Palestine: the snappers snapped…

David Vance has caught an interesting piece of photo journalism which illustrates very well how the net can capture multiple layers of reality, by giving extra context to apparently simple narrative. Not sure how popular the snapper featured is now with his media colleagues.

  • Napper

    The staged photo in no way diminishes the plight of the female subject. Or her collective Palestinian family for that matter.

  • James

    Paddy Chayevsky was right. No soothsayers yet, though.

    I cherish two instances of manufactured news.

    During the Reagan Administration Clarence Thomas had the job in the civil rights bureaucracy which was later made famous by Anita Hill’s Long Dong Silver testimony. Thomas was framed with a crowd of other Reaganite players in front of the Lincoln Memorial, a fitting backdrop for a rally on civil rights, even if a Reagan-style one. The three networks shot it tight, using a telephoto lens to frame just Thomas and the group. The coverage I saw from a Maryland affiliate used a shorter focal length lens that portrayed a rally of no more than five guys in suits in front of a microphone and an army of media cameramen which outnumbered the Reaganites three or four to one on the vast expanse of the steps leading up to the monument. They could have held the rally in an elevator.

    The embedded press pulled the same tight-focus trick when we pulled the Saddam stature down during that spontaneous demonstration that US Army PSYOPs choreographed. There might have been fifty people in that square with maybe a hundred more on the surrounding grounds.

    Someone must be playing it straight but I don’t know who. At best, our media are housebroken, passive aggressive flacks, little more than Bush administration stenographers.

  • Mick Fealty

    It’s hard to know. Perhaps this photo is simply a dissenting device to make the original look fake. However, it says more about the dominance of the visual in press reporting than the rights or wrongs of a particular cause.

    It’s not new though. I remember a Clarke Gable film from the thirties (I think) in which he played a cameraman who would use any artifice to get the most spectacular shots during the Japanese invasion of China.

    Television’s insatiable hunger for good visuals mean that cameramen will always be tempted to bend the truth to fit the producer/editor’s appetite for impactful photo ops.

    The problem is not simply journalistic artifice, but the fact that in the imagination of the audience the story often ends with the image and the wider and more complex context is lost.

  • Davros

    Mick- agreed about the media. Drop The Dead Donkey was wonderful in that respect. Plenty of stories from NI that Journalists would pay kids to start riots on a quiet evening to be able to send some good footage home.

  • ShayPaul

    Sorry,

    but are we looking at the same photo ?

    Nothing to say it is staged, l can also read it more like a hoard of photographers descending on a subject.

    I’m afraid David is reading what he wants to read into it, and you guys are following his lead, look at it again.

    Certainly not world shaking stuff, an interesting perspective on photojournalism at best.

  • ShayPaul

    Davros

    The mind boggles, have you a lifetime subscription to the brothers Grimm ?

    Your last post makes it sound like the last 40 years never happened, just a figment of some generous foreign correspondents imagination.

  • Davros

    Shay, I answered a specific point made by Mick.
    Did you ever see Drop The Dead Donkey ?

  • Mick Fealty

    Shay, DV has come to a conclusion that confirms his own worldview on Palestine. There’s nothing in the picture that actually confirms what he’s arguing, but the second angle introduces an ambiguity that’s not there in the first. Presumably you’d need a third source to confirm what either party claims represents the ‘truth’ in this case.

    The Media Unit at the University of Glasgow published a study earlier this year looking at the level of understanding amongst UK audiences of the background issues within the Israeli Palestinian conflict. They found very low levels of appreciation. As I recall they blamed 24 hour television news and its reliance on image and events to ‘sell a story’, rather than depth coverage.

    “TV news says almost nothing about the history or origins of the conflict. The great majority of viewers depended on this news as their main source of information. The gaps in their knowledge closely paralleled the ‘gaps’ in the news”.

