Are the ways most media report and discuss the Israeli-Palestinian war making the crisis worse? Do accusations of media bias push people farther apart? How can news stories help bring about peace? The MediaChannel offers a compendium of news features and essays.
War / Peace
In an intriguing essay, "Oxblood Ruffin" of the Cult of the Dead Cow (an internet hackers' group) examines the struggle between political "hacktivism" and government efforts to censor the Internet. "There's an international book burning in progress; the surveillance cameras are rolling; and the water canons are drowning freedom of assembly," he writes. "But it's not occurring anywhere that television can broadcast to the world. It's happening in cyberspace. ...
"The Israeli assault on the West Bank town of Jenin has produced dramatically different media accounts," says Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz. "The British press is playing it as a massacre, while American newspapers say there's no such evidence.
"Every Arab is watching this closely," says an Egyptian attorney who, like his neighbors, has been glued to the television in horror watching the Israeli military offensive in the Palestinian territories. "It may be worse for us even than Sept. 11 was for you - because it goes on and on," he says. "Every time you turn on the television, it's as though you were watching someone beat you." According to the New York Times, the story's impact in the Muslim world is comparable "to the way television news reports from the Vietnam War shook Americans in the 1960s.
"Something very bad has been taking place in the relationship between the Israel Defense Forces and the media in recent days," says Amos Harel, a correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz. Harel is critical of the IDF's exclusion of journalists from its war zones in the West Bank, but is skeptical of reports that the restrictions were intended to cover up a massacre.
Israeli troops are still denying foreign reporters access to the Jenin refugee camp, amid reports that they are burying bodies in mass graves, but Israel "cannot bury the terrible crime it has committed: a slaughter in which Palestinian civilians were cut down alongside the armed defenders of the ca
"A journey through the TV and radio channels and the pages of the newspapers exposes a huge and embarrassing gap between what is reported to us and what is seen, heard, and read in the world - not only in the commentaries and analytical pieces, but also in the reporting of the dry facts," writes Aviv Lavie in the Israeli newspapeer Ha'aretz.
"As Israelis and Palestinians ratchet up the violence, dimming prospects for Middle East peace, their supporters in the United States are conducting an ever more frenetic public relations battle," reports Reuters correspondent Christian Wiessner. But Palestinians trying to win support for their side in the U.S.
"Wars often have had a profound impact on journalism," writes former journalism professor Betty Medsger. For example, the trend toward "news as entertainment" began with the war in the Persian Gulf in early 1991 when "the military, prepared by its 1980's marketing classes in how to sell a war, set new restrictions and higher levels of censorship that guaranteed coverage would be controlled by the military." That trend continues today, as "marketing practices honed by the Pentagon in the brief Gulf War now seem to be the standard M.O.
Today's Republican Party demonizes any criticism of President Bush on the grounds that it will "undermine the war effort," and journalists like Tom Gutting are learning the hard way that they can be fired if they question the president's leadership. Yet one of the GOP's most influential forebears, presidential nominee Thomas Dewey, openly criticized Franklin Roosevelt at the peak of the war against fascism.