The Addiction of the Western News Media To Lethal Narratives about Israel

The Addiction of the Western News Media

To Lethal Narratives about Israel

And its Disastrous Consequences for Everyone

 

Talk delivered Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 11:00 AM 

Since the Fall of 2000, the Western mainstream news media have taken a peculiar turn towards what one might call “lethal journalism.” In particular, the MSNM have consistently served as a major conduit for “lethal narratives” about Israel, largely concocted by Palestinians and other Arabs seeking to destroy Israel, which they, with an astonishingly consistent credulity, report as news. This turn represents not a creation of “lethal journalism” which had already shown its strength during the 1982 Israeli operation in Lebanon, but with the outbreak of the Oslo Intifada, it came to dominate the news media in unprecedented fashion.

Let’s begin with “lethal narratives.” These are stories that are told with the intention of creating hatred and a desire for revenge. Some are based on real events in which Palestinians and other Arabs die (Sabra and Shatilla, Gaza Beach, Kafr Qana), some are invented out of whole cloth (Jenin poisonings, Muhammad al Durah, Mavi Marmara). All involve the exaggeration of the number killed, the attribution of their deaths to Israeli soldiers, and, most significantly, the accusation of deliberate murder. These narratives are weapons of war, designed to both incense, incite, and provoke Muslims the world over to hate the Israelis and seek revenge, to alienate from Israel the support of peace-loving progressives in the West, and to dishearten Zionists in defense of their cause.

Lethal narratives partake of a larger discourse of hatred that has characterized warfare for millennia. They have a peculiarly virulent place in the “war against the Jews” especially in the “Blood Libels” that plagued European culture from the 12th to the 20th century, and continue to circulate widely in the Muslim world to this day. Lethal narratives embody a reactionary “us-them” scape-goating mentality that views the “enemy” as evil. Few phenomena hurt the possibility of peace more than their circulation, and nothing could more violate the basic progressive discourse than this kind of bellicose story-telling, especially when they are concocted out of malice.

Somewhat ironically, then, modern (or post-modern) journalism, which openly pursues a progressive agenda – often in the form of universal human rights – has shown itself particularly susceptible to Palestinian lethal narratives. The lethal journalist’s rule of thumb in dealing with evidence from the “war of images” (which is really a war of narratives) between Israel and its neighbors, is

  • believe what Palestinians say until proven wrong,
  • dismiss what the Israelis say until proven right,
  • and when that eventually becomes the case (after much damage), move on to the next story.

There were already plenty of lethal journalists before 2000, but they were mostly marginalized – except in 1982 when there was blood in the water. After the outbreak of the Intifada, however, they rapidly come to dominate most aspects of journalism about the conflict, pushing out and intimidating other approaches to the subject with activist fervor. Indeed, once in charge, the lethal journalists could pressure new journalists who come to cover the Middle East to conform to their epistemological principles – the priority of the Palestinian over the Israeli narrative. Whether the fear of hostility from Palestinian sources who brook criticism badly, or of ostracism from the circle of UN-NGO-journalist-activists where they have to spend most of their time, reporters rapidly learn the rules of the game, as Ricardo Cristiano assured Yasser Arafat, when he protested this his crews would never have circulated pictures of the Palestinian lynching at Ramallah in October of 2000:

We emphasize to all of you that the events did not happen this way, because we always respect (will continue to respect) the journalistic procedures with the Palestinian Authority for (journalistic) work in Palestine and we are credible in our precise work.

We thank you for your trust, and you can be sure that this is not our way of acting. We do not (will not) do such a thing.

As a result, the press’ coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict, especially since 2000, fall prey to a double inconsistency: on the one hand an uncritical embrace of these lethal narratives against Israel, and a corresponding reluctance to report real news about murderous Palestinians, their incitement, their targeting of civilians, their genocidal discourse. This double inversion of telling lies about Israel and not telling the truth about the Palestinians (who produce these lies), ends up not contributing to peace, but to war, feeding not the peacemakers but the worst warmongers. Perhaps the single greatest beneficiary of this reign of lethal journalists, has been global Islamic imperialism (Jihad) whose cause benefits from both the incitement of its own troops and the dissemination of culture disorientation and paralysis among its Western democratic foes. Historians will look back at the turn of the millennium and date the appearance of a global Muslim street whose increasing aggression has yet to visibly wane.

Al Durah: the blood libel and the victory of lethal journalism

Let’s begin not with the origins of lethal journalism, but the most lethal of all the “narratives” – Muhammad al Durah – and its consequences. Al Durah constitutes the most extreme example of lethal journalism in every aspect:

  • it was staged – quite crudely,
  • journalists both bought it hook line and sinker,
  • it had a mythical impact on the global imagination – it is the icon of hatred that inaugurated the 21st century
  • it has done untold damage to everyone on the planet who seeks peace – Israeli, Palestinian, Western, Muslim
  • and journalists – still! – resist correcting themselves.