    According to David Edwards and David Cromwell from Media Lens in the Guardian earlier this week, the problem of coverage of Iraq conflict is the ingrained bias towards the use of official in preference to unofficial sources, even as the mainstream press are claiming to be balanced in their coverage of what are complex conflicts:

    “Built in to the new concept of neutral, professional journalism were two major biases. First, the actions and opinions of official sources were understood to form the basis of legitimate news. As a result, news came to be dominated by mainstream political and business sources representing establishment interests. As the ITV News political editor, Nick Robinson, commented in relation to the Iraq war controversy: ‘It was my job to report what those in power were doing or thinking… That is all someone in my sort of job can do.’

    “Second, carrot-and-stick pressures from advertisers, business interests and political parties had the effect of steering journalists in the corporate media away from some issues and towards others. It is inherently implausible that newspapers or broadcasters which are dependent on corporate advertisers for revenue will focus too hard on the destructive impact of these same businesses, whether on public health, the developing world or the environment. The result is that what is regarded as neutral journalism today consistently promotes the views and interests of the powerful”.

    The same neutral journalism comes in for attack on the other side. The Honest Reporting site that David sourced the photographs through, gives a short list of what it views as the chiefest violations of media objectivity:

    “1 Misleading definitions and terminology.
    2 Imbalanced reporting.
    3 Opinions disguised as news.
    4 Lack of context.
    5 Selective omission.
    6 Using true facts to draw false conclusions.
    7 Distortion of facts”.

    1-4 are standard concerns for most journalists. Interestingly number 5, ‘selective omission’, is precisely what Edwards and Cromwell are complaining about. And number 4 ties them into a major finding of the Glasgow paper.

    Even so, on the specifics of the nature of this particular conflict the Glasgow and Media Lens analysis on one hand and that of HonestReporting on the other seem entirely antithetical to one another.

    Perhaps after all the form is at fault. The Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski, who spent most of his career reporting on the third world, “…realized that newspaper articles could not do justice to a complex political situation. He began to write books that used literary techniques to dissect rampages and revolutions—among them The Emperor, about the downfall of Ethiopian dictator Haile Selassie, and Shah of Shahs, about Iran”.

    The nearest we’ve had to that kind of committed detachment came with Frank Burton’s 1977’s sociological study of a small community in North Belfast over several months, “The Politics of Legitimacy”.

    Quick, dramatic photographs spread on the front pages of the world’s press may serve one side or the other in the short term, but for millions of seekers of the truth it can’t tell us anything we don’t already think we know!

  • ShayPaul

    Agreed Mick, felt I had to balance Davids spin on the photo.

    The power of the net, and the blog are that they place very powerful tools in the hands of “uncontrolled” and sometimes “anonymous” individuals.

    I have noticed on slugger how, over time, simply mastering the hyperlink option can be an extremely powerful debating tool. Introducing “credible” evidence to support or destroy a thesis. Davros for example is particularly apt at using it to change the subject when it gets too hot for him (no offence Davros).

    As we move on and information becomes so easily available the “source” becomes more and more the reference for credibility and not the information itself. Nothing new there you might reply, but the weight is shifting in favour of the source.

    The powers that be will continue their battle to control the “credible” sources – will “slugger” become such a source ? Better watch out for yourself Mick.

    People being what they are, search engines permit us to find all the evidence we need to prove what we already believe as you point out.

    The fine line between information and manipulation is becoming finer.

    Haven’t read “The politics of Legitimacy” thanks for the reference,

  • Davros

    None taken Shay- needless to say I don’t accept your claim.

  • Mick Fealty

    “The powers that be will continue their battle to control the “credible” sources – will “slugger” become such a source? Better watch out for yourself Mick”.

    It’s an interesting point Shay Paul. My view is that Slugger will remain credible so long as we put a wide and varied set of views in front of its audience. If done well, over time, it should make most of us feel uncomfortable at some time or another.

    Ultimately, the readership will decide whether it’s worth reading or not. I always imagined it might become vulnerable to outside manipulation were it to attract funds from elsewhere.

    That’s not happened so far – so Slugger and I remain untested in that department. But I think the site would devalue itself enormously were it to try to actively ‘will’ certain political outcomes, rather than (attempt at least) to mark significant change in Northern Ireland.

