Tuesday, May 29, 2007

May 29 Media Critique: "Cartoons and Conspiracies"

HonestReportings theory is that if you fire enough shots, you must hit something. Fine in theory, but as HR show today, if the targets are mirages, no number of shots help.

First, HR turn their mighty intellects to a cartoon in a South African newspaper. They seem to think it's not 'balanced'. This is farcical. Cartoons are the epitome of 'point-of-view' in newspapers. Next HR will be complaining that the sports section has too much sport.

Well, if anyone should know about conspiracies, it's HR. They remain convinced of a world wide "anti-Israel media bias" conspiracy, despite the underwhelming evidence.

This one shocks me. Imagine, in my own backyard, and via Tim Fischer, the former Deputy Prime Minister, no less. The conspiracy is that Tim Fischer suggests that Israel deliberately attacked the USS Liberty. As everyone knows (except Tim apparently), it was an accident. Israeli aircraft and torpedo boats repeatedly, for over an hour in broad daylight, accidentally attacked the USS Liberty, killing 34.

HR know this claim is a "canard" because someone wrote a book saying so ('The Liberty Incident' - Ahron Cristol). It was the "definitive study", so they say. I think it's a definitive study in the same way that Joan Peters' 'From Time Immemorial' was the definitive study of population movements in Mandated Palestine. Fischer and his evil conspiracy rejected this "definitive study" by a retired judge in favour of the evidence presented by such people as a former Lieutenant on the USS Liberty, James Ennes who wrote 'Assault on the Liberty', detailing the extensive evidence in support of the contention that the attack was planned and deliberate.

But, just as 'From Time Immemorial' managed to do the opposite of what it intended, so too did 'The Liberty Incident' backfire rather badly, spurring old hands from the USS Liberty to denounce the book as a fraud and to again demand a real inquiry. So strong was the reaction to the book that new witnesses emerged to provide evidence. Stephen Forslund, who was an intelligence analyst working on the day of the attack, related how he read the intercepted transmissions that showed Israel knew the USS Liberty was an American ship, and had deliberately set about attacking it.

How appropriate. HR launch a 'pre-emptive strike' on likely media coverage of the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War. Purely defensive of course, as HR prepares for the 'imminent' attack by the media with their "anti-Israel agenda".

HR warn,

Some historical analyses will be perfectly legitimate. Others may be simply a rewriting of history in order to promote a politicized anti-Israel agenda. Be on the lookout and make full use of HonestReporting's resources, which will be appearing shortly.

It doesn't take much imagination to know what these resources will consist of. I'm sure Ahron Cristols book will be there. You have to laugh.

It's poor form to self-reference, but here's a brief overview of the Six Day War that won't figure in HRs 'resources'.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

May 24 Media Critique: "Sderot: Still Under Fire"

HonestReporting doesn't like the term "home made rockets". Um, OK.

Truly compelling media critique.

What the media is probably trying to do is to provide some "context" (a selectively beloved term of HRs) , to their audiences about Qassams. Namely, that they are not standard military grade weapons which have an altogether different effect, as shown by the Israeli missile attack on a Hamas politicians private home, which killed 8 members of his family. He wasn't home. See the difference? One military grade missile kills almost as many people as thousands of Qassams have over several years. That's the kind of context that HR abhors.

This is the tactic that started it all.

When HR isn't just straight out lying or misrepresenting, it likes to impute intent to errors, mistakes or just routine journalistic sloppiness. The incident that lead to HRs creation remains a classic example of the genre. It was in the 2nd intifada, and a photo showing an Israel soldier standing over a bleeding man was incorrectly captioned to suggest that the man was Palestinan, when it was a Jewish man who had been assaulted by Palestinian rioters. It was an error that had occurred in communication between the photographer and an editor in a busy newsroom on a breaking story. HR, naturally, sought to explain it in terms of anti-Israel bias.

Todays example is far more dull, but essentially the same. Australia's ABC has a story with the following headline "Israel Continues Air Raids Despite new Gaza Truce". Clearly misleading (and quickly changed), but the story itself was perfectly accurate and reasonable. Just one of those editorial stuff-ups that affect all news stories from time to time, from the world news, to lost dog stories. But not to HR, where every error is a sign of malign intent and so HR screams "slanted coverage"!

HR try to have a go at regular target, the BBC , for saying,

Israel resumed airstrikes on Gaza on Tuesday after a six-month lull. It followed several rocket attacks on Israel.
But the best they could manage in response was "Several? Several?". Maybe even HR are getting bored with their script.

HR wants to, but has to avoid a significant contrast in its' effort to suggest that the IDF attack on the Jenin Refugee camp is a comparable situation. That Israel is an illegal occupying army, in contrast to the Lebanese Government being the recognised authority responsible for order and security inside Lebanon. Naturally, HR repeat their favourite lie regarding Jenin,
"This army was pilloried by the international press and falsely accused of perpetrating a 'massacre' ".

