Walter Lippman noted in his 1922 book Public Opinion that the media helps its
consumers understand the links between news events and why they could be
critical. In 1963, Bernard Cohen famously observed that the press “may not be
successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is
stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about.”
viewed writers, editors and publishers as drawing maps for their consumers, and
the danger was in getting lost. Drs. McCombs and Shaw added the
agenda-setting concept – the more frequently an item is repeated and the more
prominent the coverage it receives, the more important audiences will regard the
issue to be regardless of its true value.
There is another important
concept, especially prominent in Israel’s media; the use of language. Society is
influenced not only by the language used by the media, but more so by the
language it isn’t “authorized” to use.
For example, on June 17, Ynet
carried the headline, “Youngsters [na’arim in the Hebrew] ignited a blaze, 14
soldiers injured at an Army base.”
Are these “youngsters” kids? Or
perhaps teenagers, or even young men? Could they be Jewish? If so, were they
haredim, or crocheted- skullcap wearers, or secular? Or maybe they were
Christian? Journalistic ethics dictates that ethnic labeling is to be avoided,
and Ynet justifiably did not use an ethnic headline.
On the other hand,
the story continues, we learn from the firefighting unit’s spokesperson that
between June 1 and June 16, 284 fires had been deliberately set in periphery
neighborhoods such as Har Homa, Arnona and Armon HaNatziv.
What could be
behind these torchings? Is it pyromaniacs or anti-state elements? Why does Ynet
does not find it necessary to consider the possible motivations for such crimes?
Did the Ynet reporter ignore his investigative training and simply not ask the
spokesman? Or perhaps the perpetrators are not “price tag” activists, so that it
would be embarrassing to actually disclose what really motivates such acts? Or
did he ask the question and his editor spiked that portion? Why exclude the
possibility of a nationalist-inspired crime? And now we have experienced fires
set near Lifta and Motza near Jerusalem.
THE BLOGGER “Elder of Zion”
posted a critique of what he thought was a similar language manipulation on June
15, but by foreign media. It had been reported in Haaretz that after
altercations broke out between Sudanese migrants living in the town of Kfar
Manda and the local population, that a hundred of the migrants agreed to move
In fact, 15 persons were injured in the fracas when noise,
coming from an adjacent apartment, caused violent altercations to break out
between dozens of locals and the African migrants. The townsfolk reportedly even
chanted “clear out the foreigners” according to Ynet
Language-primed media consumers would assume the location was
another center like the south Tel Aviv area where riots had broken out a few
days previously. After all, that is the agenda item. That is the box of
comprehension to which we have been sensitized.
In this case, however,
the incident occurred in Kfar Manda, an Arab village in the north of the
country. In reviewing the mainstream media abroad, EOZ couldn’t find any news
about it and surmised that due to the identity of the “locals,” the media
preferred to simply ignore the story. The frame of “Jews being racist” and “Jews
versus blacks” was not to be disturbed and language self-censorship was to be
the tool. To his mind, that actually represented media bigotry.
aspect, more purposefully unethical, is the media language bias when a news
outlet that produces material both in English and Hebrew, as does Haaretz,
alters the information between the two sites. This phenomenon is well-known in
the Middle East but was usually the domain of Arab leaders like Nasser and
Arafat, who said one thing to their own people while providing the West with a
much more palliative version.
It has been adopted now in
One example is the doubt that has arisen over how Haaretz
selectively translated Interior Minister Eli Yishai’s words in a Ma’ariv
interview to make him sound racist. The story’s sub-headline reads: “Interior
Minister says migrants do not recognize that Israel ‘belongs to the white man.’”
However, the quotation is partial. As the original Hebrew has it, the quote
really is: “Most of the people coming here are Muslims who think the land
doesn’t belong to us at all, to the white man. A number of them have said that
openly on television.”
Yishai was quoting what the illegal immigrants had
said, claiming that this was their opinion, that Israel doesn’t belong to the
“white man,” but Haaretz in English implanted a racist spin to his
The first to note, over a decade ago, the serious discrepancies
between the versions of Haaretz was the late Dr. Joseph Lerner. At the time, he
initiated Israel’s Media Watch’s first review of this phenomenon. Today,
Israel’s Media Watch is completing yet another report on Haaretz and its English
The findings indicate simple errors or typos (sloppy editing),
the usage of progressive, post-modernist nomenclature such as “peace activists”
for left-wingers and “militants” for those engaged in terror, mislabeling, such
as “House of Dissension” rather than its official name, or such as
“administrative prisoners” rather than “detainees,” leaving out relevant
information that provides proper context, among others.
Israeli arm of CAMERA, has also been focusing on Haaretz, as well as on Ynet.
Their findings are similar. They noted mistranslation, ignoring of facts, such
as “an injured man” rather than “an injured Palestine Authority security
They have even succeeded in gaining a judgment from the Ethics
Court of the Israel Press Council against Ynet and reporter Elior Levi. The
court’s decision declared that in a video clip that was uploaded to the Ynet web
site “there is a complete contradiction between what is written in the article
and the pictures seen in the video clip. It is a substantive
The paper claimed that a mother had not been allowed to
accompany her child who had been arrested. The video showed that in fact the
mother was request to accompany her son eight times – but refused.
media literacy become a difficult task rather than a celebration of democracy
and freedom of expression?