Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Reporter, educate thyself!

I'd be doing you a huge disservice if I didn't tell you that Patrick, my favorite Paragraph Farmer, has had published in the American Spectator, an article that points to the damage done to information reported by a press that has no knowledge about the military:

There are journalists doing yeoman work to correct public ignorance about military matters. The late Michael Kelly was one such person; Robert Kaplan, Bill Roggio, and Mike Yon are three others. Sadly, their reporting is too often brushed aside for you-are-there bromides from the well-traveled but inexpert likes of correspondents like Christiane Amanpour.
Read the whole thing here. Patrick's article reminded me of the damage done to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict by ill-informed reporters. In his review of Stephanie Gutmann's book, The Other War (a review that is available by subscription only), Hillel Halkin points out that, while the region is saturated with reporters, few of them have any actual knowledge about the region, about the history, or about the nature of the conflict. They're just bureau hacks, relocated from one foreign spot to another. This ignorance allows them to be manipulated by masterful propagandists. Thus, as Joseph Tartakovsky says in a Claremont Institute review of the same book:
If freedom is disadvantageous, this goes double when you happen to abut a shameless, propagandizing Arab dictatorship. According to Gutmann, the Palestinian Authority under Arafat used "the combat theatre (the West Bank, Gaza, and inside Israel) as a kind of soundstage." Those famous scenes of Palestinian boys with rocks confronting soldiers, for example, are usually choreographed. Palestinian youths, exhorted by parents, teachers, and their televisions to pelt Israeli soldiers, are so conscious of the media presence themselves that they often don't start in with the stones until photographers arrive. Israeli soldiers are actually forewarned of clashes when film crews suddenly materialize. (Coalition forces have experienced the same phenomenon in Iraq.) How do these reporters or photographers, on a quest for dramatic stories and footage, know where the "spontaneous" violence is to "erupt"? One or another foot soldier in their "small army of Palestinian fixers" is tipped off by the attackers. The Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Press (which together supply 80% of news images to the world media) require the assistance of natives who speak the local language, know who's who, and can get things done. These hired locals, in turn, make decisions about where to drive and what to translate (or leave un-translated). The Palestinian regime isn't brutal in the way of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, but its operatives are trained in the same school of media manipulation. On September 12, 2001, as the Middle East awoke to the attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., Palestinians in several cities took to the streets. The celebration in Nablus, estimated at 3,000 people, was filmed by an A.P. photographer who forwarded the footage to his bureau in Jerusalem. Before it hit the wire, the photographer called his bureau again, this time sitting in the Nablus governor's office with guns to his head. The reporter lived, but the truth did not. The A.P. was told by the Palestinian Authority that it "could not guarantee their safety" in the future unless the A.P. learned to be "more careful." Regime propaganda is pervasive. TV spots feature inspirational poetry like "how beautiful is the scent of the land, which is fed from the waterfall of blood, springing from an angry body." In April 2002, an Israeli drone flying above a funeral procession in the city of Jenin caught on tape a Palestinian corpse falling off his bier, reproving his handlers, then hopping back on. It happened again in the midst of a crowd, sending bystanders fleeing in terror. It was part of an effort to inflate both the body count and the number of photo-ops.
You only fall for this kind of crude propaganda if you're too ignorant to recognize it for what it is. Our media has us trained to believe that reporters have knowledge denied ordinary people. That simply isn't true. Most are good writers. Many are generally educated. Some are specifically well-informed. That means that the greatest likelihood is that you'll be reading a well-written, pithy, opinionated, ill-informed article by someone with a lot of biases and little knowledge.