Despite that, there has been significant coverage of the civilian casualties caused by the Lebanese armies actions. Inconveniently for HR, some of the best coverage of this type has come from one of the journalists that HR has often sought to smear with its "anti-Israel" tag, Robert Fisk,
The Lebanese soldiers claim they try never to hurt civilians (I can think of another army which says that!), but did so many Palestinians have to be killed or wounded for the crimes of a few ………….Had there been feelings of revenge rather than military discipline when they first opened fire?

Pandering to their prejudices, HR say,
we do wonder if there is the faint whiff of double standards at play here?

Sadly for HR, no.

Just the stench of strident pro-Israel partisans trying to maintain the fiction of "anti-Israel media bias".

Friday, May 18, 2007

May 17 Media Critique:"Buried By the Media: Watch Sderot Under Attack "

HonestReporting complain that the latest Qassam attacks on Sderot have beenburied by the media”.

The media fails to do justice to the suffering of Sderot.

After all it was a major event, with one (1) person seriously injured. There were some other minor events, like the deaths of 40 Palestinians in factional violence and a further 10 killed in an Israeli bombing.

Now, in media-speak, “buried” has a very specific meaning; that a story has not been given the attention it deserves, getting little mention and no follow up and so disappears into obscurity.

So, just how buried was the Sderot story?

Unfortunately, HR had to begin by acknowledging that one of their favourite targets, AP, had a 2 page story on Sderot. Which of course disuaded them not at all from making their allegations.

CNN had this and this for follow up which included some video.

AFP had this , this and this.

Reuters covered the story here and followed it up with this.

Not only that, but look at this. IRIN News, news agency of the evil UN, covered the attacks with this story and then another!

OK, so there was plenty of coverage, but surely that bastion of anti-Israel media bias, the BBC, ignored this vital story? Close enough. The BBC could only manage a 40 sec video of Sderot showing damaged buildings and people being evacuated by ambulance. Typical.

Don’t you just hate this vast world-wide anti-Israel media conspiracy that has “buried” this story?

Thankfully we have courageous groups like HonestReporting to alert us to such awful media bias.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

May 13 Media Critique: "New Horror Footage: From Mickey Mouse to Mother's Suicide Mission"

HR are determined to demonstrate why no one should take them seriously.

Most people would have heard of the Hamas ‘Mickey Mouse’ story, given the extensive international coverage it’s received. But HR, faithfully adhering to the old adage of when-you’re-on-a-good-thing-stick-to-it, are demanding to know why,

the media ignore another equally abhorrent video, which is still running on Hamas TV?

And that’s it, that’s the “media critique” – why doesn’t the media spend more time covering the specific story we want to see covered? Has the general issue of incitement on Palestinian TV not been covered? Obviously not to HRs satisfaction.

To top it off, HR then offer some “recommended readingon the issue of media bias, explaining that,

the media is guilty of highlighting individual and sensationalist stories, such as the Hamas Mickey Mouse, while neglecting the bigger picture….
And this just after they’ve hysterically demanded to know why the media “turns a blind eye” to another “individual and sensationalist story”! HR, the unintentional comedians.

The sight of a stridently partisan group like HonestReporting, flinging around accusations of bias never fails to amuse.

HR gave a master class in objectivity and concern for children in 2002 when Amnesty International released their report on child deaths “Killing the Future: Children in the Line of Fire”.
Others have dealt with the general issues of the huge number of Palestinian children killed by the IDF in this conflict
. But what is interesting from the bias perspective is that HonestReporting were at pains to ensure that, in the interests of protecting children, that the IDF version was presented,

The Palestinian terrorists are solely and unequivocally responsible for the injuries caused to Palestinian children.

So there.


Thanks Russ for this tip.

Seems that MEMRI has been indulging in a little creative translating (otherwise known as fabrication) to make the Hamas 'Mickey Mouse" story a bit more useful for their purposes.

Am I surprised? Not a bit.

Update 2:

Thanks to Facts On The Ground, for this very clear summary of MEMRI's.....err....issues.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

May 10 Media Critique: “Nice Story But Where's the Context?"

Or alternatively – 'Nice Try, But Do You Really Think You Can Ever Make Us Happy?' (HonestReportings ability to find bias in anything is neatly explained by experimental studies - see the 'hostile media effect').

While we frequently highlight some of the most egregious media bias and inaccuracies, it is also worth noting those instances where a seemingly benign or even positive article can disguise a greater problem….. so what's the issue with a piece where there appears nothing to get upset about?
That’s right – even when there is nothing to get upset about, HR will always find something to get upset about. It just goes to show the utter futility or trying to please extreme partisans like HonestReporting. The BBC are the target for running a puff-piece (sorry, human interest story), on the fond reminisces of some Iraqi-Jews for their homeland. But the BBC miss the all-important "context".
The problem lies not in what has been written but in what has been left out. While terming the Iraqi Jews' move to Israel as part of a "mass migration", the BBC conveniently forgets that this was not a move made out of choice. In fact, the Iraqi Jews (along with thousands of Jews living in Arab states) were forced to flee for their lives as refugees in anything but positive circumstances.
Well, not quite "fleeing for their lives", as the emigration of Iraqi Jews occurred over several years, and it was a migration that Israel was only too happy to encourage.

