Thursday, August 10, 2006

What are we to do with the MSM?

How to Deal With MSM Bias, Propaganda and Incompetence

Just a few leftover thoughts from my last post.
First of all, apropos bias in the Israeli MSM, it seems like a group of Israelis from the extreme left who staged a protest against Israeli hostilities in Lebanon (no less!! Although thankfully they did not call it genocide) are disappointed with the coverage they (didn’t) get. I guess they are so used to the media fawning over them that they were rightfully shocked.
IsraellyCool has the whole story and he expresses my feeling exactly with this:

I really shouldn't indulge in such unseemly schadenfreude while there is a war on. But I couldn't help chuckling this morning at seeing the Israeli far-left with its collective panties in a twist... all because nobody is paying any attention to their anti-war demonstrations. The best part was where Meretz MK Naomi Chazan had the gall to complain that: "Criticism of the war has been contained and curtailed".
I'm sorry Naomi... were you profiled by the police on the way to your demonstrations? Were you stopped and forced to turn around? Were you arrested for taking part in your demonstration? Were you beaten and imprisoned without charge for expressing your opposition to a government policy you felt is wrong, immoral or even illegal?
No?
Then please do us all a favor and have the good grace to shut up and be just the tiniest bit embarrassed at your blatant hypocrisy.

Schadenfreude indeed. Read the whole thing here.

If you are interested in Israeli MSM bias and other misdemeanors, you may want to check out the site of the only organization in Israel dedicated to covering these issues: Israel Media Watch, which brings me to the subject of this post: if you agree that the MSM is not fulfilling its role – what can you do about it? The first thing that comes to my mind is this:
Accept Responsibility:
Nobody is forcing you to watch, hear or read the MSM. Bear in mind that in many cases the MSM is a business, an economic product, and you are a consumer. So if you are dissatisfied with the product – it is your responsibility to do something about it. You cannot continue to buy rotten meat (or, on this case, news) and still complain incessantly about the food poisoning you acquire. Quit complaining and stop buying or eating that meat. I have lost count of how many Israelis I have heard who complain about the Israeli media – and do absolutely nothing about it.
And now – what can be done? Are we powerless? Is this our fate – are we doomed to see Yossi Beilin invited to comment on everything, from politics to the latest production of the Arab-Jewish Theater for Peace Now Troupe titled, inevitably, “A day in the life of a Palestinian/Lebanese/Arab victim of Israeli Crimes Against Humanity (defined as: every time Israel arrest or kills a terrorist)?” I think not. There are some things we can do and here is a preliminary short list:

Things you can do about the MSM:
  1. Stop Buying the Product.
    In Israel that means first of all not purchasing any of the three daily newspapers. It also means not listening to news on the national radio, and television channels. This is only partially effective since the Israeli broadcasting company is funded like the BBC – a tax on every television owner, regardless what he is watching. But still, news production is a business, especially in Israel, and a drop in the news ratings will definitely cause some people up there to think twice about what they are doing. If you are able to, then throwing the television out and not paying the TV tax is an even better way to demonstrate your dissatisfaction with the product you are, after all, paying for. But, if you, like most Israelis, prefer to keep inhaling the product, then the least you can do in order to make life more reasonable in this country, is to stop complaining about the extreme left bias of the MSM every time you feel the poison circulating in your system.


  1. Modify the Product
    I
    f I know anything about my fellow countrymen, they will not be able to follow step one. I have seen even hardened right-wing religious people who are, plainly put, news junkies, and can no more turn off Haim Yavin (The Israeli equivalent of Walter Cronkite, if Cronkite was openly communist) than they could skip their daily prayers. But still, there are things you can do even if you are addicted, and that is try to modify the MSM. After all, at least in Israel, we are paying the salaries of some of these people, if they work in the national broadcasting company, and the rest are licensed by the state – which is actually us citizens. Therefore it is our right and duty to hold the MSM to the terms of their license which are pretty strict concerning things like incitement, political bias, negligence and so on. For your convenience, the Israeli Media Watch has a ready-made complaint form on its site – just go here and fill her up, and they will follow through. Telephone calls, letters, boycotts and any other form of public pressure can be used to modify the media.Another way to modify the media is to join it –become a member and try to bring your point of view. I do not know if anyone who does not like the way the media currently works can even stand it but if you can, I think it is a very good idea – the more right-minded people in the news media – the better. Additionally it is possible to control media access to information only you possess. I recall there was such a debate in Gush Katif before the disengagement when a team from the IBA (Israeli Broadcast Authority) headed by the aforementioned Haim Yavin wanted to do a documentary about the whole process. The Gush Katif settlers argued amongst themselves if they should open their hearts to a team that is well known for it anti-settler bias. In these cases whoever controls access, be it an organization or an individual can, for instance, specify the individuals he trusts to convey his point of view (the Gush Katif settlers chose not to do so and it seems they regretted it). If used extensively this will mark certain individuals and news organizations as unreliable or biased since they will not be able to get information from the Right, even on those rare occasions that they actually want it. Another example of this is to refuse to give anything but live interviews, a tactic JewishLeadership have followed pretty consistently with the result that they have not wasted time sitting with a reporter who later rewrites their words in order to create the maximum possible misunderstanding of their stated positions.In short – there are many ways that people from the Israeli Right can change the way the MSM is behaving, they just have to decide to use the power they do possess to their advantage, something that is not likely to occur, judging by their miserable track record.

  2. Switch to a Different Product
    In a country like ours, something is almost always happening and it is important for most people to know what’s going on. So if you do not want to use the MSM for this – what are the alternatives? Actually, in the news business – not many. There are a few dailies in the religious sectors but they are no less political and biased than the three main secular dailies and many times even less informative. A few years ago the state authorized a few new radio stations but for the most part they get their news coverage from the IBA or one of the other MSMs. That leaves the internet. One would expect that in a country where the media is so centralized and biased the internet would be the perfect medium for all the frustrated news consumers and producers to finally have their say. As far as I can tell, this has not happened. I know of only two websites that are dedicated to providing extensive and independent news coverage of life in Israel and these are NFC , which is in Hebrew, and Arutz 7, which has an English site here. I do not know of Israeli sites similar to littlegreennfootballs or instapundit. Finally, since publishing a daily has become almost impossible, we have seen a rash of new weekly publications appearing on Friday, before the Sabbath. These will not satisfy your daily hunger for news but if you need something for the weekend they may suffice. The aforementioned Arutz 7 has such a paper, and so does MakorRishon, both in Hebrew. This seems to me a reasonable choice, considering that no daily newspaper can possibly fact check all the information they are processing each day resulting in long-winded columns like this one. At least a weekly publication has a fair chance of doing that, if they want to.

  3. Create Your Own Media
    The best way to control the medium and fashion it to your liking – is to create it from scratch. It is a lot of fun, challenging, and using the Internet – not prohibitively expensive. The question is what would be the ideal way to get and deliver the news? The answer to that would require a whole other post but for now I will say that I would like my news media to be committed to telling me the truth, the whole truth, or at least as much of it as they can get, and nothing but the truth – always. And if they don’t believe there is a truth to be found, or if they don’t think it’s worth the effort – then I’m not interested.
Finally – I would love to hear more suggestions how to deal with the MSM, and what are the existing alternatives.

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