Monday, June 6, 2011

Three Amazing Stories (From Today) That Teach Us: Never Overestimate the Competence of the Media

This article is published in PajamasMedia.

By Barry Rubin

First, almost all of the major news media has reported about the confrontation between Israeli forces and people who tried to cross Israel’s border as part of a demonstration designed to help wipe that country off the map. But what’s their source? None of them has first-hand information. So in fact all their data came from the Syrian propaganda organs.

That’s right. The Syrian regime is killing hundreds of its own people. No Western government will act against that dictatorship. But when it comes to Israel they accept its claims as truth, and many didn't even tell readers or viewers--at least in the initial reports--where they got the information.

Second, this is from a CNN report on the same story today

“Israel has made peace with the other two parties to the 1967 Six-Day War, Egypt and Jordan, but still occupies the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza as well as the Golan Heights.”

At least this CNN item listed Syria as the source of casualty figures. But what’s wrong with the above sentence?

A. Who says they are “Palestinian territories?”

B. The populated areas of the West Bank have been governed by the Palestinian Authority for 17 years. The PA has received billions of dollars to run the show, has its own schools, health system, security forces, you name it. But CNN reports it as being “still” occupied.

C. And of course Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip completely six years ago, yet CNN also acts as if that’s still “occupied,” too. The area lives under a revolutionary Islamist regime dedicated to Israel’s destruction yet supposedly Israel controls it.

But the third item is best. Let me explain. In an article remarking about how we are now told that the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and Syria’s regime, for example, are the good guys protecting everyone from even worse extremists, For example, we have been told for several years that dictator Bashar al-Assad is really a reformer held back by the “old guard.” (The alleged members of this old guard are never named because in fact they don’t exist.

I added this note:

“[PS: I hate to use the most over-used analogy in the world but arguing that Israel should make a deal right away because of the “shifting sands” is like British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain arguing in 1938 that the Czechs better give up the Sudetenland fast before the real radicals take over in Germany or, at least, the current chancellor there gets impatient.]”

Now, it ran through my mind that something like this had actually happened in the 1930s—Western news media presenting Hitler as the relative moderate—but I didn’t have the time to research it. But a clever reader did and found this New York Times article from September 17, 1935:

After Hitler excluded Jews from German citizenship and prohibited marriages between Jews and “Aryans,” (known in history as the Nuremberg laws) the article continued:

“The new laws, while in line with the anti-Semitism which has been a large part of the Fuhrer’s inspiration from the beginning are no doubt to be taken as encouragement to the Radical wing of the party….The best to be said of the new laws is that they may offer German Jewry the process of law in place of arbitrary bullying and local tyranny.”

So there you have it: Hitler was trying to appease the radical Nazis and the Nuremberg laws offered Jews some legal recourse.

Another reader came up with more examples. Here are my two favorites:

1. The Glasgow Herald "Uneasy Germany" August 8, 1932

"Murder, arson, and outrage continue to shatter the internal peace of Germany...[...]...There is no mystery as to the perpetrators of most of the outrages. They are members of Hitler's "Brown Army." Herr Hitler and his more moderate colleagues, while professing that the incidents are the consequence of "Red" provocation, are said to deplore the terrorist tactics of some sections of their followers."

2. Hitler Not Yet Master; 'Strong Men' Still Rule," March 22, 1933 St. Joseph Gazette

"The extreme Nazis have undertaken to drive Jews out of public and commercial life...Goering, at the head of the police and of the extreme Nazi wing, has egged on the attacks.

"But Hindenburg, Papen, the Nationalists and the moderate wing of the Nazis have opposed the campaign and several times this element has compelled Hitler to put restraints on Goering and on his own wild followers.

"The Nazi extremists have not liked this intervention. They may undertake to strike back. Then we shall see some real fireworks."

Truly, when it comes to bad arguments (and New York Times foolishness) there is nothing new under the sun.

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