Monday, September 19, 2005

If there is only chaff...

Acknowledging priority to Little Green Footballs for the link, Mudville Gazette, and Wretchard at The Belmont Club provide a hook-up to a site (Second Draft) which offers footage shot by Palestinians last year, from which many Western News Media selected bits to present as "news" to include in their broadcast reporting of events. The website provides extensive raw footage, which it invites you to download and examine to determine to your own satisfaction whether the events were staged, fabricated, managed, or least generously, "faked" by Palestinians.

With a sense that the author probably spent a lot of effort pruning this introduction to the site, I'm including it verbatim, rather than attempting to paraphrase:

“Welcome to the home page of The Second Draft. This website is devoted to exploring some of the problems and issues that plague modern journalism. In this age of globalization, the media has unprecedented influence on the way we see the world. And yet, whether out of misplaced good intentions, unconscious agendas and predispositions, or unwarranted faith in false information, they can get the story dramatically wrong. Therefore, we want to revisit and ‘first draft of history’, and hopefully produce a more accurate second one. In our current investigations [link omitted] we present the story the way the mainstream media initially told it, introduce further evidence, and let you decide what you think really happened. We have designed an interactive site. We have talk-backs and a forum so that you have the option to engage in a larger web discussion as well as respond to specific pages or articles. We also welcome your submissions for future investigations. We encourage you to explore this site. Our hope is that, even if you do not agree with our conclusions, you will begin to think more critically and independently about the media in the future.”

Several hours later I'm still waiting for the download of the unedited footage to finish — I only have a dial-up connection. This powerfully underscores the problem most of us face in evaluating the news stories that are daily presented to us. How do we BEGIN the task of confirming ANY single news item, much less the totality of our news sources? I have a reasonably advanced computer, but I just can't justify a high-speed connection, which severely restricts the mass of data I can download, regardless of the computer's ability to process. This is true for most folks, even as dramatically as online technologies have changed.

Thousands of years ago, gold was already recognized for its unique resistance to corrosion. The ancients likewise had learned there are many alloys that only *look* like gold. How could they determine whether the goblet they wished to trade for their five ewes was real gold, or false? Well, from Lydia, the land we now know as Turkey, came the knowledge that a certain sort of velvety black stone would show a streak when stroked even lightly by a golden object, and the color of that mark was determined by the purity of the gold. The Lydian Stone has given us the term "touchstone."

There no longer seems to be any sort of touchstone or standard of purity for mainstream journalism.

The New York Times was regarded as a rock of rectitude in reporting when I was a kid. Administrations, heroes, celebrities, popes, kings, presidents, calamitous thugs, and princes could stride across the stage of history, and the NYT would step aside from human bias, cheap politics, and crass self-interest to report things as they happened, without adornment or distortion.

What a load of dingos’ kidneys.

For once, I won't drag out the boring details of my experience to klop you readers over the head with what an exciting and worthwhile life I've lead. I'll save that for many other posts. For now it's enough to say you don't have to be a genius of the age to witness an event, then the next morning read an unrecognizable description of that event in a highly-reputable rag like the New York Times, to grasp that you can NOT depend on journalists to accurately report what happens. I wonder how many people grow up without having that experience, though, because it seems to me that a lot of Americans still have the same unjustifiable reverence for journalists that the Chinese peasants at the time of the Boxer Rebellion were described as having for the printed word.

By accounts, they were indoctrinated to regard the words of posters, placards, and proclamations as magic, infallible, inarguable wisdom. Didn't seem to occur to them that some human being had been trained to dip a brush in paint and scrawl those ideographs onto the rice paper banners... Well, look at us ultra-sophisticated sheep of the early 21st century. How many times have you had to help someone behind a fast-food counter figure out correct change for your burger and fries ransom? If you take e-mail messages as any index of the state of American literacy, you know we are in the process of reverting to apes. You'll be more wretched if you actually allow yourself to pay attention to what currently passes for advertising, because you know that a pots of money have been spent on testing and retesting focus groups to be CERTAIN that the target audiences will respond favorably to the sewage being spewed at them from the telly.

You can hardly blame the alleged news media for concluding we consumers of their product have no regard for truth. Still, America has a kernel of decency yet unpopped despite all the flames. There are emptors who yet caveat, and the internet is helping them do so. The saddest thing about the Western News Media serving as willing accomplices to faked Palestinian stories, is that there is a deep well of sympathy for the misery of the Palestinians. Americans have no desire to see the Palestinian people living in squalor and desparation, and the horror of their lives is NOT solely the result of Israeli policies. Some of the neighboring Arab dictatorships have routinely have slaughtered their own citizens over the decades of the last century to keep them in line. Those neighbors bear much of the responsiblity for aggravating and extending the suffering of the Palestinian Arabs, because they persist in cynically exploiting them rather than offering solutions.

The staggering wealth that has flowed from the sale of oil into the coffers of the various Arab dictators and thugs, has created a wonderful legacy of palaces, titanic statues of heroically posed bronze portraits of those thugs, private brothels, hunting lodges, mansions, torture chambers, prisons, work-houses, estates and retreats to be enjoyed while bodyguards practice with high-tech weapons and vehicles. The Arab world is awash in lucre, but it is in the hands of the vicious thugs who rape and murder their own people to keep them subservient. Of the Muslim countries around the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf, only a handful have governments which allow participation of the general populace. The rest are almost without exception harshly repressive authoritarian regimes, headed by tiny groups hoarding vast wealth and telling their people their suffering is the fault of Israel and the U.S.

Leftists of the world and the United States seem to have a very different sense of the function of journalism than do we in the unsophisticated hinterlands. If they actually gave a shit about the plight of the Palestinians, they could begin to alleviate the situation by simply showing conditions as they are, without embellishment. Instead, the left is obsessed with bringing Amerikkka low by any means, and the Palestinian cause is to them just one more brick to throw at our heads. Lies are much easier to manufacture than actual events. You can budget them, script them, go forth and get grants to produce them. No inconvenient wasted time waiting for an unreliable Israeli to come out and fire on a crowd of extras. And everybody in the crowd scenes gets a copy of the DVD for their relatives.

Americans can see through a great deal of politically-slanted narration to grasp in the fullness of time the underlying truth. (Look how many who blasted Bush for Katrina are reversing field and now grudgingly admitting that much good was done.) But their sympathy depends a great deal on having a trust that they are being given the chance to actually see something that is true, not staged, not fabricated, not faked. That trust is not inexhaustible. It is squandered by sneering, arrogant News Reader Celebrities attempting to fob off lies as truth.


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