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Some Thoughts on Moonbattery

A few days ago, radio talk show host Scott Hennen posted an email he received from a soldier in Iraq who witnessed John Kerry’s visit to the troops in Baghdad. This soldier offered his own observations to the effect that Kerry’s welcome was less than warm, and he sent along this picture of Kerry eating in the dining hall of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad (click to enlarge):

We posted the photo and commented on it here. The next day, Wednesday, we posted a slightly enhanced version of the photo here.
We and others had fun with the photo, but it was not, obviously, a major news story. Still, the moonbats couldn’t let it go. Someone went to the trouble of analyzing the photo using software like XnView, and found that the date on which the photo was taken was identified as January 9, 2006. This launched a fever in the fever swamp, as lefties at Democratic Underground, a site called “TPMMuckraker” and elsewhere went utterly insane, accusing us of perpetrating a fraud. We got emails like this one, which was at least printable:

Your picture and the story about Kerry are bullcrap!
just keep up the lying..none of you have an ounce of credibility left..and i am going to the media with your lies!!
The EXIF data in the file shows the photo to be dated from January 9, 2006, although I suppose the camera’s date could be off.( yeah right)
Some Googling shows that John Kerry was in London on January 9-10, 2006, which explains the large British flag in the background.
It says it’s in the US Embassy
There’s only one person there that I can see in uniform. That clearly isn’t a gathering of the troops. If the photo is real (which I doubt based on other replies), it only means that embassy staff weren’t sitting with him. So what?
you people are the ultimate of frauds…and you make me sick!

Over at the Forum, liberal commenters weighed in with the “EXIF” argument, and added other reasons why the photo couldn’t possibly have been taken at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Here is a comment by one “Angus,” who was cited reverently at some of the moonbat sites:

Three things make me think this picture does not say what many suppose it to say.
#1. The EXIF data on the unenhanced photo shows that it was taken on January 9, 2006. On that day, John Kerry was in London, England.
#2. There is a Portugese flag in the background. Portugal withdrew all of its troops in February 2005.
#3. The hall is half empty, with only one uniformed soldier in sight, which means there were a lot of civilians dining with other civilians near empty chairs.

None of us had ever heard of EXIF data, so I downloaded some software and verified that the “date taken” was indeed shown as January 9, 2006. I also found that the camera that took the photo was identified as a ViviCam 8400. I was curious about the date, but the obvious explanation that occurred to me was that the owner of the camera hadn’t set the date and time function. I did a few minutes of research, and found two things. First, according to the Associated Press (scroll down), John Kerry left the United States on January 9, 2006, for a twelve-day international tour. He traveled on the 9th, and his first overseas appearance was in London on January 10 (not with troops). At 12:57 on January 9, the time shown in the EXIF data, Kerry was in transit, likely on an airplane over the Atlantic Ocean. (Note, by the way, that the moonbats had done enough research to find that Kerry left the U.S. for London on January 9. This didn’t work for them; you can’t depart the U.S. for London on a seven-hour flight, lose five hours, and be sitting in a dining hall at 12:57. So they just changed the facts, claiming that Kerry was in London on January 9.)
The second thing I found was that the ViviCam 8400 is a new product that wasn’t launched until February 2006.
So the photo obviously couldn’t have been taken on January 9, 2006. This reinforced my original assumption that the date/time function on the camera that took the photo hadn’t been set. I was struck by the fact that this obvious explanation had never, as far as I could tell, been addressed by any of the moonbats. For the most part they had simply ignored the simplest explanation, and no one, as far as I could see, had tried to rebut it. They had simply hurled abuse and invective at us on the basis of unsupported assumptions.
The “issue” of the flags was similarly puzzling. What is so strange about the U.S. Embassy displaying the flags of our coalition partners? Nothing. And did the moonbats really think the fact that the Embassy didn’t tear the Portuguese flag down in disgust when the Portuguese departed Iraq meant anything in particular? Hard to believe.
After we and others pointed out that the picture couldn’t possibly have been taken on January 9, 2006, some of the moonbats admitted their error. But most just slithered away, prepared to become hysterical once again when the next “opportunity” presents itself. Just in case there are still any doubters out there, we thought it would be fun to drive a final stake through the moonbats’ theories by asking the soldier who was the source of the photo to take another one: this time, in the same location, but holding a copy of today’s newspaper. He happily obliged; these two photos were the result. Once again, click to enlarge.
In this picture, you can see the dining facility at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, with the subject holding the Stars & Stripes newspaper for today, December 29, 2006:

