The Ghost of Snapped Shot

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A silent ray of truth

Christopher Anderson, a photographer who has recently been in Lebanon, has posted a photo-essay of his best work in the region. One of the slides in his presentation, though, reveals a truth that we bloggers have been discussing for a while now (myself excluded, of course, since I'm a relative newcomer at this):—There is no "freedom" of press access in Lebanon. Specifically, Chris states that, "Hezbollah is paranoid about spies. They do not allow free access to the area of Dahiya in southern Beirut where a lot of destruction is taking place. Instead, they organize rediculous guided tours for the press. I join one of these tours otherwise known as a 'gang bang.'"

The truth, Chris, shall set you free. By admitting that there is no freedom of the press in Lebanon, perhaps you'll earn the condemnation of your fellow brainwashed propagandists, but the fact of the matter is that what you have said is true.

  #Israel/Lebanon War 2006


Comments:

#1 christopher Anderson 28-Sep-2006
Hi, interesting how all you bloggers who have never been anywhere are in such a unique position to comment on the truth of a situation. because Hezbollah limits access to a certain zone, does not mean there is "no" press freedom. Do you think that the Israeli army was allowing unfettered access to their zones of operation? i am not allowed full access to the white house (to roam freely where I want with no guide). Does this mean there is "no" freeedom of the press in the United States. Please, stop such ill considered attacks. You are helping feed the climate of misunderstanding and division, not help.
#2 Brian 28-Sep-2006
Christopher,

Thank you for taking the time to comment on this story. Are you suggesting that following an orgainzed Hezbullah tour, and reporting *only* what Hezbullah allows to be reported, equates to sufficient freedom of the press? (Or, at the very least, reporting everything that Hezbullah representatives say without question?)

I understand that there are restrictions imposed on the press during a war, but in the past, this was acknowledged by editorial staff, or was otherwise attributed in the articles and captions sent across the wire. In this recent conflict, though, all reports made by Hezbullah officials (and "civilians" on the ground sympathetic to the organization) were reported as *fact* (and this became more apparent as the corrections rolled across).

My last question would be this: Did Hezbullah obtain a photocopy of your passport before you were allowed to go on location in southern Lebanon? Were you required to keep them informed of your location at all times? If the answer to those questions was "yes," did this have any impact on your reporting at all?

Once again, I would like to thank you for taking the time out of your day to comment here. I do appreciate your remarks very much, and look forward to hearing more from you.

Regards,
Brian
#3 christopher Anderson 28-Sep-2006
I read your bio which proclaims the logic you use to suss out the truth in journalistic reporting. It is interesting how the larger logic escapes you in this case. Yes, Hezbollah limited our access to certain areas. Of course they want to control their message as much as possible. All sides always do. The Israelis, for their part, were trying to control their message by limiting our access as well. they did this by targeting journalists, aid workers and international observers with missiles so that we could not gather a clear picture of what was happening.
Next time, I challenge you to actually go to Lebanon, or wherever the next war is, and write your blog from there so that you can have an informed positon from which to apply your logic. I'll even help facilitate.
#4 Brian 28-Sep-2006
Christopher,

Again, thank you for the comment. I'd like to think that I'm approaching this logically, but I suppose we're all subject to our own definitions of the same.

You acknowledge here that Hezbullah limited your access, and controlled the message sent out, but not a *single* editor has acknowledged that in a wire report transmitted from Lebanon. Is that "logical" to you? Is that "truthful" and "factual?" Keep in mind, every report referencing the IDF was sure to insert that the statements being made were attributable to the IDF and by inference, unreliable. The double-standard in the reporting from the different sides of the conflict is *astounding* to me. What's even more astounding is that *real* honest-to-God professional Newsmen can't see the double-standard right in front of them!

To respond to your second point, yes, you are absolutely right that I am a mere blogger, sitting here at a desk in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and therefore not in the midst of Lebanon, witnessing firsthand accounts. I do, however, have contacts over there who have shared their stories with me, and while it may not be "as reliable" (to you) as being there firsthand, it's not something that can be blatantly dismissed, is it?

