The Lebanese ambulance attack and trust in citizen – and established – media
In August, a friend pointed me to the Red Cross Ambulance Incident fraud report at Zombietime. Today I read Ethan Zuckerman‘s recent post about the story.
In short, two Lebanese Red Cross ambulances were reported to have been attacked by Israeli forces on July 23. The fraud report claims that this never happened, and offers the following scenario.
Two ambulances that had been somehow damaged long before the July Israel-Hezbollah conflict even began were dragged out of a salvage yard, where they had been rusting for months or years. They were taken to a parking lot and smashed up even more, inside and out. Then fresh gurneys were placed inside one of them. An intentionally amateurish video was then taken of the two vehicles, in order to show the damage. That night, as planned, some Red Cross workers feigning minor injuries rushed into a hospital in Tyre, and recounted a tale of horror: their ambulances had been attacked by Israeli missiles. The media was notified.
According to Ethan Zuckerman, the claim “was later repeated by Australia’s foreign minister Alexander Downer, who stated ‘it is beyond all serious dispute that this episode has all the makings of a hoax.'”
An excellent example of citizen media reporting. Or was it? Here comes the twist.
In steps Human Rights Watch, who go to Lebanon to set the facts straigth. This results in a report saying the attacks did happen.
They conclude that the ambulances were both struck by missles, one of which removed Fawaz’s leg, but that the missles were likely Dense Inert Metal Explosives fired from an Israeli drone.
Now, can we trust Human Rights Watch? They were the ones reporting about the attack in the first place. Do they just want to save face? Zuckerman writes:
HRW’s report does include a major correction – they no longer characterize the attack as coming from a manned Israeli aircraft, but now believe the attacks came from a remote-controlled drone.
Zuckerman in his analysis points to an important factor – time.
What’s disturbing to me about the situation is the timeframe. Zombietime and affiliated rightwing commentators got their story out very quickly, offering their analysis within days of the incident. HRW’s response is coming almost half a year later. This makes sense – HRW actually went to Lebanon and interviewed people who saw the incident, while Zombietime looked at press photos and offered theories. While HRW’s analysis is critical in determining what really happened on July 23rd and demanding accountability from the Israeli government, this report is hardly likely to call as much attention to the incident as it recieved when it was initially reported.
This story is just one example of a key issue in our current – and future – media world. Trust.
Everyone has an agenda. Future media consumers have to be very much aware of that.