Friday, 17 August 2007

Shooting themselves in the foot?

Righties are getting themselves in to a right (see what I did there?) ferment in blogland.

The cause of current frothing is a photograph attributed to Wissam al-Okaili, shown by AFP, of an elderly Iraqi woman holding up bullets that, according to the original caption accompanying the photograph, she claims were fired at her home by coaltion forces.

You see what they're getting at? If not, try here (1). Nothing makes righties happier than exposing supposed liberal or media (terms are interchangeable to righties, with the exception of Fox News) malfeasance.

Little Green Footballs (2) goes on to reveal another, slightly older photograph by Wissam al-Okaili "apparently featuring the same woman, holding another unfired round" (3).

Here are the two photographs. The one on the left is the most recent one that attracted the initial controversy. The one on the right is the older one.

Looks pretty convincing when first viewed, particualrly if by someone eager to be convinced that there is liberal malfeasance afoot. But lets looks beyond the spittle soaked monitors and bugged eyes of rightwing bloggery.

First, there is no reason to think the photos are of the same woman. There are plenty of aged crones in Iraq, dressed in black. If you look closely at the first photograph, you'll see the woman has a lump at the top of her lip. Not visible on the second woman, though she has a lump by her left eye. Not visible on the first woman.

So we can dispatch that piece of paranoid fantasy to the dustbin of history. As can be the suggestion that the woman in the older photograph is holding an unfired bullet. It isn't. To LGF's credit, when it was pointed out that the woman was most likely holding the "steel core of a fired .50 caliber round" (4), they had the honesty to highlight the correction. But I still think they are missing the bigger picture (see what I did there? Again?)

The original controversy focused around the wording of the caption that accompanied the photograph when it was put up online. This claimed that the woman was holding up bullets that struck her house -arrant nonsense, unless someone threw them by hand.

But I am more interested in the photograph than in the bullets. To me, it does not look convincing. It is badly composed and poorly focused. It is drab and uninteresting to look at. Compare it to the second (older) photograph - notice the difference. The second photograph was taken by someone who knew how to take good photographs. It is well composed, the focal point of the bullet lined up with the old woman's face. It has more colour and tone in it and that elusive 'texture' that good photographs have.

The two photographs don't look like the work of the same photographer to me. The first photograph looks like a fake. I'd hazard that someone has taken a detail of a photograph by al-Okaili, and photo-shopped a hand holding bullets into the foreground. The hand might be genuine, but the bullets themselves look very phoney, sitting there. She'd have t have a very long, strong thumb to hold them in that position.

So, if it is a fraud, who would have done it? The obvious suspect, al-Okaili, can be discounted straight away. Why would he bother? There are many old women dressed in black in Iraq, and even more spent bullets (5). If he wanted to pepetrate the hoax, it would have been easier for him to do so without resort to image manipulation. And why would he - a skilled photographer - have made such a crude effort.

This is lost on most rightwing bloggers. Hellbent on exposing liberal wickedness, they have swallowed the notion that al-Okaili or some liberal malefactor popogating for the cause. Which is ironic. I have no idea who might have done this, or why - Hell, I might be wrong and it might even be a genuine photograph, and the whole farce stemmed from a carless editor writing an ill thought out caption - but I'm keeping my mind open.

1 - "Adnan Hajj photographs controversy," Wikipedia article, viewed on 21st of August, 2007. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adnan_Hajj_photographs_controversy)
2 - Rightwing, American blog run by Charles Johnson. (
http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/)
3 - "Magic Bullets Discovered in Sadr City by AFP Photographer," post on Little Green Footballs, 15th of August, 2007. (
http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=26666_Magic_Bullets_Discovered_in_Sadr_City_by_AFP_Photographer&only)
4 - ibid.
5 - Don't believe me? Follow this link (
http://news.yahoo.com/photos/ss/1479/im:/070812/ids_photos_wl/r947203443.jpg;_ylt=AkvADzbIHG0GhRrLAc.35WfKps8F) and see how many you can count in all the photos.

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