Saturday, March 12, 2005

RUNNING FROM THE PACK. You don't have to share Bret Stephens's sanguine view of the war in Iraq (I certainly don't) to appreciate what a sharp piece of media criticism this is. From the economic threat supposedly presented by Japan Inc. to what we now understand was the ridiculous notion of Yasser Arafat as peacemaker, Stephens asks why the media's conventional wisdom consistently turns out to be anything but wise.

Stephens writes:

As for the media, it shouldn't be too difficult to do better. Look for the countervailing data. Broaden your list of sources. Beware of exoticizing your subject: If you think that Israelis and Palestinians operate from no higher motive than revenge, you're on the wrong track. Above all, never forget the obvious: that the law of supply and demand operates in Japan, too; that the Soviet Union was a state governed by fear; that Iraqis aren't rooting for their killers; that, if given the chance, people will choose to be free.

5 comments:

Drusca said...

I don't see what you think is so special about Stephens' piece. I'm actually disappointed that you're impressed by it. I find his comments about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to be infuriatingly simplistic and misleading, and probably intentionally so.

First, his events timeline is conveniently blurry/blurred when discussing the faults of the Palestinian leadership.

And talk about idiotic:

"But because the information sat so awkwardly with the central premises of the peace process--namely, that Arafat was committed to peace and that the Palestinian problem was foreign occupation, not domestic tyranny..."

That's kind of like saying that in Iraq the problem is that the Iraqis can't get their act together, not that the U.S. has occupied their country and thrown it into complete chaos.

The only Palestinian victims of Israeli attacks Stephens mentions are "the top ranks of Hamas," while the majority of the victims have been civilians and their numbers far outweigh those of the Israeli victims.
http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2005/03/306065.html

Stephens mentions how "Billions in foreign aid were pumped into the PA...", while not mentioning that the U.S. pumps more money into Israel every year than any other country. Google it yourselves. I don't think Israel could exist without aid from the U.S..

From a 2002 article in The Christian Science Monitor:

"Since 1973, Israel has cost the United States about $1.6 trillion. If divided by today's population, that is more than $5,700 per person."

And regarding the "conventional wisdom" about Arafat's unreliability in the "peace process", in his recent book "The Truth About Camp David" Clayton E. Swisher tells a different story.

A CNN interview with Swisher.

I'm definitely not trying to say the Palestinians are perfect, but it's well known that the coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in this country is not very favorable towards the Palestinians, and tends to portray them as uncivilized savages. As it does most Arabs and Muslims.

Drusca said...

My html tags don't seem to have worked so here are the URLs:

Christian Science Monitor article -
Economist tallies swelling cost of Israel to US
http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/1209/p16s01-wmgn.html

The Truth About Camp David by Clayton E. Swisher
http://www.nationbooks.org/book.mhtml?t=swisher

CNN interview with Clayton E. Swisher
http://www.wanniski.com/showarticle.asp?articleid=3992

AnthonyG said...

Like Andrei, Stephens piece strikes me as pure right-wing pap:

...the media connect the dots between elections in Baghdad and events in Beirut, Cairo and Ramallah, and talk about 1989. It's right that they should do so.

Connecting "democracy" dots between Iraq's sort-of-elections and the assassination-inspired Lebanese opposition rallies (subsequently dwarfed by the massive Hizb Allah rally) is like saying the crowing rooster caused the sun to rise.

Cairo? Please. Just as Kuwait promises every year to allow its women to vote, Mubarak made his latest promise to hold multi-party elections --even as he jails the most popular opposition party leaders (who, BTW, are Islamist Theocrats).

And isn't it odd that Stephens' examples of journalistic myopia don't include the media's blind acceptance of Cold War exaggerations about the Soviet Union's strength, pooh-poohing the AIDS threat in the '80's or fawning over Bush WMD-al-Qaeda-ties propaganda?

Stephens is just engaging in political sophistry to sell his his own ideologically-driven Master Narrative of events as the "correct" one.

If he were honest, he would connect the dots between the West's Cold War support for warlords & dictators and the emergence of global fundamentalist terrorism.

But that would mean admitting Reagan made a colassal error when he gave Saddam biological weapons and nuclear precursors, allowed Saddam to use chemical weapons against Iran, and turned tail in Beirut after the suicide bombing of 240 marines; it would mean admitting Reagan and Bush Sr. blundered by failing to disarm the Afghan Mujahideen (including one Osama bin Laden) whom they trained to fight the Soviets; it would mean blaming Norman Schwarzkopf for authorizing Saddam's generals to fly armed helicopters to massacre rebelling Kurds and Shiites after the Gulf War; it would mean accurately labeling the Saudi's "dictators" --just like Saddam-- and not "Royals."

Surely Stephens' contribution to Official Revisionism would have impressed Stalin.

Anonymous said...

Frankly, I find it offensive that Stephens and his big media colleagues are ignoring what's happened to the innocent civilians of Fallujia (not the insurgents). A city of 300,000 people was pretty much leveled by the US assault, and tens of thousands of survivors remain displaced in makeshift tent camps in the surrounding wilderness. The traumatized children from here will be ripe recruits for the next generation of suicide bombers and al Qaeda fanatics. But the media 'professionals' are too busy cheerleading the occupation to even notice. As Yogi Berra said, "It's Deja Vu all over again."

C. Friel
Boston, MA

Anonymous said...

To poster C. Friel,

The website aljazeera.com (not the famous Al Jazeera)
updates Fallujah here, repeating claims that chemical weapons and cluster bombs were used.

Prof. Juan Cole also posts here on the MSM silence on Fallujah. Cole also has a post today on the white male dominance of Blog in which he cites several interesting blogs by women, muslims and other middle-easterners.

Nelson, Roslindale