it definitely raises the possibility that these are, quote, "Phonier than a New York politician!"