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Thursday, August 03, 2006


Lebanon: some media observations

[First posted 8/3, 7:37 a.m.; updated and bumped]

I have heard on numerous occasions now, from various anchors and pundits, about "Hizbollah's sophisticated PR operation." I don't recall hearing once about "Israel's sophisticated PR operation." This despite the fact that, as I've written previously, I can hardly watch TV for 15 minutes without seeing an Israeli government spokesperson, and if I include American apologists for Israel, the time is even shorter. Aside from a few brief clips of Hassan Nasrallah, I don't believe I have ever seen someone speaking on behalf of that "sophisticated PR operation."

On more than one occasion, I have heard references to the "54 people killed in Israel," which is then generally clarified to "19 civilians and 35 soldiers" (actually the number of civilians went up by five today). But 54 people (as of yesterday) haven't been killed "in Israel." 54 Israelis may have been killed, but 35 of them were soldiers killed in Lebanon. It may seem like a small point, but it isn't, because it increases the number of deaths caused by offensive action by Hizbollah by 250%, no small amount.

Meanwhile the Lebanese death toll has risen to 835, with one-third younger than 12. Illustrating the point made in the previous paragraph, here's a transcript from ABC (Australia) that I found online:

UN officials say the latest estimates of casualties include more than 800 dead in Lebanon, and 50 dead in Israel, with around a third of them children.
Once again, 50 are not dead "in Israel," and that "third of them children" applies only to the Lebanese dead, despite the (deliberately?) poor sentence structure.

Now let's put those 19 Israeli civilians in perspective. All over the news yesterday were reports of Israel's "dramatic" assault on a hospital in the "Hizbollah stronghold" of Baalbeck (isn't it amazing how many "strongholds" Hizbollah has? Southern Lebanon, southern Beirut, Baalbeck, what's next?). But how many viewers or readers caught this "minor" detail about that attack:

The Israelis then fired missiles at houses in the area, killing 19 and wounding 22, according to the Lebanese Ministry of Interior.
In just that one assault, that was barely worth mentioning (paragraph 19 of the article I just linked), Israel killed more Lebanese civilians than Hizbollah has killed in three weeks of firing rockets.

Update: A more detailed view of the workings of the Israeli PR operation.

Second update: I was looking back at the New York Times coverage of the Ballbeck attack in light of the description above. Here's how the Times treats it:

Sixteen civilians, including a family of seven, died in the heavy clashes and air raids.
People "die" of natural causes, or in traffic accidents. When you die because someone shot a missile at your car or dropped a bomb on your house, that's "being killed," not "dying." And also note the perpetrator-less nature of the sentence - they died "in the heavy clashes and air raids." Not quite the usual "caught in the crossfire," but close enough.

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