Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The MSM is lying? How Awful…(my first rant!)

The blogosphere is having a field day with the doctored pictures that were published by (el) Reuters. LFG is all over it, and Eureferendum has some more details and Silicon valley watcher (via Pajamas Media) tells us how we got to this point – mostly by cutting costs and firing veteran, competent newsmen. But the question is – what is the point of all these exposés?
In my mind there can be two basic approaches to journalism – either you are seeking to find out the truth, or as much of it as you can, or else you are doing something else, which is not journalism. So I guess that means there is actually only one approach to journalism – the “let’s seek out the truth and tell it to our readers kind of journalism”.

Now, is the media doing this? Does anyone really think that the MSM is dedicating its resources to that end? I think pretty obviously that is not the case. Maybe, as post-modernists would say, they never really were dedicated to the notion of truth, and the idealization of journalists past, like Bernstein and Woodward is just cheap sentimentalism. But what we are witnessing now is a horrible alternative: we are being constantly fed with half-truths, elaborate lies, propaganda, and disinformation mixed with some plain old incompetence.

The question is – why are so many people still getting their information about the world from these kinds of sources? I used to be an avid follower of current events, relying mostly on Israeli newspapers for my information. But the minute I started to question this approach – I saw it’s flaws. This was especially easy with the rise of the Internet. For instance I remember seeing the same piece first in the American press and then a week or a month later in Israel, most likely in Haaretz, and after a week or two in Maariv and Yediot. But there was more – sometimes after several months the same piece would appear as a “scoop” in one of the newspapers. I saw this happen in political sections but also in the sports section.
The recent Reuters mess is only one example of how the media are skewing the information we get. There are many others like: offering only one point of view, placing misleading captions on pictures (which are fake or not – who knows), asking the wrong questions, or not asking questions at all. In Israel a common practice is requesting a comment from members of a certain political wing (extreme left in Israel’s case), while requesting none from the opposite wing. It is pretty well known that the Right in Israel does not have very good spokesmen. But when one actually appears, and is successful, and convincing – that spokesman simply will not be invited to any more talk shows, he will not be asked to comment on events – he will be ignored to death by Israeli media (which may explain the lack of efficient spokesmen). Most likely these things also happen elsewhere.
The point is – these practices are very easy to spot once you start looking, which begs the question – why are most people still not looking? Why would they not care?

Eating rotten food
Would any of us go into a butcher shop, where swarms of flies are hovering above the meat, which has maggots crawling all over it, step up to the counter and say:” Gee, that looks great – give me 5 pounds of that decaying horsemeat”? I doubt it. But that is exactly what millions of people are doing everyday when they receive rotten information from corrupt or incompetent sources. Except when we eat rotten meat – our bodies will let us know about it pretty darn quick. How will we ever find out that our spirits are being poisoned, day after day, slowly but surely?
One would think that in Israel at least, where horrible decisions have been made time after time resulting in more than a thousand deaths, thousands displaced and tens of thousands injured – more than a few people would wake up and start to ask – why is this happening to us, and as a result, maybe assign some responsibility to the MSM. That is the same MSM that has rallied behind , and in some cases even instigated, every bad decision made in this country from the Hurried Irresponsible Unilateral Retreat from Lebanon to the Fabulous Oslo Accords up to the recent Disengagement.
But sadly, that is not happening.
I recall walking in downtown Jerusalem a year ago, a week or two before the Disengagement. I saw a middle-aged National-Religious woman all dressed up in the official Gush-Katif colors (orange ribbon around the hat, orange bracelet, orange ribbon tied to her purse, orange shirt, orange cap) walking up to a newsstand and buying a copy of Yediot Ahronot. This paper happens to be not only the largest in the country but also the worst in terms of anti-settlement sentiment (tied with Haaretz). In fact even now, in the midst of a war with Hizballah that has already cost many lives – Yediot has yet to match the degree of animosity and pure unadulterated hatred it directed towards the settlers at that time with its current, slightly adulating coverage of Hizballah today.
Anyway, I was shocked. After she bought the paper I just had to ask her what the hell does she think she’s doing? I told her that she just donated a dollar to the cause of evicting her people from the Gaza Strip. She shame-facedly admitted it but said, in justification – “ I just wanted to be in the know”.
So even when faced with the threat of eviction, with buses blowing up under our seats, and rockets exploding in the living room, the Israeli public is still eagerly lapping up whatever is offered to it by the MSM in Israel.
Like I said – the problems in our society are deep and will not be solved in a flash.

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