Anatomy of a False Assumption

So there's this thing going on up in 'Frisco and across the Reeposphere, which I sort of shrugged off at first, but it's turning into this big dumb gotcha!, so I feel compelled to point something out:

It's not true.

Basically, there's an individual called zombietime who goes out and takes pictures of liberal protests, to "prove" what a bunch of pinko commie traitors liberals are, I guess.

You can click on the title of this post to see what I'm talking about. You might as well open it in a new window, because we'll be referring back to it in a moment.

Zombietime spotted a picture on the front page of the SF Chronicle's website of a protester, and realized that that protester also appeared in some pictures zombietime took of the same event. The result was an allegation that the Chronicle had cropped out several elements in the background of their picture that zombietime took as proof of the pinko commie motives of the protest.

Now, I don't know what exactly was in the background of the Chronicle's close-framed image, but zombietime's entire allegation hangs on a single false statement:
By chance, I took a photo of the same girl just a few moments later. Looks practically identical, doesn't it?
Well . . . no, it doesn't.

Look at the three different angles captured by zombietime. Notice anything consistent about the background? Eh?

(Hint: bushy trees and chain-link fence.)

Now look at the Chron pic. What's behind the subject now?

(Clear. Blue. Sky.)

Back to zombietime's pic, just the cropped head-on shot. What's that on the subject's right shoulder? It looks like the strap for a backpack. Maybe a satchel. Actually, it doesn't matter what it is -- what matters is that it's not there in the Chron pic. And neither is the Palestinian flag, which is clearly visible in the cropped version of zombietime's picture. (All right, that blurry white thing might be a flag, but it might not.)

Want more?

All right: Go to the Chron pic, look over the subject's left shoulder. Girl in sunglasses, you see her. Is she in any of zombietime's three angles? There's a lot going on there, but I can't find her.

When you give up on that, go back to the Chron pic and look at the two red signs in the background. They appear to be the same, pre-printed sign, although the lack of focus makes it hard to tell. No such signs appear in any of zombietime's three angles.

Fact is, the subject is the only thing these pictures have in common. Everything else is different.

What all this adds up to is that, in order for the assertion that zombietime's pic was taken "just a few moments" after the Chron pic to be true, the Chron photographer would have to have walked up to the subject in the middle of the march and asked her to let go of the banner, turn around, take off her backpack/satchel/WtF-ever, and pose for a picture. The photographer would then have to have vanished into the crowd, and the subject re-oriented herself, before zombietime's pictures were taken.

It seems more likely that zombietime -- and everybody who's jumping on this as evidence of media bias -- is making an unfounded assumption that the pictures were taken at about the same time. In all probability, the pictures were taken at least several minutes apart and in an entirely different context.

UPDATE: I e-mailed the SF Chronicle readers' representative, and got this response:
You're right that they weren't taken moments apart. The background in the Chron pic is entirely different -- no Palestinian flags, for one thing. No idea which was taken when. I kind of kick myself for not asking the edit page to run the uncropped photo. On the other hand, my only point was that nobody was conspiring to sanitize anything.
I suggested that they should post the full image on their own site, or send it to BAGnews.

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