Also, the inference in your suggestion that I cover the next war from on the ground is that somehow, by not being there, I'm *forbidden* from questioning the reporting from on the ground. Is that really what you're trying to convey? Has the press gotten to the point where it's above all criticism and questioning now? (And isn't that position rather, to use a Leftist term du jour, "McCarthyite?")

Most Respectfully,
Brian
#5 christopher Anderson 28-Sep-2006
"Are you suggesting that following an orgainzed Hezbullah tour, and reporting only what Hezbullah allows to be reported, equates to sufficient freedom of the press? (Or, at the very least, reporting everything that Hezbullah representatives say without question?)"

Where does this come from? Who are you saying "only" reports what Hezbollah allows to report? Again, you have very limited understanding of what you are talking about.

"I understand that there are restrictions imposed on the press during a war, but in the past, this was acknowledged by editorial staff,"

These press tours were repeatedly exposed for what they were on television and in newspapar, and again, when they IDF or the American military takes me on a tour to their operattions, do you write a blog complaining that I didn't specifically note that my movement was controlled and I was only allowed to see exactly what they wanted me to see? Does your logic ever give you warning of a double standard?

"In this recent conflict, though, all reports made by Hezbullah officials (and "civilians" on the ground sympathetic to the organization) were reported as fact (and this became more apparent as the corrections rolled across)."

you should be very careful of words like "all" as they make you out to be incorrect. This statement is flatly wrong.

"My last question would be this: Did Hezbullah obtain a photocopy of your passport before you were allowed to go on location in southern Lebanon?"

No. But the IDF and the American military do (including fingerprints and background checks. And I will still not be allowed unless I am deemed, after the backgournd check, to be sufficiently unbiased). Again, where is the double standard radar in your logic machine?

"Were you required to keep them informed of your location at all times?"

No. See above.

Really, just because someone disagrees with your political views, does not make them intentionally trying to decieve the public. And just because reporting is critical of your side of the politics does not make them biased. All sides do bad things, all sides are wrong from time to time. I will remind you that during this conflict ( and any situation) there are media outlets from all political sides, and reporters within those organizations from differing positions. Yes, there are a few bad apples who do things like photoshop a picture. yes, the media needs to be monitored and held to a high standard. sure they get it wrong sometimes. But you often make accusations and judgements on things about which you have very little knowledge or understanding. This sometimes clouds your logic. I don't mean this as a personal attack as I am sure you are working with the very best of intentions. but the result is often something which doesn't help understanding or help hold the media to a higher understanding. the result is further misunderstanding and division. In the words of John Steward to Tucker Carlson and Paul Beglia, "Please stop. you're hurting America."
#6 Brian 28-Sep-2006
Christopher,

Again, thank you very much for your thoughtful reply. I'll do my best to respond to everything, but considering the volume of your thoughts, I may miss a thing or two. If I do, please be assured that it's not intentional!

My statement that the media only reports what Hezbullah allows was more in the form of a query (albeit one which may not have been formulated correctly). The impression I have, from sitting here on this side of the Atlantic, is that Hezbullah tightly controls access to south Lebanon, and that they control tightly the information which is transmitted *from* south Lebanon.

There's nothing inherently wrong about that, and I've never said that it's outside of the norm for that situation to exist.

My point was, in previous conflicts, when reporters transmit information presented to them by a military force (or in this case, guerrilla force) engaged in the conflict, either the reporter himself, or the editorial staff he reported to, inserted language into the story indicating that the information presented was given by a military force, letting the reader know that it may or may not be accurate.

In the Lebanon war, however, most reporters (and their editors) seemed to accept the story presented by Hezbullah at *face* value, attributing the information they report to "civilian" or "rescue worker" reports (disregarding the fact that the civilians on the ground are closely intertwined with Hezbullah).

Notice, though, that the press had *no* problem attributing IDF claims *directly* to the IDF, inserting the basis of doubt into the entire premise of the story.

