Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Jan 29 Media Critique: "Blog On!- Media Responds to HR Critiques"

HonestReporting get themselves into a state of over-excitement about nothing.

Both Reuters and the BBC have responded to HR's false allegations, Reuters observing the niceties of correspondence, while the BBC simply throws it back at them. This was the BBCs observation on HR's allegations,

utterly wrong and disingenuous

But then you could say that about almost every thing that comes out of HR.

HR’s beef was a BBC report that included a photo of a boy standing near an unexploded shell in the family living room. The reporter actually noted in the report that the boy in the photo was pushed to stand there so the photo could be taken. HR then rant on about “fauxtographry”. But they only know this fact because the BBC explicitly told its readers! Well, what choice do they have – they can’t talk about what an Israeli shell is doing in the boy’s living room.

The lights are on, but no one is home at HonestReporting.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Jan 23 Media Critique: "Heads Roll at Reuters"

Ho hum.

HR is still trying to make waves over the non-issue of Reuters 2007 Calendar. Says HR,

Judging by the volume of e-mail that reached Reuters following our January expose of politicized imagery and captions in its 2007 calendar, the media organization certainly got the message that this pernicious form of bias is simply unacceptable. After we alerted you to Reuters' weak initial response to your complaints, many people attempted further correspondence. Lacking any more credible excuses the Reuters press office went silent.

Maybe they just got tired of a bunch of emails all saying the same inaccurate things.

Not to be deterred, HR suggest that its readers try again,

Can we expect to see Reuters applying its new improved standards in the future and will the organization's calendar be subjected to the same internal investigation? Ask David Schlesinger yourself by posting a comment on the Reuters Editor's Blog.

Again, we can only marvel at the lack of what HR claims is its principle target - “anti-Israel media bias” - in the media world, so much so that HR must settle for criticising corporate calendars.


But HR briefly return to an old favourite - the media’s alleged refusal to use HRs favourite term.

Associated Press (and many other media outlets) have an aversion to using the terms "terrorism" or "terrorists" - unless the perpetrator happens to be an Israeli Jew:

In a bizarre twist, the Israeli referred to in the story is a Palestinian convert to Judaism who planned a terrorist attack in cooperation with his Palestinian brother, described by AP as a "militant".

If you are also wondering why AP is happy to label an Israeli Jew (albeit a former Palestinian) as a "terrorist" but not a member of the Islamic Jihad, send your comments to info@ap.org.

HR then link to an AP report. As ever, HR have to distort facts to come up with their allegations. This is what the AP report actually says,

Asaf Ben-David, an Israeli Jew, is facing charges of conspiring to carry out a terror attack with a wanted Palestinian militant — his brother.

So AP simply report that Ben-David has been charged with “conspiring to carry out a terror attack”. That is, they've described the facts of his case. Does AP describe Ben-David as a "terrorist" anywhere in the article? No.

Here’s the AP article, check it yourself and see that HR is, yet again, making things up.

More fabrications and false allegations from HonestReporting.

If you’re ever wondered where HR get their information, this gives a clue – HR released this on Jan 23rd, and on Jan 22nd another site had the same AP story making the same basic allegations.

Guess who? Little Green Footballs. The good people at LGF Watch have kindly provided the links to demonstrate the falsity of the general charge that the media never use the terms terror/terrorist/terrorism, except in reference to Israel.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Jan 15 Media Critique: "Iran: Threat to Israel and the World"

Today HonestReporting take whatever tiny shreds of credibility it has retained from posing as an organization campaigning for fairness and accuracy in the media, and flung them so far down the toilet as to be irretrievable.

HR, in its wisdom, has decided to play the role of propaganda organ in the march to war on Iran. It even calls this blatant pile of lies a “Media Critique”. Perhaps they think that audacity can hide their dishonesty.

Bertrand Russell's definition of propaganda is helpful in seeing HR for what it is,

Propaganda may be defined as any attempt by means of persuasion, to enlist human beings in the service of one party to any dispute. It is thus distinguished…from instructions by its motive, which is not the dissemination of knowledge but the generating of some kind of party feeling……it will consist of such information as tends in a given direction, to the exclusion of such information as has a contrary tendency.

