Fauxtography courses available on the web!

–brought to you by the Dan Rather Institute in Old Media Studies.

Following up on Ed’s post below, YNetnews, an Israeli site, takes the BBC to task on its imbalanced, disproportionate coverage of the war between the IDF and Hezbollah. With the Beeb, it’s a glaring example.

A BBC photo display entitled “In pictures: Conflict impact,” made up of eight images, uses six out of eight pictures to illustrate damages in Lebanon , but pays scant attention to the human toll and large-scale damage sustained in northern Israel.

The photographs show images of Lebanese civilians and bombed out buildings and Beirut, and carry captions such as: “A woman in Beirut cries amid the destruction.”

After the BBC says fighting is hampering aid deliveries in southern Lebanon, an image of an Israeli soldier praying is shown, covering his ears while an IDF canon goes off in the background. “But ground clashes in the area continue unabated,” the BBC wrote, suggesting through the image that the Israel bore most of the responsible for clashes. There are no photographs of Hizbullah rockets, or Hizbullah members firing rockets at Israel in the series.

Only the seventh photograph in the succession shows an image of an Israeli woman mourning at a funeral, with the caption “Israelis are also counting their losses.”

The last picture in the series is of an Israeli in an air raid shelter, but the person in the photo is made black by shadows, and appears to be a silhouette of a human figure. The person’s age, sex, or any human features are impossible to make out – an odd choice by the BBC considering the large number of available photographs of Israeli children and families in bomb shelters.

The BBC’s website photo editor, Phil Commes, has also taken a neutral line on the faked photographs from Beirut supplied by Reuters, saying: “One man’s color balancing is another man’s grounds for dismissal.”

Memo to Beeb: Fauxtography is just too easy to spot these days. You need extra help to avoid the embarrassment caused by too many knowledgeable people looking over your shoulder, through your viewfinder, snooping around, reading your script, spotting your drift while you’re working hard at reporting the world as you think it should be, keeping it safe from all those “nutters” out there. Read the whole thing.

HT: B-BBC commenters Archduke, DFH, Pounce, Marc, Jack Hughes

HT to Michelle Malkin for the term.

Update: Commenter John_R helpfully notes that Michelle Malkin credits Charles Johnson as coiner.

Strange ….

Yesterday’s Radio Four and Five news bulletins featured the story of a prolific burglar, one Gavin Gibson, who was given a suspended sentence after pleading guilty to seven counts of burglary and asking for a further 420 offences to be taken into consideration. The recorder stated that the unusual leniency of the sentence was a reward for ‘the unprecedented help given to police following his arrest’.

By amazing chance the BBC had a reporter, Valerie Jones, in court to hear the obscure case of a small-time though prolific crook. She reported that, after being arrested ‘Gibson decided to come clean. Over the next month he confessed to another 420 burglaries. He says he stole to fund his drug addiction and now wants help. The recorder said that if he were to jail Gibson, the public would be protected for a few years – but if he could conquer drugs, Gibson might never offend again’.

What an uplifting, hopeful tale. And how well it fits with the BBCs institutional bias towards the anti-prison lobby. Frances Crook (RealAudio) of the Howard League must be able to find her way to the Today studio blindfold by now.

Let’s just imagine a more cynical, alternative view of the above. Nothing like this could ever happen, of course :

Nicked villain confesses to three-quarters of the burglaries committed in his area (most police forces have an abysmally low clear-up rate for burglary). Such crimes are then considered to be ‘cleared up’, even if no-one is convicted for them, and the police force’s detection rate rises accordingly. Happy police.

Police agree with defence counsel to put in a good word for said villain. Happy defence counsel.

Defence counsel get a broad steer from the recorder that a non-custodial is a possibility – and get in touch with the BBC, alerting them to the possibility of a happy non-custodial story for BBC news.

BBC reporter gets to court, happy story is duly procured, and happiness is general. Except perhaps among the residents of Hatfield and Welwyn.

UPDATE – it appears that such things certainly happen in Essex. From the Police Oracle forum :

And dont get me going on the PPO who coughed 490 odd thefts of and burglaries only to be told thanks for the detections, we will strike a deal to keep you out of prison. This resulted in a male with 50 odd convictions and being bang to rights for 3 thefts of and two burglaries getting 18 months suspended for two years.

New words for old.

First it was “militant”. The BBC used to use that term to describe far-left figures like Derek Hatton – not an admirable man, in my opinion, but someone who worked within the political process. Now it means terrorist.

Then it was “activist”, which brings to mind images of earnest, sandal-wearing young folk seeking signatures for a Greenpeace petition. Now it also means terrorist. Does the BBC really think that using the same word for members of Hamas and someone like this Burmese woman who runs a Women’s Action Network in that unhappy country contributes to understanding?

The latest revamped word is “dissident”. Remember when dissident meant (to the BBC and the rest of us) someone like Vaclav Havel or Alexander Solzhenitsyn – men and women who peacefully spoke out against oppression and often suffered imprisonment for doing so? Now the BBC says that dissidents – not even “dissident republicans”, just “dissidents”, are people who firebomb shops.

