CNN has been repeatedly accused by conspiracy theorists of staging dramatic situations. This time, such accusations were made against Clarissa Ward’s reporting from the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip. According to this theory, the journalist and her team only feigned fear, and the sounds of explosions were allegedly added in post-production. However, everything indicates that the entire situation actually did take place, and supporters of conspiracy theories are once again manipulating the message in search of attention and reach.
In the Polish information space, narratives about the fabrication of the recording of a missile attack were spread by accounts known for disseminating disinformation. Among them was @coolfonpl, whose claims we have verified many times on FakeNews.pl (examples: 1, 2, 3).
CNN report – the voice of the “director”?
We decided to take a closer look at the individual claims made in the above posts. @coolfonpl claims that CNN fabricated the recording, providing alleged evidence in the form of a video in which we can hear the voice of the “director”. He instructs the reporting team on how to behave to make the whole scene look more dramatic. Among other things, the “director” scolds his employee to “turn up the volume of the explosions” and admonishes Clarissa Ward to swear less on air. The recording, which was shared by the @coolfonpl account, comes from TheQuartering channel on YouTube. This channel is known for spreading unverified, sensational content and expressing support for Donald Trump.
However, the original recording shows us that there is no “director’s” voice in it. It was added by an unidentified person to give the impression that the entire scene was staged. Therefore, @coolfonpl shares a manipulated video to prove his thesis that the video of the missile attack was fabricated. However, it has nothing to do with reality, and the reporting team visible in the reportage behaved spontaneously.
No explosions in the CNN report?
In turn, Rafał Otoka-Frąckiewicz claims that “the woman from CNN forgot to ask the director to add sounds of explosions.” In fact, he only shared part of the video when the final explosion occurs. In the earlier fragment of the material, many more explosions can be heard, and they are much louder as well. Once again, we are dealing with manipulation and cutting out a fragment of the video to fit a specific narrative.
Rafał Otoka-Frąckiewicz also adds that the recording shows ordinary passers-by who do not care about the ongoing shelling. However, after taking a closer look at the material, we can conclude that they are walking towards the shelter, which is located next to the bus stop. Other people are just coming out. This type of structures are not uncommon in Israel and can be found in public spaces. This means that the passers-by were actually hiding in the designated area, which the CNN crew did not have time to reach before the attack began. Once again, we are dealing with manipulation.
A similar shelter at a bus stop can be seen in this article by The Indian Express. It is worth noting that it is also covered with graffiti. This is a common form of decorating these places. Below is another example of this type of structure.
Geolocation, crashed cars and missile attack
In addition to the above narratives, Internet users point out in the comments that the film crew does not wear helmets. It is difficult to verify why such a situation occurred, but the fact is that the team members were equipped only with partial protection in the form of ballistic vests. It is also worth mentioning that the CNN crew was near the Israeli border zone. The reportage shows the intersection of Route 232 and Highway 34 near the town of Sderot. It is located approximately 3.5 kilometres from the border with the Gaza Strip. Below we can see a comparison of the photo from Google Maps (top) with shots from the CNN report (bottom). This therefore means that Clarissa Ward and her team were near the affected area.
At the end of the clip, we also see wrecked civilian cars. Private belongings are scattered around them, and one vehicle was completely burned. It is one of many places where Hamas militants attacked Israeli civilians. Route 232, the intersection of which we see in the recording, was turned into a trap. Along this road, militants killed hundreds of people. This means that the CNN crew was at the site of an actual massacre of Israeli civilians, even though their bodies had already been taken away.
The reaction of the reporter and the people accompanying her to the missile attack may seem exaggerated. However, there should be no doubt that the fact that the missiles were fired actually took place. The sounds of explosions we hear are the moments when Palestinian rockets were intercepted by the Israeli Iron Dome air defence system. It is difficult to determine whether the CNN team was in actual danger, but fragments of destroyed rockets can fall in various places and pose a threat to bystanders even a few minutes after the attack. Pikud HaOref, the Israeli Home Front Command, informs about this in its film. There is also no doubt that on 9 October, when the report in question was recorded, Hamas repeatedly fired rockets into the territory of Israel.
The topic of the Hamas attack and Israel’s armed response has been dominating the media for a week. Many videos circulating on social media are provided without proper context or are simply fake. This time we are dealing with manipulation, according to which CNN was to fabricate a recording of a missile attack. The reporting team visible in the recording was accused of acting and misleading viewers. In fact, however, the whole situation was very real, and CNN journalists were near the border with the Gaza Strip. Due to insufficient data, it is difficult to determine whether their lives were actually in danger. However, accusations of an overly dramatic reaction to the explosions above their heads seem particularly absurd coming from people who are sitting within the safety of their four walls. No one can be sure that they would keep their cool in a similar situation.