About a week ago I posted an article on Politicsweb in which I claimed that the MSM had, contrary to their most ardent intentions, probably helped Trump get elected against all expectation and odds.
I proposed that media distortions, exaggerations, nauseating repetitiveness and shameless abuse of their privileged public position to advance their own agenda was so blatant, that a significant segment of the public punished them by electing the arch enemy into office.
This unexpected outcome did induce some at least to indulge in some gentle introspection, though few indeed had the courage and integrity to seriously put themselves under the microscope. The New York Times, under considerable public pressure, issued an implicit mia culpa which should be read for its finely calibrated admission of failure along with an entirely self-serving reference to its own high journalistic ethics and readiness to speak truth to power. But even since that brief bout of introspection most of the popular media have settled back into their normal partisan role as guard dogs for the status quo.
Of course, none of this came as a surprise to those of us who support Israel in its quest for security and legitimacy in the cauldron of the Middle East. For a long time Israel along with its “supporters” have been systematically vilified by a hypocritical and self-righteous media which likes to promote itself as a paragon of progressive virtue. This has been meticulously documented by journalists and ordinary citizens alike, none more effectively than Matti Friedman in a number of penetrating exposes.
But if “Zionists” feel uniquely ill done by, they are at least partly mistaken as the recent media mobbing of Trump reveals. Also Zille in her wonderful book, “Not Without a Fight” makes no bones about her contempt for an uninformed, lazy and sheepish media only too ready to follow the herd or the trail of career advancement or the prospect of extra spending money.
One hastens to say that there are exceptions to this generalisation but they seem few and far between. Let us also admit that bias comes equally from the right and left, though the Western media world is undoubtedly dominated by left-leaning journalists and owners. While perfect “balance” is an impossible ideal and is ethically disingenious, there are red lines in journalism which stand as a corrective to journalistic dishonesty. These are supposedly incorporated into university curricula and media guidelines – and are just as regularly ignored in practice. In recent articles Ira Stoll has placed the august New York Times under the spotlight and has documented their systematic double standards and pervasive bias when it comes to Israel and Jews.
On a much lower rung of the ladder similar bias has been documented for the Cape Times even prior to its recent change in ownership and editorial staff. From my brief experience with the current team I see no change, and acquaintances assure me it has become worse. My contact with British TV does not lead me to believe that much better can be expected from that source either.
I recently watched some trumped up CNN (or was it Sky News?) outrage over Trump’s National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn. His sin: Islamophobia. And the evidence? Apparently Flynn called Islamism a cancer, something with which large numbers of Muslims as well as non-Muslims would heartily agree. So now the MSM have created a new stick out of hot air with which to beat Trump while, at the same time, they smugly declare his avoidance of public media contact is “most unusual”. Type into Google: ” Flynn, national security advisor” to get some idea of how the media sets and pre-judges the terms of debate.
This evening I watched a CNN feature on Morocco. Essentially it was a 30 minute infomercial for that country’s business and tourism potential. No hint of serious investigative journalism was allowed to rear its ugly head. One can only wonder how much money changed hands to purchase a global makeover of such dimensions?
But on the other hand I searched in vain for a New York Times, BBC, Sky News or CNN mention of the recent recognition of Israeli pre-eminence in the field of emergency medical aid by the World Health Organisation. Other than in Jewish and Israeli media the only other major news outlet which felt this prestigious achievement was worth reporting was the Christian Broadcasting Network.
The plain fact is that the MSM generally does not meet the ethical standards it claims for itself and, if used carelessly, it is a major source of misinformation and reality distortion. Optimally we need a media industry simultaneously well-informed and committed to honest journalism of a high intellectual standard. Having said that, I wonder how many readers will it attract? The broad public is addicted to sensationalism, over-simplification and partisanship.
Nevertheless, reality bites eventually and the unfolding multiple disasters in the Middle East certainly diverts public attention from Israeli shortcomings, whether real or imagined. In the meantime Israel is managing the processes of public diplomacy and governance well enough under very demanding conditions to stand out as a beacon in that devastated region. It is that good news which we must find a way of bringing to the public’s attention as was done recently in The Star.
But to return to the media to close this article: for those of us committed to understanding the only recourse is to lose one’s innocence as fast as possible, develop the habit of scepticism and drastically widen one’s frame of reference and knowledge base. One of the first and essential steps towards self-liberation is to realise that propaganda is about setting the agenda. Let’s not let them.
* MSM: mainstream media
PS. This does NOT constitute, it should go without saying, an endorsement of Trump. Let’s hope he can transcend the persona on display throughout the campaign.