MEDIA FRENZY - BIASED REPORTING
By Emanuel A. Winston
Middle East analyst & commentator
The international media, including journalists, film crews, editors and publishers have spiraled down - down - down, in the opinion of the general public. The recent coverage of the eruption of conflict between Arafat's Palestinians and Israel was so slanted that , even the Left-leaning Hebrew Press was shocked. Those who report without bias will know who they are while those who doctor there reportage have become a dangerous element in stirring the emotions with deadly results.
What has happened to the working press that they can no longer report on a story without their personal bias controlling the reportage? Instead of being viewed as non-involved observers, they are wooed by both sides to tilt towards one or the other - and then they do.
Ethical professionals would take an objective, centrist position and report with an even hand. This, regrettably, did not happen during the recent start-up of what the Palestinian spokesmen now call the Al Aksa Intifada' separating it from the first 5 year Intifada'. Clearly, journalists have decided to no longer report the news but rather to interpret or make the news. Some nations take a dim view of this slanted view of intelligence clearly intended to provoke and affect their national and/or internal politics. This is especially true when journalists and their home base of operations seems to be an extension of their governments foreign policy.
While relatively safe in democratic countries, journalists who make the news are being targeted in non-democratic countries - with rising casualties. However, if one travels with bands of revolutionaries, terrorists and rioters anywhere, there is no way to distinguish them, the reporters or photographers, from the mob. While reporters have always faced the risks of being there in reporting wars, something has drastically changed. Now, they either take sides and become known for their bias or they slant their reportage because they fear the terrorists about whom they should be reporting.
The media - even the most shallow and uninformed did know one thing. Namely, that twisted propaganda against the Jews had preceded the savage butchery of six million Jews. That preparing the minds of Germans and most Europeans had made normal people willing to act as bestial executioners. Although it was planned by evil minds, it was the Press who carried the message to the people. Now, knowing that their media industry was an operational part of Genocide, individual journalists and their corporations have with malice once again decided to incite the mobs. This has once more started the burning of synagogues in America, France, Russia, et al. Yes...the Media is, in large part, to blame although they will haughtily deny it and claim freedom to say whatever they want! They are sure to claim their hostility to Jews is neither passive nor aggressive - merely objective.
Then, terrorists are not terrorists but are called guerillas or freedom fighters. This is a form of media manipulation by semantics. In this period of globalization, such reports feed back into a larger constituency in their home country and can dramatically affect not only the people, but also the decisions by governments and other influentials. Voting an issue up or down can be affected -either intentionally or unintentionally . Sending arms or even troops can be affected by inaccurate or biased reportage which can be intentional.
When the media become part of the equation, they are no longer a protected neutral but a player. Players can become targets along with the terrorists and rioters. They cannot claim sanctuary and neutrality because they have chosen to act as an advocate for one side or the other.
Perhaps over the years the media industry has allowed this slippage so that journalists and TV news commentators can claim they are honestly reporting events as they see them - or at least for the sensationalism demanded by their home offices. The operative word is "They". If "They" allow their personal or company bias to creep into the story in a way that substantively submerges the true picture, then they have become an organic extension of one of the combatants. While this may advance their careers and sell more advertising space for their companies, they become what used to be called "Yellow Journalists".
Perhaps that is why the U.S. government gathered the Media into one area during the Gulf War and provided them with official' press briefings. The Media was furious at being forced to report this pre-chewed news. But, experience with sensationalized stories or exposing troop locations (even inadvertently) caused casualties which, of course, brings up the question of judgement vs. the Scoop!
In a smaller way we can recall Arafat's War of Terrorism in Lebanon when the Media chose to corral themselves in the Commodore Hotel in Beirut and meekly accepted the Media handouts from Arafat's brother who was in charge of information. Yes, they were scared to death of being killed (10 news people were killed during that period) or snatched up and held hostage in some urine-filled basement, chained to a radiator. (Remember the hostages held in Lebanon?) The reportage according to Arafat was a scandal of propaganda and the collaboration of the belly-up-to-the-bar reporters.
More recently (October 19th), an Italian reporter released a film of 2 Jewish reserve soldiers who took a wrong turn into Ramallah and were savagely murdered, thrown out the window and mutilated by the mob with the Palestinian Police looking on. The reporter was threatened by Arafat's terror threats so he wrote a letter of apology to Arafat, disclaiming credit and blaming others. Film shot by other film crews were confiscated at the point of a gun by Arafat's media wise terrorists who were on the spot to insure such footage did not reach the public.
Regrettably, the media has developed a smoothly engineered operational coordination and understanding with Arafat and the mobs. They receive pre-notification of spontaneous' riots and the media provide film crews, still and video, who report the event with the agreed slant.
