Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
[flagged] ABC news is trying to pass gun range videos as combat footage from Syria (reddit.com)
111 points by slowhand09 27 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 52 comments

There are more instances of credible or plausible media manipulation specifically regarding Syria, e.g. the story of gas attacks in Douma:


Edit: This, attributed to the same author, is even clearer: https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/05/27/the-evidence-we-were...


"For in the last few days, there has emerged disturbing evidence that in its final report on the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime in the city of Douma last year, the OPCW deliberately concealed from both the public and the press the existence of a dissenting 15-page assessment of two cylinders which had supposedly contained molecular chlorine – perhaps the most damning evidence against the Assad regime in the entire report.

The OPCW officially maintains that these canisters were probably dropped by an aircraft – probably a helicopter, presumably Syrian – over Douma on 7 April 2018. But the dissenting assessment, which the OPCW made no reference to in its published conclusions, finds there is a “higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being delivered from aircraft”."

I like Robert Fisk, he is hell of a solid correspondent but on this case he is absolutely wrong.

The Douma gas attack has been investigated not only by the OPCW, but by organisations such as the UN, the Red Cross and pretty much all serious journalism from the BBC, NYTimes to The Times and Wall Street Journal. They all agree that the Syrian Governmant gassed its own people i Douma.

The consensus is overwhelming, the wiki page on the incident lists 119 sources. I obviously haven't checked all of them but most look credible to me.


The consensus became less overwhelming since you commented this. See:

“Expert Panel Finds Gaping Plot Holes In OPCW Report On Alleged Syrian Chemical Attack” by Caitlin Johnstone https://link.medium.com/7qYYVU2Z40

Back in 2012, when ISIS beheading videos where showing up on my Facebook newsfeed every week, I recall it was Syrian rebels who were brandishing chemical weapons - but the MSM never mentions it: https://youtu.be/TpIRRRuCEyg

Do any of these sources address the specific concerns raised by Robert Fisk?

I understand that journalism can't be all about debunking conspiracy theories, but Fisk does seem to have some clout.

Why does this seem to be disappearing from the HN front page? This blatant war propaganda was broadcast to millions of people, possibly after someone at ABC doctored the video. That's a big deal by itself. And if that's not enough for this to be relevant to our interests here, we only know about this because of tech companies like reddit and twitter that give a platform to some random person who can identify this BS within minutes. Decades ago ABC and others could have gotten away with this on every single one of their broadcasts.

Are people numb to this? Do we just not want to discuss it because we don't think we can be civil any more?

This discussion has now been flagged as well. I'm curious if anybody who's flagged this would be interested in explaining why they did so.

It's not relevant to the HN guidelines and so most people will flag it: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

Is it interesting that some news org is passing stock footage? Is that in any way new? Maybe if they were using "deepfakes" to generate fake news videos it would be interesting, but it's not like the Turkish attack is in any way disputed.

Is reddit a good "detective"? Well,: https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/we-did-it-reddit

> "Is reddit a good "detective"?"

How is that relevant to this discussion? That reddit is correct in this particular instance isn't in question. Unless you're entertaining the notion of devious redditors hacking youtube to fabricate the original video.. Responding to this circumstance by calling into question the reputation of reddit seems like textbook FUD. There is no legitimate defensible uncertainty or doubt here, no matter reddit's reputation.

War propaganda, i.e., information warfare, is absolutely relevant to HN & it's readers.

Those guidelines are fairly subjective when it comes to something like this. They don't say "most stories about politics..." rather than "all stories about politics..." for a reason. I think you could effectively argue either that this is on-topic or off-topic...

That said, then why not err on the side of leaving this up? I like HN because there are usually insightful, level-headed discussions about a wide variety of topics. This is definitely one I'd love to read a larger take on from the HN crowd on. This isn't a status quo I'd like to see more people accept.

Mainstream news media has really gone to the dogs. Doesn't matter which side of the political spectrum you are on, I highly recommend not watching mainstream media on TV and instead find indie youtube channels.

Video seems like a bad format for news anytime the source content is not itself a video. A good newspaper article, either in print or digital, generally covers topics with much more detail and nuance than any television news presenter. The New York Times, Wallstreet Journal and Washington Post are all far from perfect but nevertheless they all stomp any of the cable news channels.

