Disinformation, Iraqi style.
October 2, 2004 7:32 AM   Subscribe

"Iraqi blogger" indulges in disinformation. "Sam" of http://hammorabi.blogspot.com has graphic pictures on his site of children killed by Zarqawi terrorists in Baghdad on Thursday. Horrible and tragic, indeed. Even more tragic, however, is that a Reuters camera crew filmed their identical twins, who died that same day after a US airstrike in Fallujah. Is "Sam" a victim of US disinformation, or is "Sam" a practicioner? Could "Sam" be an uncle, perhaps?!
posted by insomnia_lj (27 comments total)
Good find. This sort of blogaganda was inevitable. I just coined that term on my own, but Google tells me that someone thought of it 5 months ago, and so proper attribution goes to blogger and novelist Roger L. Simon : blogaganda

"I think we need a new term for a kind of blog that is beginning to appear on the Internet, which does not solely represent the opinions of its "innocent" author. Perhaps someone will come up with a better one, but I am proposing the simple "Blogaganda" to describe the new blog by Mohammed Ali Abtahi, a Vice President (no less) of the Islamic Republic of Iran."

But, that term has been stuck to overt blog propaganda : Blogaganda is overt. That's fine, but we therefore need a new term for blogs which convey covert propaganda or disinformation.

Disinfoblogs : Disinfobloggers

You heard it here first.
posted by troutfishing at 7:48 AM on October 2, 2004

Reuters link goes to a news front page. Do you know which video feed it was?
posted by destro at 7:48 AM on October 2, 2004

destro, this link is the one that has the video of the children killed in Fallujah. That said, the video may not work for non-Windows PCs, and http://tv.reuters.com doesn't have options for other platforms.

Maybe someone can do a screenshot for you, but the article I linked to described the video pretty accurately.
posted by insomnia_lj at 7:58 AM on October 2, 2004

As to where to navigate on http://tv.reuters.co.uk to find the video, it's in the world section, about 23 videos in. You'll need to use the next button to get there.

Don't confuse it with the more recent video they have on their site of -- you guessed it -- yet another US bombing of Fallujah.
posted by insomnia_lj at 8:10 AM on October 2, 2004

Is this the same Reuters that only reports US casualties and "civilians" killed, never "enemy fighters?" (Which rates right up there with AFP, and their notorious "Only killed women and children and puppies and kitties" reporting.)


"Reuters' global managing editor acknowledges that Arab intimidation influences his agency's news coverage."

"...As Islamic terror continues to spread worldwide, one major news outlet decided that enough is enough ? it's time to call terrorism by its name. CanWest, owners of Canada's largest newspaper chain, recently implemented a new editorial policy to use the 'T-word' in reports on brutal terrorist acts and groups.

So when CanWest's National Post published a Reuters report on Sept. 14, they exercised their right to change this Reuters line that whitewashes Palestinian terror:

... the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which has been involved in a four-year-old revolt against Israeli occupation in Gaza and the West Bank.

to this, more accurate line:

... the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a terrorist group that has been involved in a four-year-old campaign of violence against Israel.

Reuters didn't like the adjustment, and took the unusual step of officially informing CanWest that if it intended to continue this practice, CanWest should remove Reuters' name from the byline..."
posted by kablam at 8:32 AM on October 2, 2004

they exercised their right to change this Reuters line

Interesting that you assume that they have that right. Do you have access to their contract for the Reuters newsfeed?

It seems to me unlikely that this right exists, as it would seem to amount to the right to change news. There's a big potential for outright misrepresentation there. In the case you cite it wouldn't be inaccurate, but then what's to keep the end user from glorifying al-Aqsa if that's what the end-user wishes to do?
posted by clevershark at 8:51 AM on October 2, 2004

Spin! Spin! Spin til you're dizzy, kablam.

Reuters does what it does in order to appear fair and impartial, in order to get the story, and in order to not get their people killed. Makes sense to me...

Your statement does nothing to refute the video that Reuters took in Fallujah of those dead kids, nor does it reveal anything new as to whether or not "Sam" is real or not, or how his little photo montage came together. Seems strange that someone in Iraq would have a computer going with photoshop, regular power, and good internet connectivity... much less take screenshots of broadcasts with English subtitles on them, doesn't it?!

But if you insist on fighting over verbiage, I'm willing to give in.

