08 August 2006

Disingenuous Media Reaction

The response from the Media, Mainstream variety, is that of disingenuous belief that the photos of Adnan Hajj or the possibility of large scale media manipulation by Hezbollah at Qana and other places are things that may be termed, as Dan Rather put it, 'Fake, but accurate.' Thus something that vaguely supports a 'story' need not be fully true as factual material, but, so long is it supports the supposition, it can be used in assertation that it *is* the actual fact. Thusly you now have folks in the media decrying that they 'may have been led around' but that they are still fully independent. The term from the era of the USSR that comes to the forefront is 'minders': individuals to ensure that what is not meant to be seen is not seen and that an individual, by being led around, will only be given a single side of the truth via what is revealed.

So when taken to a place by such 'minders' and shown individuals 'working' to remove 'battle casualties' inflicted by 'the enemy', the mere fact that this is a staged event would not in any way remove the 'truth' of the actual event being recreated. Perhaps these individuals will take away such truthfulness from something like Hamlet, also, or Henry IV. Fake, but... well in the first fiction and in the second altered fictionalization of real events.

In point of fact the Shane Richmond defense :

But were they staged? Well, it's possible of course. All kinds of things are possible. But it's very unlikely. There were plenty of photographers there, all competing to get the best pictures. Would the others have waited around as one of their number set up a shot?

As far as I know, Richard North is not, and never has been, a press photographer. And he wasn't in Qana this weekend. Nor was I, for that matter, which is why I can't definitively state that these pictures weren't staged.
No doubt that the individual in question is *not* a press photographer, but the vast majority of journalists of either the written or imagery kind are NOT battle damage assessment experts, either. The problem is *context* and always has been: editors, journalists and photographers *decide* what they think will best sell or best fit a *story*. They will prejudge their work and craft it to *fit* that story. By the time something known as news is delivered it has changed from a factual accounting of events to something being fit into a *story*. And, in point of fact, it is that pre-editorial judgment, especially by photojournalists and motion imagery journalists that is being pointed out to being the problem. Without ALL of the images taken, ensuring that they were, indeed, taken by a certain individual at a certain place and time with the camera indicated by the metadata, there is NO assurance of the actual data itself supporting any supposition.

The Mainstream Media throughout times up to just a few years ago was given authority to self-police and assurances that such was done with stringent adherence to ethics, quality and sticking to factual reporting and leaving analysis as a clearly delineated and marked reserve entirely separate from news accounts. That, however, changed in the 1970's, when going after the big *story* to gain headlines and offer pre-synthesized viewpoints supported by some data, but perhaps not all data, was given a go-ahead in journalism.

By not demonstrably accounting for all conflicting and contradictory evidence in an attempt to tease a the truth from the facts, the storyline dominated that screening process so that things that did not easily fit were discounted and discarded with NO representation in the final reporting. Add to this the diminishment of long analysis and longer oratory to fit into television *sound bite* space which attempted to do to audio what it was already doing for motion capture, and the entire realm of journalism was moving out of fact-based reporting and leaving analysis to others to that of putting reporters out to do instant analysis, grab a sound bite and then move on to the *next story*.

What is not taken into account, however, is the other meme put forward by the media that they are the ones giving a 'first cut' to history. When the history that they are putting forth is *already* edited before even getting to an editor, then they are no longer recording history, but creating a version of history. By not putting forth the complete suite of input as seen from many angles and reports by *all* reporters and putting the entire documentary evidence out for the public to see for themselves, reporters and editors are reserving for themselves the role of *analyst* and *intelligence expert*. One may cover many war zones, be through many firefights and *still* have no idea about strategy, logistics, C4I and other things that are not apparent from combat reporting. Further, when reporting about battle damage and its effects, by trying to attempt to ascertain *who* did the activity and then impute *why* it was done, this very same cadre of journalists and editors have taken it upon themselves to sieve out those things that they just don't like. Especially if the minder is there to ensure that they don't see it.

So when the question of: "Is Qana being staged as something worse than it IS or as something totally beyond the scope of the original battle damage?" the ones to determine that should not be, no matter how much front line experience they have, journalists and journalistic editors. No matter how many dead bodies a reporter has photographed, the emotional shock of it is still present and will tinge the reporting of the event itself. Factual reporting and leaving analysis up to experts with capabilities in these specialized area of battle damage assessment (BDA) and forensics is what the Media had promised to do with their reporting so as to distinguish between facts, reporting of facts, and analysis of facts using a report as just a single data point of eyewitness accounting. And no matter how GOOD the reporter on the scene actually is, they will have an emotional depth added to their factual reporting, that is necessary to allow that reporter to give their honest *feeling* of an event so as to have it taken into account by later *analysis*.

