February 1, 2010
WaPo hits trifecta of biased journalism today
The Feb. 1 edition of the Washington Post deserves a special place in any study of journalistic bias. So let's spend a few moments scanning the news section, where semantic trickery abounds.
On page A4, there's an article about the Obama administration promising to consider local opposition in deciding on a venue for the 9/11 trials. The headline: "Localities are promised a say in trials -- White House says it will hear cities' concerns about TERRORISM (my emphasis) cases."
The article notes that the administration has to find a new locale following objections from New York officials to putting Khalid Sheik Mohammed and others accused "in the 2001 TERRORIST attacks on trial in federal court in Lower Manhattan."
So far, so good. 9/11 definitely fits the precise definition of terrorism -- deliberate use of violence, including murder of civilians, in pursuit of an ideological, religious or political agenda. But from here on out, it's all downhill, especially in articles dealing with news from the Middle East.
On page A9, there's a story about a Hamas senior terrorist kingpin, killed in Dubai and identified by Israel as having recently played a critical role in smuggling rockets from Iran to "Palestinian MILITANTS in Gaza." The headline: "Dead Hamas OFFICIAL said to be smuggler."
Note that in both the headline and the story the Post studiously avoids using the T-for-terror word to describe Hamas and its assassinated terrorist commander. Yet, this individual was responsible for staging scores of suicide bombings that killed hundreds of Israeli civilians, plus abducting a couple of Israeli soldiers and killing them. He had as much blood on his hands -- even more so when one computes the ratio of his victims to Israel's total population -- as the perpetrators of 9/11. But unlike Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the Post treats Mahmoud al-Mabhouh gently and deferentially as a Hamas "OFFICIAL," or a Hamas "COMMANDER."
As for his latest terrorism endeavor -- smuggling Iranian rockets to Hamas -- these weapons were just intended for "Palestinian MILITANTS in Gaza." Again, no hint of their likely terrorist use or that Hamas and other such "militant" groups fired thousands of rockets over the last decade that killed, injured and terrorized hundreds of thousands of civilians on the Israeli side of the border. Contrary to the story, these Iranian rockets were intended for use by proven "terrorists" -- pure and simple. Why blur reality and call them "militants"?
Moving on to page A11, which features what at first glance seems a fairly interesting story by the Post's Jerusalem correspondent, Howard Schneider about Israel's close friendship with two tiny Pacific Ocean republics -- the Federated States of Micronesia and the island nation of Nauru. Their leaders, on a visit to Israel, explain why they are part of a tiny minority in the UN General Assembly that sides with Israel when the UN goes on one of its anti-Israel binges. They are Christians and sympathetic to Israel's return to its ancient land. Like Israel, they are struggling to survive, in their case against typhoons. "We do feel that Israel does not get a fair say in world political opinion," remarks the Nauruan foreign minister. So, Israel lays out the welcome mat and provides briefings for them on renewable energy, water conservation, and modern agricultural management.
So far, so good. But Schneider is not content to leave it at that. He's got to inject a few anti-Israel poison pills to conform with the Post's anti-Israel bias.
Rather than let the facts speak for themselves, he describes Israeli's treatment of its Pacific friends as use of "soft power," in contrast to its "combative" response to countries that criticize Israel, "feuding with Turkey and Sweden over television shows and newspaper articles REGARDED AS ANTI-SEMITIC and challenging European officials considered too open to talks with MILITANT groups like Hamas and Hezbollah."
So Israel is "combative" and quick to hit back over TV shows and newspaper articles "regarded as anti-Semitic." Note the passive tense. The Post cannot bring itself to describe as anti-Semitic Turkish TV shows that depict Israelis kidnapping and murdering children. These "blood libels" -- a modern version of medieval stereotypes and caricatures that demonized Jews and led to countless murderous pogroms and eventually to the Holocaust -- are regarded by someone else -- not the Post -- as anti-Semitic.
The same semantic pussyfooting is accorded to a Swedish newspaper article that smeared Israel by accusing its soldiers of murdering Palestinians to harvest their organs. As part of the Post's refusal to describe such "blood libel" for what it really is, readers are told that such libels are "regarded" as anti-Semitic. Regarded by whom? Schneider won't tell us. But obviously not by him or the Post. Or else why use the passive tense?
And, of course, as noted earlier, when it comes to describing terrorist outfits like Hamas and Hezbollah, the Post again cleans up their acts by calling them "MILITANT" groups.
Finally, Schneider injects one more pejorative anti-Israel spin before ending his piece. Israel's warm relations and hospitality for the two Pacific island countries, he writes, are all about deploying "soft power" diplomacy -- "something also on display in recent days through the Israeli Defense Forces quick dispatch of a field hospital team to Haiti."
To put this in some perspective, it's worth noting that, while other major media -- TV and newspapers -- provided up-close and personal coverage of the cutting-edge medical resources of Israel's field hospital, which was up and running in three days after the earthquake, the Post ignored Israel's widely praised rescue-and-relief mission.
To finally take cognizance of Israel's immediate response to the earthquake and to write that for Israel, its Haiti mission was "all 'soft power" diplomacy -- only self-interest -- is thus doubly insulting. All you have to do is ask yourself: Would the Post also describe earthquake relief projects of the U.S. and any other nations as "all soft-power" diplomacy rather than what they really are -- the outpouring of humanitarian responses to the suffering of the Haitian people? I don't think so.
So why single out Israel as the only foreign presence in Haiti practising "soft power"? And why, in terms of semantic consistency, doesn't the Post on A4 tell readers that the White House will take into consideration local opposition to trying "MILITANT" cases in their areas, or refer to the 2001 'MILITANT" attacks?