THE FAREWELL KISS ...a look behind the headlines at the Iraqi Shoe Thrower

It's been about five months since George Bush went to Iraq to dodge a pair of flying shoes. It was a funny scene. Every one laughed.

Well, not everyone. Muntadher al Zaidi, the guy who threw the shoe was pulled from the room and beaten, so chances are he wasn't laughing.

But yes, for the most part, the incident was treated like a joke and most reports welcomed the chance for a bit of fun to ring out the Bush era.

So when we were looking for a story about the ethics of journalism, we decided turn The Media Project's cameras where the media really hadn't.

Obviously this shoe-throwing was a huge story, the footage was crazy, but for the most part, all anyone really remembers is just that the shoe was thrown.

In a room full of cameras - it was a press conference, after all - why did we never see anything else? And in a room full of journalists, we wondered, why had we not heard more background and context to the case?

Sure, a few journalists told us that in Iraq showing the sole of your shoe to someone means is to shame them, to compare them to dirt. Some of them even scratched the surface of who Muntadher al-Zaidi really was, but by and large, he was a joke and his action worth countless inches of snarky print and entire hours worth of shoddy screaming-head dialogue.

We wanted to know more. We talked to other journalists who have to work in that environment. What we wanted to ask was, 'Did he cross the line?' And we wanted to know who this man really was - so we went to Baghdad, interviewed his family, his co-workers, his fellow Iraqis.

What we found was a man who'd been deeply touched by the war. He had reported on the civilian cost of the war - images and stories we have so rarely seen over these past six years - and that experience enraged him.

Almost everyone we talked to - from famed war correspondent Chris Hedges to independent journalist Dahr Jamail - agreed that in his action, Muntadher al-Zaidi had crossed the line from journalist to activist, but they differed on their reasons.

Hedges, for example, argues that a journalist could better get the same point across by just continuing to tell the awful stories of war. Jamail, on the other hand, suggests that if we were put in this man's place - if we were to sit in a room with a foreign head of state who was responsible for mass death and destruction of our own country - it is not inconceivable to think we might do the same thing.

It's an interesting debate, and one that probably better illuminates the action itself than just one more joke on top of the others.

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THE IFC MEDIA PROJECT airs Sunday night at 11pm on the Independent Film Channel.