How did Qana become a 'story' BEFORE all of the facts were taken in, examined, time sequenced and otherwise given representational logic as to how things happened and when? Without even the most basic of battle damage assessment, seeing corpses is, in actuality, just that. And corpses emerging from one set of ruins in one place, and then showing up at another set of ruins at another place and time points out that ONE of these ruins is being used for falsification of destruction leading to death. And if forensic analysis demonstrates that the bodies, themselves, were not killed by either blast or debris fall, or have been dead since before the actual damage happened, then you have an entire event that is *staged*. But the public does not know that because the full and entire sequence of HISTORICAL EVIDENCE is not made available. Reporters and editors have already taken their 'first cut' at history before it even arrives to the public, because what is reported must fit into the *story* they are reporting. And that is even before questioning if the reporting of one *story* over another *story* is biased in and of itself in the selection.

In the realm of Intelligence Analysis there is this concept of having data with varying degrees of reliability and REPORTING on that reliability as part of the overall factual content of the report. A few things are worth looking at in this formulation of varying reliability of evidence:

1) Human based reporting, even first hand accounts, must take into account the individual that is doing the reporting and their biases. This seems simple on its fact, but, in point of fact is highly difficult when dealing with individuals who do not want to make their biases known. Without that the analyst is left trying to put *weight* to a report that is supposedly factual, but has less than perfectly known motivations behind them. So even a highly truthful report may be degraded from 'highly accurate' to 'somewhat accurate' and weighted accordingly. Without substantiating evidence a single report is just that: non-contextual reports are single data points and can only help in a larger decision by looking at the mass of evidence and its weighting.

2) Machine based reporting, would seem to be an area of high accuracy. And it is up to the limits of the machine, its data type and reporting capability involved. Intercepted encrypted information between two nodes on a network indicates the fact that those two nodes are using that means to communicate and intend to have some level of security between them. This is inferred analysis by the fact of the intercepted communication even *before* the data itself is decrypted. This is known as 'metadata' which describes the circumstances of the data itself but is NOT the data. The actual veracity of the encrypted data, however, must be ascertained *separately*, and that veracity is *also* added to the metadata. In another realm, look to digital cameras which are proliferating at an astounding rate. All such cameras in the last few years send not only the actual *data* of the image, but the camera type, f-stop, color space, and date and time of the camera signature if it is available. Some cameras can be fitted with GPS capability and will give the exact coordinates of that camera on or above the Earth and its derived time signatures from the available satellite constellation. This will have known error limits, and that is taken in as part of the process of later analysis. What many cameras will ALSO record is camera orientation. So, the image is not *just* an image: it has spatio-temporal axes, color space limitations, use or non-use of flash and a variety of other pertinent metadata encoded WITHIN the file itself. This metadata can be read and used to place a time sequences of photographs from that camera with spatial coordinates and representations of it. THAT is historical information that is absolutely necessary for later analysis. When captured and the data is not tampered with, the image with its metadata gives an *exact* historical record within its boundaries for image capture at a specific date, time and orientation. This *can* be tampered with and quite easily, so getting images from the field to an archival site *without* intervening data processing is a primary concern for these historical documents. When verified by procedural analysis, these documents are *more* reliable than human based reporting because the image, within its limits, is an EXACT capture of that instant or streaming set of instances.

By and large these two main areas cover the realm of journalism, but we hear less and less about reliability of sources, how the individual reporter makes their decisions and why they toss out some data as 'unreliable' and keep others as 'more reliable'. Add this into the concept of 'story' based reporting, and you come up with something known as fact based fiction: an accounting of events partially substantiated by some evidence and given credence by a fabricated storyline.

In the scientific realm evidence that is contrary to an proposed hypothesis or supposition must be taken into account. Here, again, data is examined and weighted by its type (physical measurement or derived from metadata analysis of actual data), source (usually from instruments, but medicine requires human based experiential input which must also be weighted), and limits (what are the limits of the measurements being taken and does the conflicting data point to something that was not being tested for and must be taken into account). While similar to Intelligence Analysis, scientific analysis places a primary stress on the actual evidence and derived metadata, which must be recorded accurately with ALL of the problems of the equipment, setting, measuring capability and it must ALL be reported. Any scientist that does *not* take into account the conflicting data by putting in the proviso language of 'within that which has been tested for, but other evidence suggests...' or with 'this other evidence was examined and seen to be outside the hypothesis being tested for, is interesting in and of itself but does not impinge upon the hypothesis because....'. These are reports, like Intelligence Analysis reports, that weigh evidence, look at them in total context and piece together what is happening and either accepts that the given postulation is limited in ways that needs better definition, or puts forward that the postulation is a more generalized rule with important exceptions.