Here is the footage, shot on Rosh Hashannah, 5760/2000 by Palestinian cameraman for CNN, Talal abu Rahmah as presented by Charles Enderlin on France2.

This became an instant global hit. Everyone who had a television saw this event, along with the accompanying narrative – that Israeli army had deliberately, in cold blood, murdered the boy in his defenseless father’s arms. This was the affirmation – the whole world saw it – of all that the Palestinians had been accusing Israel of for time out of mind: they were the murderous, rapist, massacring, Nazis.

A CHILD STANDS NEXT TO HIZBOLLAH POSTER ON HIGHWAY IN LEBANON. 

American newspapers were not exempt from the feeding frenzy:

hartford_courant

 

The story opened the gates to a morally sadistic equation of Israel with the Nazis (the ultimate lethal frame) even as it gave voice to genocide against the Jews.

place de la republique croppedPlace de la République, Paris, October 6, 2000.

Here we have the opening round of the Muslim Street in Europe: an enthusiastic accusation against Israel of being the real Nazis even as, for the first time since the Nazis a European capital – Paris no less – heard the cry of “death to the Jews.”

Al Durah became a substitution theology. As one reporter, speaking for many, put it: This picture erases, replaces that of the boy in the ghetto.

ghetto boy blog

Israel was the new Nazis, Palestinians were the new Jews: what had, in the 20th century, been considered the most ludicrous and grotesque moral claim – Arabs who openly embraced Nazi genocidal ideology accusing Israel of being the Nazis and claiming to be the Jews object of Israeli genocide – went mainstream. Sharansky was among the first to identify the problem, the 3 Ds: Demonization, Delegitimation, Double – really Quadruple Standard.

Think, for a moment, of the moral disorientation necessary to accept, much less advocate such a claim: the image of a boy, caught in a crossfire the Palestinians started, replacing a symbol of the deliberate murder of a million children and six million civilians. You have to be morally deranged to find such a supersessionist equation compelling. Deranged by what? Hatred? Denied guilt? Resentment? Of what?

Certainly someone like Bin Laden immediately grasped the value of the al Durah imagery for the cause of Jihad.

This video was used extensively by radical Muslim groups recruiting on college campuses.

 

What are the consequences of the al Durah story

  • Activated global Jihad: Israel was the Dajjal (Antichrist) of the Muslim apocalyptic scenario whereby they would conquer the world.
  • Disabled any Arabs in the peace camp: any Palestinian still dialoguing with Israelis/Jews after this footage appeared became a traitor to the cause.
  • Mobilizing an global anti-Zionist discourse: the “global Left” enthusiastically embraced the discourse in which Israel was the major cause of the conflict, and her elimination was the “solution.”

Thus, al Durah presided over a Red-Green alliance that reached its first climax less than a year later at the Durban “anti-racism” conference in late August of 20001.  There the virulent denunciation of Israel, led by Muslim countries but taken up by Western progressives in a series of conferences and resolutions condemning Zionism and laying out plans for a global campaign against her. Jamal al durah was flown in on Arafat’s private jet, told everyone how the Israelis had killed his boy in cold blood, and Muhammad, carried in effigy became the “patron saint” of Durban’s hate-fest.

UN RACISM

As a result of the remorseless media campaign against Israel, she became one of the most despised countries in the world, right down there with Iran among the most warlike countries.

The paradox of Western Peace journalism turning into War journalism:

Peace journalism became a major factor in the Oslo Peace Process, enthusiastically embraced not only by Israeli journalists in the peace camp, but academics as well. Peace journalism argues that the news media can contribute to peace by encouraging people to trust the other side, and by not emphasizing sensationalist news that might discourage people from supporting negotiations (e.g., terrorist strikes). This makes sense, however, only when both sides engage in such a process. If one side systematically suppresses information that might lead the readers to abandon peace and prepare for war, while the other side demonizes the other side and prepares its people for war, then it has the opposite effect, since it disarms the side committed to peace and arms the other for war.

This is precisely what happened in the period of the Oslo “Peace Process”: the Israeli and Western “peace press” played down any information that might alert the Israelis or the world to Palestinian intentions, and ostracized as right-wing war-mongers anyone who tried to bring this information – MEMRI and PMW were born in this period. Thus while the Palestinians spoke of Oslo as a Trojan Horse, the press played the role of Poseidon’s serpents who killed Laacoon and his sons when they proved the horse contained warriors. And then, when the war that anyone well-informed could have foreseen broke out, the liberal media, both in Israel and in the West, rather than admitting their error of judgment, blamed Israel. And al Durah played a key role in that process.