So, what do you want to call those dead kids from Fallujah? Terrorists or insurgents?!
posted by insomnia_lj at 8:57 AM on October 2, 2004

I'm expecting, any day now, to see a return of the bloodthirsty notion "Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out" - in the form of a bumper sticker.

I sure hope not.
posted by troutfishing at 9:02 AM on October 2, 2004

"I'm expecting, any day now, to see a return of the bloodthirsty notion "Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out"

I've heard people say exactly that... when they aren't saying "We should nuke 'em and turn their country into glass."
posted by insomnia_lj at 9:09 AM on October 2, 2004

Is this the same Reuters that only reports US casualties and "civilians" killed, never "enemy fighters?"
- kablam

From Reuters:

Significant numbers of enemy fighters (up to 100) are estimated to have been killed

why can't they be more like Fox News and not report on civillian deaths?

Also the Ottawa Citizen has admitted that some of their changes to Reuters feeds are erroneous...

"The changes to the Associated Press story do not reflect Citizen policy, which is to use the term 'terrorist' to describe someone who deliberately targets civilians. As such, the changes to the Associated Press story were made in error."
posted by destro at 9:47 AM on October 2, 2004

" U.S. military officials have suggested that insurgents have pressured doctors into exaggerating casualty tolls and have cast doubt on television footage, indicating that scenes after air strikes may have been staged.

Reuters television footage of the destruction after Friday night's strike showed panicked men using their bare hands to dig out bodies. One man lay face down, covered by a heavy slab of cement over his waist and legs. "
Obviously a staged heavy slab of cement.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:11 AM on October 2, 2004

Is this the same Reuters that only reports US casualties and "civilians" killed, never "enemy fighters?"

I just love this wingnut version of political correctness.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 10:20 AM on October 2, 2004

Spin! Spin! Spin til you're dizzy, kablam.

yeah, and dig dig dig for those wmd's, k.
but of course you'd have to go to Iraq, first. be greeted as a liberator and stuff.

just watch out for those dangerous terrahist infants
posted by matteo at 10:29 AM on October 2, 2004

Kablam: you're an idiot. There's huge diffrence between chosing an innofensive word to describe insergents and flat out lying about what caused injuries in a photograph.

Anyway, it's also possible that this "Sam" fellow was simply mistaken. After all, 35 children were killed in iraq the other day.

And speaking about that, wtf were those kids even doing there? Why the hell would parents lets their kids attend a cerimony with US army people in the middle of iraq? Gawd.
posted by delmoi at 10:31 AM on October 2, 2004

This sort of blogaganda was inevitable. I just coined that term on my own

*repeatedly slaps troutfishing silly*
posted by quonsar at 11:05 AM on October 2, 2004

whoops...please ignore my search on Fox News as I spelled "civilian" wrong. They have plenty of stories.
posted by destro at 11:14 AM on October 2, 2004

What's disheartening about this is that it speaks to a depth of cynicism that normally only lives in paranoid fantasy. I mean, who would be directly served by this kind of disinformation? No one that I can see -- so the aim must be to simply make information per se unreliable.

OK, ok: As though that hadn't already happened...
posted by lodurr at 11:40 AM on October 2, 2004

quonsar - would be be slapping me with a haddock or a mackerel ? I 'd prefer mackerel.

lodurr - Spot on. But that's just PR, and in the actual theatre of combat, I've heard that the insurgents have far better info than anyone.

I think the tactic you mentioned is actually as old as the hills, and always has been common, but the net lends itself to the practice.

Also - if no one has mentioned this : "Sam" simply might have used random pictures of dead children to illustrate what was in fact a real and horrible atrocity. In other words : journalistic laziness with the expectation that no one would pick up on the lie of convenience.
posted by troutfishing at 1:02 PM on October 2, 2004

For the less hysterical ones out there, I sought to imply that Reuters twists the truth one way, CanWest another, each and every reporter their own way, and the same with non-professional bloggers and the very non-professional people to submit to bloggers. Accusing someone of disinformation in war is based on the assumption that someone, anyone, is telling the truth.

If you want a *real* story of disinformation, you might pursue the US military's longstanding (apparently) policy of making bodies disappear--denying photographers pictures of streets "strewn with bodies", as someone just reported from Samarra.

