Latma ends pioneering online satirical newscast

By JERUSALEM POST STAFF
August 13, 2013 23:57

Hebrew-language satirical media criticism website is ending its weekly web-based satirical newscast, The Tribal Update, after 200 episodes.




A SCENE from ‘The Tribal Update.’

A SCENE from ‘The Tribal Update 370. (photo credit: (LatmaTV))

Latma, the Hebrew-language satirical media criticism website is ending its weekly web-based satirical newscast, The Tribal Update, after 200 episodes. The show’s cancellation, due to the financial burdens of production, has caused an uproar among its many fans.

Latma was founded in 2009 by Caroline Glick, The Jerusalem Post’s senior contributing editor. Latma, which means “slap” in Hebrew slang, has been a pioneering voice for Israeli public diplomacy and in advancing the public debate in Israel.

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“Latma’s mission,” Glick explained, “is to be a cool, fresh, entertaining voice for Zionism, and for the majority of Israelis who are tired of the leftist elite that use all the power at their disposal to put down the public’s values, attack the legitimacy of the country, and of Israel’s national rights. We’re tired of seeing them pillory and weaken public servants who try to advance these values and these rights.”

For four years without interruption, The Tribal Update, a web-based television program pioneered the field of Zionist entertainment and satire. It developed an unapologetic, Jewish voice, previously unheard in Israeli entertainment or media, in which for the first time, leftist cultural icons were the subject of biting, often hilarious criticism.

The Tribal Update created archetypical characters, like Tawil Fadiha, the Palestinian Minister of Uncontrollable Rage; Halil Majnoun, the Egyptian Minister of Conspiracy Theories; John Zelokoreli, US President Barack Obama’s Adviser for Reality Perception; and Yaniv Googleheimer, the head of the Israeli peace movement, two suicide bombers Jamil and Awad who “do jihad,” and dozens of other characters that will likely go down in the pantheon of Israeli satire.

The Tribal Update was broadcast in Hebrew. Versions with English, French, Russian and German subtitles were regularly produced. In all, it was regularly viewed by hundreds of thousands worldwide.

The Tribal Update first rose to national prominence just months after its initial launch when, in Sweden’s leading newspaper Aftonbladet, published a blood libel accusing IDF forces of killing Palestinians to sell their organs. The Tribal Update produced a musical parody of Abba’s hit song, “Gimme, gimme, gimme (a man after midnight),” referring to the Swedes as cultural fakes who attacked Jews while seeking to appease radical Muslims. The song was the first time an Israeli group used satire to assault anti-Semitic attacks on Israel. It was widely reported in the Swedish and wider European media, all of which expressed amazement at the Israeli initiative.

Over the years, The Tribal Update produced dozens of similar musical hits. The most prominent among them was the show’s first foray into English- language production.

“We Con the World,” a parody of Michael Jackson’s and Lionel Richie’s 1983 hit, “We Are the World.”

“We Con the World,” was produced three days after IDF naval commandos boarded the pro-Hamas ship Mavi Marmara on May 31, 2010. With the support of the Turkish government, the al-Qaida-linked IHH group had set sail for Gaza to provide aid and comfort to Hamas-ruled area. The commandos who boarded were attacked with knives, metal rods and other weapons by the terrorists on the deck of the ship.

Rather than report the facts of the incident, the European, US and international media condemned Israel and portrayed the terror-supporters aboard the ship as peace activists.

“We Con the World,” which depicted the passengers as knife wielding terrorists and hippies was picked up by news organizations worldwide within moments of its launch. It received more than 6 million views, and fundamentally changed the international discourse regarding what happened aboard the ship. It won Latma renown throughout Israel and the Jewish world as the most effective voice for Israeli hasbara, or public diplomacy.

Despite the accolades, no government ministry offered to support Latma’s work or cooperate with the group.

In July 2010 Glick met with Channel 2’s leadership Avi Nir and Ilan de Fries to discuss the prospect of producing The Tribal Update for the station. Yet, according to Glick, rather than hold a discussion, both men attacked at her for criticizing the Israeli media, which they claimed has no leftist bias.

Later in 2010, Israel public television Channel 1 contracted Latma to produce a halfhour pilot program. The pilot was submitted in early 2011.

The professional committees approved it and the production of The Tribal Update as the station’s flagship satire program.

However, negotiations were frozen.

In the subsequent two years, Latma’s program was submitted and approved for broadcast on three additional occasions.

Time after time, it received the approval of the relevant committees at Channel 1, most recently in May 2013. However, to date, Channel 1 has not opened contractual negotiations with Latma.

Now, with Minister Gilad Erdan planning to close Channel 1 altogether, prospects for launch in the foreseeable future appear remote.

“The leadership at Channel 1 has been very positively inclined towards Latma for years,” Glick said, “and over the past year, they led me to believe that it would just be a matter of months until ‘The Tribal Update,’ would be launched in prime time.

“To prepare the show for imminent broadcast, we expanded the cast and the production team, putting in place the staffing construct we would require to move from a 10 minute Internet broadcast to a half hour television show. But so far, despite the promises, we have yet to receive a contract.

In the meantime, the cost has become prohibitive.”

Latma has been funded entirely from contributions to the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s Israel Security Project.

Glick directs the project.

The lion’s share of Latma’s operating budget has gone towards The Tribal Update.

With the cessation of its broadcast, Latma is to continue to function. It is to expand its website’s written reportage, and combine smaller scale, low budget video production with its broader operations as a written platform. These operations are expected to be largely financed by local donors, from funds raised through microfundraising operations on crowd-sourcing web portals. It plans to be raise capital through web advertisements that would be sold on the refurbished website.

Latma is to begin functioning as a for-profit production company, using its considerable skill on a work for hire basis.

“It all comes down to financing,” Glick observed. “My vision for Latma is revolutionary.

I want to replace a socially marginal elite, that does not reflect the nation’s interests or the public’s values with an elite that does reflect them.

“I recognized that the Left’s enduring strength in politics in Israel, despite the public’s utter rejection of its policies and values, owes to its monopolistic control over the media and entertainment industries. To change the face of Israeli politics in a manner that reflects the values and interests of the majority of Israelis, it is necessary to give a voice in the worlds of media and entertainment to the majority.”


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