The overall picture of the period of lethal journalism after al Durah gives us the spectacle of an Arab-Israeli Bullfight. Israel is the Toreador, the Arabs are the Bull, the journalists are the Picadors that enrage the bull, and the crowd is made up of PETA fans rooting for the Bull and hating the matador. And the supporters of the matador are embarrassed to shout their support.

How do we reverse the consequence: ways that people who support Israel (Zionists!) can talk with their neighbors, friends, and co-workers, without getting angry or shrill when they run into resistance.

  • Cognitive Warfare: sometimes lethal narratives backfire:
    • Deir Yassin in the short run led to the Arabs fleeing; in the long run it has been a major accusation of massacre against the Israeli (along with Sabra and Shatilla, and Muhammad al Durah) – all lethal narratives.
    • how can we get these lethal narratives to backfire?
  • focussing on the media’s vulnerability to “lethal narratives” about Israel.
    • staying away from the anti-semitism accusations and reformulating the problem (e.g., why is there such an appetite for lethal narratives about Israel?)
    • disabling certain memes that people unthinkingly accept:
      • war is not the answer
      • violence never solved anything
      • if i’m being criticized by both sides i must be doing something right,
      • it’s racist to say nasty things about Arabs,
      • I’m not saying anything Jews don’t say.
      • Newspapers may make mistakes, but they’re not biased, and certainly not on purpose.
  • Examining some unconscious patterns
    • Racism: no moral expectations towards the Arabs
    • Quadruple Standards: the West is held to a higher standard than the third world, the Israelis are held to a higher standard than the West, and the Palestinians to a lower standard than the third world.
    • “Progressive” support for the Palestinians reinforces the scapegoating discourse of the Arab elite who use it to exploit their own people.
    • As much as it’s aimed at supporting peace, this all actually foments war and prolongs the conflict.
    • PC: Using “Left vs. Right” to identify players (e.g., pro-Palestinian is left-wing; pro-Israeli is right-wing), has become worse than misleading and useless, it’s now destructive and a sign of our utter disorientation.
    • Why are Westerners, including Jews, so attracted to lethal narratives about Israel and so loathe to hear them about their real enemies?
    • getting people to reflect on their unconscious (or unexamined) projections of their own mentality onto others (liberal cognitive egocentrism).

13 Responses to The Addiction of the Western News Media To Lethal Narratives about Israel

  1. akmofo says:

    Calling the propaganda outlets anything other than propaganda outlets is a gross distortion of the truth. The propaganda outlets are there to mold emotions to emotionally manipulate people towards accepting particular economic and political machinations. The propaganda outlets are not there for any other reason. You will never be informed by the propaganda outlets, but rather you will always be dissinformed, malinformed, and more often than not completely uninformed as to the reality in which you live.

    ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME

  2. Rich Rostrom says:

    Why are Westerners, including Jews, so attracted to lethal narratives about Israel and so loath to hear them about their real enemies?

    About Israel, and about the U.S. and the West in general and in history.

    And the answer is that the ability of western cultures, including Israel, to criticize themselves and to dispute and reject social and cultural orthodoxies has been an enormous asset over the last 500 years.

    The West embraced the idea of the heroic rebel and dissenter, and of the hero who stands for moral rights against the reputation or material interests of his group.

    But over the years, this facility degenerated into a sort of autoimmune disease. The dissenter, the rebel, the heretic, was presumed right. Only the outsider can be praised and valued.

    SF author David Brin called this “the dogma of otherness”.

    Part of it is based on the reaction to the oppression inflicted by “orthodoxy”, “in-loyalty”, the Establishment in earlier eras. The intellectual class sees virtue not in service to the nation/race/whatever, but in “fighting the power”, which is always threatening to annihilate freedom and impose oppression. The “power” can be the ruling political elite, or “the 1%”. Or it can be the dominant traditional culture, or the nation, which if not scrutinized and criticized relentlessly, will Do Wrong, lots of Wrong.

    Only by such attentions from within can the group be saved from its own bad tendencies.

    Israel, as part of the West, comes in for criticism from within the West. The West is (or has been) uniquely powerful and therefore dangerous; every misdeed by any part of the West must be exposed and condemned.

    Thus Enderlin, an Israeli army veteran, parent of Israeli soldiers acted on this imperative.

    And intellectuals throughout the West obey it too.

