The Real Fog of War

Beirut Photos Modified and Original

I think it is important to note that it has been revealed that a news photograph purporting to show Beirut burning was forged by its photographer. Smoke was added, using a tool readily available to Photoshop users, and the job was so badly done, it was laughably easy to figure out what was done. And yet Reuters published the photograph without verifying the source.

This is, as it should be, a blow to Hezbollah’s credibility. And it’s not like this terrorist organization had oodles of credibility to begin with. It’s sad, really, seeing a group of people so fanatical in their hatred, that they’re willing to break the truth to further their agenda. So sure are they of their possession of the truth, that they see no problem in lying to advance it. As I said, sad.

But it’s interesting to note that, around the same time, a short movie spoofing Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth was posted to YouTube, supposedly by a 29-year-old amateur filmmaker and skeptic. The problem was, when The Wall Street Journal tried to track down the individual behind the spoof, their trail led them to “a slick Republican public relations firm called DCI, which just happens to have oil giant Exxon as a client.” (Hat Tip Odd Thoughts).

Of course, the photographic deception in Lebanon is far more serious than a Republican film spoof that purported to be the work of an amateur, by an order of magnitude, but these events are cut from the same cloth, and are not isolated incidents. In both cases, we see individuals who have abandoned their search for the truth, because they believe that they already have it in their back pocket. So sure are they of the righteousness of their position that they feel no shame in resorting to deception in order to further their agenda.

Not unlike the actions of the Bush Administration to pounce on every little bit of evidence of Iraq’s immediate threat to the Western World, in order to justify an invasion that they had already decided launch.

It’s symptomatic, in my opinion, of something that has gone wrong in our society. So sure are we in our own righteousness that those who disagree with us cease to be just average people with different opinions. Rather than debating ideas, we attack the people behind them, on Swift Boats if need be. And, occasionally, when the facts are insufficient to bolster our cause, we invent them. Too many of us have lost respect for the other. It’s more important to just win the argument than it is to find the truth. Through victory comes truth.

On too many sites in the blogosphere, those who disagree with us are idiots, moonbats, wingnuts), fascists, communists, anti-Semites, closet Muslims, homophobes, you name it. We refuse see those who disagree with us as people like we are, deserving of the same respect. We pounce on every piece of information that confirms our original opinions. We close our minds and we deceive ourselves. Our opponents are our enemies, and there is no shame in stooping to ad hominem attacks or outright dishonesty in order to attack them.

I admit that I’ve done this myself. Few people on the blogosphere can claim the moral high ground. Everybody seems to point fingers. But the fact remains that it takes two or more to tango and if your only defence for your actions is that somebody else did it first against you, you are part of the problem.

I know we can hardly expect a fanatical supporter of Hezbollah to change his stripes. We can only take solace in the fact that his deception has further damaged whatever credibility Hezbollah had in its struggle against Israel. But in my wild optimism, I expect bloggers in the supposedly civilized world to live up to better standards than Hezbollah. We need to step back, stop looking at the other side, and look at ourselves, critically. We need to tone down the rhetoric. And try to shake loose the confirmation bias.

Today, the war hawks in the Middle East crisis are jumping all over the doctored photograph as proof of all of their opponents’ intellectual bankruptcy. They are inventing conspiracy theories over how Hezbollah is magnifying the deaths at Qana, despite the fact that Israel has acknowledged its mistake. This fog over doctored photographs is obscuring mention of the 400 Lebanese civilians who have verifiably died, or whether or not Israel’s actions will actually destroy Hezbollah. The doctored photographs have helped confirm in their heads the truth as they’ve already seen it. And any hope for a valuable dialogue between the hawks and the doves in this debate has been dealt another blow.

Hat tip to Conservative blogger Damian Penny for keeping his head during this crisis by saying:

I don’t believe Israel went out and killed dozens of women and children for sport, and there’s no doubt that Hezbollah, a group not known for strenuous attempts to avoid civilian casualties (Lebanese or Israeli), is milking this for all it’s worth. But it’s still possible to support Israel’s fight against Hezbollah, while conceding that the IDF made a horrible mistake here.

Hear, here, Damian. It’s unfortunate that your commentators aren’t as nuanced.

On another note, it’s interesting that I never saw the photograph in question until after the deception was revealed. And that’s because I’ve become so inured to the violence in the Middle East (sadly) that I pass by any picture of destruction in Israel or its neighbours with barely a second glance. It was the forgery that made me take interest.

This may be an interesting corollary to the old adage that it’s not the crime, but the cover-up that does the real political damage.

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