Never ones to miss a chance at being factually inaccurate, HR include a map to show the level of migration to Israel from Arab countries. It includes Egypt which shows a figure of 89, 525. But that is roughly the Jewish population of Egypt, not the number of émigrés to Israel. And HR also never miss an opportunity to do themselves, what they accuse others of doing. Just as they accuse the BBC, they leave out some vital ‘context’ about the situation in Egypt – most of the émigrés didn’t go to Israel. Why? Well, it's not the kind of 'context' that HR likes. Many of the Egyptian Jews blamed Israel for their situation. In the 1950s Israel had recruited several Egyptian Jews to bomb targets in Egypt, followed by Israels 1956 invasion of Egypt, all which led to Egypts Jews becoming the targets of campaigns doubting their loyalty to Egypt, leading them to emigrate, the majority going anywhere but Israel.

There is some other missing context, but again not the sort that HR would tell its' sheep-like readers – why do some of the Mizahrim have fond memories of Iraq? Afterall, as HR tell us, they were "forced to flee for their lives". Doesn't make much sense does it? But, onto the context that resolves this apparent conundrum. The European nature of Zionism meant that the Mizharim didn’t get a very warm welcome in Israel. They were seen as second-rate and were treated that way. It was they who were sent to the outlying ‘development towns’ where conditions were harsh and services very basic, often finding themselves living in tents for extended periods. And these were people who were often the middle class in their countries of origin. It was a very rude shock for many of them, compounded by the contemptuous attitudes towards the 'Oriental-Jews'. Contempory Mizhari scholars increasingly write about the racism that has typified the relations between themselves and the Ashkenazi Jews of European origin.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

May 2 Media Critique: "Harvard Report Examines Media Coverage of Lebanon War"

Back at the beginning of March 2007, HonestReporting's Backspin blog drew attention to a research paper published by Harvard University, which examined media coverage of the 2006 Lebanon War. The conclusion: Hezbollah succeeded at using the media as a weapon against Israel. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the mainstream media, having allowed themselves to be cynically manipulated by the Hezbollah propaganda machine, failed to report the findings of the Harvard study.

And HonestReporting, having failed to read the actual report, can’t manage to summarise it with any great accuracy. The report (actually a ‘Research Paper’) focuses its media analysis on Arabic media, such as Al-Jezeera, Al-Arabiyya etc, the BBC and the main US outlets. It doesn’t provide much information on its methodology, so it's conclusions are rather difficult to assess. Its basic finding is that Hizballah tried to use the media to its advantage. Ground-breaking stuff. Who needs a ‘Research Paper’ to point out what is obvious and uncontroversial. The real issue is how does the media respond to attempts to manipulate it -whether it is a Government, a military force, or an internet pressure group.

While the initial lack of publicity was disappointing, a number of blogs have recently revisited the study, generating a surge in internet-led interest. This prompted the Jerusalem Post to report:

This is amusing. The Research Paper author, Marvin Kalb, expressed an interesting opinion almost 10 yrs ago on the power of the internet to influence mainstream journalism – he felt it was a negative one.

I suspect that over the next couple of years that impact will grow to the point where it will damage journalism's ability to do its job professionally, to check out information before publication, to be mindful of the necessity to publish and broadcast reliable, substantiated information.

Kalb felt that ‘bloggers’ putting information out, compel a commidified media to run with those stories from a purely competitive perspective, leading to a degradation of journalistic standards. And that’s pretty much the way this latest 'Media Critique' has come to us. The Harvard paper has been kicking around a few blogs and then as HR tell us “This prompted the Jerusalem Post to report:” Kalbs paper. A little ironic isn’t it?

Here’s an excerpt from the paper that HonestReporting (and the Jerusalem Post) should read, and re-read till they get it,

Keller of the Times said that the issue is so irresolvable that he refuses to pander to the prejudices of his critics. “They don’t want you to be balanced in your coverage; they want you to portray the morality of the war as they see it.” Scholars have coined a term for this problem—it’s called “hostile media effect,” meaning partisans tend to believe that the media generally paints them in a negative light

Sound like anybody we know?

Thanks to Eric for pointing out this critique of the Harvard study. On a related matter, Kalb was a vocal critic of the Mearsheimer and Walt paper on the 'Israel Lobby', as it "clearly does not meet the academic standards of a Kennedy School research paper". If you've read Kalbs effort, it's hard not to laugh at this. I've written to the author pointing out some of the serious academic limitations in his 'Research Paper'. It will be interesting to see if there is a response.