Turning "balance" into a synonym for amorality.
On Tuesday, CNN's Wolf Blitzer hosted Hamas spokesman Osama Hamden. The week before, Hamdan labeled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "a new image of Hitler" on the network. But now, for some reason, Blitzer stumbled into a random act of journalism: He asked Hamdan about comments he had made suggesting that Jews used Christian blood in matza. Hamdan stumbled around and blamed the Jews for their action in Gaza.
Blitzer called Hamdan's comments an "awful, awful smear."
The very fact that this represented a unique moment in the media coverage of the Israel-Hamas Gaza war demonstrates the malpractice of the media. The first questions on the media's collective tongue should have been: What does Hamas stand for? What are its goals? Why does it use women and children as human shields? Why does it hide military resources in civilian areas?
But that had to wait for a month.
In the meantime, CNN viewers saw an unending stream of dramatic images from Gaza of Palestinian Arab suffering: heavy blasts from Israeli ordinance, screaming women, bleeding children. Every so often, CNN punctuated its coverage with death toll statistics — never mentioning that it received those statistics from the Palestinians themselves, and neglecting to mention the Palestinians' regular practice of classifying dead terrorists as civilians. Then CNN asked questions about Israeli "proportionality" and wondered aloud about whether Israeli strikes were sufficiently "targeted."
If you want to know why the conflict between the dramatically overpowering Israeli military and the sadistically brutal Hamas has continued for weeks, look no further than CNN and its like-minded media brethren.
Hamas' goals in this conflict did not include military victory; Hamas may be evil, but it is not stupid. Its main goal was to shore up its base by achieving small concessions from Israel and Egypt, as well as the Palestinian Authority; those concessions could only be achieved if Israel could be portrayed as an international aggressor against a terror group.
And that's where the media manipulation came in. Hamas placed heavy restrictions on journalists and even threatened them. Hamas put women and children and mentally ill people in harm's way for the cameras, and as a deterrent to Israeli military action.
And the media went right along with it, proclaiming balance all the way. When I was on CNN this week with Alisyn Camerota, she maintained that CNN provided balance by presenting "both sides," to which I responded that presenting both sides in a battle between Hamas and Israel is not balance, but anti-Israel bias. No Western media member would, in 1944, have assumed that balance meant quoting both Winston Churchill and Julius Streicher. To do so would have been to forward propaganda.
But that is precisely what the media have done. They have turned balance into a synonym for amorality. In doing so, they have handed a propaganda victory to evil.
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