I made a mistake earlier this week in a series of Twitter posts. It’s not a mistake to which Atlantic editors were party in any way. But they have kindly allowed me space here to post a correction and apology in a less abbreviated form than Twitter allows.
The mistake involves a series of photos from Khan Younis hospital in Gaza. AP, Reuters, and The New York Times posted images of two blood-covered men. The men were identified as brothers who had just seen their father killed in an Israeli strike. In three tweets, I expressed disbelief in the authenticity of the images. Michael Shaw at the Bag News blog painstakingly argues that I was wrong to do so.
On review, I agree that Shaw is right and that I was wrong. These images do appear authentic, and I should not have cast doubt on them. I apologize especially to Sergey Ponomarev of The New York Times, whose work I impugned.
Yet I also think it important to explain my skepticism when presented with such images.
As anyone who follows news from the Middle East knows, there is a long history in the region of the use of faked or misattributed photographs as tools of propaganda. Image management is a feature of all modern war, but in the Middle East it often seems that combatants put more effort into shaping perceptions than winning any strategic result on the ground. Most recently, images from the war in Syria have repeatedly been tweeted and retweeted as Israeli-inflicted casualties in Gaza.