Monday, May 16, 2005

The Media Disease

Yesterday I started facilitating a 6-session course on Hasbara and Israel Advocacy with 30 students in the Machon (of the Jewish Agency) on their year off in Israel. Having shown them a surprisingly open-minded CNN clip that displayed Gaza settlers as human beings with emotions and feelings, some in the class expressed deep concern that we (as Israel supporters) would favor such a one-sided clip.

That is, surely if we are trying to encourage fairer media coverage, we must demand that the networks put the "Palestinian viewpoint" in such an article too.

All this raised a question that had not quite struck me in this way previously. Is it acceptable for pro-Israel advocates to accept one-sided seemingly pro-Israel news reports?

Unsure myself, I raised the quite legitimate argument that we must look at 'news reporting' in the wider context. That is, that the world media in general is somewhat swayed towards excessive criticism of Israel and it is therefore not such a terrible thing that there is the odd article that presents an (not 'the') Israel view only.

This argument was not accepted by all in the class and that's OK.

BBC recently tried to show 'all sides' after the recent Stage (Tel Aviv) nightclub terror attack. BBC (both in print and in TV coverage) spent 1/2 the report showing the mourning of the bomber's parents and had them crying over photos of him etc. BBC came under extreme criticism over this approach and cut the report from their website.

My concern is that with most TV news clips being about 3 minutes long, we might be encouraging even worse reporting by demanding that they cover every opinion and view in each clip.

It's always refreshing to have such issues proposed by students. That's what my KIC business is all about - making people think, not telling them what to think.

Let me know your thoughts.


Anonymous said...

Hey man,

Wish I was there to listen in. I am confident that it was an absolutely amazing class (just like the old days!)

I'm not 100% sold on the issue, but it does seem odd to me that a report showing the effects of suicide bombing is seen by anyone as "one-sided"!

I guess any attempt to get the other side and interview the suicide bomber would be thwarted by the fact that is dead (not to mention a murderer).


Anonymous said...

What may be helpful for PR purposes is the have Ambassadors that speak English. How is the English vocabulary of the current Ambassador to Britain? Why has the Australian Ambassador been appointed to represent the State of Israel when he is wanted in Brazil on paedophile charges?
I don't expect you to answere these questions, I am merely highlighting that PR is an issue that must come from the top. From the leadership and if they don't set the bar then it may be a waste of time for the rest of us.

Michael Lawrence said...

Anonymous - I agree with you wholeheartedly and identify with your frustration. It seems peculiar that a country like Israel that requires good (I mean GREAT!) spokespeople would persist on appointing those, who while capable in many respects, can not present Israel's case well in the local language.

At the same time, Israel often lives a "condemned if we do and condemned if we don't" existence and it does appear that sometimes we just have no choice but to throw our arms in the air and give in. Sometimes it might just be the best, least painful (and only) possible approach.

But the tempting challenges remain and we still have work to do and Hasbara goals to aspire to - as difficult and frustrating as it might be.

Regards - Michael (KIC)