Do you ever get the feeling that there is something the BBC is trying not to say?


A reader writes:

It’s visceral!
Paul Mason, a generally excellent reporter, let his prejudices show last night [Monday] on Newsnight. Surveying the fall in ITV’s popularity, he speculated that changes in viewing patterns had been triggered by changes in the British family. He stated categorically: “And there is no longer any typical British family”.

Well many at the BBC might want to see the end of the traditional family and put out programmes that help speed its demise. But, in fact, latest government statistics show (link) that we are not there yet. In fact, there are 7.5m married couples (and half a million co-habitees) with children, compared with 1.6m single parent families.

Something new every day

Bias oozes from the Beeb. Or maybe B-BBC commenters are just brilliant at noticing.

However, I have a couple of items I think from other blogs (including dear old DFH) which must have an airing here. Here’s the rigorous Richard North’s observations about the self-satisfied John Simpson’s easy going attitude to body-armour (one could extend this observation, but one would look uncharitable):

“had he been in Kiryat Shmona during a Hezbolla rocket attack, he would have been running for his life to the nearest shelter. But there you go… that’s discrimination for you”

I notice in the wake of the Qana controversy that EU Ref’s about to pass this blog’s hits recorded by Sitemeter- having experienced a remarkable spurt in traffic. Well, good on them for all the good work they’ve been doing.

And speaking of Qana, the BBC pronouncesthe photos ‘interesting’.

As I mentioned though, DFH has something he wanted to share with us: a powerful example of BBC news twisting as compared with other sources. Since when was a missile strike described as ‘crossfire’? The BBC’s flexible lexicon at work as usual? And, yes, Koffi where’s the outrage?

Open thread – for comments of general Biased BBC interest:

Please use this thread for off-topic, but preferably BBC related, comments. Please keep comments on other threads to the topic at hand. N.B. this is not an invitation for general off-topic comments – our aim is to maintain order and clarity on the topic-specific threads. This post will remain at or near the top of the blog. Please scroll down to find new topic-specific posts.

Small world.

Yesterday I made a brief post at Samizdata to highlight a post from Drinking From Home concerning two pictures of a woman lamenting the destruction of her home by the Israelis. The pictures have different dates, and show different homes, but are pretty obviously same woman. What do I find when glancing at DFH this morning? That one of the pictures turns up on the BBC. And that was spotted by our regular commenter Dave t of the Cabarfeidh Pages. An anonymous commenter to DFH’s post says he/she may have found another Reuters picture of a third destroyed home with the same lady lamenting in front of it. It is difficult to be sure, but I think I can see the same scar on her left cheek and mark under her right eye. Small world, all these bloggers quoting each other in circles, all one’s homes getting busted up by the Israelis.

To be clear, I don’t particularly blame the BBC for using the picture (although it will be interesting to see if they continue using it given the attention it has received). Thousands of pictures come their way, they can’t check them all. I don’t even blame Reuters/AP that much, for the same reason – although I do think all the news agencies need to face the fact that their Arab stringers who actually go out and take the pictures have their own agenda and aren’t generally too scrupulous about how they advance it. However any time information from, say, the US, British or Israeli Army is relayed by the BBC we hear someone dolefully informing us that this information has a particular source and implying that we must bear that in mind when assessing it. Likewise if a report is made from a country with a repressive government we are told that the report was made under restrictions. Quite right too. But no such warnings come with photos or statements from people living in in places where the rule of Hamas or Hezbollah is at least as vicious, and the culture at least as steeped in propaganda, as that of most of the world’s open dictatorships.

ADDED LATER: Incidentally, the issue of photo-doctoring is becoming a story in itself. One of our commenters snapped a Google search of stories on the issue. Keep your eyes peeled for how and if the BBC reports it.

UPDATE: The picture is now gone from the BBC story DFH linked to. As usual the “last edited” field has not been changed; it still reads 14.07 BST Saturday. There is a discussion of photo-doctoring on the BBC’s The Editors blog here.

A question of precedent.

Hat tip: Dumbjon, who pointed to this hilarious post from Rottweiler Puppy: Nikki, Warwickshire: Busy at the BBC.

The oft-quoted Nikki was quoted as saying, “Surely the lives of the innocent should take precedent” in her first few outings. Then for “Dozens killed in Lebanon air raid”, someone finally noticed and corrected it to “precedence”. Can’t have such a stalwart commenter looking illiterate, can we?

I have to defend the BBC against one of Rottypup’s claims. Nikki does not appear in “Olmert says fighting will go on.” So it’s only sixteen times, not seventeen.

Open thread – for comments of general Biased BBC interest:

Please use this thread for off-topic, but preferably BBC related, comments. Please keep comments on other threads to the topic at hand. N.B. this is not an invitation for general off-topic comments – our aim is to maintain order and clarity on the topic-specific threads. This post will remain at or near the top of the blog. Please scroll down to find new topic-specific posts.