It was recently revealed that the photograph posted online by an Arab propagandist, Abdullah Alsaafin, of a two-year-old girl identified as Bayan Abu Khamash, supposedly killed by Israeli bombs, had in fact been taken from Instagram, where the girl was identified as an American two-year-old, Elle Lively McBroom.
“War is deceit,” said Muhammad, and the uncovering of deceit is a legitimate defense in such a war. Now that we know the source of that photo, there are several things that might be done. Instagram or Twitter or wherever Abdullah Alsaafin has an account might be publicly appealed to, to remove his account in light of the fact that he has been caught malevolently misusing, for the purposes of propaganda, a photograph on Instagram. Instagram cannot police every misuse of its contents, but when such a blatant and dangerous example is brought to its attention, it has a responsibility to act. It should not only remove Alsaafin’s account (if he has an Instagram account; otherwise the places where he posted the false photo should remove his account), but explain that it is doing so because of his malevolent theft, with malice aforethought, of a two-year-old’s photograph.
This is one of many examples where the Arabs have used fauxtography. Recently, I was informed, Arab propagandists had posted pictures in the aftermath of the earthquake in Mexico, identifying them as scenes in Gaza. Photographs of destruction in Syria have been similarly applied. During the 2006 war in Lebanon, Hezbollah — and willing Western journalists — engaged in fauxtography of every kind. Burning tires in the smoky distance were presented as burned out buildings, an untouched Qur’an was carefully placed in the middle of rubble, and then deliberately set on fire, long after the building it was said to have been in had been reduced to rubble.
Empty ambulances suddenly had their alarms and lights turned on for visiting journalists. Other ambulances — still whole, though rusted-out, and with a handful of bullet holes in them, were presented as having been “hit by Israeli bombs.” If they had been hit, they would no longer exist. Reporters used Photoshop to darken photos in order to make the Lebanese scenes even grimmer. Toys were always strewn carefully about, so as to “stage” a scene where children were said to have been hit (this happened so often that one alert journalist said the stagers must have had a charge account at ToysRUs). “Dead” people did not always stay dead. Some were seen breathing regularly as they lay on the ground. Still others were videotaped as they got up and walked away, when they thought — wrongly — that all the reporters had left. These and many other examples of fauxtography can be found here.
Possibly Nikki Haley can deliver a speech at the U.N. about the misuse of Elle Lively McBroom’s Instagram photograph, showing side-by-side both photos of her, under two different names, on a giant screen set up before the General Assembly for maximum impact. Ambassador Haley, having made her point, might then go further, and offer a dozen different examples of various kinds of fauxtography practiced in the past on behalf of the “Palestinians,” not just by Hamas in Gaza, but also by Hezbollah in Lebanon during the 2006 war. It would be quite a lesson, both startling and salutary, for the U.N. delegates, and for much of the world outside the kangaroo court of the U.N., that has been swallowing this malevolent stuff for far too long.
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