One revealing example of this can be found by downloading a very provocative picture that exemplifies the problem. It shows a stone-throwing young man (who looks like he could have had a good career as a baseball pitcher). Behind him is about a dozen photographers and videographers. It is as slick a pre-arranged and staged photo-op as possible.(1)
A very complete set of professional photographs appears on the Website: <http:://www.rotter.net/israel>. They show every area of the current media manipulations from staged photos to Palestinian children being taught to shoot, hate and kill. (2)
The journalists feed back tilted stuff' to their Editors who wanted tilted stuff' and who play it for their network audience as manipulated news. Israeli information outlets, as usual, were late in their response, preferring deep, thorough and long investigations for the sake of accuracy. This is an admirable goal, however, in the Media War of Manipulation, Israel loses every time. When they finally get the truth' out, the audience has left the theater, i.e., forgotten the original distortion although they have absorbed the message that Israel is at fault. This is because, in the meantime, the media was soaking up and spitting out commentary by Palestinian spokesmen who exercised little or no restraint in their interpretation of events.
Please note an essay by Jack Kelley in USA TODAY regarding the Voice of Palestine Radio reporting: Israeli jets just bombed Bethlehem. "Israeli criminals have fired missiles into the homes of innocent Palestinians...Palestinian blood is flowing in the streets! Oh God, God how can the criminals kill our innocent children?" On site checking immediately after found no evidence of an attack." ...And "Hebron was under siege' by armed Jewish settlers who were shooting Palestinian women and children." A visit to Hebron found calm and quiet there, too. And: Nablus - the Palestinian correspondent reported that Israeli troops were "burning homes." No such thing, residents there said. "Jerusalem will be our capital. We will fight until the end," a Voice of Palestine commentator said earlier this week. "No more negotiations. Just give us our guns." (3) Was Jack Kelley of USA TODAY the only journalist with access to Palestinian radio newscasts? I doubt it. But, the working press simply ignored the incitement preferring to film the kids rushing to the streets as a direct result of their wild announcements (and perhaps financial inducements?)
We interviewed the IDF military media staff as to why their response was invariably late. They indicated, with some pride, that they made every effort to confirm the facts which took considerable time - even though they knew the Palestinians and the Media were crucifying them in the international media. For example, the underlying formative story put forth by Arafat's media propagandists was that: Arik Sharon didn't walk around the Jewish Temple Mount; he charged up there with 1500 policemen.
Except for the CHICAGO TRIBUNE none of the lead journals pointed out that 3 Arab Members of the Israeli Knesset incited the mobs after the Sharon visit or that the radical Iman (religious cleric) gave a fiery sermon in the Mosque on the Temple Mount Friday resulting in a presumed spontaneous' riot. The problem was that these youths, with the Waqf (Muslim caretakers) had prepared piles of stones, one pile fist-sized for throwing and others smaller for a sling shots.
According to Julie Stahl, the CNS Jerusalem Bureau Chief, the PA Media started provoking Palestinian riots weeks ago (4) Palestinian Authority TV and newspapers carried inciting messages some time before Sharon's visit on the Temple Mount.
Jibril Rajoub, head of the PA Preventive Security promised Israeli Minister of Internal Security and Acting Foreign Minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami that there would be no reaction to the Likud Party's visit to the Temple Mount, as long as Sharon did not attempt to enter the mosque itself. This story was broadcast only once on Israeli radio and then buried until it appeared in the JERUSALEM POST October 4th. (5) The riots which came a day later were positioned by the media as NOT staged or triggered by a Green Light' from Yassir Arafat but were spontaneous' and based upon the sacrilegious' assault on Al Aksa Mosque and the third holiest site in all of Islam. The gathering of food and medical supplies by the Palestinian population for several months prior (and ignored by the Media) had nothing to do with preparing for a curfew which usually followed pre-planned riots. Most of the accommodating media said nothing about the 3,OOO year old Jewish claim to the Temple Mount and that it is the most Holy Site for the Jewish people, pre-dating Arafat's claims by several thousand years. (Arafat's actual propaganda claim occurred only in 1967 gaining steam and credibility as the Media repeated the claim and no questions asked.)
The story of the Arab boy and father hit by Israeli and Palestinian crossfire has been emblazoned across all media outlets. But, the media seldom prints that the Israelis couldn't have seen them from their positions. Later videotapes revealed that the boy had been part of the stone-throwing mob and his father came to pull him away. It was not an accident that he was in the middle of a firefight with Palestinian Police firing at the Israelis who fired back. The picture became the news with no attempt by the Media to explain the actual circumstance in real time. And why didn't the French photographer who filmed the evolving horror story for 45 minutes could have notified the Israeli soldiers instead of getting his scoop. Here again, youngsters were incited by Arafat's PA school and summer camp curriculum that included training with real guns, even given time off to participate in the riots but this was NOT reported by the media.