    • @ Rich

      “The intellectual class sees virtue not in service to the nation/race/whatever, but in “fighting the power”, which is always threatening to annihilate freedom and impose oppression.The “power” can be the ruling political elite, or “the 1%”. Or it can be the dominant traditional culture, or the nation, which if not scrutinized and criticized relentlessly, will Do Wrong, lots of Wrong.

      Only by such attentions from within can the group be saved from its own bad tendencies.

      Israel, as part of the West, comes in for criticism from within the West. The West is (or has been) uniquely powerful and therefore dangerous; every misdeed by any part of the West must be exposed and condemned.”

      Rich, i have a different take on this.

      The intellectual class does not treat Israel as any part of the West but, rather, as the most reprehensible part. Lethal narratives against Israel are much more and more intense than any such narratives that have been fired against, say, the US.

      I think there is more to the motivation behind lethal narratives against Israel than a mere willingness to view the non-western “other” as a privileged object of concern, or to view the western (purported) oppressor as more culpable compared to non-western oppressors. And i think that Dr Landes has been spot on when he identified as the core motivating factors of such lethal narratives the moral schadenfreude that is generated when westerners indulge in them, together with the supersessionist needs that the generation of schadenfreude reflects:

      http://www.theaugeanstables.com/2012/11/12/western-appetite-for-lethal-narratives-about-israel-moral-schadenfreude-and-replacement-theology/

      “My answer is twofold: that this behavior consists of a kind of “moral Schadenfreude,” or the pleasure one takes in the moral discomfiture of the Jews, on the one hand, and that this unseemly pleasure reflects supersessionist needs on the other. Put simply, the strength of moral Schadenfreude is a direct measure of the presence of replacement theology, even among people who might deny any such “theological” beliefs.

      First let me reframe “replacement theology” not as a theological issue, so much as it is a psychological one. It seems to me that it reflects a form of zero-sum thinking that is focused not on matters of guilt and integrity but shame and honor: we are right because you are wrong; we are good because you are bad; we have honor because you are disgraced. We make ourselves look bigger by making you look smaller.

      I’m not breaking any new ground here when I observe that the vexing question of chosenness centers around the agonizing question common among siblings (and the focus of the Bible’s patriarchal narratives): who’s daddy’s favorite. For Christians and Muslims, who come after the Jews and from Jewish spiritual currents (apocalyptic ones initially), the problem is existential; for Jews, who came up with the idea in the first place, it’s less so, a fact that, in itself, is rather galling to those for whom the question has such critical import.

      Which brings us to moral Schadenfreude, or the pleasure one gets from seeing another lose the moral “high ground.” Somehow it just comes trippingly off the tongue to turn to Israel and its Jewish supporters and say, “you Jews, 2000 years you suffered at the hands of others and now, no sooner do you get power than you turn around and do it to someone else…”

      In other words, people with supersessionist insecurities get a huge kick out of being able to rejoice in the moral debasement of the Jewish state, whether there really is a moral case to be made or not. Indeed, if there isn’t, they don’t want to hear about it, hence their refusal to listen to Israelis, even Israeli Arabs, defend Israel. Listening to Israelis and Jews attack Israel, on the other hand, nothing sounds sweeter to their ears. Supersessionism is an insecurity complex that needs to view things in zero-sum terms in order to reassure itself; and so the appetite for tales of Jews behaving badly, the moral Schadenfreude one schepps at the Jewish pain at being accused of terrible crimes, of behaving like Nazis, is an indicator of precisely that insecurity and its attendant “replacement” theology.

      Let’s state it as a mathematical proposition: the attraction to lethal narratives about Jews is directly proportional to the insecurity of those believing these tales and their consequent need assert a sense of moral superiority by looking down at Jews; and at the same time, that desire to believe the worst of Jews, is inversely proportional to actual moral behavior on the part of the believer.

      I don’t think the supersessionist impulse will ever disappear entirely. Like envy, like sibling rivalry, it is part of the DNA of the monotheist family and we have to learn to live with it. There will always be, even within highly spiritual communities, some Christians and Muslims and Jews who feel insecure enough to “need” to put the “others” down, to make themselves feel good by dumping on the other monotheistic groups. And they will always find some evidence of bad behavior among others to justify that need.

      The need to feel morally superior to the Jews inheres in the need to replace them. So when we see Christians, even as they misbehave according to their own values, the very values that define their greatness, the unstinting love, even of their enemies, eagerly seeking evidence of Jews behaving badly, or, on a larger scale, a Jewish nation behaving badly, then we can surmise that we are in the presence of a zero-sum need to seek one’s moral stature, not in the integrity of the act itself, but in the submission and denigration of the “other.”