Think about it: the US sends in a heavy Brigade of around 5000 men to attack an estimated 2500 enemy, and "109 enemy are killed", even though the US owns the city?
You'll also note that there is *no* mention of enemy captured. Hell, a local hospital *alone* reported 80 dead.

This just doesn't happen in the real world. What does happen is that the US enforces a strict curfew from 7pm to 7am, and *anybody* not US or Iraqi Army on the street is killed instantly. And I would lay you odds that truck after truck roll in and they start to load up enemy dead to destination unknown.

They pulled this same stunt during the Iraqi retreat from Kuwait on the 'Highway of Death' in GWI, slaughtering hundreds of Iraqis, BUT WITHIN HOURS after the attack, when the journalists arrived, there was just a handful of bodies left--with plenty of leftover parts, though. "Oh, they must have run off into the desert." Yeah, right.

Answers the question: How many bodies can you fit in a Chinook?
posted by kablam at 4:07 PM on October 2, 2004

I'm confused. The Iraqi blogger posts pictures of dead children and reports that the deed was done by terrorists. (Various news sources later report children killed by bomb when they run to get candy from American soldiers)

Reuters puts out a video about American bombing Fallujah, with opening sentence, "Doctors said 3 people were killed in the strike and 8 wounded, three of them children." The video goes on to show people milling around in bombed out area, bomb crater, and a man holding his child in his arms talking Iraqi, "'Is this (the attack) the breakfast, which (Prime Minister Iyad) Allawi sent to this family ? This is (pointing to a child) the only survivor of the family. What is the guilt of these families ? Is this what Iyad Allawi wants? Is this democracy ? Is this (child) is Zarqawi,' said a resident."
And these are the last words of the report, although there are more pictures: the interior of an ambulance, and the same picture of the 4 dead children the Iraqi blogger posted.

Frankly, I am surprised it didn't occur to anyone that the Reuters claim may be the wrong one.
posted by semmi at 11:27 AM on October 3, 2004

He's updated his post to admit the children were probably killed by U.S. bombing

May be a legitimate mistake. Maybe just more propaganda.
posted by destro at 1:58 PM on October 3, 2004

He's updated his post to admit the children were probably killed by U.S. bombing

destro: I checked your link and there is no update to indicate that the children were killed by anything other than terrorists.
posted by semmi at 3:35 PM on October 3, 2004

Maybe I'm having a hard time understanding his broken english, but I thought this was an admission:

We are unable to verify both sources but from what most of the readers of this site said we conclude that the frame picture above is for children killed by the US forces strike in Falluja.
posted by destro at 4:12 PM on October 3, 2004

semmi - why not just 'fess up ? US bombing and Zarqawi-style bombings both are killing Iraqi children.

And - from their vantage point on the ground - Iraqis may grant more equivalence to the two agencies noted above than most Americans would care to admit.

This doesn't make the two agencies equally morally culpable - but possible (and maybe inevitable) Iraqi perceptions of equality cannot but help in feeding Iraqi anger and resentment.
posted by troutfishing at 3:50 AM on October 4, 2004

troutfishing: I agree with you, but cannot 'fess up to something so far away from my personally experiencing it, something I'm forced to depend on "interpreters'" reports to try to imagine.
posted by semmi at 3:44 PM on October 4, 2004

semmi - If we're so far away from the truth of the situation, how can any of us presume to comment on it ?
posted by troutfishing at 10:42 PM on October 4, 2004

troutfishing: In this instance, I was (we were) commenting on the messengers, and the veracity and possible motives of the presentations. With seeming discrepancy everybody seemed to jump to accuse the purported eyewitness as a US agent, disregarding the sloppy investigation and reasoning and the possible propaganda intent of the Mefi poster.

Aside of that, searching to understand personal reactions, one may go back to one's own experiences similar to the case in point. My personal experience of a similar situation indicates that while a population may resent the occupiers for lack of safety and of casualties of war, the likelihood is that there is a greater resentment against "local" bands who grossly disregard local lives.

In an intellectual overview, one may just neatly use the visceral shock of dead babies to package and further justify already existing ideologies, but my logic indicates that the US would like to establish enough stability to get out of there, leaving behind something acceptable to some yet unformulated US interest, and the fighting is really among Iraqi religious and secular factions jockeying for power.

And finally, we shouldn't presume to comment on a far away situation we don't have first hand information on without framing our comments into rationally supportable or supported conclusions.
posted by semmi at 10:58 AM on October 5, 2004

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