The circumstances of American college student Rachel Corrie’s March 16 death beneath an IDF bulldozer in Gaza remain unclear. The key unanswered question: Was Corrie visible and/or audible to the IDF driver just before the accident?
The consumer public got a huge dose of misleading information when Associated Press distributed a photo showing Corrie, standing in (apparently) direct view of the bulldozer driver, dressed in orange and speaking into a megaphone in the direction of the oncoming vehicle.
The AP caption reads: “Rachel was run over Sunday by the bulldozer that she was trying to stop from tearing down a building in the Rafah refugee camp, witnesses said.”
See the AP photo at:
The problem with the AP photo caption is that readers are led to believe that this photo depicts the very scene and moment of the accident. The implication is criminal recklessness on the part of the IDF driver.
In fact, however, this photo was NOT taken in the moments before Corrie’s death. Joseph Smith, of the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement, was the photographer and wrote a chronological account of the incident (published on pro-Palestinian websites).
Smith says that the photo of Corrie “standing with megaphone” is ascribed to the time period 2pm-4pm. In addition, during this period, Smith notes that the bulldozer “always stopped in time to avoid injuring them.”
At the time of Corrie’s death (5pm), Smith describes Corrie as “sitting, with arms waving” (no megaphone), and another colleague holding the megaphone from a distance.
Additionally, one key point that Smith does not mention is that the bulldozers shown in the two photos are different types. The later photo is a bulldozer with much smaller windows, and hence reduced visibility.
Read Smith’s account at:
Thus, the AP photo and caption fails to note the two most essential factors in determining visibility or lack thereof: 1) Corrie was no longer standing, but had changed to a sitting position, and 2) she was no longer in possession of attention-grabbing megaphone.
When publishing such a photo, AP is obligated to explain details of chronology; in the absence of any information, readers presume that since the bulldozer appears 8-10 feet away from Corrie, the photographer must have snapped the picture moments before the bulldozer hit her.
This photo was published by many of the 15,000 media outlets that AP services. And though the accompanying articles may provide clarifying information, a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, by not providing a caption that clearly counterbalances the easy “misread,” AP has misrepresented Corrie’s death and contributed to a worldwide slander of the IDF.
Please send comments to AP:
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An example of how the Corrie photo was misused appears in the CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, which ran this photo caption:
“Death of a protester: Rachel Corrie, wearing a reflective Day-Glo jacket, shouts through a bullhorn at an oncoming Israeli army bulldozer in southern Gaza Sunday moments before it ran her over.”
Update: below is the text of a clarification from the Christian Science Monitor (April 2):
A number of letter writers have complained that in the March 18 issue the caption of Associated Press photo of American Rachel Corrie was incorrect. The photo was not taken “moments before” she was run over by an Israeli bulldozer, but at least 45 minutes before her death, says Joe Smith, the photographer…
Unfortunately, the photo caption remains uncorrected online at:
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Meanwhile, CNN.com juxtaposed a pair of “before and after” photos, which implied a particularly ambiguous sense of chronology. But when HonestReporting.com provided additional information, CNN issued a “Caption Clarification.” See it at:
HonestReporting encourages members to monitor your local media to see if they used the misleading photos, as well as what information was provided in the photo caption and/or article itself to counterbalance any misconceptions.
Indeed, The New York Times issued the following correction:
“A picture caption on March 17 with an article about an American protester who was crushed by an Israeli Army bulldozer in Gaza referred incorrectly to the bulldozer shown. It was one that the protester, Rachel Corrie, had earlier tried to stop from destroying a Palestinian home. It was not the one that killed her.”
—- DANZIGER CARTOON —-
In the wake of this media misstep, nationally syndicated political cartoonist Jeff Danzinger issued a cartoon worthy of appearance in the most entrenched anti-Semitic Mideast rags. Danziger depicts Prime Minister Sharon as a satanic bulldozer driver, burying his critics under a mound of dirt.
See the cartoon at:
Danzinger’s presentation of Sharon as a murderer of political opposition is particularly troubling in light of the fact that Sharon’s is the only truly democratic government in the Mideast, allowing — even encouraging — full and vocal opposition. And this at a time when America is sacrificing its soldiers in order to promote democracy in the region.
Danziger’s cartoons are distributed by the Chicago Tribune Media Syndicate, whose media relations director can be contacted at:
Danziger himself may be reached at:
—- GHANDI AND KING? —-
Meanwhile, the Toledo (Ohio) Blade published an editorial that compares Corrie with none less than Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr.
Did Corrie truly continue the legacy of Ghandi and King?
As noted in the previous HonestReporting communique, Corrie was photographed last month burning an American flag in Gaza before young schoolchildren (http://honestreporting.com/graphics/articles/corrie.jpg). One wonders if the two true giants of human rights struggle would be flattered by the comparison with the woman who appears in these photos.
class=ArticleText>Read the Toledo Blade editorial at:
Comments to the Managing Editor, Kurt Franck:
—- CAMPUS DOUBLE STANDARD —-
A University of Maryland student newspaper has caused a stir by publishing an editorial cartoon that depicts Corrie’s actions as the definition of stupidity for protecting a “gang of terrorists.”
See the cartoon at:
In response, Univ. of Maryland students staged an overnight sit-in protest, the academic administration said the cartoon “embarrassed the university” (see: http://www.inform.umd.edu/News/Diamondback/archives/2003/03/21/news3.html), and Maryland’s U.S. Congressman Albert Wynn publicly expressed his criticism.
Without addressing the question of the editorial prudence of publishing the cartoon, we ask: If the players in the event were reversed, and a deceased Israeli were presented as “stupid,” would the cartoon have elicited such protests of outrage from campus, administrative, and public officials? We highly doubt it.
Protest this double standard by writing to Univ. of Maryland President Dan Mote: firstname.lastname@example.org
One step further: Learn more about becoming a campus activist in support of Israel at: http://www.israelactivism.com