January 6, 2009

Journalistic Malpractice

My friend and colleague Noah Pollak on the journalistic malpractice of some of our other colleagues:

Allow me to propose a metric for evaluating whether a journalist is behaving responsibly or not: If he reports that Israel bombed a UN school and killed 30 civilians, he is irresponsible. If he reports that Hamas used a UN school as a weapons cache and base of operations for launching mortars at the IDF, and the IDF’s return fire killed the Hamas cell along, tragically, with a yet-unspecified number of civilians, then he is behaving responsibly. If he wishes to be particularly scrupulous, he might additionally note that Hamas had rigged the school with explosives which detonated after the IDF took out the mortar team, killing a large additional number of civilians. And he might add that you can go to the IDF’s Youtube channel to view footage from 2007 of Hamas using the very same school as a mortar-launching base.

A responsible journalist might also add that what Hamas did is a war crime under international law, and that Hamas is responsible for every civilian killed at that school. Rigging a school with explosives and using it as a base in a war zone is a crime precisely because it endangers the lives of civilians, and in this case of children.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at January 6, 2009 2:40 PM
Comments

If it bleeds it leads. I've given up feeling disgusted by media bias; they aren't worth my anger. Tim Berners-Lee and his colleagues gave me this wonderful worldwide window to look through, where I read people like Michael.

My question is how do you look yourself in that morning mirror and rationalize it---to your friends, family, wife and kids?

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at January 6, 2009 3:22 PM

Well, there is a war going on, and truth is the first casualty.

At this point, statements from Hamas, the IDF, and all other participants, should be regarded as lies-until-proven-true. It's easy and cheap for the IDF to claim, and for JPost to reprint, that Hamas was doing the human-shield thing, and I wouldn't be surprised if it were true. But I'm unconvinced that it would be good journalism to report this as anything other than an IDF claim. I suspect that Hamas is denying it furiously, and I wouldn't believe them either.

There don't seem to be any neutral observers on the ground so for the moment we just have to live with the fact that there's lots we outsiders can't know.

The kids are still dead.

Posted by: Tim Bray Author Profile Page at January 6, 2009 4:36 PM

I believe that the AP wire service has been complicit by encouraging this sort of irresponsible reporting from journalists. The same formula has been applied in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. The Ap tag line has become synonymous with garbage, biased reporting.

Posted by: mcmill1599 Author Profile Page at January 6, 2009 5:08 PM

I wonder, if reporting were more scrupulous would Hamas or whoever else be rigging schools, houses, ambulances, people, ... to explode.
They are doing it because their is obvious benefit in it for them - PR.
If PR were negative there probably were less dead bodies of Palestinians first of all.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at January 6, 2009 8:41 PM

"[T]here has been no recent abuse of our facilities in Gaza by Palestinian militants using them for cover or as firing positions. There were no, repeat no, mortars fired from the school in Jabaliya camp, although we cannot exclude that there was fighting nearby."
-Andrew Whitley, director of the UNRWA Representative Office at the UN

Simply regurgitating the official account of the Israeli Occupation Forces is also extremely irresponsible.

You, Mr. Totten, are a disgusting propagandist.

Posted by: amiralmumineen Author Profile Page at January 7, 2009 3:58 PM

amiralmumineen, you can call me a disgusting propagandist all you want. But please allow me to share something with you.

I see that your email address is AbuBaqr@umich.edu.

Here is quote from the Islamic caliph Abu Bakr, whose name you have taken, that Hamas ought to heed but does not:

"Stop, O people, that I may give you ten rules for your guidance in the battlefield. Do not commit treachery or deviate from the right path. You must not mutilate dead bodies. Neither kill a child, nor a woman, nor an aged man. Bring no harm to the trees, nor burn them with fire, especially those which are fruitful. Slay not any of the enemy's flock, save for your food. You are likely to pass by people who have devoted their lives to monastic services; leave them alone."

Hamas has fired rockets at children, women, and aged men every day for many years. If you have ever characterized their war crimes as disgusting, let us know. Or feel free to do so in this space for the first time.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 7, 2009 4:39 PM

Alright, amiralmumineen, you're banned for being an asshole. Take your fat-headed attitude elsewhere.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at January 7, 2009 4:55 PM

" "[T]here has been no recent abuse of our facilities in Gaza by Palestinian militants using them for cover or as firing positions. There were no, repeat no, mortars fired from the school in Jabaliya camp, although we cannot exclude that there was fighting nearby."
-Andrew Whitley, director of the UNRWA Representative Office at the UN"

Since in the above statement the UN admits that UN facilities have been used for cover and as firing positions; war crimes on their face, why would anyone take any statements from them as anything but truthful? Why does the UN allow terrorists in their facilities? If they can't stop the terrorists from using their facilities, then they are aiding the terrorists and hence legitimate targets themselves. Israel should target the UN in Gaza as a wing of terrorist along with the NGO's. Then never let them back in.

