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Hullabaloo


Thursday, April 24, 2014

 
The Times Public Editor takes a look at the story of those pictures

by digby

Margaret Sullivan writes:
The Times led its print edition Monday with an article based in part on photographs that the State Department said were evidence of Russian military presence in popular uprisings in Ukraine. The headline read: “Photos Link Masked Men in East Ukraine to Russia.”

And the article began:
For two weeks, the mysteriously well-armed, professional gunmen known as “green men” have seized Ukrainian government sites in town after town, igniting a brush fire of separatist unrest across eastern Ukraine. Strenuous denials from the Kremlin have closely followed each accusation by Ukrainian officials that the world was witnessing a stealthy invasion by Russian forces.

Now, photographs and descriptions from eastern Ukraine endorsed by the Obama administration on Sunday suggest that many of the green men are indeed Russian military and intelligence forces — equipped in the same fashion as Russian special operations troops involved in annexing the Crimea region in February. Some of the men photographed in Ukraine have been identified in other photos clearly taken among Russian troops in other settings.

More recently, some of those grainy photographs have been discredited. The Times has published a second article backing off from the original and airing questions about what the photographs are said to depict, but hardly addressing how the newspaper may have been misled.

It all feels rather familiar – the rushed publication of something exciting, often based on an executive branch leak. And then, afterward, with a kind of “morning after” feeling, here comes a more sober, less prominently displayed followup story, to deal with objections while not clarifying much of anything.

Indeed it does. I was shocked at how credulous the Times reporting was on that original story. It felt like the "Old Shoe" campaign from "Wag the Dog." Sullivan comes down hard on the paper, as she should. Even though they whine about the fact that their Iraq war reporting tainted their credibility, it did.

And as we well know, out government has a long history of distributing propaganda in these confusing situations to drum up support. (And if they don't do it themselves they contract the job out to the private sector.) Skepticism is always called for at times like these.

Just the other day I was reminded of this when the story of the pamphlets instructing Ukrainian Jews to "register" came up.  Does anyone remember this little debacle?
On May 19, 2006, the National Post of Canada published pieces by Amir Taheri alleging that the Iranian parliament had passed a sumptuary law mandating a national dress code for all Iranians, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.

Both National Post articles went on to say that non-Muslim religious minorities in Iran would be required to wear "special insignia": yellow for Jews, red for Christians and blue for Zoroastrian. According to the article by Taheri, "[t]he new codes would enable Muslims to easily recognize non-Muslims so that they can avoid shaking hands with them by mistake, and thus becoming najis (unclean)." According to both articles, Iranian Muslims would have to wear "standard Islamic garments".
It wasn't true and the newspaper eventually issued a retraction. It's interesting how this stuff just keeps coming up. That particular story was sourced to a conservative Iranian exile, known for fabricating stories. I'm sure he agreed with the neo-con mantra that "real men go to Tehran."

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