Here is another one, showing a closer view of the paper:

If you subject these photos to the same analysis as the original one, you will see that the EXIF data indicate they were taken on January 21, 2006–twelve days after the original Kerry picture. In fact, of course, they were taken on December 29, 2006. The photos’ source writes:

Here is the smoking gun!!
Two photos taken of the exact location of the first photos in the same DFAC, 12 days later with the same camera.
The man in the photo is holding today’s Stars and Stripes. Photo analysis will reveal the camera date is also 12 days later, 21 Jan 06.
Same Christmas decorations, same flags (Great Britain and Portugal), same air conditioners with little Christmas Trees on top.
Only difference is the red tablecloths have been removed and replaced with white ones, the dessert tables are there now and a certain Senator is no longer present!

The camera is brand new, and its owner still hasn’t gotten around to setting the date and time. In another email, Ben from Ben of Mesopotamia wrote:

To answer your questions, yes, the photos are authentic. Although I did not personally take the pictures, I saw the person who did immediately after they took them and asked for a copy.
The explanation for the date/time stamp falls under the category of Occam’s Razor: the person whose camera was used had just arrived in Baghdad, hadn’t taken any pictures with it yet, and hadn’t set their date/time stamp yet….This, as you noted, also explains the seeming discrepancy between the date/time stamp and the commercial availability of the camera model.
To hopefully put this matter to rest (but given the current state of our political discourse and related conspiracy theories, not likely), I’m attaching two photos taken this morning with the same camera from roughly the same angle….The date/time stamp, for those interested, is exactly twelve days after the original time stamp. Apparently, the owner still hasn’t gotten around to setting it.
As to why the Portuguese flag is still flying in the Dining Facility…well, okay, you got me there. My guess is that the contractors who run the DFAC either:
a) Have no idea whose flag it is and whether they are still in country or not;
b) Don’t care about the political implications of hanging that flag; or
c) Don’t have anything else to fill the empty wall space.
Either way, I will bring it to the manager’s attention at lunch today.

We rarely engage with the moonbats, mostly because we are busy and have neither the time nor the inclination. But, apart from its entertainment value, this episode illustrates, I think, some features of the moonbattery that is so common on liberal web sites: First, the tendency to fixate on, and go completely nuts over, a point that is of little or no importance. The whole “issue” of Kerry being more or less shunned by the troops was of less than earth-shaking consequence. Beyond that, when I tried to explain this controversy to my wife last night, she reacted with puzzlement: “What difference does it make if the picture was taken in January or December? It shows the troops avoiding Kerry either way.” True; so, as often happens, the moonbats’ rage was mounted over something that was minor at best.
Second, the immediate resort to abuse and invective. There is no middle ground with the moonbats; no reasoned critiques; no thoughtful questions; no logical observations. Instead, there is unreasoning rage. These are people who, if you were around them in person, would cause you to start edging toward a doorway while surveying the room for a blunt object, just in case.
Third, the obliviousness to obvious and innocent explanations. Our military correspondent hit the nail on the head when he referred to Occam’s Razor. The moonbats don’t rebut simple, benign explanations; they just ignore them in favor of gothic, fevered conspiracy theories. Their logic system favors, not the simplest explanation, but the darkest one.
It was kind of fun kicking around the moonbats over the last day or two, but I think it will be a while before we pay attention to them again. Abnormal psychology isn’t our field.
PAUL adds: True, but if it yields posts like this one then perhaps you should make it your field, John.
UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt had kind words about this post; thanks, Hugh!
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