I would like to have this person’s job, please. Thank you.
So this is pretty awful. David Frum, alongside a blogger named Thomas Wictor, are accusing the press of publishing fake photos that purport to showcase injured or traumatized Palestinians. In particular, Frum points to a photo of two young men in which one of them has blood on his arms. In a second photo appearing elsewhere, however, the same man no longer has blood on his arms. Q.E.D. conspiracy, amirite?
Except there’s a very easy explanation for why the young man has blood on his arms in one photo, and no blood in another:
Photographers had gathered at the building, according to The New York Times’ Sergey Ponomarev. Photos appear to have been captured and used by some of the world’s top news gatherers, including The Associated Press, Reuters and The New York Times.
While their father was admitted, the brothers, drenched in blood, were given a chance to clean themselves up. Ponomarev said, “I saw his brother take him to a nearby room and he must’ve washed him off because afterward there was no blood on his face and his hands were clean. He was sitting on the chair and seemed calmer, and that’s when I took the photo.”
So the two photos look different because—wait for it—they were taken at different points in time. The second photo was taken after one of the brothers had an opportunity to wash his father’s blood off his hands and face, which I’m sure he was anxious to get off his body.
One of the most useful skills for a public intellectual to develop is to exercise a greater degree of care when investigating stories that confirm your biases vs. those that don’t. We are already naturally predisposed to exercise additional scrutiny to stories that don’t support our political beliefs. But when we see stories that seem to confirm our beliefs, we’re more likely to accept them at face value because they feel correct.
That’s why Frum’s claim is shockingly unreflective for someone who pretends to be a public intellectual. Is it really fair to jump to the conclusion that a photo was staged because the two individuals pictured look different in each photo? Particularly when a legitimate explanation is easily arrived at? Of course not.
On another note, Frum is not the only person looking for an excuse to minimize Palestinian suffering or pretend it doesn’t exist. I wrote this morning about an article written by Avi Issacharoff, who wrote that the Israeli government’s siege in Gaza was ”nonexistent,” which is pure fantasy. I personally have a law school friend who used to jokingly refer to Gaza as “beachfront property,” suggesting that life there was not nearly as bad as Palestinian activists claim it was.
It would be one thing if this was propaganda being handed down by a tyrannical government. But it’s not. These are journalists and opinion leaders whose words have a lot of purchase in the public sphere. This is why, as I mentioned this morning, many people choose to focus on the Israeli government over more oppressive regimes in the Middle East. Nobody is pretending that the those regimes don’t oppress people, but a lot of people pretend that Israel doesn’t. And there’s no better way to erase the suffering of a people than to convince the international community that it doesn’t exist.
via Ali Gharib:
If Frum had done a little more digging, he would have found other posts on Wictor’s blog that call into question his credibility. Frum might have discovered some of Wictor’s recent free-associative rhapsodies or winding disquisitions on minstrel shows. Frum might’ve even found Wictor’s post where he thinks he has taken a photo of a “dematerializing” cat – apparently the second coming of a ghost cat Wictor knew earlier in life.
When prodded on whether the dematerializing cat thing was serious or ironic, Wictor laughed. “No, it is serious. You can present me as completely off my rocker,” he says. “The fact is I took a picture of a cat that looked like my beloved dead cat, and when the shutter snapped the cat was gone. I tend to believe that when we’re under a lot of stress and pain, we can hallucinate. Sure, why not? But I also believe that we might get signs to help us carry on.”
Reading over Wictor’s blog, it’s clear that he’s not entirely well, and that his analysis is wanting. Which all raises the question of what exactly Frum was thinking questioning a bevy of professional journalists based on Thomas Wictor’s writings.
Always a good idea to check your sources…
At sunset, the Israeli military begins to pound Gaza from the air, land and sea. Flares illuminate the northern and eastern parts of the Strip. The bombardment is continuous, the most intense of the 10 day assault. The Wafaa hospital in the east—that houses disabled patients—comes under heavy attack and is partially evacuated.
Then the news breaks. Israel has launched a ground invasion. They are coming in. The first time since the brutal 2008-2009 assault that left over 1,300 dead. The power goes out and Gaza is plunged into darkness as 1.8 million Palestinians brace for more violence.
This article might be overstating the case a bit, but Thompson’s early work (some of which is collected in The Great Shark Hunt) is pretty great, and it’s certainly much better than the stuff he was writing towards the end of his life, which was almost completely devoid of insight (except for his piece on 9/11, in which he forecasted the war on terror with alarming accuracy).
Check out Julia Ioffe’s recent work at The New Republic:
Ioffe is as good as it gets when it comes to translating the baffling world of Russian politics for an American audience.
Why does The Daily Beast refer to David Miranda as Glenn Greenwald’s “lover,” instead of “partner?” They link to an Al-Jazeera America article that uses the term “partner” so why the change in terminology? “Partner” obviously has more serious connotations and given the severity of Miranda’s situation, that’s clearly the appropriate word to use.
This isn’t the first time I’ve scratched my head after seeing something on The Daily Beast but degrading the relationship between Greenwald and Miranda with the term “lover” irritates the hell out of me (for whatever reason).
Update: As I wrote this, The Daily Beast changed the headline to “partner” and apologized for the error. Apparently I’m not the only one bothered by such things.
NBC News has posted this gem of a headline, "Pot Fuels Surge In Drugged Driving Deaths." Like every good story, it leads with a compelling anecdote—in this case, someone who was killed by a stoned driver. Then it cites the following statistics:
As medical marijuana sales expanded into 20 states, legal weed was detected in the bodies of dead drivers three times more often during 2010 when compared to those who died behind the wheel in 1999, according to a new study from Columbia University published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
“The trend suggests that marijuana is playing an increased role in fatal crashes,” said Dr. Guohua Li, a co-author and director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia University Medical Center. The researchers examined data from the federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), spanning more than 23,000 drivers killed during that 11-year period.
But wait! Buried towards the bottom of the article are these statistics:
A separate study — also based on FARS data — found that in states where medical marijuana was approved, traffic fatalities decrease by as much as 11 percent during the first year after legalization. Written by researchers at the University of Colorado, Oregon and Montana State University, the paper was published in 2013 in the Journal of Law & Economics.
Those authors theorized pot, for some, becomes a substitute for alcohol. They cited a recent, 13-percent drop in drunk-driving deaths in states where medical marijuana is legal.
“Marijuana reform is associated with … a decrease in traffic fatalities, most likely due to its impact on alcohol consumption,” said Michael Elliott, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, a trade association in Colorado.
So there’s an increase in marijuana-related crashes in states with some form of legalized pot, but there’s also a corresponding decrease in alcohol-related crashes. The net result is a decrease in the overall number of traffic fatalities. Yet NBC still chose to run a headline that, without context, suggests that legal pot is leading to more traffic fatalities, which it is not. The opposite is in fact true.
Most people aren’t going to dig to the bottom of the article to get this important contextual information. Instead, they’ll see the headline, read the first couple paragraphs, and the message they’ll get is that legal pot is increasing the number of traffic fatalities—without realizing that legal pot has actually reduced traffic fatalities overall.
Presenting the story in this manner is irresponsible. The headline is misleading, as are the initial supporting paragraphs. A lot of people are going to walk away from this article with the wrong message because NBC presented it in a poor fashion. And now, we get to listen to anti-pot crusaders tell us about how legal pot activists have blood on their hands, despite the fact that legal pot hasn’t actually increased the number of people dying in traffic fatalities. It has actually reduced them. And if this story leads people in battleground states to vote against legalized pot, it will be NBC that has blood on its hands, not legalization activists.