Bits and Pieces

Saturday, April 09, 2005

If You Lay Down With Dogs...

A few years ago I was taking the bus home from a lecture in Manchester when I was approached by a guy who wanted to sell me a Minidisc player. It was a decent model, and back then this was the height of technology. He told me it was mine for 25 quid. I asked him if it was stolen, to which he replied 'does it matter?'. Naturally my answer went along the lines of 'I will have no part in this. I bid you good day, sir'.

I think I'm right in thinking that you wouldn't buy a Minidisc player if you knew it was stolen. You definitely wouldn't buy it if you knew the owner was beaten up during the theft. Imagine what kind of person you would be if you bought it when you knew the owner was killed during the theft?

So why is it acceptable for a news agency to buy photos from a guy who collaborates with terrorists? A person who makes his trade from recording the deaths of innocents, with full and willing foreknowledge of the atrocities he will photograph?

There have been several photos to come out of this war that were dubious in nature - just a little too perfect, a little too convenient to be just lucky shots, the photographer in the right place at the right time.

The argument can be, and has been, made that war reporters and photographers are simply unfazed of the danger of battle. They are willing to heroically risk life and limb in the pursuit of that perfect shot - the shot that encapsulates to spirit of battle; that highlights the courage and valour of the allied soldier, the futility of resistance. More than anything, perhaps, the shot that can contend for the much sought-after Pulitzer Prize.

However, there are certain situations that beg the question 'just how much did this guy know about what was going down?'. Are they willing to take tips from the enemy? Are they willing to collaborate? Are they even willing to stand and watch, invited guests to the slaughter of innocents and our troops?

The question must also be asked: if I bought the Minidisc player stolen during a murder am I innocent - or am I no better than the killer himself? Everyone has a price. I'm glad that mine is considerably higher than that of one CBS cameraman.

And the moral? If you lay down with dogs... you can fill in the rest.

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From the comments:

Reporting from Baghdad, CBS News Correspondent Lee Cowan told Bob Schieffer that CBS News is cooperating with military investigators. The cameraman came with good recommendations, Cowan said:

"From every indication we had, the work he had done for us the past three months has been exceptional,'' Cowan said. He noted the all the networks employ locals in Iraq that help get footage that U.S. photographers couldn't get.
On Friday, CBS News issued a statement saying the cameraman had been working with the network for about three months, and had been referred by a trusted source with whom CBS has had a two-year relationship.

"It is common practice in Iraq for Western news organizations to hire local cameramen in places considered too dangerous for Westerners to work effectively. The very nature of their work often puts them in the middle of very volatile situations,'' the statement said.

First, some commenters need to learn that the 'name' field in Haloscan comments has a character limit - you're gonna get cut off if you try to start your argument there - as happened with 'Do a little bit of research be' (that goes for you too, 'Could Your Head Be Any Further')

OK. Lets not pretend that CBS are innocent victims of circumstance here. You're responsible for who you choose to work with, and when your photographer keeps submitting up-close and personal shots of terrorist activity somebody should be asking how this guy is getting so close to the action. "From every indication we had, the work he had done for us the past three months has been exceptional". Well. Duh.

I want to see Abdul Amir Younis Hussein's portfolio. He's been working with CBS for 3 months, so they should have a good collection of his photos and negatives. He was holding photographic evidence of four separate IED attacks on his camera. How many similar photos have been submitted to CBS? How many have been put on the news or website? Moreover, was this guy working exclusively for CBS or was he freelancing for several networks?

Greed and wilful stupidity won't exculpate CBS - and if it turns out that Hussein was working with the insurgents someone at CBS should be publicly flogged. But, of course, they will probably worm their way out of it with a few well-crafted statements that have had any real meaning stripped from them wholesale. It will have been a 'regrettable error' to have hired Hussein. A 'well-intentioned judgement which was, in hindsight, in error'. And then before you know it the spectacular ratings-grabbing shots will begin once again to flow in, and everyone will forget that the media pays the wages of the enemy.

'Nother Update

Mustang 23 from Assumption of Command agrees.
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