Friday, March 17, 2006

How Many Boys? 

I was browsing through the Yahoo MidEast News Photos and stopped cold in my tracks. I'd just cycled through a series of Palestinian "protest photos" and something was bothering me. So I went back and reviewed the series. See if you can spot what was nagging at me:

A Palestinian boy hurls a stone at an Israeli army vehicle in the West Bank city of Jenin March 16, 2006. [...] REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

A Palestinian youth throws a stone at Israel troops during a raid in the West Bank town of Jenin, Thursday, March 16, 2006. An Israeli soldier was killed, and five Palestinian militants arrested in the raid, sources said. (AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas)

A Palestinian youth throws a stone [...] (AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas)

Palestinian youths throw stones [...] (AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas)

Palestinians run behind an Israeli army vehicle [...] REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman
Two different photographers, two different news services, lots of different photos from several different locations, both in the street and on a rooftop. But one "boy" featured in all of them. What is my point? I'm not disputing that there indeed was a protest that included the throwing of rocks, as stated. But when you see the same boy starring in all the pictures from both news services, you have to start to wonder about the relationship between the protestors and the news service stringers in creating this feature presentation. Photos that appear coordinated between spontaneous rock throwers and ostensibly objective photographers and reporters start to call into question the nature of what the protest represents.

Daled Amos has a fantastic post on the subject of the relationship between newswire stringers and the subjects they are helping report on. And Mensa Barbie has a link to must-see video that shows far more explicitly the kind of relationship these photos only hint at. I strongly recommend checking out both pieces, and then taking another look at these pictures -- and maybe at a lot of other pictures.

There are a few other oddities about these photos. The rock throwers, and indeed hordes of onlookers behind, seem perfectly comfortable standing completely out in the open, unprotected from any Israeli gunfire, all while the crowd attacks an armed position. Suicidal commitment to national goals? I wouldn't expect a martyr's fervor from each and every person milling about in an onlooking crowd. More likely, they realize there is no need to seek cover.

So can we conclude that there was no real danger on that day, since no one seems concerned about shielding themselves from lethal fire? Not quite. Someone actually was killed on this day, an Israeli soldier (see the second photo's caption). And someone actually was concerned for their safety, taking trouble to shield themselves. It just wasn't the Palestinians:

An Israeli soldier runs for cover in the West Bank city of Jenin March 16, 2006. Israeli soldiers and Palestinian gunmen fought each other in the West Bank city of Jenin, hours after gunmen shot and wounded two Israeli motorists near a Jewish settlement. The spike in violence followed the army's capture of six Palestinian militants in a West Bank prison raid on Tuesday. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman
Sure, there are clashes between Palestinian crowds and Israeli soldiers. I don't dispute that. But you might start to wonder if it really means what you're being told it means.

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: