Smoke and mirrors

By JEREMY RUDEN
December 6, 2010 02:13

Instead of indulging in self-flagellation all weekend – for which there will be plenty of time– couldn’t the media have devoted some moments to emphasizing the positives?

3 minute read.



A firefighting plane over Ein Hod

Water dropping fire fighting plane 311 AP. (photo credit: AP)

Like many Israelis, I was glued to the TV for a good part of the weekend, watching the horrific drama in the Carmel unfold before my eyes. As far as I can remember, it was the first time all three main channels devoted round-theclock coverage to a news event other than a military action of some sort.

Of course, it’s a real challenge to fill up the time. You would think the media outlets would use a portion of the coverage to try to boost the country’s morale and image in the international community. Instead, on top of the reports from the scene and expert opinions, they wallowed in the blame game almost from the beginning. While it is part of the media’s job to seek out those responsible and try to push for concrete steps so there won’t be a repeat scenario, there is a time and place for everything. There will be plenty of time for self-flagellation.

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Here’s an idea: How about being a little creative and trying to make the situation a little better? First and foremost, it was hardly even mentioned that the members of the Prisons Service who burned to death were on their way to evacuate Palestinian prisoners threatened by the fires. There might be some folks in the international community who would be interested in hearing that fact, and it bears repeating.

Secondly, anyone following the story knows that more than a dozen countries sent aid in many shapes and forms at the request of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and our government. Here’s another idea: Why don’t you talk to the teams on the ground or, even better, talk to the people who sent them? Spring for a satellite feed and interview the head of the Russian emergency services. Get a crew down to the Bulgarian embassy and speak to the ambassador. Bring in a diplomatic attaché from any of the countries who assisted. Ask them why they’re here. Let them tell us, and the world, that Israel is a friend and, despite political differences, they believe, as we do, that human life comes above everything else.

HERE’S ANOTHER idea. Ask the prime minister or President Shimon Peres to tape an official thank-you message in English to those countries that came to our aid and air it for the world to see. We are in their debt, and should be publicly grateful. There’s no harm in expressing gratitude.

But there are others in the media who believe that this whole episode is indeed a sign of weakness. These ignorant journalists are beating the drums of our enemies who spread lies and propaganda.

They have already aired their theories on how the country and its leaders are unable to protect their own citizens.

Another half-baked notion is that if we are not prepared for wildfires, how can we be prepared for another military attack, be it from Hizbullah or another enemy? Well here’s a news flash: Both countries and people alike learn the hard way, and it happens in the Western world all the time. Over the past decade, there have been dozens of cases in which local authorities did not have enough equipment to deal with natural disasters including floods, hurricanes, typhoons, earthquakes, fires, tornadoes and tsunamis. In some parts of the world, severe weather conditions are commonplace and yet every year, people lose their lives and damages run in the tens and even hundreds of millions.

Yes, there was a series of blunders which made fighting a fire on this scale almost impossible without help. Yes, heads should, and probably will, roll for those mistakes. But put the outrage aside while there are still people out there risking their lives to save what is left of the Carmel.

There will be plenty of time for journalistic sensationalism. In the meantime, think of something positive to do for the country and its image.

The writer is an independent media consultant, an adjunct lecturer at IDC Herzliya’s School of Communications, and a former producer at the Fox News channel in New York. Jeremy@jeremyruden.com


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