Free today! And you didn’t even have to buy a box of cereal.

Machetera has a feeling that the photo below is on its way, if not to you, then to someone you know. Here’s your free decoder ring. (Caty R., a member of the Tlaxcala collective translated the original article to Spanish; Machetera then translated it to English.)

Investigation of a Manipulated Photo

Michel Collon for

Look carefully at this photo which surely you’ve already received, or will very soon: “Chinese Soldiers Disguised as Monks”

Said photo is circulating extensively on the Internet with the commentary: “London, March 20; Britain’s GCHQ, the government communications agency that electronically monitors half the world from space, has confirmed the claim by the Dalai Lama that agents of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, the PLA, posing as monks, triggered the riots that have left hundreds of Tibetans dead or injured.”

This photo is supposedly proof and therefore has caused the indignation of many people.

Now look carefully at the photo and play the game of 7 errors.

The 7 Errors

1) Have you ever seen a satellite photo taken from this angle?

2) We’re told that the soldiers are dressing as monks in order to play the role of provocateurs. Are they so stupid as to perform this important operation openly in the street?

3) We’re told that the photo is a recent one, taken just prior to events [in Tibet]. What proves this?

4) I asked a friend in a position to know about Tibet. He said that this photo could not have been taken on March 14, under a springtime sun, because spring didn’t arrive in Tibet until March 21.

5) He also told me that bici-taxis in Lhasa have been painted a different color since 2005.

6) He added that the uniforms worn by the soldiers have not been used for quite some time.

7) It was necessary therefore, to perform an investigation which uncovered quite a different version:

But then, where did the photo come from?

In reality, the photo dates from 2003. During the shooting of a movie, the monks declined to appear in that role, which is how the soldiers were given the assignment and in the photo they are receiving the clothing for the role. It appears to be a somewhat frequent practice there. Whatever the case, it has nothing to do with recent TV images showing monks acting violently and destroying businesses in Lhasa.

Okay, that seems different enough that in spite of everything it ought to be proven. Well then, in reality, the confirmation can be found at…a pro-independence site that distributed the accusing photo.

The photo carries the following caption: “This is not an uncommon ‘tactical move’ from the Chinese government, as could be seen on the back-cover of the 2003 annual TCHRD (Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy) Report. This photo was apparently made when soldiers were ordered to put on robes to play as actors in a movie.”

Asked about the manipulation, the site’s webmaster responded that in spite of everything he associated the photo accusatory text against the Chinese “with the aim of demonstrating the type of trickery utilized by the Chinese in recent disturbances.” Everyone can judge for themselves the ethics of this type of journalism.

To continue, all kinds of organizations, simply and completely, replaced the photo caption in order to give the impression that it was recent and that it had to do with Chinese army strategy. From there, the photo went round the world.

Satellite photos? It’s not the first time…

1) It’s not the first time that the “veracity” of satellite photos has been used to prove something to us. In 1990 the United States assured that it possessed satellite photos (which it has never published) “that proved” that Saddam Hussein was going to invade Saudi Arabia. This attempt at demonization played a large part in the manipulation of public opinion (I analyzed this media lie in my book, Attention, Media! (Page 21).

2) In 2003 the United States distributed satellite photos “that proved” that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

3) Recently it’s repeated the same strategy with respect to Iran (ignoring Israel’s possession of 200 illegal nuclear warheads).

Can a picture lie?

Therefore, this is the time to remember that pictures can lie, without going into the technical details of the great filmmakers, such as Chris Marker, who proved brilliantly that a commentary can make a picture say anything whatsoever in a credible way. In reality, this same picture does not tell us:

1) Who took it and where?

2) What it truly shows.

3) What it hides (what was happening meanwhile, before and after…)

We’ve been left to figure all this out from the previous pictures. Naturally, everyone forming their own opinion about the Tibet question will try to compare the two versions and study the interests and objectives of the two sides, especially those of George Bush, who the Dalai Lama so admires. But in any case, we have the right to information that is not manipulated. We suggest that the people distributing this picture also distribute a correction. Thanks for your attention.

One response to “Free today! And you didn’t even have to buy a box of cereal.

  1. My God. What duplicity. I’m aghast. Thanks for this.

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