Monday, November 29, 2010

Spin, Wikileaks, Propaganda

Omri Ceren has been doing a spot of googling. His point of departure is the section of the new Wikileaks revelations that the Saudis and other Arab regimes have all along been beseeching the Americans to bomb Iran's nuclear capacity. Taking that documented fact, he then goes back to see what the various pundits have been saying about the matter all along. Predictably, they were reporting on an alternate universe, one in which the Saudis and others care deeply about the Palestinians, and not so much abut the Iranians.

Andrew Sullivan, in a sign of the changing times, never misses a beat: oops! The Saudis et al have been as strident as the Israelis in their calls for an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities? Well, remember, they're only Sunni Arab autocrats -  the implication, you understand, being that they're not really to be taken seriously if you're a moral person. Of course, the case can be made that Abu Mazen, Salam Fayyad, and all of the Hamas leadership are also Sunni Arab autocrats, but I rather think Andrew wouldn't use the term in their case.

Look, we all have our agendas; some of us even admit them openly (me, I'm a Zionist, and also mostly pro-American; Julian Assange of Wikileaks is anti-American and thinks he's God). Some of us try to write mostly about things we know about. Others: less so (Andrew knows none of the languages, and has no access to decision makers or any relevant players; he lives off website links). And then there are the professional propagandists, the people who have to know they're carefully tailoring their descriptions of reality so as to create a public opinion that will agree with their agenda. The BBC, for example: Robin Shepherd documents - once again, and again, and again - that their editorial decisions cannot possibly be portrayed as an honest attempt to inform the public, and can only be understood as conscious propaganda.

Or is it conscious? Read IsraelNurse's excellent analysis of the Guardian's Harriet Sherwood's first six months in Israel. Just look at the list of places she has reported from, almost all of them Palestinian (she's the correspondent to Israel but she never reports from Israel). On the one hand, she can't possibly be doing the traveling she's doing while telling herself she's reporting on Israel; there's no way she can be as biased as she is without knowing that's what she is. Yet is this truly so? It's a question I've been pondering for decades, and have never quite convinced myself either way: when antisemites frame reality to reinforce their animosities, do they do so in bad faith (i.e do they know they're lying or framing in a deceitful manner), or are they so carried away by their detestations that they lose track, and really begin to believe in their own sincerity? This is not an easy question to answer.


Anonymous said...

the London Sunday Times (paywall) reports that friendship and probably cooperation between North Korea and Iran flourish

in another piece they describe how the South Koreans blundered during the recent attack by North Korea. I wonder what I would have read, had that happened to the IDF given all the stuff I read after the Marmara. They also say that the big brass in charge is said to have been too drunk to give orders.

Although South Korea spends £15 billion a year on defence, tactical decisions meant it had only six K9 self-propelled howitzers on the island, while North Korea had an estimated 1,000 artillery pieces in the area.

Only three of the South Korean guns were able to fire back, some 13 minutes after the attack. Two malfunctioned owing to software failure and one jammed before firing. A sophisticated radar targeting system failed to work properly. Eventually 16 other guns on a nearby island joined the retaliatory barrage.


Sérgio said...


Regarding the antisemites´ motivations, I think that´s not a very relevant nor mysterious issue: they act both consciously and with cynical premeditation; some are hard-core ideological haters, some are opportunistic jerks; some derive their whole life´s energy and meaning from that, while other don´t. In any case they are imoral and harmful people.

Unknown said...

Sérgio, I would like to add a kind of journalist who is open minded and honest at first but then give way to the abundance of information and self-criticism coming from Israel in contrast to controlled information coming from the PA, brutality of Hamas and manipulations from pro-Palestinian (anti-Israeli) organizations.

Anonymous said...

my colleagues from different nationalities would chat/whine in the early 70s that only a "mosaic" connection could help one to advance in the company.

I am pretty sure that in the group of 5 or 6 guys which had that as their preferred coffee chat there was only one hater, the one who enlightened the others. The rest took it as a truth the same way you'd accept that the guy dating the bosses daughter has an advantage over you.


Anonymous said...

The day after a peace agreement:

Regards, André

Sérgio said...


In the situation you described, it seems that the operating
motivational mechanism was the classical resentful scapegoatism(with aditional callousness given that in the 70´s the shoa was just some 25 years old). This kind of people can be extremely dangerous in a totalitarian environment, when the demise of the rule of law and the collapse of moral barriers give free reign to their grudges.

As a comparison, I don´t think many people ever complained that the "Aryan" credentials of Franz Stangl allowed him to get a nice job at brazilian Volkswagen company, with a good salary. And this was a person responsible for around a million deaths by point blank shootings. His credentials also explains the fact that the Austrian embassy wasn´t much careful about his papers, in spite of being a recognized war criminal.

Hawkeye said...

Its a fascinating question you pose Yaacov.

I believe that Sherwood, and others like her, come to Israel with pre-conceived notions from the group think mentality of the radical left that is then reinforced by Israel's hostile left wing English speaking media, radical left Israelis that mix in those circles, and a see what you want to see attitude. I also think that at some level by engaging in this form of ideological journalism - because that is what it is - they believe they are contributing to the betterment of the world.

Barry Meislin said...

Oh, so is the question, do deluded people hate, lie and believe and spread slander---and support those who hate, lie and slander, as well as murder---because of good, ethical motives or because of bad ones?

(Are we really still asking those kinds of questions?!)

Me? I prefer to compartmentalize, e.g., "Oh, well he may support murderous, totalitarian ideologues; but he really loves animals...."

Barry Meislin said...

Should be "...ideologies...

Anonymous said...

yes Sergio

the "3rd Reich" was still so close that the hater in that coffee group happened to be a Brit of Polish descent who had been abducted to German farm labour slave-dom as a child - his father fought with a Polish-Brit outfit which eventually got him into England.

I wish in real life one could always separate onself from the "animal lovers" as neatly as it is possible with their public personas.