However, hardly anyone noted the true story of the Israeli medical team who risked their lives to enter an Arab town and rescue the Jihad Aloul, the critically injured son of Nablus' governor to a hospital in Israel. This occurred less than 24 hours before Israeli Border Police Cpl. Yusef Mudhat, an Israeli Druse, bled to death because the Palestinians refused to allow his evacuation from Joseph's Tomb in Nablus. (6)
The cynical use of women and children as Human Shields was NOT cited by the Media as a typical Arafat policy but, instead was spun by Arafat's Spin Doctors nurtured by past successful events staged for the media to show that Israeli troops deliberately targeted women and children. Clearly, the so-called children were often teens with good throwing arms and slingshots, lobbing rocks and gasoline bombs. Now, just behind them, firing from cover, were Arafat's shooters, now called Tanzeem - trained in far flung terrorist training camps from Afghanistan through the Soviet Union to the deserts of North Africa including Libya. Does the media know this and do they have collected data in their archives confirming this? Absolutely!
This tactic created a field of fire between the Palestinian shooters, including Arafat's rogue Policemen/Para-military forces and Israeli troops manning a static position at a check-points on Israeli territory. When a child got shot or one of the teens was injured, the ever-present TV crews carried the scene live. There was no real time explanation as to why the shooting occurred but, merely the sympathetic film of the injured being carried away from Israeli fire or the ever present follow-on hysterical funeral processions with Arab women screaming and automatic weapons being fired into the air. (Does anyone notice that the bullets fall to earth they kill or injure whatever innocent bystanders happen to catch it?)
It seems time for some laws to be passed called "Truth in Reporting". Since many of the TV crews carry back-up links to satellites and can feed their home base without Israeli review, then something else must be done to insure accurate reporting without the biased "spin".
Perhaps simply revoking the visas of journalists and film crews if they do not offer a follow-on report from the point of view of the other side. Allow them full Freedom of the Press to say what they please BUT with the opportunity of a real time' response of the other side. If the news journal or TV network refuses to offer this balanced review in the interests of "Fair Journalism" then simply and politely send that journalist and his company back to their homes in other countries.
In the case of Israel, granted the Government Press Office and Foreign Ministry's Hasbara Departments are too slow to react and they do not use designer propaganda as do the Arabs, Muslims and many other countries. But, they do study each event and seem to frankly admit when they are at fault. They have open lines which any reporter with a cell phone can access from the field. Checking your facts is Journalism 101. If reporters and TV newsmakers wish to tell their stories and claim credibility, then let them contact Israel's Government Press Office and get their facts right.
Good night, Gerald Kessel. Think sweet thoughts, Walter Rogers. Think Pink, Peter Jennings. Mind Meld, Tommy Friedman with anyone except James Carville and, whatever you do, don't read the Life and Times of Goebbels. Even Phil Donahue was frothing at the mouth over children killed without a clue as to what he was babbling about. (7)
There is no reason for the Media pundits to rank with used car salesmen, ambulance-chasing lawyers and politicians. Climb out of those low places and start reporting as you wanted to once when you were ethically ideological and thought about entering the news industry as fresh cub reporters wanting to tell the truth. Why should the public regard the media industry of today as manned for publicity seeking journalists who will lie or slant stories merely to advance their careers or sell advertising space. The media was once looked upon as the watch dogs against crooked politicians, dictators or terrorists, but not any more.
How did the media slide into the business of massaging the news and jimmying up the stories as if they worked for the terrorists or the crooked politicians?
Yes, we know through mathematical and statistical studies that most journalists, like university professors are Left Liberal but that should not be the prejudiced viewpoint. Write opinion pieces if you must, but don't lie to the people and yourselves to call it reporting the news'. Reach back and find that time when you knew you were honest and had journalistic ethics. Start again, unless the money and your career is so gripped by the short hairs that you are helpless to break away.
AS FOR THE READERS: Don't let the bastards get away with it. Don't just write letters but visit the media sources en masse in the editors' offices and protest loudly with facts and pictures in hand. Start a campaign to boycott their newspapers or any other way to affect their pocketbooks. Find those journalists - in person or by phone, cell phone, fax - and raise hell about their lies. Don't let the bastards have a quiet moment.
SEND THIS TO YOUR LEAST FAVORITE JOURNALIST, NEWSPAPER AND TV NETWORK.
1. Photo of Arab stone thrower with dozen photographers behind 10/25/00
3 "Palestinian radio: All the news that fits the cause; Israel says the broadcasts are nothing but lies and propaganda. Listeners say the station is the only information source they can trust." By Jack Kelley USA TODAY 10/25/2000
4. "PA Media Started Provoking Palestinian Riots Weeks Ago" by Julie Stahl CNS Jerusalem Bureau Chief 10/2/00
5. "Ben-Ami: Rajoub said Sharon Temple Mount Visit Would Pose No Problem" by Nina Gilbert & Lamia Lahoud JERUSALEM POST 10/4/00
6. "Israelis Helped Nablus Governor's Son to Hospital" by Margot Dudkevitch JERUSALEM POST 10/4/00
7. IBA NEWS Channel 1 10/28/00
Emanuel A. Winston is research associate of the Freeman Center For Strategic Studies.