See the following URL [1] for a good example (not completely related to Lebanon, but the best I have) of this type of reporting—wherein the claims of militants is taken at face value, and the claims of the IDF are reported in such a way that implies that somehow the information is not trustworthy.

[1] http://www.snappedshot.com/archives/18-Horrific.html

You can dismissively wave me off as someone who has "no understanding" of what I'm talking about if that makes you feel better, but that's not exactly honest debate, is it?

On to the next point, you claim that the Hezbullah press tours were exposed for what they were repeatedly. I have not seen *one* single story of the sort! Can you present any examples to me of the press exposing *Hezbullah* for doing this? (As I implied previously, the press *never* hesitates from doing so with the IDF or the U.S. Military.)

Your next point, that my use of *all* is in error, is duly noted. "All" and "none" are definitely inappropriate words in a debate. My original point, however exaggerated as I made it, was that the press continued to present Hezbullah reports *unquestionably*, and would only enclose IDF reports in the proverbial quotation marks. (See the Qana body count debacle for a good example of that. EUReferendum has that documented to heck, so I won't reproduce Richard's work here.)

It's interesting that you say that Hezbullah didn't obtain a photocopy of your passport, as TIME stringer Christopher Allbriton (who was on the ground) reported that Hezbullah was keeping copies of *every* reporter passport [2], and individual reports from on the ground confirm this[3].

Once again, I'm not on the ground there, but that doesn't preclude me from gathering information through *other* means.

[2] http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=080806B
[3] http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/2006/07/tales_from_the_south_sort_of.php

I'm not implying that the press is somehow trying to deceive the public because they disagree with my "political" views. What I *am* doing is questioning the Press' *vaunted* objectivity, in light of reports which *so frequently* favor one side in the conflict over the other.

You will also *not* find me saying that reporting a story "critical" of "my" side of "the politics" is wrong. What's wrong is that the *inherent* bias in doing so is not generally acknowledged. For individual reporters to prefer one group over another is fine—It is when they start reporting *the* story that way without either acknowledging their biases in the story, or at least honestly trying to look at the other side's position and questioning *all* of the facts presented to them, that they are reducing themselves to mere propagandists.

Is that where you think the press belongs? In the business of propaganda?

I hope that makes more sense than my original, rather exaggerated statement. What I'm trying to ask is this: Is the purpose of the media to present *one* side of the story as fact? Or is the media genuinely as impartial as it *says* it is? The rise of the blogosphere (not that I'm any part of that—I'm a mere cog, I'm afraid) seems to me to be an indication that the general public does *not* believe that the latter is a true statement.

(And remember, here on my little corner of the blogosphere, I've *never* claimed to be impartial, and when one of my stories gets blown out of the water [4], I post all rebuttals here very publicly. I *do* have the best of intentions, and I *do* want to be as open and honest as humanly possible. The difference between myself and "professional" reporters—other than actually being on the ground ;)—is that I *acknowledge openly* my limitations, weaknesses, and mistakes. And my readers—yes, all 5 of them—take what I write with all of that *in* context and make their decisions on their own. Why can't the press be as honest with its readers?)

[4] http://www.snappedshot.com/archives/104-The-incredible-moving-militant.html

Again, rather than trying to attack my lack of "knowledge" and "understanding," wouldn't it be better for us to try understanding what each other are *saying*? Is that not the entire purpose of "debate?" There's no doubt that I'm not as "professional" a reporter as people such as yourself. That fact shouldn't preclude me from presenting challenges (sometimes thoughtful, sometimes not) to the information that's reported in the press.

I continue to hold you in the highest regards, and thank you again for taking the time to continue this discussion. It is genuinely a pleasure for me to be able to hold such a conversation as this with you!

Most Respectfully,
Brian
#7 Alex 04-Jun-2007
Brian,

Thank you very much for the conversation and consistent declaration of your point of view.

Regards,
Alex
#8 Brian C. Ledbetter 04-Jun-2007
Alex,

My pleasure! I'm nothing if not [i]doggedly[/i] consistent!

:)

Most Respectfully,
Brian
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