Monday, August 07, 2006

7-Aug-06: The Truth, the Whole Truth, and a Whole Lot More Than The Truth

It's 11.30 at night on Monday here in Jerusalem. Depending on where you look at this hour, you are going to get radically different versions of what seems like a very straightforward black-and-white report of the tragedy of war.
The Melbourne Age | More Die as US and France Fail to Strike a Deal | Jonathan Pearlman and Sam Ghattas - August 8, 2006: AN ISRAELI air raid killed at least 40 people in a Lebanese village yesterday, Lebanon's Prime Minister said, and other air strikes killed 19 after efforts to end the 28-day-old war stalled. "An hour ago, a horrific massacre took place in Houla village as a result of the intentional Israeli bombardment that resulted in more than 40 martyrs," Prime Minister Fouad Siniora told an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Beirut. Residents of Houla said they feared up to 60 people, including many children, had been killed. They said most of the people were shepherds who had refused to flee the fighting.
Pretty much the same story can be found right now at other Australian media (where it's the high-news-consumption morning rush hour right now) including the Sydney Morning Herald (Bombing kills 40 in village) and The Australian ('Forty dead' in Israeli raid).

Over at Reuters, they say:

Lebanon demands ceasefire | Lin Noueihed Mon Aug 7, 10:14 AM ET: BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon's prime minister, choking back tears, demanded a "quick and decisive ceasefire" on Monday after an Israeli air raid that he said killed more than 40 civilians sheltering from fighting in a southern village... His eyes brimming with tears as he spoke about the suffering of civilians, Siniora demanded a quick ceasefire and Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon.
Meanwhile at Associated Press, they have a post-oops version that appears to have been available for some hours already:

AP News Alert | Aug 07 11:17 AM US/Eastern BEIRUT, Lebanon: The Lebanese prime minister says only one person died in an Israeli air raid on the southern village of Houla, lowering the death toll from 40.

With Reuters now freely admitting to having published fake images of damage and destruction, and the Lebanese now admitting to claiming a huge death toll that was really nothing more than a bogus emotional grab at the facts with near-zero actual basis, we onlookers are left to ask: So where do the professionals of the news media find the arrogance that lets them sit down at their word processors or stand up in front of the cameras and state with utter confidence the things that, frequently, they are really just guessing or simply hoping to be true?

3 comments:

Whispering_Jack said...

"The Truth" used to be one of those gossip/scandal newspapers that circulated in Melbourne (Australia) many years ago. People used to joke that although it was called "The Truth" the paper was full of lies.

The Truth has gone away now and it seems to have been replaced by The Age.

The Age is a newspaper whose reporters are quick to rush to judgement against Israel with bold headlined stories but when it's proven that they were mistaken, the retraction is contained in barely a paragraph, hidden away or not made at all.

What we are seeing now with a number of reporting scandals being exposed over the internet is that reporters, cameramen and many others are prepared to fabricate stories so that a narrative of events can be written to suit their own agenda. The Truth is becoming incidental to the job of the media.

The biggest offender at the Melbourne Age is a Robert Fisk-like "reporter" named Ed O'Loughlin.

I have a saying about him which I would like to share with you and it goes like this (apologies to Golda Meir):

When Ed O'Loughlin loves the truth as much as he hates Israel, the Age will be a much better newspaper.

katje said...

A good post. Sad, but good. A good alternate headline might be:

The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing Like The Truth

I suspect what brings them to their keyboards, or to the lenses of their cameras is the same kind of thing that's been ruining (or has already ruined) the press here in the US - namely that they've already decided whom they want the "good guys" and the "bad guys" to be, and all the information they can use to reinforce their point of view reaffirms their decision and thus finds its way into print.

If that information can't be found, it will be manufactured because, in the words of several apologists in the Dan Rather/Bush Nat'l Guard Paper forgery scandal, "It doesn't matter that it didn't happen; it's what would have happened - it's what he would have done, so we're just showing that side of him so that people can see it".

And yes, many people really did say, and believe, this. It didn't matter that it wasn't true, because it conformed to their worldview and reinforced their beliefs, so that made it true for them.

For my part, it just makes me ill: this persistent and wilfull refusal to look at FACTS and see them for what they are. (I say this knowing they'd come up with the same ideas even if they saw the real facts, but at least there'd be a fighting chance for a ray of common sense to break through.) Honestly at this point, I think the IDF should start considering the press as a foe, or co-combattants with the Hezbollah: after all, propaganda is at least as big a part of this war as the shooting part of it (especially in re: the drawing money, which buys more ammunition). The Press has taken one of the most precious of human freedoms, Freedom of Speech, and tortured and abused and twisted it so appallingly that it's nearly unrecognizable today. None of my (pro-Israel) posts ever come up on BBC, and I suspect they've banned my IP address for fear of offending Muslims. The same could no doubt be said for almost any paper around the world right now - I'm not sure they'd recognize the truth now if it came up and trod on their collective foot.

Whispering_Jack said...

I know Melbourne is a long way away from this conflict and I didn't want to labour on the points I made about O'Loughlin yesterday but I have to say this:

It took 24 hours for him to prove me right. His lead story in today's Age is entitled "Israeli air strike 'may be unlawful'". Ed is still going on about the deaths of 28 Lebanese in Qana as a result of Israel's attack on Hezbollah positions in that town 10 days ago and is quoting Kofi Annan who thinks that efsher, maybe, somehow the Israelis have broken some sort of law but he won't specify what law and naturally, the comment is made before any independent investigation takes place into what happened.

True to form O'Loughlin ignores a number of discrepancies that have been brought up about the Qana story. Firstly, he doesn't explain how the number of deaths has halved since he first reported on the matter. Secondly, he continues to ignore the curious issue of the 7 hour lapse in time between the IDF action and the collapse of the building and why the occupants weren't removed within that time. Thirdly, there is the connection with disgraced Reuters photographer Adnan Hajj who (surprise, surprise) took photographs at Qana and at the morgue in Tyre. These photographs have raised some disturbing questions. Like how is it that children were buried in the cellar of a "collapsed building" but the walls and ceiling of that cellar remained mostly intact, how is it that the bodies exhibited classic clinical signs of rigor mortis indicating that death of these victims occurred at a time completely inconsistent of them having been victims of this particular bombing and the general appearance of scenes in the photos suggesting a certain level of stage management?

While O'Loughlin's article only suggests what what Israel has done 'may be' unlawful, there is no doubt that Hezbollah's four week long shelling campaign directed at Israeli civilians is deliberate and is unlawful.

Human Rights Watch says so.

And U.N. Human Rights envoy Jan Egeland says that not only is it unlawful but Hezbollah embedding itself among civilians is the cause of the deaths of so many Lebanese.

O'Loughlin doesn't care about this and wouldn't deign to let his readers know about Israel's nasty adversary lest they might get the conflict in some proper context.

Oh, and as I predicted, Ed went easy on Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora who had to correct himself hours after claiming Israeli raids had killed 40 civilians in a "horrific massacre" in the border village of Houla.

"He later put the toll at just one, without explaining the cause of the error."

That's it!

That's how Ed deals with your common, normal, every day, garden variety blood libel against the Jewish State.

One or two sentences buried in among dozens of the others all aimed at damning Israel.