So let’s see what specific techniques of propaganda the fanatics at HR adopt in their mission of dishonesty.

The world can longer ignore the threat posed by Iran
Nonetheless, everyone should be aware of the threat and Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons capability.
Unsupported assertion. What factual evidence is there that Iran is trying to develop “nuclear weapons”? None.

In 2005, much of the media reported his call for Israel (actually the "Zionist regime" since Iran refuses to use the word "Israel") to be "wiped off the face of the map"”
Juan Cole and others, who actually can read Persian, say that this is an incorrect translation, and that the phrase used by Ahmadinejad actually means this,
The Imam said that this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.
The issue of the correct translation raised a minor controversy, with the consensus coming down on the side of "time" rather than "map", as the correct translation.

At any rate, HR demonstrate their casualness with quotes, as while HR render the phrase as above ("wiped off the face of the map"), the translation they link to actually says this -“wiped off the face of the earth”. Translation from Persian is one thing, but HR can’t even copy from English correctly.

The same linked article throws up other problems for HR’s thesis. Ahmadinejad's speech is also translated as wishing for “the annihilation of the Zionist regime”. But he also quotes Khomeini on the Shah, approvingly, saying “the dear Imam [Ruhollah Khomeini] said this regime [the Shah] must be destroyed”. If HR were to be consistent in its interpretations, they must believe that Ahmadinejad's policy is 'no more Iran'.

I think we can safely assume HR don’t think this.

Finally HR indulge in some selective omission. In communication, as opposed to propaganda, we assume that our interlocutor will tell us all relevant and significant information. Failure to do so is a sure sign of bad faith. So, what important facts do HR leave out in their Ahmadinejad section? HR tells its readers that he is the President of Iran. Knowing that a great many of it’s readers are in the US the term “President” has a very clear meaning – it’s the pinnacle of political power, with the ability to commit the country to war and to control its armed forces. Iran’s President has no such powers. He does not control the Iranian army, the Supreme Leader , Khamenei does. Ahmadinejad could declare war on Israel tomorrow and nothing would happen.

Clearly HR know this, and try to evade the problem with this,
Moreover, he has done so with no significant domestic dissent. When the leader of a sovereign nation makes unequivocal statements without domestic opposition, those statements serve as the basis of national policy.
No they don’t. National policy remains under the control of the Iranian Parliament (Majles), with only the Supreme Leader having supra-parliamentary powers.

Years before the current controversy involving Iran's attempts to develop nuclear power and (according to almost all experts) nuclear weapons, Iran invested heavily in the acquisition of long range missile systems.

Iran’s current missiles are a threat to only its near neighbours. Western Europe and the US are outside their reach. So HR moves onto speculation – if Iran develops longer range missiles and nuclear weapons, then it will be a “threat to…… the world”.
This is called threat inflation.

Here’s the International Institute for Strategic Studies' somewhat less hysterical take on Iran’s weapons programs.

It’ s also worth considering the general military spending issue to get some perspective on Iran. Here are the defence spending figures as a percentage of GDP, for Iran and some of its neighbours.

  • Iran 2.7%
  • Turkey 3.3%
  • Israel 8.2%
  • Saudi 8.8%
  • UAE 2.8%

(Source IISS, “The Military Balance 2005-2006”)

Iran is one of the lowest per capita spenders in the region. Israel’s spending, in total, is double that of Iran’s. To put that in per capita perspective, Israel spends about 30 times as much as Iran, per person.

More perspective – Iran hasn’t initiated any wars against any of it’ neighbours in the last 100 years.

So, who’s the threat to peace here, Iran or big-spending, nuclear Israel with a history of repeated military aggression against it’s neighbours?

Iran's efforts are clearly aimed at the production of nuclear weapons. Iran's declarations that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes lacks any credibility.
The IAEA say differently and I think that 99.9% of people will rate the IAEA's credibility as vastly greater than HR's.

Another relevant matter would be that Iran has a history of pursing a civilian nuclear power capacity. This was under the Shah in the 1970's and was fully supported by the US at a time when, obviously, Iran had even more oil than it does today.