Youtube is a great source of information from hobbyists on specific topics. There are some bigger productions on there, but the idea of using Youtube as a news source is laughable.

Don't forget to like, subscribe, comment, retweet, share on Facebook, share on Linked, Airdrop to everyone around you, buy from the company sponsoring my video, and keep watching past the four minutes of extra padding I had to add to the start of the video to trick Youtube's algorithms!

> instead find indie youtube channels.

Like Infowars?

If you're watching any news source, and think it's not biased, you need to stop and figure out what their angle is, and why you're allowing them to fool you.

The easiest way to do this is usually listen to the other side.

I'll skeptically take self-admitted bias over subversive "neutral" any day.

The danger is limiting yourself only to sources of similar bias.

> I'll skeptically take self-admitted bias over subversive "neutral" any day.

The trick is to read about the same event from all sides.

Self-admitted bias will gladly skip, ignore, distort, and excuse elements of stories they think reflect poorly on their side. With out other perspectives you'll never know and end up with a warped sense of reality.

That's basically what I was trying to get at with the last sentence. In hindsight, it's confusing.

To youtube's credit, infowars got banned over a year ago.

I like allsides.com, too.

This reminds me of the time ITV in the UK showed footage purporting to show the Provisional IRA shooting down a British Army Lynx.

Turns out it was a video of an ARMA2 mod.


How possible is it to realistically fake something like this, instead of just re-purposing some gun porn? I'd be more concerned about that than some anxious journalists getting trolled into publishing something that is, to the initiated, obviously not from Syria.

In the present, faking something like this convincingly is probably more expensive than just passing off stock footage as the real thing. If they are motivated by laziness/greed, I wouldn't expect them to cough up the resources for an outright 'hollywood fx' style fabrication.

(When the stakes are higher and spy agencies are involved... who knows.)

It is quite feasible to fake but expensive — tens of thousands of dollars — and you need to make a lot of friends at the gun range real fast.

> It should be noted that Kentucky is located nowhere near Syria.

I am horrified that the author felt the need to clarify this, as if it was in dispute.

I’m pretty sure it was a joke.

Do we know who is the major owner of ABC?

You mean Disney?

I really hope there's an incompetence (as opposed to just not caring about doing their job right) based explanation for this otherwise it calls all of ABC's other reporting into question as well as that of every similiar media company.

Edit: I'm genuinely curious why this getting down-voted?

The only scenario I can think of that's merely incompetence is that someone outside of ABC sent them the video, claiming that it came from Syria, and ABC made no effort to validate that person's credibility.

If the video was produced anywhere inside ABC's organization, it would be dishonesty rather than incompetence. Anyone who downloaded a video from YouTube and edited out the people with phones at the bottom would have known that the video was not footage of a battle.

Agreed. Mislabeling tapes is a tradition at TV news.

In the 90s, Germany's largest public TV station accidentally ran the previous year's New Year's Address by the Chancellor. These speeches have a tendency to be extremely bland, and according to lore nobody noticed the error until the very end when they mentioned the (wrong) year.

Never attribute to incompetence that which can be adequately explained by politics.

Please tell me this has a name.

Hanlon's Rogaine?

I’m intentionally misquoting Hanlon’s Razor.

Even if it's incompetence, I suspect it will still be based on some element of media bias. It's just a matter of who will get blamed.

Like if the film editor (or librarian or intern) that filed the original footage thought it would be funny to label a bunch of gun-loving Kentuckians as terrorists. Video gets tagged "Terrorists waging jihad on Americans. Automatic gunfire and explosions at night"

A few days/hours later someone searches the library for recent footage of Syria, and the keywords fit.

So far you are looking at this as though ABC perpetrated this.

One unexplored possibility is that the footage was provided by some Kurdish group.

Kurdish militias are capable of spreading propaganda based on false media. They are clearly doing it today. Look at the comments here: https://twitter.com/PYD_Rojava/status/1182939359999332355?s=...

I suspect someone sold them the altered footage and they rushed to get it on the air. Either for a financial benefit, or to specifically get them to air falsified footage. (Project Veritas?) Responsibility still lies with ABC to verify.

