Whatever the other consequences of the kinetic war between Israel and Hezbollah in the summer of 2006, it gave rise to a neologism now commonplace in the blogosphere. In the blog lexicon, fauxtography refers to visual images, especially news photographs, which convey a questionable (or outright false) sense of the events they seem to depict.i Apart from the clever word play evident in the term, it is shorthand for a serious criticism of photojournalism products, both the images and the associated text. Since accuracy is a cardinal tenet of journalistic ethics, clearly stated in the ethics code of the Society of Professional Journalistsii and other professional associations of journalists, the accusation that news products convey a false or distorted impression of news events is potent. Critical questions about the factual accuracy of news reports predated this blogstorm.iii So, too, did specific questions about the trustworthiness of photojournalism from hotspots in the Middle East.iv It may well be that the emergence of a concise but powerful term for the central issue in it fostered the development of the blogstorm, apart from the intensity of the kinetic war itself as a contributing factor. While some participants in the fauxtography blogstorm did, indeed, make accusations of media bias—an accusation implicitly echoed in a column by a prominent journalism professorv and a paper by a fellow at Harvard’s Shorenstein Centervi—we will need here to distinguish between the long-running debate about media bias, in general,vii and the more concrete and specific blogstorm criticism that particular news products generated during the war were fauxtography rather than trustworthy photojournalism. The blogstorm this chapter describes centered on photojournalism during the 2006 Lebanon War; unlike some other blogstorms, however, the foundational issue underlying it predated this war and the central issue argued in it persisted after the event which initiated the blogstorm had concluded. The fauxtography blogstorm is perhaps one of the most complex to have yet occurred. It may help clarify the argumentation in this blogstorm to distinguish two levels: arguments about the reporting of a particular incident in the war, and arguments about journalistic practices in covering the war. The two are intertwined, in that arguments about reporting of specific incidents often led over time to broader, more general criticism of the mainstream news media practices. It is also interesting to note how a number of criticisms raised by bloggers and their readers during the course of the blogstorm appeared in the paper distributed by Harvard’s Shorenstein Center, many months after the war had ended.
Cooper, S. D. (2007). A concise history of the fauxtography blogstorm in the 2006 Lebanon War. The American Communication Journal, Vol. 9 Issue 2.
This article first appeared in the summer 2007 issue of The American Communication Journal, and is reprinted with permission.
©2007 American Communication Journal and the author. All rights reserved.