      If this thesis that the appeal of lethal narratives about Israel is a symptom of a supersessionist mentality is correct, then we should look at the great attraction of the “progressive left” for these anti-Zionist lethal narratives as an indicator of a covert replacement “theology”/psychology among these secular believers. Could the “progressive left” have a secular form of replacement theology? Certainly the first representatives of the “left,” the more zealous of the French Revolutionaries, demanded that Jews become citizens in the place of being Jews, a world view in which the revolutionaries replace the Jews as the moral “cutting edge” of humanity, in which the “Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man” replace the ten commandments.”

      • @ Rich

        Somehow i managed to omit in my reply to you the sentence that sums up my take on the nature of the motivation for lethal narratives against Israel.

        Such lethal narratives are related to Jewishness, they are born out of a fixation with Jews.

        We cannot explain their appeal without reference to Jewishness.

  3. Vilmos says:

    > believe what Palestinians say until proven wrong,
    > dismiss what the Israelis say until proven right,

    This is what I call the 100% rule. If the Israelis are not 100% right, then they are 100% wrong. And if the Arabs are not 100% wrong, then they are 100% right.

    Vilmos

  4. akmofo says:

    “This became an instant global hit. Everyone who had a television saw this event, along with the accompanying narrative – that Israeli army had deliberately, in cold blood, murdered the boy in his defenseless father’s arms. This was the affirmation – the whole world saw it – of all that the Palestinians had been accusing Israel of for time out of mind: they were the murderous, rapist, massacring, Nazis.”
    ==

    Richard, it was an instant global hit among the propaganda outlets, a self-referencing matrix of holographic lies and illusions. This is an important point that must be stressed. Because anyone with 2 brain cells to rub together has long ago cancelled their subscription to the propaganda outlets. Practicaly nobody believes, or cares about the programming on the propaganda outlets. Their own numbers show this. Their “markets” have shrunk to what used to be statistical error. The only people that pay attention to the propaganda outlets are the politicians. The politicians use the propaganda outlets as an excuse to justify their action. It’s my belief that the best way to deal with the politicians, who are just paid puppets that follow a script set forth with aid of the propanda outlets, is the same way that the propaganda outlets have been dealt with. Withdrawal of all support and legitimacy through withdrawl of participation.

    • Dr Landes said:

      “This became an instant global hit. Everyone who had a television saw this event, along with the accompanying narrative – that Israeli army had deliberately, in cold blood, murdered the boy in his defenseless father’s arms.”

      “Progressive” support for the Palestinians reinforces the scapegoating discourse of the Arab elite who use it to exploit their own people.”

      Speaking of global hits, i was reminded of a song of David Bowie, called “Jump, they say”:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avJt0SQec0I

      The song is about how pressure imposed on someone by social expectations might hurt him. The video clip depicts this idea by having Bowie standing at the edge of a very high building and singing to himself “don’t listen to the crowd, “they say jump”.

      Anyway, this is more or less what the lethal narratives do to the Pals: the narratives spur them on to jump in the abyss of hate and keep up with their dream of eliminating Israel and with a war they can’t possibly win (unless the Israelis decide to commit suicide).

      Come and think of it, that’s what the narratives are supposed to do to Israelis, force them to jump off the cliff and commit suicide by territorial concessions that will only embolden the Palestinians to ask for more and more.

      “Jump” we westerners say to both sides of the conflict – and we do so with a clear conscience and a self-indulgent sanctimoniousness (schadenfreude).

      • akmofo says:

        Sorry, DM, I hate to disagree with you, but it’s not we Westerners. It’s the propaganda outlets and those behind the propaganda outlets who set the agenda. We shouldn’t blame the manipulated, we should blame the manipulators. And these manipulators have been at this for a long long long time.

        ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME

  5. @ akmofo

    “We are kindred spirits :)”

    Our only difference being that i dislike Rome because of the Italian cultural trait of a noisy megalomania coupled with a mild unconscious sexism and an unduly familiarization with and tolerance of organized crime and corruption.

    Italians are a refined version of modern Greeks – i am speaking of cultures here.

  6. akmofo says:

    I have nothing against Greek or Italian culture or any culture, even Arab culture. My philosophy is live and let live. My problem is with Greeks or Italians or Arabs or whoever marching their army to my land so they can extend their empire of theft and slavery. Why this psychological need to impose on others, be it religious or economic or political or cultural views, I can never understand. Why not celebrate diversity? After all, that’s the beauty of life.

  7. [...] in Gaza holding the shrouded body of his beloved baby son will inevitably become part of the “lethal narratives” that are spread eagerly by mainstream journalists who have long embraced the notion that Goliath [...]

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