So there we have HRs attempt to "enlist human beings beings in the service of one party to any dispute" via "the exclusion of such information as has a contrary tendency".

What moral standing has a propagandist to demand fairness and impartiality from others? Absolutely none.

And that sums up HonestReporting - zero credibility.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Jan 11 Media Critique: "Hamas Unreality Check."

And an HonestReporting reality check over the recent interview with Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal.

Has Hamas moderated its views or has the media jumped to conclusions?

Strangely, HR almost get this right. That is, it’s true that the latest statements from Hamas are not in themselves evidence that it has “moderated its views”. But HR are mistaken in that the flaws in reporting this are of a very different type than HR suggest.

Most bizarrely HR claims that,

Why does the media rush to portray Hamas as "moderate" despite the organization's own declarations to the contrary?

Typically, despite the use of quotation marks (implying a quote, one might think), HR provides not a single quote or link to demonstrate any media describing Hamas as “moderate", as HR claim they do.

And straw-man arguments come in handy,

The bottom line - despite the Reuters interview and some resulting media reports, Hamas has not fulfilled the three basic criteria of the international community for lifting financial sanctions on the Palestinian government - recognition of Israel's right to exist, forswearing terrorism, and accepting previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

Of course none of the media reports HR links to claim that Hamas has done so.

HR could criticize The Independent for claiming that “yesterday [Hamas] appeared to soften its long-standing refusal to recognize Israel”, as if nothing similar had preceded it. But Hamas has been making accommodating noises similar to this, for the past 12 months. So the valid criticism that can be made is not that the newspapers have "jumped to conclusions" to describe Hamas as “moderate” (which they haven’t), but that they describe Meshaal’s statements as new, when they aren't.

For example, almost a year ago Meshaal wrote in the Guardian,

We shall never recognize the legitimacy of a Zionist state created on our soil in order to atone for somebody else's sins or solve somebody else's problem. But if you are willing to accept the principle of a long-term truce, we are prepared to negotiate the terms.

And the Hamas spokesman for the PA said in Feb. 2006,

Hamas is not against a political compromise. It is not against a state on the 1967 borders. Israel, it is often said, is a de facto reality.

The thought of a Hamas prepared to accept Israel and curtail its aspirations to a Palestine within the ’67 borders is a frightening prospect – for Israel. ‘Huh’, you ask? That’s because a negotiated solution is the end to Israelis’ creeping annexation and confiscation of Palestinian land. If there really is a peaceful settlement, how can Israel possibly continue to steal land from a Palestinian state to build settlements? Simple – it couldn’t. The ‘peace process’ minus the peace has always been a perfectly acceptable situation.

The truth is that the extremism of Hamas has always been played up in the media. That’s not to say it doesn’t exist – it clearly does. But what we have now is a situation where their indications of a willingness to accept a two-state solution is becoming hard to avoid, and sections of the media who have ignored (or are ignorant of) that, rush to hail a sudden change in Hamas’ position.

We’ve seen this before. A similar process played out with the PLO, with the PLO’s obvious acceptance of a 2 state-solution during the 1970’s generally ignored for failing to produce the exact formulation of words required, until it could be suddenly hailed for a dramatic turn-around in 1988.

There have been several key events that have pointed to the changes in the position of Hamas. One of the most significant was its announcement, now over 18 months ago that it would not conduct suicide missions inside Israel. Hamas was prioritizing politics over militancy as it prepared for the Palestinian elections, its first foray into national elections and a clear sign of the pragmatism of a developing political party. The policies and positions it produced in the lead up to the elections, and after wards, also demonstrated this aspect of Hamas’ development.

Hamas’ proposed National Unity Government Program called for,

Cooperating with the international community for the purpose of ending the occupation and achieving a complete withdrawal from the lands occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem ,so that the region enjoys calm and stability during this phase.

And its Cabinet Platform released on March 27, 2006, again made oblique references to the 2-state solution,

the need to link the two halves (West Bank and Gaza) of the homeland politically, economically, socially, and culturally.

