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Doctor, Doctor, Give Me the News...

Dude needs a course in Photoshop. That sucks.
So, the air still has not cleared in the wake of a decision by Reuters to publish an obviously doctored photo by photographer Adnan Hajj of columns of smoke rising from a Beirut suburb following an Israeli air strike. Presumably, the photo was altered to enhance its dramatic impact. But it seems the Right are the real drama queens in all this.

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Reuters Global Picture Editor Tom Szlukovenyi said, "There is no graver breach of Reuters standards for our photographers than the deliberate manipulation of an image."

Notice that Reuters piece conveniently omits the photos in question. CNN has a before-and-after comparison of the image and some commentary here:

I'm surprised at the piss-poor quality of the doctored photo. Even in their minimized images, the difference is obvious. I hate to say it, but couldn't they have done a better doctoring job?

Now, what analysis would be complete without input from the likes of Michelle Malkin and Rush Limbaugh? Quoth El Rushbo, "Reuters ought to be investigated. They should investigate themselves...The second doctored photo is a 'doozy'...Once again, as in the Dan Rather case, it was the blogosphere that brought this to light...It's devastating, folks...this is the tip of the iceberg, not just Reuters..."

The pronouncement at Little Green Footballs is, "It's so incredibly obvious, it reminds me of the faked CBS memos." Little Green Footballs actually does a nice job of providing detail on the fauxtography, as they call it, referred to above and some of Adnan Hajj's other work. Check it out.

Our right-wing friends are every bit right to call out media outlets for publishing doctored photographs. Presentation of doctored works as images intended to be taken at face value within a context of factual news reporting is bullshit, no matter the news source or the news source's real or perceived political leanings.

However, some of our right-wing friends seem to want to promote the idea that it is only the "left-wing" media outlets that engage in image manipulation.

Marc at USS Neverdock.com stated that, "We now have video proof that the images coming out of Lebanon have been staged..." This statement suggests that all photos coming from the conflict are staged, which I find to be about as disingenuous as the doctored photos themselves. Are ALL of the photos and video footage of the conflict staged?

Marc also made sweeping generalizations about the (left-wing, as he calls it) media. Again, he is correct to call on specific offenders for their misdeeds, but he seems to suggest that all media outlets are equally guilty (except the LAT, in this case), which is equally disingenuous.

All of these right-wing commentators suggest, by ignoring examples of image manipulation by the Right, that this phenomenon of doctoring scenes for perceived political gain is unique to the Left. Of course, this is hardly the case.

In an effort to influence the Connecticut Democratic primary election, Fox News all but announced that Lamont's defeat of Lieberman would result in another 9/11. Fox News ran a piece on the election with a caption that read, "A Lamont Win, Bad News for Democracy in Mideast?" If that isn't lopsided propaganda "reporting," then I don't know what is. Media Matters has a clip and some analysis.

During the 2004 presidential campaign, President Bush held a number of widely publicized "townhall" meetings throughout the country. However, the only people allowed to attend these "townhall" meetings were pre-screened registered Republicans. Obviously, there's nothing wrong with the President holding a rally with his supporters, but these rallies were presented to the public as "townhall" meetings, when they were actually anything but, as half of the "town" was not allowed to participate. Most of the same media outlets that the Right accuses of left-leaning bias never disclosed this important facet of the Bush's "townhall" meetings, thus viewers saw artificially supportive crowds in attendance.

Presenting meetings with pre-screened audiences, members of which sometimes engaged in scripted dialogue with the president, to the American public as examples of legitimate interaction between the president and the average American didn't stop on Election Day, 2004. On a visit to Memphis last year on a "presidential roadshow" stop in support of a proposed Social Security overhaul, apparently the boy-king was greeted like The King. "He was greeted like Elvis -- adoring fans hooting and hollering, and hanging on his every word," reported Jim VandeHei and Peter Baker in the Washington Post. Again, it is fine for the President to rally his supporters, but to sell it as a "conversation" with the general public is nothing short of a falsehood.

As you can see, the Right has engaged in plenty of image manipulation itself. The right-leaning websites featured above managed to omit such details from their reports of image manipulation. Could it be that they are far less interested in acting as legitimate media watchdogs and far more interested in propagating the myths that the mainstream media is both inherently dishonest and in the hands of left-wing fanatics, and that only such dishonest fanatics would manipulate images for political purposes?

Now, as to why certain (perceived left-leaning) media outlets would run doctored photos or enhanced video or whatever, I can offer two possible explanations:

1) Perhaps, as Marc at USS Neverdock suggested, they are engaging in propaganda dissemination to support specific, presumably anti-Bush, political views. The only problem I have with this explanation is that all major media outlets in America are parts of larger corporate entities, or otherwise rely on advertising dollars supplied by other corporate entities, that benefit from the Bush Administration's pro-business policies. So, it doesn't make much sense that they would deliberately bite the hand that feeds them.

2) News outlets compete with one another for subscription and/or advertising dollars. The media outlets that provide the most dramatic stories, photos, videos, etc., attract the most readers/listeners/viewers and, therefore command the most dollars. Isn't that what this is all really about - dollars? The irony here is that these news outlets, which are businesses, first and foremost, are engaged in cut-throat competition, something usually championed by the Right. Would the right support regulations on image manipulation; that is, regulations on business? If so, would they want the regulations enforced equally with respect to perceived right- or left-wing bias? (Watch out for that pesky First Amendment!)

The scary thing, whether your politics are left, right, or center, is that image-altering software is only going to get better and individuals will only get better at creating the images that they want to convey; real, phony, or someplace in between. It will become increasingly difficult in years ahead to take news reports and images at face value. This doesn't bode well for the presentation of video/photographic evidence in courtrooms either...

Repeat after me:

If it bleeds, it leads!

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