They mostly failed, of course. Jerusalemites aren't fools, generally speaking. What struck me the most was the degree to which most of what the journalists had to say was, quite simply, not intelligent. So the next morning I wrote some questions and sent them to the woman who had organized the event; she responded immediately, thanked me for my time and effort, and said she was forwarding my questions to all of the panelists - so I think it's a safe bet they all saw my mail. None of them ever responded, of course. As a general statement journalists don't feel any need for discussion with their public: their job is to tell us things, while our job is to imbibe and shut up.
So it occurs to me that in honor of the 2nd anniversary of the glum event, maybe I should post my so far unanswered questions, in the hope that perhaps, who knows... naa... it'll never happen...
Your panel last night was quite interesting. I would appreciate hearing the response of some of the panelists to the following:
1. Access (1). A number of the speakers felt it to be very important, and they were disturbed that they weren't given it by the IDF. But isn't being with the grunts on the field of battle the worst place to be, if you want to understand a war? All the soldiers see are their immediate surroundings - and even that from a severly limited perspective. The most one can expect to learn from that vantage point is about the ambience of soldiers. And for that, one would need to know the soldiers' language.
2. Access (2): How can one ever achieve true access, if one doesn't speak the language? Yet none of your foriegn-press people seemed fazed in the slightest by the fact that they don't speak the language. Isn't this limitation in their abilities far more severe than any limitation the IDF can impose? (In which context it was fascinating to see that al-Jazeera, of all foriegn groups, has resolved this issue best. And also the only one that made absolutely no pretension of striving for a balanced story).
3. Balance: War is the second most extreme behavior in which a community can engage, because its essence is that one determines to kill people so as to achieve one's goals, while taking the chance of being killed oneself. Only mass murder and genocide are more extreme, because in them the community decides to kill people for their purposes, without the risk of getting killed themselves. Yet just as with genocide, it would never occur to us to seek a balanced description, so the glaringly obvious question not dealt with yesterday evening was, if one is engaged in describing a war, why would one strive for balance? Admitedly, there have been wars in human history where both sides were equally wrong, but the norm is that there is an agressor and a defender. Wouldn't the task of journalists in a democratic society better be defined as the search for the aggressor and the defender?
4. Steven Erlanger spoke at one point about a "legally proportionate war". When asked if there ever was one, he mentioned Kosovo and Chechnya, but what he meant were other cases where the journalists found disproportionality. The question remains, however: has there ever in the annals of war been one that was waged "proportionally"? I think not, but perhaps you will enlighten me.
5. Relevance: Danny Rubinstein spoke of the criteria for newsworthiness: that it be interesting and important. Steven Erlanger spoke of what interests him. I was struck by the fact that truth was not mentioned at all. Shoudn't that be the first criteria? Matter of fact, if one is seekng to understand events, it would seem to be the primary criteia. Do journalists think otherwise? And if they think otherwise, shouldn't they then change their narrative, and be honest about the fact that what they're telling us is not the truth, but rather what interests them?
And note, that all my questions are general, and not specific to the war we just had.
I look forward to hearing from you,
Dr. Yaacov Lozowick