Monday, March 19, 2018

Numerical proof that Newsnight altered Corbyn's image

There has been outrage because of a backdrop of Corbyn put up by Newsnight a couple of days ago. Owen Jones rightly pitched in with an eloquent speech on Newsnight condemning their anti-Labour bias in altering the image to make Corbyn look like a Russian stooge.

The excellent @JohnClarke1960 tweeted thus:

A Twitterspat followed, with outrage met by Putin-like denial, led, unfortunately by the normally reasonable Evan Davis who claimed that the hat was not photoshopped. @BBCNewsPR are making the same claim.

I got unpleasant flack on Twitter from a trio of right-wingers one of whom claimed that the change was a Keystone effect, which happens when a projection is done at an angle to the screen. This would have narrowed Corbyn's face. The contemptuous tone of their arguments persuaded me to take things further.

A Newsnight editor explained that "our excellent and hardworking graphics department had merely changed the colour tones".

So, as it was coming down to perceptions, I decided to do some measurements. 

I downloaded John Clarke's image, put it in MS Paint, and set some reference points (see figure at head of this post) in order to measure the width of face (a), height of face (b), height of hat (c) and width of hat (d)  in both versions.

I counted the dimensions in pixels, and then derived ratios of height to width. The ratio is necessary, because the images are different sizes.

Apologies that I did not include error estimates. Life is short, and in the 51 years since I was taught how to do error bars, I have forgotten how to set about it. If you want to repeat my measurements and calculations, you are welcome to go ahead.

Note that I used the mouth as reference point for (b, bb) the height of face, as it is a more definite point than the beard. I have nothing against beards btw.

Note also that in (c), height of hat, I made a conservative choice of reference point in the original, because Newsnight used the shadow of the original cap on Corbyn's forehead to help create the Russian fur hat.


Ratio of height of face to width of face (H/W):
     Original version       0.448
     Newsnight version   0.461

The difference is 13, or a 2.9% increase in the Height/Width ratio.

This shows that the width of the Newsnight version has effectively been lessened. The face has been compressed sideways, (width is less, so the ratio is greater). which is consistent with the keystone effect, if this was in fact in play. This in itself will contribute to making the height of the hat seem greater in relation to the face.  

But is this enough to explain the change?

Let us look at the dimensions of the hat itself.

Ratio of height of hat to width of hat (H/W)
     Original version     0.423
    Newsnight version  0.488

The difference is 65, which means that there has been a 13.32% increase in the width/height ratio compared to the original. Although the width will have become less, like the width of the face, the height of the hat has definitely been increased.

This proves that the apparent transformation of the hat appearance is not down to the colour tone changes, nor to any Keystone effect, but that the hat has been deliberately stretched vertically to convert it from a cap to a more Russian looking fur hat. 

The irony is that Corbyn has been critical of Putin and his machinations, while the Conservative Party is awash with £3 millions of Russian money, and is resisting Labour's attempts to tighten controls on Russian money.

In coming out to deny what had been done, the Newsnight editor and team not only altered an image to make Corbyn look like a Russian stooge, but also put out a false account of why the image looked different.

The response will come back from Newsnight defenders and their political supporters , "Why in the world are you spending hours measuring cap pixels and ratios when there has been an attempted murder by Putin and a subsequent serious international dispute?"

And the answer is, precisely because this is the kind of media distortion that the likes of Putin will carry out against his opponents, using State controlled media to alter perceptions of political reality. Democracy only works properly if there is a healthy, balanced media, critical of Government and opposition in equal measure.

What Newsnight has done is a serious departure from BBC even-handedness, and the person who took the decision to roll out that image of Corbyn must answer for his or her actions.

Click here to place your complaint:
[update: 24/3/18 I have sent 2 complaints to Newsnight, and have now sent to the Executive Complaints Unit: upscaled from complaint about the ushanka, now about falsehoods in their response to my original complaints]

If you find that this application of measurement to a point of political controversy useful, please join in campaigning for use of Interruption Rates in evaluating bias in political interviews.


DocRichard said...

Esinem. In two minds whether to delete your mis-spelt offering. You have not read my post, and you offer no evidence for your POV. So I will delete it, to avoid driving traffic to your unpleasant site.

DocRichard said...

Deleted a video URL from Unknown. Unwatched.

Esinem said...

My apologies if I made any typos. "My unpleasant site" was a private Google image link which showed the original image overlaid on the Newsnight image. It clearly shows that the original image and the Newsnight one overlap perfectly, thus demonstrating no change was made to the dimensions. The image as you say has been stretched but by the gif makers, not Newsnight. Try it yourself or download a copy from WeTransfer:

Anonymous said...

This image shows the two pictures overlaid:

Ima Nostrich said...

Burys head in sand!

Richard Lawson said...
Deleted a video URL from Unknown. Unwatched.

DocRichard said...

Dodges spam/virus. It was a bare URL, no introduction. You open dodgy urls if you want to. Nostritch

DocRichard said...

Anonymous, the image you link to is not the one shown on Newsnight. You have taken the original and manipulated the colour in the left half of the image, and clumsily added the wrong rays.

Interesting that you go to such lengths to justify the BBC's right wing stance. Do you get paid?