March 6, 2008

Hezbollah's Media Relations

Michael Young has a terrific article in Reason magazine about the collateral damage (as he put it) in think tanks, academia, and the media after the assassination of Hezbollah Commander Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus. He zeroes in on leftist icons Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein for their full-throated support for the Syrian- and Iranian-backed terrorist militia. (Be sure to watch Finkelstein’s performance on Lebanon’s Future TV here, and note how exasperated his interviewer Najat Sharafeddine is with his views.) The absurd alliance of violent Islamists and leftists has been covered elsewhere at length. At least Finkelstein and Chomsky are honest with their audience about what they believe and where they’re coming from.

Young also points out what may be a more serious problem, one much harder for most observers to see. Certain things are expected of those who want to maintain access to groups like Hezbollah. As Young points out,

Hezbollah is adept at turning contacts with the party into valuable favors . . . Writers and scholars, particularly Westerners, who lay claim to Hezbollah sources, are regarded as special for penetrating so closed a society. That’s why their writing is often edited with minimal rigor. Hezbollah always denied everything that was said about Mughniyeh, and few authors (or editors) showed the curiosity to push further than that. The mere fact of getting such a denial was considered an achievement in itself, a sign of rare access, and no one was about to jeopardize that access by calling Hezbollah liars.

Read the rest in Commentary Magazine.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at March 6, 2008 10:22 AM

Good article. Press freedom is something that is non existent in the area, as is the idea of factual reporting.

This is part of the culture of the area. All of the media outlets are owned by people or groups with a political agenda and that is what you get from their media and their journalists.

Hizb'Allah is simply keeping up with the tradition of the area. Most media owners in the Middle East are state actors, namely members of the Saudi royal family. I think you could name the number of media outlets in the Middle East that are not owned or partially owned by Saudis on the fingers of one hand.

What is interesting to me is watching the stories and editorial lines of the various papers and TV channels change with the evolving political situations.

Al Jazeera used to be critical of almost all things Saudi. It was probably the only paper where you could get factual reporting about the Kingdom. With the thaw in the relations between Qatar and Saudi that has now ceased and it is impossible to get decent coverage about Saudi in the Arabic press.

As to the seeming alliance between portions of the left and Islamic extremists, I find it ridiculous. This is exactly why I am not in favour of supporting a group or a movement based on the fact that you support some of the same goals. I find Western support of either Hizb'Allah/Islamic extremists or the March 14th/"Democratic movement" causes one, no forces one, to ignore a whole litany of troubling issues in order to support what is usually a false premise in the first place.

Ulster Unionists used to have a saying "Neither London nor Rome". In this case it should be "Neither Hizb'Allah nor March 14th".

Posted by: Marc Author Profile Page at March 7, 2008 5:12 AM
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