August 09, 2006

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 insurgency.

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 complicit.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at August 9, 2006 09:10 AM | TrackBack

CY- your are right on. Keep up the good work. Your blog is now on my daily list. Thanks.

Posted by: Evinx at August 9, 2006 10:48 AM

The fact that your reporting is 'managed' by someone outside the organization is one of the most essential aspects of the actual reporting. A disclaimer should be required just as if your wife was a subject of the story - the reporter has a bias, to stay alive, that impacts the story. That seems like a source of bias just as strong as when writing about one's wife.

Good work on this CY! keep the pressure on. Reporting should be free, and when it can't be everyone seeing the piece should know what made it possible - complicity with terrorists.

Posted by: Sweetie at August 9, 2006 04:57 PM

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

I think you are right.

However, the following may be an exception.

Aljazeera Flying Object downed by Hezbollah missile

In mid-July, Aljazeera caught on tape something falling out of the sky over Beruit. It seemed to be spontaneous and not staged. The second part of the video clip shows the fallen object on the ground in some brush next to what looks like a service station.

The interesting part is the group of 5 man who appear to be working as a team. They are in the Aljazeera video clip. All are in civilian clothes and are men of fighting age.

Whether or not they are Hezbollah combattants, or supporters, I cannot say with certainty. But take a closer look and tell me what you see.

* * *

1. A bearded man in a dark vest appears next to the downed object which looks like a fuselage (a large pipe-shapped object) with a blast hole in it.

2. Alongside him, a barefooted man in shorts and white undershirt seems to be inspecting the object and acts as if he knows the other men in the group.

3. A balding man, with moustache, also comes down to the object. He makes a call on his cell phone while the other two men move away.

4. A young man carrying a blue vest and a blue helmet appears behind the moustached man. He moves to one side and we can see that he is led by the barefooted man to a place several yards behind the object, and away from the Aljazeera camera. The two stand behind what looks like a fence; they don't appear to be inspecting the object. They look like they moved away to talk.

Meanwhile the Aljazeera camera kept rolling. Then there is a jump cut. The young man reappears and walks past the camera and up some steps toward a vehicle. Close behind the barefooted man follows. The young man passes the man in the dark vest and the moustached man.

5. A man with a small video camera is at the vehicle's driverside. He is smoking a cigarette and talking across the roof of the car.

Beside him, at the passenger door, the young man is quiet but appears to be involved the object of the conversation. The barefooted man has followed them to the vehicle; he moves around the rear to the other side and appears to gesture toward the young man. That seems to have settled the discussion. The video man finishes his cigarette and appears to get into the car. The young man, too. The camera shows that they had been in conference with the moustached man with the cell phone.

My impression is that the barefooted man was "senior" to the young man. It looked to me that he had taken the young man aside to talk about something; then at the car he seemed to give permission, or reassurances, that it was okay for the young man to go with the other men in the car. The young man did not appear to do much talking but expected to go along.

His blue vest and blue helment were UN-blue but I did not see any UN markings.

The vested man and the barefooted man both appeared to be familiar with the fallen object. That is, they seemed to size it up pretty quickly. That's my impression from the body language. Also, in tandem, they seemed to direct the Aljazeera cameraman to the blast hole in the side of the object. They did not seem to be concerned about any danger -- explosives or whatever. The object did not appear to be on fire or hot to the touch.

The moustached man and the video man looked like a pair in that the video man was driving the car that he was getting into. Possibly they were with Aljazeera. Maybe scouts? The first part of the video spotted the object as it fell. But the latter part of the clip was at the site where the object landed.

The vested man seemed to move away and I don't think I saw him in the video clip after his first appearance. The young man and the barefooted man appear like a pair. It is possible that the young man hitched a ride to wherever the moustached man's car was heading; or maybe they agreed to drop him someplace.

It is uncertain, but this video clip seems to show three elements working together.

First, the Aljazeera cameraman put the team on video. Second, the moustached man was accompanied by the video man who looked like the driver of their vehicle. Third, the young man joined them after being instructed by the barefooted man.

Speculation: Could be pretty innocent. The barefooted man called-in the location of the fallen object. The moustached man got to it with his Aljazeera cameraman. His driver carried an additional video camera. The young man may have been an "emergency worker" of some sort. The barefooted man did not look like he was dressed for running around so maybe he got the young man a ride instead of taking the time to get dressed to drive him himself.

On the other hand ...

Posted by: F. Rottles at August 10, 2006 01:31 AM

Re: UN blue vest and helmet sans markings?

Not all countrys involved with the UN have markings.


Posted by: Dave at August 10, 2006 06:14 AM

Hezzbollah media control! Aided no doubt by all those Arab-Americans I see shaking hands at the Academy Awards!

Or maybe the Arab-American spy on the submarine?

If there are credible charges to be made, these ain't them.

Posted by: skip at August 10, 2006 07:55 AM

The video shows dark piling clouds of smoke not unlike what would be produced above a burning tire dump or from a source of rubber/oil.

The second part of the video shows the site of the pipe-shaped object with no smoke cloud and only a very small patch of flames. The flames are easy to miss. The nearby vegetation did not look burned or even singed. There are neatly stacked tiles right beside it. If it dropped where the camera filmed it, this object fell pretty harmlessly.

At the end of the video clip, the camera follows the men to their vehicle and the cloud of smoke can be see in the distance.

The pipe-shaped object appears to have fallen a mile or so from the place that caused the dark clouds of smoke.

Posted by: F. Rottles at August 10, 2006 09:10 AM

Last night the same thought struck me. We have seen no pictures titled "Hizballah fighters fire katusha rockets at Israel" or "Hizballah fighters killed by Israeli bombs."

Its all been dead children and crying civilians. The MSM is being used to carry enemy propganda, and they don't care.

Posted by: monkeyboy at August 10, 2006 09:42 AM
Hezzbollah media control

Yeah, Hezbollah does control the media in Southern Lebanon. If you're a reporter and you've got Mohammed Al-Jihadi, the local Hezbollah morale officer standing behind your shoulder holding an AK, the message is pretty clear. We've already seen CNN's reporters intimidated into one-sided coverage; they later even admitted it.

Posted by: Jordan at August 10, 2006 02:58 PM