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Is «the tank man»-story true?

"Tank Man"

As we all know – every year around June 4th, Western media has stories about «the tank man» – like then The New York Times first printed «the tank man»-photo, and wrote: «A single man stopping a column of tanks rumbling toward Tian’anmen Square». Similar narrative has been repeated by Western news outlet every year since 1989. TIME magazine even declared «the tank man … one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century».

But is this narrative true?

No, it’s not. The photographer Jeff Widener confirmed in the New York Times-interview «Behind the Scenes: Tank Man of Tiananmen» from 2009, that «the tank man»-photo was taken on June 5th – more than 24 hours after the students had peacefully left the Tian’anmen square. Widener confirms the date: «Sometime in the morning of June 5, 1989, I stumbled out of the Jianguo Hotel. … As I shot pictures out the sixth floor of the Beijing Hotel balcony, I was going through film pretty fast», http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/03/behind-the-scenes-tank-man-of-tiananmen

[New York Times has in May 2022 put the Jeff Widener article behind a pay-wall. But a copy can be found at Wayback Machine: https://web.archive.org/web/20180217004025/https://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/03/behind-the-scenes-tank-man-of-tiananmen/ ]

That the photo was taken on June 5th goes unnoticed by MSM, and «the tank man»-story is still being distributed by Associated Press (AP) and others as if it happened on June 4th. The narrative connected with the photo is very much about «the lone and brave man», who stopped the brutal Chinese military and therefore was helping the students. Some tv-stations even show a video, there «the tank man» is climbing the first tank – and shouting to the driver «Get out of my city!» – without giving any evidence that this was the wording.

In which direction were the tanks moving?

The Jeff Widener-photo shows a man stopping four tanks. But if you look at the photo taken a few seconds earlier by Stuart Franklin (from American company Magnum Photos), shown at http://pc.blogspot.no/2012/06/tank-man.html , you can see that there is a long row of tanks behind Widener’s four tanks. It’s actually a line of 19 tanks. And as you can see – the tanks are LEAVING the Tian’anmen square, not «rumbling toward Tiananmen Square» – and actually driving east and probably out of the city!

The «the tank man» story is therefore, by using a cropped photo, totally untrue and made up. It’s fake political propaganda – and Associated Press and Jeff Widener probably knows it very well.


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  1. pug_ster
    June 12th, 2016 at 14:58 | #1

    Not surprised. Western propaganda always makes the narrative fit the story, not the other way around.

  2. Siguy
    June 15th, 2016 at 12:11 | #3

    of course its propaganda. The western MSM is all about propaganda and ANY and ALL stories about China is certainly done to fit a narrative.
    Good posting Rolf

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