Media's Take on the News: 3-12-03 to 4-24-03Media's Take on the News
He was known for swimming the river but the film footage showed him cutting through the water at remarkable pace for a man of his age. Photos from the same day also raised suspicion as they appeared to show a detached head bobbing on the water.
There were enough witnesses to authenticate it was the Chinese leader but there is still debate among historians today about whether the video was altered to make him swim faster or whether the government had frogmen in wetsuits and flippers underneath towing him along.
The art of deception has been widely used to prop up ageing statesmen who want to appear virile and has helped numerous leaders who were ill -- even dead -- give the impression they were still in command.
The Iraqi government's media campaign over the past two weeks has attempted to show Saddam Hussein is alive despite American attacks on his bunkers, government buildings and palaces. Saddam has appeared a number of times on state television delivering speeches to the nation and meeting with senior aides and his two sons, Uday and Qusay. In images shown yesterday of the 65-year-old dictator, he is dressed in military uniform and is smiling and laughing.
Intelligence sources told CNN yesterday the government now believes all of the footage of Saddam was taped before the war. Saddam is also known for using doubles and the U.S. government has only confirmed it was genuinely Saddam in one of his recent appearances.
The use of doubles and altered images dates back to ancient China. When Qin Shihuang, the founding emperor of China, died there was concern that word would leak out to the people, so one of his ministers placed his body in the state carriage and continued to transport him through the streets, according to Chinese historians. When his decomposing body began to smell, the minister arranged to have another carriage of rotting fish placed behind the emperor and told the people their leader had requested the smelly fish.
In 1556, when Humayun, a Mughal emperor in India fell down the stairs in his library and broke his skull, it placed the empire in a very difficult position, with demands that he be seen periodically. In order to allow enough time to crown his child, who was to succeed him, officials placed a double of the emperor in his cloak and hat, placed him at the top of the library and had him wave to the people below.
One of the most famous wartime deceptions involved British General Bernard Montgomery. In the run up to the Allies' invasion of Normandy in 1944, a double of General Montgomery was used to throw off the Germans.
Joseph Stalin and Sir Winston Churchill were also known for using doubles, often for security reasons.
In other cases, images have been altered to create certain impressions, particularly during wartime. When Stalin gave his famous speech about resisting the Nazis after Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, he was shown in Red Square delivering his address. It was only later it was discovered he was actually in a studio -- the image had been artificially altered.
When the Germans attacked, Stalin was taken by surprise and disappeared for about six weeks; He had been admitted to a clinic because of a breakdown.
Even after Hitler committed suicide, rumours circulated for many years after the war about what had happened to the Nazi leader.
John Ferris, professor of history at the University of Calgary, said governments have often withheld information about a leader's health. Sir Winston had a stroke, which was kept quiet, and John F. Kennedy was also much sicker than Americans were led to believe.