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Saturday, July 22, 2006


TV coverage of the war

Readers know I don't hold back when it comes to media criticism; indeed, the very subhead of this blog proclaims that fact. But I have to say that, for the most part, I think American corporate coverage of the Israeli assault on Lebanon has been far more balanced than could possibly have been expected based on the overwhelming imbalance of support for Israel in the U.S. (exemplified by the recent votes in Congress). Networks have had far more frequent segments from reporters in Gaza, for example, in the past few months than they ever did in years past. And despite the obvious dangers of reporting from Lebanon, there has been no shortage of reports directly from there, either. I've seen vastly more footage of the damage caused by the Israeli bombing of Lebanon in the last eleven days than I think I've seen in total in more than three years of comparable footage from Iraq. Just today I watched a CNN report from their Dr. Sanjay Gupta, reporting from a hospital in Beirut, showing the way they are coping by moving entire wards to underground locations, and discussing the dangers to the patients entailed by that. And this kind of coverage spans the networks. Yes, even FOX News.

One of the few areas where Israel is "winning" in the coverage, and this too spans the networks, is the P.R. war. For every one reprentative of the Lebanese government (or Hizballah or Syria or Iran), I've seen ten Israelis or American Jewish supporters of Israel. You can hardly watch TV for any length of time without seeing an Israeli ambassador, an Israeli military spokesperson, an Israeli Deputy Prime Minister, and so on. So I'm not suggesting that one actually sees balanced coverage. But I am saying that, with Israel committing so many war crimes, if TV broadcasts just 5% of those, and broadcasts 100% of what is happening in Israel, there still is an awful lot of the former and not that much of the latter. Indeed, so desparate are networks for coverage of bad things happening in Israel that today I actually watched footage of firefighters putting out a small brush fire that had been caused by a Hizballah rocket.

Tonight's ABC News broadcast was interesting as a demonstration of what I'm saying here. In addition to exended footage of the damage being done to Lebanon, they showed footage of today's demonstration in London, and today's mass burial in Tyre. But in some ways the most surprising part of the broadcast almost makes me eat my words from the post just below this one. ABC not only reported on the destruction on LBC TV towers, but described it as a "troubling development." Not exactly a condemnation, but definitely more than simple neutral reporting. But there was much more. After pointing out that the two stations affected (LBC and another one) were pro-US stations, they went on to talk about why Israel wanted the stations off the air - to suppress the flow of information about their war crimes (that's my term, not theirs) to the world. They then went on to talk about the 1996 Qana massacre, when Israel shelled a UN compound where refugees from fighting were taking shelter, killing 106 of them, and how the broadcasting of that massacre had forced Israel into a ceasefire because of the world outrage at the massacre. They then showed the mass grave in Tyre, and noted how those images might not have reached the world were it not for LBC.

Powerful stuff indeed. And indicative that blind support for Israel has its limits. Those limits are further suggested by the fate of one of my posts. I cross-posted the post below at Daily Kos, provocatively retitled "The U.S. is now a legitimate military target." My previous posts on the subject of Palestine have met a quick fate there, recommended by only handfuls of people, and have been met with the usual storm of pro-Israel responses. But the response to this one has been quite different. It has received several hundred "recommendations," more than 200 "tips" in the "tip jar," and stayed on the "Recommended Diary" list for almost the entire day. More than 550 comments have included the usual and the expected, but also have stimulated a much more balanced than usual discussion on the question of unquestioning support for Israel. Again illustrating, as I think the press coverage does, that the possibilities for discussion on this subject are very much opening up, thanks to Israel opening up people's eyes with the barbarity of their actions.

Stand up! Speak out! We will stop this outrage! Plan now for major national demonstrations on August 12 in Washington, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle, and of course continuous smaller local demonstrations everywhere until then (and afterwards).

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