This posting will be a bit image-heavy.
I used to know a journalist who wrote for MTV, for a while. I don’t think she’d say she was a real journalist (whatever that is) any more than a blogger like myself, is. Social media and the “everybody grab a microphone” phenomenon of the early oughts has completely wiped out any line between “responsible journalism” and muck-raking, so I suggest that everyone assume it’s all muck-raking and if they see something that isn’t, do their own research. Of course “do your own research” is hardly a worthwhile recommendation in this time, when troll-farms deliberately stuff bullshit into the upstream of content, to toxify everything that consumes it.
Anyhow, my journalist friend had done some reporting from trouble spots, or as she said, “allegedly from trouble spots.” There is, apparently a kind of journalism that consists of sitting in a hotel bar in a city’s ‘green zone’ behind the barbed wire, filing stories based on second-hand accounts of what is actually going on. That is hardly a new thing, and for all I know it may date back to Thucydides, but there are some interesting tales of how Ernest Hemingway participated in the French liberation – or, in his case, the French libation, by finding an abandoned cafe that still had alcohol behind the bar, and camping there with a coterie of friends, collecting stories of daring-do, none of which were enhanced by all that alcohol in the slightest. One of the things she told me was that they had “photo ops” where they’d pay some “guerilla fighter” to shoot a few bursts into the air with an AK-47 so they could get local color illustrations, then go back to the hotel bar.
One of the things about my brain is I have a very good visual memory. I can’t recall what day of the week it is, but if I’ve seen someone before I will probably remember them – but I’ll have forgotten their name. That translates into a good spatial orientation, as well: drop me in some city I visited before and I can look at the cathedral on the hill, recognize it, interpret the angle of the building, and navigate to the restaurant I remember from 15 years ago. It’s been one of my most useful skills, for the restaurants alone. But it also means I recognize people whether I’m trying to or not.
So, the fellow in the top picture has a great smile; it lights up his whole face, doesn’t it? When I first saw that picture I thought that, and moved on. Later the same day, I saw him again:
There he is on camera-right side of the truck, getting a ride. You can recognize him by his taqiya – the red and gold plush is pretty distinctive as are the armored-knuckle gloves that American special forces operators like to wear (telegraphing the idea that they like to punch people).
Once I had marked that as funny, my brain started finding him everywhere and also coalescing the photos into a single photo-op that mostly took place in the same location.
Why do I call it a “photo op”? Well, he’s got his glove on in one shot, and not in another. I’m going to say that someone asked him to take it off to make him look more casual, or something.
Full costume-change, too. Maybe you’re thinking it’s not the same guy. I thought that for a while, too, before I started seeing lots of different crops and shots from the same photo-op.
The background, there, is the give-away: same face that has been effaced with black paint. By the way, I saw other articles with that effaced billboard used as an argument that women’s role in Afghanistan is going to come under attack, now that the Taliban are in charge. As if it wasn’t under attack during the US-chosen puppet regime?
See what I mean? “Progress is on the line.” What, is there now a danger that people with guns are roaming around Afghanistan engaging in “search and destroy” missions? I’m not saying that the Taliban are a bunch of great guys but I suspect that they’re political/religious assholes just like most other bands of political/religious assholes. If the US wants to wring its hands over how terrible the Taliban are, they ought to be looking more closely at the Mississippi republican party and its supporters. Who like the tough guy cosplay just as much as the Taliban appear to.
I’m not saying that any of this invalidates anything that anyone may think about anything at all. It’s just me noticing a deliberate photo-op, masquerading as photojournalism. It’s just someone got lazy. Give me $2,000 and I could set up the same sort of sequence of photos, in any city in the US, too. Maybe sell it on some stock photography websites as “Afghanistan action photos” or something like that.
By the way, my journalist friend said that arabs don’t generally shoot their AK-47s into the air, because they aren’t stupid, but they’ll do it for $200.