Israel could deal constructively with Hamas if it chose to do so, but like with the PLO 30 years ago, what Israel fears is not a militant organisation, but an increasingly pragmatic one that is moving towards a negotiated diplomatic solution. Being faithful commissars, HR adhere to the party line.

Get Carter

And they're still banging on about Jimmy Carters' book. While there have been the usual range of nobodies (Kenneth Stein) and reflexive defenders of Israel (Dershowitz, Ross) attacking Carter, here’s a perspective that HR wouldn’t want it’s readers to see. Former Israeli Minister of Education Shulamit Aloni, has her say on the subject.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Jan 4 Media Critique:“Reuters Responds: Pulling the Wool Over Our Eyes?”

More obsessing over the Reuters calendar from HonestReporting.

HR has decided, with the usual cynicism, that the issue is of the calendar being “politicized”,

The photos of the Iraqi woman and the G8 meeting, in fact, contain no political commentary at all. The only image that does is that of the Palestinian. Reuters dodges the key question - how did this image come to be used and why did it include the only caption containing a negative and politicized message?
The "politicized message" just being a factual caption. Can they really be so stupid? Unfortunately, yes. Obviously the only people with a “politicized” axe to grind are HR. Reuters produces a calendar for it’s clients with lots of pretty pictures. HR looks at it and starts ranting over “media bias” because one of the pictures is of a Palestinian, claiming that this makes it "politicized" Just the usual inversion of reality from HR.

Reuters has sent out standard replies to those HR zombies who complained over the photo, which politely say, 'f***-off you morons'.

Again HR is determined to demonstrate that there is no phenomenon of “anti-Israel media bias”. If there actually was, they wouldn't spend any time on this tiny and irrelevant matter.

What HR is showing is, again, their anti-democratic and anti-free expression position. We’ve seen it before when they attacked the South African newspaper, the Mail&Guardian, for allowing a South African govt minister to express his views. That was disgraceful enough, but now HR demonstrate their utter vacuousness and fanaticism, by launching this bizarre attack, not against a news story, or an opinion piece, but against a calendar that Reuters has produced as a bit of self-promotion that it distributes to it’s clients. I’d say something about a storm-in-a tea-cup, but this isn’t anything anywhere near as big as a tea-cup.

Their totalitarian bent can’t be satisfied by trying to stifle discussion and opinion they don’t like, now it encompasses images that they don’t like, images that aren’t even part of the news cycle. Not only must everyone think in lock-step with the HR Stalinists, our eyes must be shielded from what they deem to be inappropriate. Just to reiterate for the final time - all this is over a photo in a corporate calendar.

Obsessed, fanatical and 100% intolerant – HonestReporting.

January 2 Media Critique: "Latest Reuters Photo Gaffe"

Everytime I think that HonestReporting can’t sink any lower, they prove me wrong.

This time HR scream long and loud that, despite all their protestations, there really is no "anti-Israeli media bais".

Naturally they don’t say it in those exact words, but by the targets they choose. Again it’s Reuters (when you’re on a good thing stick to it). And the issue – Reuters promotional 2007 calendar. Really, I’m not kidding. The precise problem – it shows a photo of a Palestinian. It seems now that the Palestinian untermesnch may not even be mentioned.

The 21st C. Stalinists are on the march.

What is the problem with having a photo of a Palestinian in a Reuters Calendar?,

The calendar, however, consists entirely of images and captions depicting positivity, achievement or culture. Only the above image and caption displays any militaristic or negative subject matter.

Er no…it shows only photos. One of the criteria being it should be of events in the past year, and being a photographic calendar, the photos must be exceptional. There’s a few of the others I’d question, but this one is a beauty in terms of photography – tightly cropped, stunning colour, well composed, contrasting vividly with the subject matter.

This is it,

It’s a no-brainer. Except at HR, where it,

demonstrates a subtle yet insidious and institutionalized form of bias…….a glaring error

How so? They don’t explain. Perhaps they can’t explain it, not even to themselves. They just feel it’s wrong, probably because they are fanatical bigots who let their hatred of Palestinians affect their views on everything - even calenders.