    In the meantime, I strive never to have the last word on any of the subjects raised here!

  • James

    You seem to have a little time on your hands, Mick. Just remember that sometime before they are five they will sleep through the night.

    “However, it says more about the dominance of the visual in press reporting than the rights or wrongs of a particular cause.”

    The Paddy Chayevsky reference was not solely pointed at Network. The quote that he is remembered for, albeit by few, is “Television is democracy at its ugliest”: a swarm of photographers covering a crying woman like dung beetles.

    “The Media Unit at the University of Glasgow published a study earlier this year looking at the level of understanding amongst UK audiences of the background issues within the Israeli Palestinian conflict”

    Likewise with the University of Maryland study I’ve mentioned frequently on Slugger. This is the study completed five months after Bush put the flight suit on and declared that the war was over. One in five of these rubes thought that Saddam gassed us on the way in. From there it got just plain nutty.

    The problem is recognized. It is studied and reported by academic institutions. None of it is making a dent.

    “problem of coverage of Iraq conflict is the ingrained bias towards the use of official in preference to unofficial sources,”

    Yeah, that’s what I meant about the stenographer crack. Again, it is recognized, studied and reported but it doesn’t mean squat with the public. Mention this to a member of the mainstream media and I will guarantee that sometime in the reply you will get to the killing the messenger scenario. Ain’t it ironic that the purveyors of reality are in denial?

    “Second, carrot-and-stick pressures from advertisers, business interests and political parties had the effect of steering journalists in the corporate media away from some issues and towards others”

    Tabloid news: Chayevsky’s revenge.

    We used to get at least 10 minutes of world news on the mainline media back in the days of Reagan. All the merging that the mainstream media had done has focused a management which lives by the whim of it’s stockholders on the fact that television is really ALL show business, right down to the anchor with the $200 haircut.

    The international news we get now through the US mainstream media is zip except for the stuff focused on American casualties in Iraq. I even understand that the Beeb is slithering toward the loo: It is the utter pits on cable over here.

    I don’t watch the news anymore unless it is Diretv’s international news channel (Canadian, Japanese, German). I read a couple online newspapers on each coast, CNN International and maybe two English language foreign dailies every morning. It blows about an hour.

    “In the meantime, I strive never to have the last word on any of the subjects raised here!”

    Are we working a beatification angle here?

    BTW, good reporting.

  • ShayPaul

    “In the meantime, I strive never to have the last word on any of the subjects raised here!”

    Paradoxically that sounded awfully like a last word statement.

    Getting back to the snappers :

    In my experience if you let them get on with it babies get used to sleeping overnight rather quickly. If you interfere with the process you only succeed in confusing them at best, or teaching them to manipulate at worst.

    Needless to say that none of my 3 managed to pass 6 “weeks” before sleeping all night. The hardest part was preventing my wife from destroying my management theories, thankfully she likes her sleep also.

    :o)

  • Davros

    Davros theory- the first week home is the important time. Not in respect of baby, but in respect of establishing which parent is better at feigning deafness and which one cracks first from the comfort of a warm bed as baby asserts dominance and pecking order is determined.

  • Henry94

    David Vance’s attempts to discredit photography at this crucial point in the peace process are a transparent attempt to undermine the unionist position. Clearly this Vance (if that is his real name) is part of the infamous Provo spin machine.

    I

  • Davros

    That made me laugh out loud 🙂

  • felix quigley

    I applaud Mick and David Vance for publishing this photograph.

    There are many others of a similar type which could be published and which show the staged nature of this so-called ´Palestinianism’ which actually began with Arafat’s PLO and previous to that by the notorious Nazi and ´Palestinian’ Haj Amin El Husseini, a criminal responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Jews in the Holocaust. The British who opposed the cause of Zionism gave him the honorary title of ‘Grand’ Mufti of Jerusalem. If new to this look this name up under Google.

    Mick, you write and I concur: ‘My view is that Slugger will remain credible so long as we put a wide and varied set of views in front of its audience. If done well, over time, it should make most of us feel uncomfortable at some time or another.

