Saturday, November 15, 2014

15-Nov-14: Invented news and how easy it can be to get away with it

Photogenic Syrian boy braves flying Syrian bullets
to rescue a little Syrian girl [Image Source]
We have mentioned Pallywood here several times. Richard Landes, a professor at Boston University. coined the term to mean
"productions staged by the Palestinians, in front of (and often with cooperation from) Western camera crews, for the purpose of promoting anti-Israel propaganda by disguising it as news." [source]
or more simply, "staged material disguised as news", aimed at advancing the case for the Palestinian Arabs and their backers.

There is very little doubt in our minds that Pallywood really exists. Or that it has a toxic ongoing impact on the way news is reported and understood. We have looked systematically and up-close at several instances of Pallywood productions, and are convinced they exemplify how a deliberate attempt was made to fabricate events for the news-reporting industry so that damage would be done to Israel. To the extent it reflects an aspect of the ways journalism is done today, the Pallywood phenomenon highlights how the news industry is in desperate need of being exposed and fixed.

Pallywood as a concept is sometimes termed controversial. In large part, that's because it's difficult, and full of unthinkable consequences, to accept that smart, cynical media professionals could be duped by determined propagandists. Or worse, that those media people willingly swallow faked stories because they have an ideological agenda that supports those who do the faking.

Same scene, but with the film crew that the YouTube audience
didn't see. And it's not Syria: it's Malta [Image Source]
Many people, including personal friends whose views we generally respect, reject the Pallywood thesis. We hope they read this post.

This weekend, Pallywood along with the ideas for which it stands, is the focus of an unusual degree of media attention. In a nutshell:
Syrians have responded with outrage to a video showing a young boy rescuing a girl while under gunfire, after it emerged on Friday that the clip had been staged by a Norwegian filmmaker who said he wanted to raise awareness about the conflict. [Middle East Eye, November 15, 2014]
On Friday night, the BBC ["#BBCTrending: Syrian 'hero boy' video faked by Norwegian director"] revealed the agenda behind the authentic-looking and -sounding video clip. With a sound track filled with shouts of Allahu Akhbars from people standing close to the camera, just like the cellphone videos of Syrian barbarism that have been all over the social media during the past three years, it captures a dramatic moment in the ongoing Syrian savagery. As of tonight (Saturday) has achieved 3,913,840 YouTube views and 8,072 likes. (These numbers will certainly have gone up higher by the time you click the link to check. And there appear to be multiple places on the web from where it can be streamed, so that the audience is surely larger than the numbers we just quoted.)  Their article includes out-takes from the filming.
Millions of YouTube viewers have been captivated by the 'Syrian hero boy' who manages to rescue a little girl while under gunfire. Now a group of Norwegian filmmakers have told BBC Trending they are behind it. They say it was filmed on location in Malta this summer with the intention of being presented as real. Lars Klevberg, a 34-year-old film director based in Oslo, wrote a script after watching news coverage of the conflict in Syria. He says he deliberately presented the film as reality in order to generate a discussion about children in conflict zones. "If I could make a film and pretend it was real, people would share it and react with hope," he said. [BBC yesterday]
We now know that a seriously large film crew, working on the
island of Malta, was needed in order to fabricate a snippet
of made-in-Syria news video. Funding was evidently
no problem. [Image Source: BBC]
The film-maker goes on to explain how his clip was "picked up by Shaam Network, a channel that features material from the Middle East, which posted it on YouTube. Then it began to attract international attention." The BBC adds:
Since being uploaded to YouTube on Monday the video has been watched more than five million times and inspired thousands of comments. There has been a big debate about whether it is genuine. How those viewers will react to learning that it's a work of fiction remains to be seen. "We are really happy with the reaction," Klevberg said. "It created a debate." [BBC yesterday]
We're happy that he's happy. But without a doubt, millions of those people who saw the clip don't know, and perhaps never will know, that they were duped into believing in an act of fakery, an invented reality. That's how this works.

We have observed how "debates" sparked by video clips of events that didn't happen work, There's no more striking example than the Mohammad Al Durah video clip from 2000, an instance of Pallywood that has, thanks to its initial propagation by the national television network of France, led eventually to multiple acts of murder of innocent people, among them young children. Its devastating impact continues to be felt on the streets of Europe.

Video grab from the France2 television news production
of the Al Durah "killing", September 30, 2000
Klevberg, the director, proudly Tweeted on Friday that the funding which made his pretend news-report possible came from Norway's Film Institute as well as the Arts Council of Norway. Whatever the motivations, those of us who cherish the idea of a free, honest and objective news-reporting industry will appreciate the way Norwegian tax-payer money has gone to create an outstanding example of how the news industry is duped and manipulated by people with "debate" - or perhaps other things - on their minds.

Now let the global discussion about lethal journalism and its practitioners begin.

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