This formulation of reporting is currently absent in the MSM, which has global organizational capability and should have readily available experts to examine captured data by reporters and offer a 'first cut' on the data itself and give weighting to it, and always leave open that 'more review may lower or remove reliability of the source material'. The reporting itself may be factual for the reporter involved and even the news organization, but if problems with underlying or supporting factual evidence shows up in the way of fraud, fabrication or even unintentional data or metadata removal, the actual 'report' may lose in its weighting as a single point of evidence. In both Intelligence Analysis and Scientific Analysis evidence is weighted, assessed and then put to the test via contextual examination and the final report shows a preponderance weighting after taking all of the evidence into hand and telling exactly *why* some evidence is weighted more than other pieces. A most interesting thing about photographic or video journalism is that the *background* to a scene may tell a more truthful story than the actual 'center of attention'. By correlating backgrounds and time sequencing them either via metadata or through known points of alteration, an entire 'story' may emerge that is far different than the focal point of a single image or video capture. Thus the reporter may be reporting on one thing and the background of the report may be telling a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT STORY.

It is not that the reporter is untrustworthy, it is just that it is much harder to move multiton blocks of concrete or repaint entire buildings than it is to move bodies around. The reporter is reporting on the bodies, the imagery is reporting on the entire scene. That scene has elements for contextual placement in a larger course of events which may totally escape an individual reporter, group of reporters or the entire reporting segment of the journalistic community but becomes readily apparent when the entire assemblage of data is put into contextual analysis. The recorded data via mechanisms on non-important things becomes the focus of such analysis and the actual reporters account given secondary consideration as a subjective point view in a particular place and time.

Thus the attempts at re-casting photographs, changing them, altering them and putting in or taking out of things is an attempt to change historical evidence to fit a particular viewpoint. It may be a non-fraudulent and totally valid reason: to crop and color enhance a photograph to show up on a wide variety of display media or for printing. That is time honored in its doing and editors and publishers must take especial care to ensure that the subject of the image does not lose its contextual placement in events. Problems arise with such things as: blurring backgrounds, shading colors that are not shaded in reality, altering the actual raster images to insert or delete material as part of the factuality of the image. These things are fraudulent unless directly pointed to or the image turned into a mere artistic 'graphic'. Graphics can portray many things, but they are secondary and tertiary documents in evidentiary analysis. The cover of a magazine, while looking like a picture and may actually *be* a picture, is a representational graphic made to be eye catching and sell magazines.

As I have pointed out previously in other articles: a greater problem arises with the photrealistic capability of modern computers to create fully life-like and realistic 3D models and give an image or time sequenced animation of that model space. The ability to do this and then put in filters and other post-processing to mimic real life cameras and video equipment and insert metadata then creates a massive problem not only for the news industry, but for the entire film and cinematic industry. Capabilities to turn previously filmed work into a 3D model space, represent actors within that space and then replace and regenerate the entire scene with new actors and voicing added in is a desktop capability that will be arriving and is already worrying to the film industry. When you gain the capability to have entire films from generated computer graphics that are entirely photorealistic, the ability to do this on a future desktop is pushed by Moore's Law. The Open Source photo editing tools available today would represent a treasure trove of capability to an individual 10 years ago, if they had the computing power to actually use it. Once the computing power arrives, the high end tools move downstream to a larger audience and users community.

And one can easily foresee the day of taking multiple images of, say, a neighborhood in the Middle East that has been damaged by bombing, casting it into a 3D representational space, putting digital actors in it for animated sequencing and then rasterizing the result for video. It looks and feels 'real'... but is wholly fiction. This has been a media industry worry ever since Photoshop showed up at a price range mere mortals could afford.

Adnan Hajj was caught by being a relatively unskilled amateur at this.

How many professional propagandists with additional tools in their imagery toolbox have already passed their work through unskilled editorial review committees?

And when, exactly, is the reporting that is supported by fraudulent or biased evidence actually 'truthful'?

And why would the Media worry about putting all of their historical documents out for examination? Do they have something to hide?

"Fake, but accurate." - Dan Rather on his analysis based on a falsified document.

"It's almost classic Watergate. It's not the crime. It's the cover-up." - Bob Grossfeld

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