The Emperor’s New Clothes (TENC) *

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How The New York Times Lied About Egypt
by Jared Israel and Samantha Criscione

We charge that the media falsified coverage of the conflict in Egypt, and we prove it in the case of the top human rights columnist for The New York Times, Nicholas D. Kristof, showing that his eye-witness report and video about the fighting between anti-Mubarak forces and their opponents in Tahrir Square February 2 constitute unbridled deceit.

Part 3: Better lying through technology

[May 5, 2011; last revised May 13, 2011]

The other parts of the series are:

Part 1: A picture can refute a thousand lies”

Part 2: To see a world in a grain of sand and mendacity in a thumbnail”

Part 4: The videographer’s art, enfin



In Part 2 of this series, we turned our magnifying glass on a small but revealing part of Nicholas D. Kristof’s œuvre, the image he used for the thumbnail representing his video, “Meeting Mubarak’s Supporters.”

We showed that, examining a larger-sized version of this threatening image of men swarming over and around a tank, one can discern a group of men, mostly bent over, praying in front of the tank.  Based on that, we argued that this had to be a picture of Mubarak’s enemies, not his supporters – indeed, a picture of his worst enemies.


Because, contrary to the notion of Muslim uniformity promulgated by some forces both on today’s Right and supposed Left (with the difference that some argue that Islam is uniform and monstrous, while others argue that Islam is uniform and progressive), the fact is that in Muslim-majority societies – even in clerical fascist-controlled Iran, and certainly in Egypt – Muslim populations are sharply divided between, on the one hand, supporters of Islamism, a political phenomenon that uses Islamic texts, but which has fed at the spring of Western clerical fascism, and, on the other hand, non- and anti-fascists, who may or may not be religious, but who in any event oppose the Islamist strategy of imposing fascism under cover of religion (because Islamists, like all fascists, operate under the cover of a people’s culture and traditions).

This, we argued, is the lesson of the 2009-2010 Iranian rebellion, in which  vast numbers of Iranians rose up against Islamism; and yet the same people chanted Allahu Akbar (God is Great) in defiance in the night.

Revealing the split in Muslim societies: in Part 2 we (and by the way, so far only we) reported the fact that the so-called “protesters” burned down the huge structure of the National Council for Women in Cairo, the immense size of which bears witness to the Mubarak government’s emphasis on the difficult fight for equality for women, a fight bitterly opposed by the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists.  It was precisely to hide the political basis of the Egyptian conflict from Westerners that the Western media falsely described this, the largest structure that the “protesters” attacked and destroyed, as the headquarters of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party.

We provided evidence that it was the Islamists, not most Egyptians, and certainly not “Mubarak’s Supporters” (Kristof’s phrase) who prayed in military formation in the streets before and after January 25, blocking pedestrians and vehicles, and thereby threatening the rest of the population. From this we concluded that a) the photo Kristof used for his video’s thumbnail, which shows men praying in front of a tank, would have to be a photograph of the Islamists, Mubarak’s worst enemies, not his supporters, and b) because Kristof would of necessity be briefed on the political situation in Egypt before being shipped into Cairo, he had to understand the significance of the men praying.  Meaning that Kristof – and his New York Times handlers – were deliberately deceiving their readers, using a threatening picture of anti-Mubarak forces to orient readers to believe that “Mubarak’s Supporters” were (and are, because they continue to exist) “thugs.”

The only basis on which we could see people doubting our conclusion that Kristof and the Times consciously deceived readers was that they had been sold on Kristof’s carefully crafted persona – that he is just a regular guy, operating on his own, telling personal anecdotes about what he has experienced – based on which, people might think, ‘Heck, he’s just like you and me.  I didn’t know that stuff about who does and does not pray in the streets in Egypt, so maybe Kristof didn’t know either.  Maybe he just used that image by mistake.  After all, he’s only human.’

We think that the popular assumption of the authenticity of the personæ projected by propaganda organizations, whether such organizations are hawking cars or false perceptions of political reality, represents a misunderstanding of how such organizations operate, which facilitates their selling of lies.

That said, we wanted very much to find the original photo from which Kristof took his thumbnail.  Maybe, if we did, we could flat-out prove that Kristof was lying, perhaps even more than we had guessed.

We did indeed find the original photo.  In Part 3, below, we show how this original was doctored, demonstrating the remarkable extent of calculation and cunning that Kristof and his Times associates put into producing this one falsified thumbnail image, this one small building block in the media campaign to sell us the false perception that Egypt has just experienced a democratic and progressive revolution.


