By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Dancing on corpses? Ghoulish propaganda display? A leaked interoffice memo from the Associated Press, or AP, congratulating its Qana photographers on “a stunning series of images . . . that beat the competition and scored huge play overnight,” suggests that such phrases, as well as some of Johnson’s other charges, may not be entirely hyperbolic.
“Nasser’s most haunting image,” reads one section of the memo, referring to a picture by AP photographer Nasser Nasser, “showed a man emerging from the rubble carrying the lifeless and dust-covered body of a child. Calm, morning light shone down on man and child, highlighting them against an almost monochrome background of pure rubble.” Monochrome background. Calm, morning light. Pure rubble (as opposed to that hideous rubbly kind of rubble). How nice. How poetic. How aesthetic. AP sounds less like a news organization than an ad agency.
In exposing Hajj’s manipulations, Johnson has raised the lid on a potential Pandora’s box. Namely, how our leading news agencies and newspapers increasingly rely on stringers from hostile nations to tell us how we, or our allies, behave in wartime. Since you’d be hard-pressed to find Muslims in the U.S., let alone Europe, who aren’t strongly anti-Israel and opposed to any American presence in the Middle East whatsoever, why on earth would you expect to find neutral Arab reporters in Baghdad or Beirut? This is the kind of question newspaper editors should be asking themselves (and their stringers). If the implications of this are followed through, or if more photographers like Adnan “Photoshop” Hajj are discovered, the ramifications are likely to be significant. In helping bring Hajj’s smoke-and-mirrors game to light, Johnson has performed a great service.
But don’t expect himto get much thanks for it in his hometown. Though he has a few vocal supporters here, such as L.A.-based journalist Cathy Seipp, who calls Johnson a “righteous gentile” and points out for slow learners that being an anti-anti-Semite does not equate to racism, Johnson’s chances of being invited to a party at Arianna Huffington’s mansion are about as good as Osama bin Laden’s. (Okay, worse.)
Last February, in an article about Pajamas Media, Los Angeles magazine’s media critic, R.J. Smith, characterized Johnson’s site as “constitutionally protected hate speech.” He described LGF, which averages well over 100,000 unique hits a day, as an online hangout for “haters” who think “all Muslims are terrorists until proven innocent.” The fact that LGF provides an incredibly useful guide to global Islamist encroachment appears not to have entered his head at all.
As an example of bien pensant groupthink, Smith’s article could hardly be bettered. Smith was supposed to be a professional media “critic” writing about a hapless blogger. In reality, he was just a member of the media, as loyal to clan as a potbellied Irish cop, writing about a real media critic. Johnson caught Dan Rather trying to swing a presidential election, and now he’s blown a giant hole in the credibility of the world’s largest news service. As a result of his work, Reuters has been forced to delete all 920 Hajj photographs from its database, tighten its filing drills and institute a new policy whereby all Middle East photographs will be checked by the editor-in-charge on the Global Pictures Desk before release. Johnson achieved all this in, oh, about 48 hours. Which does lead one to ask: What have you done lately, R.J.?
In the meantime, Johnson is modest about the short-term outcome of his efforts. “In the sense that living organisms always adapt and evolve to meet challenges,” he notes wryly, “one immediate effect of the scandal is that people will be more careful when they fake photographs.”
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