Monday, January 14, 2008

New Wars & New Media

Back in the 80s, when I was first exposed to American media, I became fascinated and addicted to it (specially TV news programs & talk shows). Growing up watching nothing but state controlled TV, I was truly impressed and captivated by the investigative reporting, the live pictures, and the debates involving (or at least what I perceived as involving) different points of view.

As of the mid 90s, this fascination has dwindled and after 9/11 , I just cannot stand watching any American news coverage. I actually find it offensive and I have zero tolerance for it. The only explanation I had for this change of heart was my opposition to the American policies in the area, which I find outrageous.

In his lecture titled "New wars & new media", Tariq Ali (the British-Pakistan historian, novelist, filmmaker, political campaigner, and commentator) sheds the light on two important points that must have contributed to this new feeling of mine:
  • He pointed out that after the fall of the Soviet Union, the necessity to demonstrate to the deprived citizens of the eastern bloc the superiority of the western media over their one party controlled media was long gone. Accordingly, those in charge of, and involved in the western (& especially North American) media had no incentive to demonstrate the importance of diversity, dissent, a vibrant public opinion, and oppositional politics.
  • He highlighted the fact that on the issue of Palestine, the American media is outrageously biased even in comparison with Israeli media. It is biased to the point that it totally ignores the critical debate that takes place on the state of Palestinians inside Israel.
Example: In 2003, when a number of Israeli pilots, refused to fly assassination missions in the West Bank & Gaza, because it could endanger civilians, the pilots & their families were fiercely attached by the government, people, and most journalists in Israel.

A Jewish Israeli journalist named Yehuda Nuriel (of Iraqi origin), published a letter by A. Schicklgruber to Ma'ariv attacking the dissident Israeli pilots. The letter included very strong language such as: "Those who want to live, let them fight, and those who do not want to fight in this world of eternal struggle do not deserve to live."

A couple of days later, a reader alerted the Ma’ariv editors that the name at the bottom of the letter was actually Hitler’s original name, and that the letter was nothing but a collection of quotes, from Mein Kampf, as well as other writings & speeches by Hitler.

Learning of the trick nested in the article, Ma’ariv’s editor in chief sacked Nuriel. His explanation was: “this satire means that anyone opposed to conscious objection is a Hitler. This horrible act cannot be protected by the act of free speech.”

As far as I know, none of this was reported in the American media, and no voices were raised in defense of the sacked journalist, although I can think of at least one incident where a journalist who published some offensive drawings was immediately defended on the basis of freedom of speech. Since I am a bit slow, please help me understand. Why the double standards?

Please do take a couple of minutes to read the above mentioned letter. Click here.

To see a video of Ali's lecture, click here.

p.s. I have to mention that I don't remember any coverage of the letter or the sacking of the journalist in the Arab media either (please tell me if you do). And I strongly condemn any barbaric response to any expression of opinion no matter how offensive. I might have said that I was slow, but I am not biased or crazy. Well, may be a little crazy, but I am not violent. Well, in the previous post I discovered that I am capable of being violent, but I am not a complete wacko. Well, ...........oh never mind.

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