Posted by: cubanbob Author Profile Page at January 7, 2009 6:23 PM

Why does the UN allow terrorists in their facilities?

Because otherwise the terrorists will attack the UN personnel. Working for the UN does not mean you don't care if you make it home at the end of your shift.

What I don't understand is why the UN keeps their people in a bad situation instead of pulling them out.

Posted by: rosignol Author Profile Page at January 8, 2009 12:07 AM

Michael. First up thanks for your articles, I've been an occasional reader & sporadic donator for a while now & generally enjoy your writing. If I could make a suggestion. There's a propaganda war going on, and in many respects the islamists are winning it. They've latched onto the modern-day paranoia & hysteria generated in the west when children are harmed, and they milk it for all its worth. Perhaps it's time to return some of that propaganda.

A survey was done in Sderot in Nov '08. Of note in the findings was that 74 percent of children between the ages of 7 and 12 suffer intense fear and that 86 percent of children between the ages of 12 and 14 suffer from post-traumatic stress. Sderot has a population of 24,000, probably about 5000 are kids. If the 24k population of Sderot was extrapolated to the 500k civilians now in range of Hamas rockets then you've got a good 100,000 children cowering under a deliberate campaign of terror. "intense fear" That's a pretty graphic picture for any parent and perhaps that's an angle which needs to be promoted more.

No Palestinian children have been subjected to a prolonged five year campaign of terror where every day brings new rocket attacks from people trying to kill women & children. Nothing even comes close, no Hamas shill can say that Israel have done worse on this one or that it's just retaliation for past sins. Can anyone imagine just what the childen of Sderot & all the other towns & cities in range of Hamas rockets actually go through? How many parents can picture the nightmares, the fear & the thought processes in children who know that that people just over the hill are trying to kill them... every day for five long years.

It's just a thought, but maybe if you can paint pictures that people, parents in particular, can visualise themselves then perhaps the Israel perspective can be viewed more favourably by the west. Cheers, Gavin.

Posted by: GT Author Profile Page at January 8, 2009 1:21 AM

Listening to Richard Landes on Pajamas TV last night ("The Arab-Israeli conflict would have been and can be solved if the media would be responsible"), I thought..."solved"? A responsible media could portray Hamas, etc. accurately, but how does that change THEIR attitudes and intentions---and Tehran's?

Posted by: Paul S. Author Profile Page at January 8, 2009 2:34 PM

What I don't understand is why the UN keeps their people in a bad situation instead of pulling them out.

Because they're dedicated to a mission of trying to prevent the suffering of women, old men, and children in Gaza. Regardless of who is dishing it out.

Yeah, I fall between Tim Gray and admiralmumineem. There's a continuum between deliberately stashing explosive things in a school for the explicit purpose of sacrficing those kids so Israel will be blamed, and the simple truth that guerillas everywhere hide their weapons where they hope they won't be found or will be left alone. So all guerillas everywhere are all war criminals, and all armies everywhere that blow up children to get at the explosives are noble patriots, yada yada yada, gag me with a fuc*ing spoon. Yes, Mike has taken the most credulously Israel-absolving take on the set of events possible without knowing anything about what actually happened, and yes, it's lame. The only good news is that it's irrelevant.

The Islamists are winning the propaganda war? In what universe? I see Israel as having already bombed the whole place to smithereens, killed more civilians than the Beslan massacre, and basically being waved on while foolish people make every person-killing action they undertake into someone else's fault but their own.

I want to see a pro-Israel person with the b*lls to say, "we're killing innocent Palestinians - we think this is the only way to stop the killing of innocent Israelis - stop putting us on a pedestal, everyone out here is a sick f*ck and we're all playing the same games, but we've got the biggest fuc*ing hammer and we're godd*mn going to use it to get what we want for once."

Good luck, Israel.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at January 9, 2009 9:17 PM
Post a comment









Remember personal info?




Winner, The 2008 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Read my blog on Kindle



blogads-blog-button.png


Recommended Reading