Seek and thou shalt find


Our conviction that somewhere we had seen the photo that Nicholas D. Kristof used for the thumbnail representing his video “Meeting Mubarak’s Supporters” proved correct.

After a lengthy hunt (it is not easy to find a photo if you don’t know the caption) we discovered it in, of all places, a New York Times photo gallery!  It had been taken by Ed Ou, a colleague of Kristof’s at the Times who was also working in Cairo.  The New York Times distributed it to the media.

Here is how Ed Ou’s photo looks in the Times Egypt photo gallery:

Photo #132, dated February 2, 2011, “Photos From the Protests in Egypt,” The New York Times, at
You can view a full-page version of the photo, here.

The photo above is copyright Ed Ou/The New York Times 2011.  It is posted here for educational purposes, for Fair Use Only.

The caption reads:

“Feb. 2, 2011

A wounded anti-government protester prays during a lull in the fighting.

Ed Ou for The New York Times”
[Our emphasis – TENC]

This caption implies that only one man is praying and that he is possibly doing so because he is wounded, all of which is misleading.

In fact, the picture shows another four men bent over in unison and a fifth man on the ground, kneeling although not bent over.  Unless these five are looking for missing contact lenses, tying their shoes or planting seeds, surely they are praying along with the man who is standing.

The man who is standing is not praying because he is wounded, as implied in the caption.  Rather he refrains from bending over because he has a head wound, witness the bandage on his head.  Similarly the man who is kneeling is also praying without bending over because he too has a head wound (again, witness the bandage on his head.)

The point is, this picture shows a group – perhaps a paramilitary squad – of anti-government fighters praying in unison “during a lull in the fighting.”  In other postings of the photo, the caption specifies that “the fighting” is “against pro-government protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo.”

So, our conclusion is confirmed: Nicholas D. Kristof was indeed fully aware that he was passing off a photo of anti-Mubarak fighters grouped on and around a tank and praying in unison in front of it as a photo of “Mubarak’s Supporters” to represent his video, “Meeting Mubarak’s Supporters,” wherein he claims Mubarak was using loyal “thugs” to attack the “pro-democracy protesters” (Kristof’s words) in order to justify a military crackdown.  Hence the symbolic usefulness of the tank.

Since Kristof knew from the caption that the alleged “thugs” in this image were not “Mubarak’s Supporters,” he was not making a mistake because ‘He’s just like you and me’; he was lying.  Did he also know he was doing something wrong? That depends on how Nicholas D. Kristof defines right and wrong, and that is a mystery to us.

However, Mr. Kristof’s behavior is no mystery; it definitely manifests what prosecuting attorneys call “consciousness of guilt.”


Tweaking deceit, or, Nicholas D. Kristof hides the lie


“Evidentiary rules allow a prosecutor to introduce testimony that tends to show that the defendant’s actions prove he knew he was guilty (at least of something). This is sometimes referred to as ‘consciousness of guilt’. For example, such evidence may include actions the defendant took to ‘cover up’ his alleged crime.”
[Our emphasis – TENC]
-- U.S. Legal Definitions

Let us compare the two images below.

On the right we have Kristof’s thumbnail as it appears when we go to the New York Times page where Kristof’s article is posted, 190 pixels wide.  On the left we have Ed Ou’s original photo, scaled down to exactly the same size.
Ed Ou’s original photo Kristof’s thumbnail

These images seem identical, but there is one outstanding difference: Kristof’s thumbnail is much darker.  As a result, while in the original photo one can see that the man in the rose-colored shirt on the bottom left appears to be praying, and one might discern that men are bent over beside him in front of the tank, in Kristof’s darkened version one is unlikely to make out what the man in the rose colored shirt is doing, and one cannot tell if there is anyone beside him in front of the tank.  (Indeed in Kristof’s thumbnail it is not clear that the patch of light beside the man in the rose-colored shirt is also a man, bent over.)

Why would Kristof photoshop Ed Ou’s image to make it darker?  Since darkening the photo makes everything harder to see, we can think of no reason for doing so except to hide some feature of the photo, and the most striking feature of the photo is that men are bent over in front of the tank. Since, as we showed in Part 2 of this series, praying in front of tanks is a marker for the most militant anti-Mubarak forces, the obvious reason for darkening the photo is to hide the fact that these people are anti-, not pro-Mubarak.

Is this the full extent of the Kristof/New York Times deceit?

We figured that we might learn more if we could find a larger version of Kristof’s thumbnail.  Watching the video in full screen mode, we discovered that after it ends, following the copyright information, the thumbnail image appears full screen (1280 pixels wide on our monitors).

