Wednesday, August 4, 2010

PC vs Truth: Journalism Loses

It's actually not that common to have such a clear cut case: Israeli soldiers operating on Israeli territory in an area which all sides agree on, near a border which is clearly marked by barrels, are attacked with no sort of provocation by enemy troops, even while UN forces who have been notified in advance stand by and observe. Within hours the UN spokesmen confirm the Israeli version of events. An Israeli officer is killed, another severely wounded; the three or four subsequent Lebanese casualties all died because Israel was provoked; one of them was a journalist who just happened to be there, if you believe such things.

Israeli from left to right all know this version of the case, as summarized here in Haaretz, normally Israel's most skeptical media outlet.

It took the Associated Press (AP) about 18 hours to confirm the the Israeli version, citing the UN. Even then their reporter assumes the Lebanese must have been confused by the discrepancy between fence and border - the barrels don't make it into the AP report. You can see how a tourist might not be aware of the situation, or a clueless journalist; how the local military might be confused about its own border, however, is not explained. By now, a day later, CNN seems to have accepted the UN version of the story, the one aligned with Israel's version. Of course, CNN's very existence is predicated on moving quickly with its stories.

As I write, however, respectable international news outlets are still not reporting the facts. They scrupulously cite both sides: the Israelis say this, the Lebanese say that, we report you decide. Here are the New York Times, Washington Post, The BBC, The Guardian. The BBC report contains an embedded TV report in which the reporter says that the UN's version confirms Israel's but, he adds, the Lebanese disagree. The Washington Post one is even funnier. They begin by telling that:

What happened along the Israel-Lebanon border remained somewhat murky late Tuesday. The Israeli army said it defended itself from Lebanese forces who fired at Israeli soldiers carrying out routine bush-clearing maintenance along the border. Lebanese media, by contrast, cited the Lebanese army as reporting that Lebanese soldiers fired warning shots at an Israeli patrol trying to cut down a tree and that the Israeli soldiers responded with gunfire.
The rest of the report, however, essentially confirms the UN-Israeli version, leaving us to scratch our head and wonder where the murkiness lies.

This is all mildly comic, except for the deadly serious part of it. As I never tire of saying but unfortunately must repeat over and over and over, the reality Israelis know they live in is decidedly different from the mishmash of lies, mistakes, inaccuracies and wishful thinking just about everyone else is spoon-fed. Since reality is stronger than media reports, the discrepancy leads eventually to real-world actions, in which, for example, well-meaning but wrongly informed American Jews grow ever more exasperated with Israel for not understanding what any regular reader of the NYT can see; or when newly elected American presidents need 12-18 months of daily briefings before they begin to understand what's really going on (Bush II needed 12 months, Obama seems to have needed the 18).

Finally, there are Israel's enemies, who can't be brought to see reality no matter what. Phil Weiss and the Mondogang had a field day yesterday with a picture that showed something else than what they thought, and no amount of corrections, even by citing the UN, could bring them to accept they'd been misled.


Anonymous said...

I went to the Mondo site and sifted through a few comments. I can feel the hatred for us in every letter typed.

I stopped commenting on most sites long ago because the "comment culture" has descended into an inferno of hatred which in most cases, induces the lowest common denominator in people - base hatred.

Read Victor's site for a great story about the desertpeace blog. I have known of that guy for years. He is linked to by some of the nastiest websites around (, etc).

A perfect "as a Jew" moment as Victor describes, a cognotive dissonance that should put an end to "desertpeace's" wishful thinking.

As you say Yaacov, for some people, if a Jew says the sky is blue, they will have to look up for themselves and get a gaggle of scientists of their own persuasion to confirm before admitting (grudgingly) the Jew has a point.


Anonymous said...


I have been recently told that there are areas in this world where the sky's colour is considered not as blue. Blue sky is a "western" concept. I don't remember though whether the areas where skies are considered not-blue are those which suffer from our rampant orientalism or are somewhere else.

SkyNews btw tells that Israeli artillery hit a village and combines that with pictures from 2006.

The depravity of these outlets knows no bounds.


OT but not to miss, somebody has tried to get at A'jad. As I assume that the perpetrator will have no chance at mercy lets pray to whatever or whomever that he may be granted an easy death.

Gavin said...

I'm surprised by the fact that I can still be surprised by the filth that spews from the mouths of commenters on the likes of Mondoweiss. It's disturbing that people like them actually exist. They can read, they can write, so there must be some semblance of intellect there but they don't swim in the same gene pool as any normal human being.

For a descent into the truly bizarre Fisk makes light reading;

It's all been said before about Fisk but even some BBC & Guardian 'journalists' must squirm with embarassment when he bursts into song.


Anonymous said...


my impression is that since journalists are increasingly in danger of losing their jobs or parts of their jobs or getting squeezed for pay reduction they are willing to condone anything that makes money.

in offices people behave like decent laid-back ones until the going gets tight. The best just become mum, most however turn to floor licking with enthusiasm

if you want to listen into the depth academic and/or journalistic life is capable of sinking into listen to Tariq Ali at the LSE who btw is such a skilled operator that he inserts one or two unpleasant truths into kind of barely half-remarks of his eulogy of Islam the one and only and forever misunderstood. I don't know whether he is still a full Marxist and how that all fits in, he remained a bit murky on that. But as an example on how "they" create the fertile earth for the scum I doubt you can come up with a more teachable moment.


Soccer Dad said...

Skip past the "murky" comment and the Post's coverage was excellent. True Zacharia gives the same weight to the Lebanese charge that Israel's overflying their territory to the Israeli charge that Iran through Syria is rearming Hezbollah. On the face anyone can tell what's a more serious violation (if the overflights are even a violation) and would give more weight to the Israeli version of events.
Plus the Post even bothered to link to a Peres's charge that Syria had transferred Scuds to Hezbollah.

The NYT eventually improved on their original report which was a model false balance. The problem is that you can't find the original report anymore as it's been overwritten by a more substantial and accurate account.

Anonymous said...


before I forget, you may "dig" this - the man is a first class lecturer and just to get an idea of the complexity of it all probably can't be topped.


LSE Summer School 2010 - Contemporary

Developments in International Law and the Role of the International Court of Justice

Speaker: Sir Christopher Greenwood
This event was recorded on 29 July 2010 in Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building
LSE Summer School lecture.
Available as: mp3 (18 MB; approx 73 minutes)

Anonymous said...

They hate Israel more than they love the truth.

NormanF said...

Since when has the truth mattered in the Israel-Arab conflict?

The Big Lie has become the accepted conventional wisdom. And Israel's enemies are never going to allow the facts to get in the way of their ideology.

Anonymous said...

I suppose it is too much to hope that Obama will draw any constructive conclusions from this
US State Department deonounces Lebanon,7340,L-3930464,00.html

AKUS said...

The timeline is very clear from the pictures posted by the AP and Reuters photographers who, strangely enough, just happened to be on the scene before the firing started. I laid it out here:

Israel's recounting of the events is 100% accurate, as recorded by AP and Reuters on photographers, who were, in a way, complicit in the whole thing.

AKUS said...

First time I've ever looked at a thread on Mondoweiss.

They are terminally insane there. No matter that UNIFIL validates Israel's version, they twist and turn to discredit the sources citing UNIFIL, they refuse to accept the UN-mandated Blue line as a border (think for a moment what that says about these idiots if Israel was ever foolish enough to withdraw to a the Gren Line), etc.

They are utterly sick. And I mean than clinically.