Break the Chain Don't Shoot the Messenger

Updated (10/5/2001) As misdirected outrage continues to grow unabated in the shadow of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on America, it was only a matter of time before people began shooting the messengers.

SAMPLE CHAIN LETTER TEXT

Subject: CNN Propaganda Date: Mon, 17 Sep 2001 13:40:19 +0300

CNN Used 1991 Film To Incite Against Palestinians

CNN showed Palestinians cheering the death and destruction of 11 September. The scenes were repeated throughout the day and around the world to sow hatred against the "callous" Palestinians.

Now it turns out that it used footage from 1991 and just claimed that it was today's footage. A contributor to CounterPunch (edited by Alexander Cockburn) reports that he and his colleagues had compared this tape with one from 1991 showing Palestinian cheering, and found them to be identical. Here are excerpts from that letter by Marcio A. V. Carvalho at State University of Campinas - Brazil:

"All around the world we are subjected to 3 or 4 huge news distributors, and one of them - as you well know - is CNN. Very well, I guess all of you have been seeing (just as I've been) images from this company. In particular, one set of images called my attencion: the Palestinians celebrating the bombing, out on the streets, eating some cake and making funny faces for the camera.

Well, THOSE IMAGES WERE SHOT BACK IN 1991! Those are images of Palestinians celebrating the invasion of Kuwait! It's simply unacceptable that a super-power of communications as CNN uses images which do not correspond to the reality in talking about so serious an issue.

But now, think for a moment about the impact of such images. Your people are hurt, emotionally fragile, and this kind of broadcast have very high possibility of causing waves of anger and rage against Palestinians. It's simply irresponsible to show images such as those."

Marcio A. V. Carvalho State University of Campinas - Brazil

END CHAIN LETTER TEXT

The footage in question was shot by Reuters news services and provided to CNN and other subscribers to the Reuters video news service. In a statement on their website at the time, Reuters denied the allegations in the above letter and later allegations that the photographer actually instigated the events he photographed. They also share a statement from the Universidad Estatal de Campinas - Brazil, the source of the information above, that includes a retraction by the student who first made the allegation.

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As Snopes.com points out, the real issue is whether the events themselves were accurately reported. Since several reliable news sources reported the same events, we can reasonably assume the reports of Palestinian celebrations are accurate.

As for the use of stock footage to illustrate current events, it's not as uncommon as you might think. Again, Snopes point out that this is most frequently done when getting footage of the current event is either difficult or dangerous. However, neither is the case with the CNN footage.

This is far from the scandal or 'propaganda' this e-mail makes it out to be. In the wake of terrible tragedy, we subconsciously want there to be an accessible "bad guy" that we can put a face on and direct our anger to. The old adage "don't shoot the messenger" springs from this tendency to punish the deliverer of bad news when the real target of our anger is unattainable. Unfortunately, this is far from what the country (and the world) needs right now. We must stand united and can't afford to show the world the image of scared people fighting among themselves. Break this Chain!

What Do You Think?


References: Snopes.com

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