Below we have posted this full-screen version of the thumbnail image scaled down to 540 pixels in width (to fit the width of our page layout) as well as Ed Ou’s original photo the same width.

First, Ed Ou’s original photo:

Now Kristof’s thumbnail:

Viewed at 540 pixels in width, the darkening of the image is even more obvious.  And we found more:

A) Kristof’s thumbnail has a much lower resolution than Ed Ou’s photo.  This difference is even more striking, by the way, when one examines even larger versions of both images, as one can do by looking at photo #4 (Kristof’s) vs. photos #6 and #7 (Ed Ou’s), posted here.

B) Kristof has chopped off the bottom part of Ed Ou’s photo, namely this piece:


Why would Kristof crop the bottom eighth of the photo?

Let us look at a detail from the bottom of Ed Ou’s photo in large size, 950 pixels wide, which is the largest size we could find.  Since 950 pixels is too wide for our layout, we have posted this detail in two parts.  To demonstrate the effect of cropping, we have duplicated Kristof’s cut, separating the cropped part from the rest of the image.

Here is the left side of the detail of Ed Ou’s photo:

And now the right side:

As demonstrated above, by cropping the bottom of Ed Ou’s photo, Kristof eliminates the bearded man with the bandage on his face, almost all of the man in a white shirt who is bent over on the left, and parts of the other praying men.  Thus he accomplishes part of his mission of hiding the fact that these men, supposedly “Mubarak’s Supporters,” are praying.

Next Kristof lowers the resolution and darkens the image, thus completing said mission.  Let us see how this changes the photo.

Below we have posted the detail from Ed Ou’s original picture shown above (950 pixels wide and divided into two parts) but with the bottom part cropped off, as compared with the equivalent detail from the full-screen version of Kristof’s thumbnail, also scaled down to 950 pixels and posted in two parts, showing the effect of not only cropping Ed Ou’s image but  darkening it and lowering the resolution as well:

Detail of Ed Ou’s original photo, with the bottom cropped, left side:
Detail of Kristof’s thumbnail, cropped, darkened, low resolution, left side:


Detail from Ed Out’s original photo, with the bottom cropped, right side:
Detail of Kristof’s thumbnail, cropped, darkened, low resolution, right side:

With Kristof’s finished product, when you look at the whole image your eye focuses on the bright light, the men on the tank, and the man with the bloody shirt on the lower left.  The men bent over in front of the tank are reduced to a blur, no longer recognizable as people, let alone people praying in military formation “during a lull in the fighting,” in front of a tank.  As below:

Voilà! One image, altered to fit, courtesy Doc Kristof and the boys at The New York Times.


And now, a puzzle


Why would Kristof and friends darken the image when using it small-sized as the thumbnail representing his video, but darken it and also lower the resolution and cut off the bottom when using it large-sized in full screen mode after the end of the video?

Why change the image in different ways depending on its size and/or where it appears?

This is not a minor question because of the purpose of this thumbnail image.

Presented as depicting “Mubarak’s Supporters” swarming around a tank, as if, as Kristof claims in his Times column and in his video, they have been provoking fights to justify an anti-democratic military crackdown, this thumbnail image has the function of orienting us to view “Mubarak’s Supporters” as “thugs” both before and after we watch the video. 

And this is especially not a minor question because:

1) Nicholas D. Kristof is the leading human rights columnist for The New York Times.  He is routinely shipped into trouble spots (Egypt, Libya, etc.) to promote the Muslim Brotherhood and the like, posting anecdotal reports that package such forces as heralds of decency and democracy.  Headlined prominently on the Times home page, Kristof’s work, although seemingly personal and casual, is scrutinized with care by a staff, while top editors vet what he writes before it sees the light of day because, telling hundreds of thousands of relatively influential people how to think about political crises around the globe, Kristof is, despite his casual style, a prominent cog in that portentous immensity, The New York Times, newspaper of record of the Western world.

2) According to the Western media’s ubiquitous narrative, Mubarak was a brutal totalitarian, as demonstrated by his (supposedly) sending thousands of thugs to attack peaceful protesters in Tahrir Square on February 2.  Since Kristof was in Tahrir Square all day long on February 2, with his own camera plus a New York Times cameraperson at his side, it follows that, if the media narrative were true, Kristof ought to have photos and film footage to prove his case.  The fact that he has to lie, using a photo of anti-Mubarak fighters as the thumbnail representing a video that portrays “Mubarak’s supporters” as the attackers, is evidence that the ‘brutal totalitarian’ story is itself a lie.  And the intensity of Kristof’s effort to doctor the thumbnail in order to hide his lie suggests the importance that The New York Times has placed on putting across their anti-Mubarak fabrication.

