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Saturday, September 02, 2006


The Age’s Jo Chandler investigates Zombie:

Who is the Zombie behind

He claims to be a “photoblogger” who lives in San Francisco. For fun, he attends protests by people of opposite political inclinations to his own — the extreme left. He turns their placards against them, takes photographs and posts the images on his site.

He’s evil! At least Jo gets Zombie’s location right; Martin Chulov had him based in Florida.

In this vein, his happy snaps of the 2006 World Naked Bike Ride are well worth a look. But recently he has turned investigator, challenging photo agencies such as Reuters over the alleged manipulation of images and — infamously — arguing that the bombing of an ambulance in Lebanon was a hoax.


Last month, another right-wing blogger ("Blonde Sagacity, the conservative that liberals hate to love"), claimed a rare interview with the Zombie, in which he chatted about his anonymity, his tricks to obtain pictures (sometimes the camera is hidden, sometimes he plays tourist), and his motivations.

"The anti-war movement is really an anti-American movement,” he told Blonde.

Zombie is tricky and motivated by wrongness! Chandler—no relation to Raymond, evidently—next turns detective herself:

Just how successful the Zombie has been in spreading the message is not clear. The site — which measures the connections and mentions that build credibility in the web — show it as a low-wattage player.

Yesterday it had 955 blog posts, while Melbourne conservative Andrew Bolt had 4260, and the influential US Drudge Report more than 41,000.

If Zombie is such a “low-wattage player”, why all the attention from the Age and the Australian? Including another report in the Age—an attempted debunker debunking by Sarah Smiles:

Ahmed Fawaz sits in a wheelchair in a sweat-stained hospital gown, smoking a cigarette in sweltering heat.

He was discharged from a Beirut hospital this week after losing his leg when a Lebanese Red Cross ambulance he was in with his family came under an Israeli air attack in south Lebanon on July 23.

Which leg, Sarah? His left, as claimed by Martin Chulov, or his right, as shown in an image here?

The attack on two ambulances ferrying mildly injured people from the village of Tibnin to Tyre was widely reported by international media, including The Age.

But Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has condemned press coverage of the incident, suggesting it was a hoax. He appears to have drawn his conclusions from right-wing US website that debunks all reporting on the incident using available press photos and television footage as “evidence”.

The scare quotes indicate that Zombie got everything wrong.

An Israeli army spokesman told The Age yesterday that the army had not yet established what happened and the incident was under investigation.

"We were in a war,” the spokesman said. “It takes time to find out exactly what happened and whose fault it was and why. We are not saying it was an accident or that we take responsibility. We only say that the incident in question occurred in an area used to fire hundreds of rockets into Israel … The army warned the population in the area to stay clear of rocket launching sites because we intended to operate there against activity by Hezbollah terrorists.” It is believed that the Israeli army’s investigation will rely on images and video footage taken by Israeli drones.

That investigation will make for interesting reading. Smiles continues:

While some reporters wrote that an Israeli missile ripped a hole in the roof of one ambulance that was directly hit, the site argues a missile would have caused much wider damage. It argues the hole appears to be where there was an existing circular vent, with rust on some of the exposed metal showing that damage to vehicle happened before the reported time of the attack.

Excuse me, but is there any doubt about this vent-hole location?

However, Red Cross volunteers manning the ambulances and Mr Fawaz insist the hit was caused by small weapons fired from unmanned drones that they heard circling above after the attack.

The Age’s original report mentions no drones, only “Israeli planes overhead”, and claims: “The roar and smash of the missiles shattered the night. Both ambulances were hit, directly and systematically, by Israeli bombs, the medics said.”

The Age visited the yard where the bombed out ambulances are now parked. This reporter saw the ambulance that Mr Fawaz was in. It appeared to have been hit by a weapon that punctured a huge hole through the back. The only shows the picture of the second ambulance that had a smaller puncture through the top where there was a pre-existing vent in the centre of the vehicle.

So did the Age’s initial report. We’re looking at another shift in the story here. As dipole observes: “It appears Smiles is advancing the ‘wrong ambulance’ theory, already addressed by zombietime. In particular she appears to be contradicting Chulov’s current story.” The Age doesn’t run an image of this more-damaged ambulance online—if anyone cares to scan a shot from the print edition, please forward it to me.

Based on photos of the ambulance’s exterior that do not reveal any blood, the site suggests that Mr Fawaz incurred his injury elsewhere and was “paraded before the cameras as a victim of an Israeli missile”.

Exterior? Try interior.

While the interior of the ambulance has been gutted, a Red Cross volunteer who was in the same ambulance as Mr Fawaz said he did bleed onto his stretcher, but not excessively as his leg had been cauterised.

Yes. By the huge fire.

At a speech on the Gold Coast this week, Mr Downer relied on the limited and selective images on to criticise journalists for poor reporting on the war in Lebanon.

Zombietime ran more pictures than the Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, and the Australian combined.

"After closer study of the images of the damage to the ambulance, it is beyond serious dispute that this episode has all the makings of a hoax,” he said.

For Mr Fawaz, 41, a mechanic from the village of Tibnin, life without his leg is no hoax.

Again I ask: which leg?

Mohammed Hassan, 35, a Red Cross Cross volunteer in the ambulance with Mr Fawaz when it was hit, said three volunteers fled to a nearby building after the attack.

Mr Fawaz’s elderly mother Jamila crawled out of the vehicle while the volunteers carried Mohammed, Ahmed’s son, who was unconscious. They could not reach Mr Fawaz with rockets from drones hitting around the ambulance and the building they were in.

"If (Alexander Downer) thinks it was a hoax, he should come and see the ambulances himself,” said Sami Yazbek, the head of the Lebanese Red Cross in Tyre.

Which ambulance? The one Fawaz used to be in, or the one he’s now claimed to have been in?

Mr Fawaz, who slipped in and out of consciousness after the blast, remembers hearing the sound of a drone whirring above him when he came to. “It sounds like a motorcycle."

Soon after, through the door of the ambulance that had been blasted open, he recalls seeing a second strike on the ground.

"It was a drone because if it was a warplane we wouldn’t be alive,” he said.

Initial story: it was a missile attack from Israeli planes. Blogger response: couldn’t be, because everyone would be dead. Subsequent story: it was a drone.

When he came to after the blast, he remembers reaching for his glasses that were knocked to the back of his head, adjusting them and then feeling a sense of malaise. “I put my hand on my leg and I couldn’t feel it,” he said. “I tried to take the cord of the IV drip to tie up my leg to stop it bleeding, but I couldn’t manage it."

Just as well the magical cauterising drone stepped in at that point to staunch his blood loss. Andrew Bolt has much more on this ever-changing saga.

UPDATE. And more from Dan Riehl, particularly on the left/right leg confusion.

Posted by Tim B. on 09/02/2006 at 12:41 AM
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