It's a shitty situation, I doubt ABC knew it was footage from the US. But how do you verify that a random video clip, filmed at night, actually took place in Syria (assuming the crowds were cropped out before they saw it, otherwise its fairly obvious)

I might be treading on thin ice here, but more cultural diversity at ABC could have prevented this. The Knob Creek machine gun shoot is kind of famous in gun-enthusiast circles. With the number of machine guns being shot and the number of hollywood style gasoline explosions going off, I do think I would have recognized the source of this video if it were presented to me without context. There are many videos of this event from different years and from different spectators, but they all generally look about the same; tons of tracers and tons of gasoline fireballs.

I am not a combat veteran so the following is speculative, but I suspect the footage may look suspect to combat veterans as well. Big orange fireballs like that are from milk jugs of gasoline, not high explosives. That sort of thing is done for visual effect, not lethal effect. Certainly vehicle fuel will catch fire on battlefields, but I can't help but suspect the video would look "off" to a combat veteran.

You can start by asking the source who they are, who they work for, how they came to be in Syria, etc. Then try to confirm that information independently. That's what journalists are supposedly trained to do. If the source can't be corroborated, don't use the video. (Just like a journalist wouldn't attribute a quote to someone if it couldn't be verified.) Any reputable news organization would have a fact-checking department that does this kind of stuff.

TV news stations will almost never pay for just anybody's footage. At the very least, they will work with locals that have some track record.

They might sometimes take youtube footage, foreign broadcasts, or material provided to them by parties to the conflict. But those tend to carry prominent labels and aren't paid for.

This is not true. If you have newsworthy footage, they'll pay. The problem is that you're usually not the only one with the footage, and a lot of people like to see their name on the news!

>“This video right here appearing to show the Turkish military bombing Kurd civilians in a Syrian border town,” Muir said. “The Kurds, who fought alongside the US against ISIS now horrific reports of atrocities, committed by Turkish-backed fighters on those very allies.”

One possibility is that it was Kurdish sources who supplied the video to ABC, falsely claiming that it was a fight against them in Syria. If that turned out to be the case, then would the media fess up to being duped by them? It would force ABC to change their narrative on Syria - something that I believe they're unwilling to do, no matter what.

Are the downvotes against me for suggesting that entities claiming to represent Kurdish militias are capable of spreading propaganda based on false media? They are clearly doing it today. Look at the comments here: https://twitter.com/PYD_Rojava/status/1182939359999332355?s=...

News outlets and so-called journalists only ever had “credibility” insofar as there wasn’t another information medium by which their claims could be (in)validated. Now that this medium exists (you know, the internet) “journalist” is no longer someone we need to trust, believe, or finance.

I think I can take it as an axiom that in order for a democracy to function well, the people in it need to know what's going on both domestically and abroad. Who do you suppose should go out and find and publish needed information? If your answer isn't "journalists", then what separates those people from journalists?

Semantics aside, I'm off the opinion that competition and oversight from the internet in the news arena is an overall good thing.

Of course we need journalists, but it's just as good that we have some independent fact checkers that also have a platform to stand on.

And it's not like the network journalists have done anything to earn our trust recently.

In this case, the complete and correct information was provided by some random people on Reddit, not "journalists".

And one answer to your second question could be: money. Professionals need to generate (exactly) 60 minutes of news every night (minus time for commercials), and have it be entertaining enough to get people to watch (so they can sell more commercials). Amateurs providing random facts on the internet are not dependent on other corporations to generate income, or daily TV/newspaper deadlines.

Thought experiment: if we didn't have a profession called "journalism" today, and free worldwide publishing already existed (i.e., the internet), would we wish that they existed? Would people be saying "For the sake of our democracy, we need to pay these random Reddit fact checkers a good salary"?

As it turns out, journalists aren’t immune to subconscious bias, incompetence, and plain old bribes. So what’s the difference between journalists and me? I agree that it’s a dirty job and someone’s gotta do it, but journalists aren’t the answer.

"Hey, this steak house's hamburger tastes terrible. Therefore, all other steak houses can be ignored and we can all just eat McDonald's instead, because who needs quality?"

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact