Little Green Footballs, Staged War Photos, and the Story the Press Won't Tell

The right-wing blogs' occasional 'scoops' are celebrated by the MSM, but their day-to-day conspiracy theories, along with their unapologetic hatred, are politely ignored.
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As Little Green Footballs, the right-wing warblog, continues to be toasted in the press for helping ferret out a Reuters news photo that was marginally altered to show a smoldering, bombed-out Beirut in the wake of a recent bombing, you might say that practice has made perfect for LGF. Practice, because this isn't the first time the website, which oozes disdain for Arabs and journalists (and most of all, Arab journalists), has gone to battle over staged wartime photographs. Obsessed with proving that all MSM reporting from Iraq and the Middle East is biased in favor of Islamic terrorists and therefore American news consumers aren't getting the 'truth' about either region, LGF has been at the center of an on-going crusade to de-legitimize the press. (Conservative media critics are out to destroy the press; liberal critics want to make it better, stronger.) To the warbloggers, journalists are terrorists. Or as one LGF headline put it, "The Media Are The Enemey."

Not surprisingly, that kind of press hatred has cloulded LGF's judement in the past. Back in 2004 and 2005 LGF helped lead the charge in accusing a local Associated Press photographer in Iraq of working in concert with Iraqi insurgents and staging the public assassination of a Baghdad election worker. The only problem for LGF was that allegation proved to be completely fictitious, not that LGF or any of the other right-wing online press-haters, such as Power Line and, ever copped to their delusional pursuit.

Yet for some reason today when media outlets rush to honor LGF for its dogged investigative ways, reporters refuses to highlight some of LGF's previous, less successful jihads against the press. The omission seems to reflect the MSM's long-standing gentleman's agreement when it comes to covering the right-wing blogs; their occasional 'scoops' are celebrated, but their day-to-day conspiracy theories, along with their unapologetic hatred, are politely ignored for fear of further upsetting the angry warblogs.

Here's a closer look at earlier LGF attempts to uncover staged wartime photographs. From my book, "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush":

Take, as just one example, their December 2004 crusade against the Associated Press after one of its freelance photographers in Baghdad snapped dramatic pictures of Iraqi election workers being executed by insurgents in broad day light amid stopped traffic on Haifi Street. Going on nothing more than an angry, anti-media hunch--the photos were a jarring reminder of how badly the U.S.-led reconstruction of Iraq was going--the bloggers, anointing themselves experts in wartime photojournalism, concluded the AP freelancer could only have captured the images if he'd been tipped off by terrorists who wanted the executions publicized. Read: The AP was in bed with terrorists. As Malkin put it, the bloggers were "raising troubling questions" about the photographs. And their questions for the AP regarding the Haifa Street photos were:

1. How did the photographer stumble across the execution scene?

2. How did he get so close. (Power Line theorized he was "within a few yards" from the scene of the murder.)

3. Why wasn't he afraid the insurgents would kill him?

The established facts were as follows:

1. Haifi Street was a hotbed for insurgents and on the day of the execution the AP freelancer had been tipped by another journalist that "something happened on Haifa Street."

2. He used a 400mm zoom lens from 55 yards away.

3. He was indeed afraid. The photographer's name was [not initially] released publicly out of concern about possible retribution from Iraqi insurgents.

So much for that controversy. And like so many of the press haters' hollow attacks, it faded away with a whimper and certainly without any acknowledgement that any false accusations had been made. But then four months later when the AP captured an illustrious Pulitzer Prize for "its stunning series of photographs of bloody yearlong combat inside Iraqi cities," including the Haifi Street execution photos, and the press haters went nuts, again. With even less proof of a terrorist connection, the war supporters went all in on a bluff. "Pulitzer Prize for felony murder," shrieked Power Line, indicting the AP photographers "with complicity with murderers and enemies of the United States." Power Line's soul mate at Little Green Footballs blared "The media establishment puts their thumb in the eye of the blogosphere, awarding a Pulitzer Prize for photography to the Associated Press's anonymous and very possibly staged photographs of terrorists committing murder on Baghdad's Haifa Street." Malkin, whose 2005 book was appropriately titled Unhinged, demanded to know whether Pulitzer Prize judges had studied the bloggers' conspiratorial claims before passing out the award. (They had not.)

Power Line soon posted extensive 'analysis' of the photo, concluding it was taken from approximately 16 yards away (wrong), was captured with a150mm lens (wrong), which meant "the assassination picture has all the earmarks of a planned image" (wrong). Keep in mind, this came from the same press-hating website that once lectured the MSM, "If you're going to serve up a conspiracy theory--without any evidence, of course--shouldn't the theory at least make some kind of sense?"

The truth is, the controversy over the award-winning images had nothing to do with how they came to be, and everything to do with the images that were captured. And from the press hater perspective, they were the wrong images. The manufactured controversy over the photographs was an end run at censorship, plain and simple. It was about trying to bully journalists from doing their job and from reporting unpleasant truths around world. It was about smearing journalists who risked their lives in Iraq--more than six dozen were killed there--by accusing them of collaborating with America's enemies. All while members of fearless "101st Fighting Keyboarders" pontificated from their air conditioned offices.

If the press wants to celebrate LGF, so be it. But journalists shouldn't whitewash the reality that on more days than not, LGF doesn't let the facts get in the way of a good crusade.

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