We can see no reason for Kristof and his associates to vary their doctoring of the thumbnail image except that a) they wished to trick their readers into believing that this threatening image of the men, the tank and the bright light – something these men had set on fire? – depicted “Mubarak’s supporters,” but b) to avoid being found out they needed to hide the fact that the men in front of the tank were praying in formation, and c) to that end they  followed what appears to be the motivational slogan of The New York Times:

“All necessary deceit! No unnecessary risks!”

Please permit us to show you the method in this madness.


A puzzle solved


Let us again examine Nicholas D. Kristof’s thumbnail, this time the way it appears when one is just reading Kristof’s article as compared to the way it appears when one drags the cursor over it to start the video.  Both images are 190 pixels wide:
Thumbnail in dormant mode Thumbnail with cursor on it

Notice that in both cases the practical effect of darkening the image is that one cannot make out that men are bent over in prayer in front of the tank.  (This is especially true of the image on the right.)  Thus with the small-sized thumbnail, Kristof had no need to crop the bottom.

It is impossible to tell that this thumbnail image has been darkened unless one compares it to Ed Ou’s original photo (as we have done earlier), meaning it is unlikely that anybody besides Ed Ou and others with whom Nicholas D. Kristof works at The New York Times would know that Kristof doctored the image.  Therefore with the thumbnail as posted above, Kristof and the Times faced scant risk of exposure.

But with the thumbnail image that appears after the copyright information at the end of the video when one watches it in full screen mode, Kristof had a problem that was bigger – literally – and whose solution posed some risk.  Because the image is so much bigger, even after Kristof darkened it people would probably notice the men praying in front of the tank, and, having seen many photos of people labeled “anti-Mubarak” praying in unison around military vehicles, realize that these could not be “Mubarak’s Supporters.”  So with the larger image Kristof went further, lowering the resolution and chopping off the bottom of the image to make it extremely unlikely that those people who watched the video in full screen mode until after the copyright information would discern that men were praying in front of the tank, i.e., that they were obviously “anti-Mubarak.”

By cutting off the bottom of the image, Nicholas D. Kristof was running the risk that some readers who had seen Ed Ou’s original photo might detect his doctoring.  However, a) this risk was necessary to hide Kristof’s crime of lying to the public about these being “Mubarak’s Supporters”; b) relatively few people would see Ed Ou’s photo because it is hard to find; c) in any case the risk was minor since, of the people who would see Ed Ou’s photo and also see Kristof’s thumbnail in full-screen mode, how many would notice the evidence of doctoring and how many of those would trust their eyes against the status of The New York Times?  And after all, what would they do if they did?  Write an article for Emperor’s Clothes?

This nuanced con job constitutes “consciousness of guilt,” a studied attempt to falsify Ed Ou’s photo as much as necessary but no more, in order to hide the fact that Kristof is passing off anti-Mubarak forces as “Mubarak’s Supporters.”

Shameful?  Yes, very shameful; a betrayal of trust; a multiple deception, and this before the video has even started.

Next we will examine Nicholas D. Kristof’s video, entitled “Meeting Mubarak’s Supporters,” which is a) manifestly dishonest but b) nevertheless disproves the claims Kristof makes in his Times article and, indeed, in the video itself.

-- Jared Israel and Samantha Criscione
Emperor’s Clothes

Continued in “Part 4: The videographer’s art, enfin.”


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[1] Aside from being posted in two photo galleries on the website of The New York Times, Ed Ou’s photo can be found on the websites of other newspapers such as The Denver Post and The Day out of New London, Connecticut.  Here are some links:

“Allies and Foes Clash in Egypt,” slide show, The New York Times, February 2, 2011, photo #10

“Photos From the Protests in Egypt,” photo gallery, The New York Times, January 25 - February 13, 2011, photo #132

“Captured: Egypt Protests Turn Violent,” The Denver Post, February 3, 2011, photo #12

“Protests continue in Egypt,” Photo Gallery, The Day (New London, CT), February 2, 2011, photo #1

[2] For example, the caption on The Denver Post reads:

“A wounded anti-government protester prays during a lull in fighting against pro-government protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo, on Feb. 2, 2011. The Egyptian government struck back at its opponents on Wednesday, unleashing waves of pro-government provocateurs armed with clubs, stones, rocks and knives in and around Tahrir Square in a concerted effort to rout the protesters who have called for an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s near-30-year rule. (Ed Ou/The New York Times)”

See, “Captured: Egypt Protests Turn Violent,” The Denver Post, February 3, 2011, photo #12

[3] See,


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The Emperor’s New Clothes (TENC) *