Have We Been Hoaxed?

All right, it’s off-topic, but I’m getting pretty freaked out by the amount of speculation, accompanied by detailed video analysis, that the Nick Berg decapitation video was a fake. At first I thought I had stumbled onto a whacko conspiracy web page (not that I mind, I’ve rarely heard a conspiracy theory I couldn’t believe), but then I Googled the subject, and there seems to be a rapidly growing chorus of doubters. Main points:

1. The editing is sloppy, with unexplainable time lapses.

2. One of the “Arabs” is wearing a gold ring, contrary to religious practice; another is wearing American running shoes.

3. The terrorist who reads the paper has been identified as Musab Al-Zarqawi. But Zarqawi is known to have a prosthetic leg, which the terrorist in the video doesn’t; and besides, Zarqawi was announced as having been killed in April, 2003.

4. At one point the ear and apparent military cap of a white man comes slightly into camera view, only visible when the tape is slowed down.

5. Berg is sitting in the same kind of chair visible in Abu Ghraib photos, wearing the same kind of orange prison outfit worn by Abu Ghraib prisoners. The wall is the same color as Abu Ghraib’s walls, and Berg’s last known job was working on the tower at Abu Ghraib.

6. The famous scream appears to be a woman’s voice and is not accurately cued to the video.

7. Medical experts attest (excuse me for saying it) that much more blood would come from a beheaded man than appears in the video, suggesting that Berg, if it is indeed he, was already dead.

Of course, the video softened the public response that was calling for Rumsfeld’s resignation after Abu Ghraib, and for some people (not myself) made the Abu Ghraib torture seem tame by comparison – and it appeared oh so conveniently after the Abu Ghraib photos were released, though the beheading supposedly had taken place weeks earlier. I haven’t even begun to touch on all the inconsistencies. A few of the many, many web pages are here, by people ranging from liberals to libertarians to “patriotic” Republicans to anti-government survivalists to Arabs to Europeans to Chinese:

Asia Times










Believe it, don’t believe it, but it proves beyond doubt how malleable video reality is.

UPDATE: I guess I no longer read my own newspaper religiously enough. It took Jan Herman to point out to me that this week’s Village Voice has its own article on the speculations about the Nick Berg video.

FURTHER UPDATE: Harry Shearer discussed the possibility of the Berg video being fake on his NPR news program Le Show on WAMC radio, May 30, the soundfile of which you can find at harryshearer.com. Under an administration as secretive as Bush/Cheney, conspiracy theories will no longer be limited to the lunatic fringe.