    Ultimately, the readership will decide whether it’s worth reading or not. I always imagined it might become vulnerable to outside manipulation were it to attract funds from elsewhere.

    That’s not happened so far – so Slugger and I remain untested in that department. But I think the site would devalue itself enormously were it to try to actively ‘will’ certain political outcomes, rather than (attempt at least) to mark significant change in Northern Ireland.’

    As far as I am concerned, and I am certain of this, only one side has been heard in Ireland. There is a lot of anti-Semitism in this country and the cause of Zionism, which is a noble cause, has been lied abouit by the neo-Left and by the nationalist or republican movements. I think it is time to set this straight and I will be publishing articles which I will invite Slugger to publish. Then perhaps a real debate can be opened up

  • fair_deal

    I’m afraid I don’t find this photograph at all shocking. It looks like the behaviour of photographers at any PR event.

    I can never quite fathom the almost automatic and total support for Israel among Unionists nor Irish republicans support for Palestine.

    I can see the appeal of a state that has the balls to do whatever it wants (relatively easy when the USA backs you) and the perception of common experience. However, some Israelis had no aversion to the use of terror prior to the establishment of the state (of which members of the Royal Ulster Rifles were victims). Even Wolfowitz is prepared to admit the suffering of Palestinians. Also considering the poor leadership the Palestinians have had over the years you’d think Unionists would have some empathy.

    While republicans can’t see the contradiction in their position of demanding unity here and claiming partition has failed but supporting a partitionist two-state solution in the Holy Lands.

  • willowfield

    supporting a partitionist two-state solution in the Holy Lands.

    between students and permanent residents?

  • fair_deal

    LOL

  • felix quigley

    Fair Deal has written: ‘However, some Israelis had no aversion to the use of terror prior to the establishment of the state (of which members of the Royal Ulster Rifles were victims). ‘

    This is the type of comment made with no apparent knowledge of history or context. Possible the reference is to the blowing up of the King David Hotel or some other action by Jewish fighters who were waging a legitimate war of liberation against Britain. The British have a history of anti-Semitism in the Middle East and they sided with the Arabs to try to sabotage the establishment of the Jewish state. They failed.

    The Jews were absolutely justified in attacking the British. The King David Hotel was the centre of British organisation and warning were given by the the Jewish combatants who planted the bomb. It was not terrorism, it was an act of war against an anti-Semitic enemy.

    Furthermore you do not address the Nazi roots behind the PLO, from Husseini to his disciple, Arafat, on through to the holocaust denier Abbas, present leader of Fatah. The silence of the rest on Slugger on Husseini only shows the need for debate in Ireland.

  • fair_deal

    Felix

    Sorry to disappoint you but I am well aware of the context. However, if you can’t see the contortions you have to make to say Palestinian terrorism is bad but Jewish terrorism was legitimate because of ‘context’ I can’t help you.

    I simply believe that if a community has used terrorism its moral authority to condemn another community for using the same means is limited.

  • felix quigley

    Fair Deal
    Was it terrorism? You say you know the context but yet give no evidence in what you write that you do.

    You could answer these questions.

    1. What was the relationship of the Arab movement with the Nazis in this period, the 1930s on through the war?

    2. Was the leader of the Arab movement against the Jews in the ME associated with the Nazis or not? I refer to Haj Amin El Husseini who the British had promoted in their campaign to defeat the Jews.

    Is this important to you or is it not?

    3. Did El Husseini, who had meetings with Hitler and top Nazis such as Eichmann, live on to found the PLO.

    4. Why did the Palestinian Arabs link up with the Nazis?

    I don’t need your help, I have studied this fairly exhaustively.

    You could help yourself by beginning to answer these questions.

    But good on you, at least you have enough democratic principle to reply. Remember the Jews from 1936 on were faced with a Nazi enemy in the Arab leaders, and were faced by anti-Semitic Britain. That surely colours the type of struggle which they fought which I claim was a struggle that can only be called anti-imperialist.

  • James

    Felix, god’ll getcha for that.

  • James

    Fair_Deal, god’ll getcha for that too.