I love the end of December when media outlets across the world put out their
year-ender retrospectives. The look back at the past 365 days gives
everyone a last opportunity to remember what the world has been through, and in
2011 the list of major events seems particularly long.
The flip side of
these pieces are the crystal ball predictions of what awaits us in the next
calendar year. I have to admit that I am not a fan of these prophecies, which
more often than not turn out to be wrong. Is there anyone out there who
remembers that at the end of 2010, many predicted that the United States would
leave the stage as the world’s leader?
The problem is that even when stories are
ongoing, the media and the various experts who are trotted out to make forecasts
are often talking out of another part of their mouths. I would like to take a
closer look at three key stories, all of which garnered major coverage in the
Israeli media in 2011 and are prime examples of my point.
1. The Fear
The Netanyahu/Barak plan to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.
October, Yediot Aharonot
, the country’s top Hebrew newspaper, splashed a
headline on the front page of its weekend edition. Loosely translated, it read
“Atomic Pressure” and excerpted a supplement article by Nachum Barnea, widely
considered the top military correspondent in the country.
discussed how Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak might be
planning to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities without the backing of the heads of
security forces and, no less importantly, with zero public
even decided to put in the sub-headline a timeline for
the perhaps- being-planned assault, writing, “Maybe before the winter?”
be clear, the paper didn’t present this as a “teaser” to attract readers to the
article. It was presented as the top news of the day. The actual article did not
cite any names or basic facts needed to corroborate who was saying
The media, the country and even many international news outlets
went crazy with conjecture. Broadcast channels and newspapers dragged out
everyone who could be considered an authority on the issue and analyzed the
story from every angle imaginable for weeks.
The dilemma with Iran hasn’t
really gone away, but before the Barnea story it had been on the back
burner. Was this a clever way to bring the issue to the fore, a warning
to the fanatics in Tehran or something else entirely? One way or another, the
Israeli media failed and gave the story more stock that it deserved.
– The Palestinian strategy to declare a state unilaterally at the
United Nations. For months, the Israeli media discussed the possible scenarios
for the coming September. The floodgates really opened in May, when
protesters from the West Bank, Gaza, and even Lebanon and Syria tried to
infiltrate Israel. It was a good PR stunt by our enemies, and we fell for it.
This, we were told, is what will happen if a Palestinian state is
The media covered all the threats and counter-threats made by
just about everyone. For many people here, it was a time to show just how far we
were willing to go to make sure there would be no Palestinian state under these
So what happened? Nothing. The matter didn’t even
come to a vote at the Security Council. They’re just discussing when the
proposal will be brought up – if ever. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud
Abbas made his hateful speech on the UN floor, which, if anything, took him one
step further from statehood. Netanyahu got up and made his point, trying
to show that despite his right-wing coalition government, Israel was still
open-minded about a Palestinian state and was ready to renew talks the next day.
I don’t know how many actually believed him. I even believe that initially there
was a demand for both parties to get back to the negotiating table by year’s
But we all knew the outcome. The worst-case scenario was an American
veto. US President Barack Obama, as well as congressmen from both parties, said
they would not let the Palestinian move pass. If that was the case, why did the
media waste so much time and energy debating the issue, thereby making it a
bigger story than it really was?
3. The Faux Pas
– The country’s social
protests. In 2011, hundreds of thousands of Israelis took to the streets in the
nation’s biggest protest movement ever, which targeted our lopsided
socioeconomic system. The main targets were the high prices of real estate and
the inequality of the financial burdens on the middle class.
took on a love/hate relationship with the movement. At first, it was dismissed
as a group of left-wing anarchists not worthy of public attention. As the days
went by and the turnout grew, the tune started to change. Many understood that
they had totally misread the playing field. At one point, I felt the
media were starting to back the movement and at the same time trying to bring it
Some journalists chose to pick on some minor point regarding the
leadership and its intent, or constantly ask the question, “Has the effort
petered out yet?” or, “Will the next demonstration be a flop?” Today, however,
the media have now all but buried the movement.
AS I wrote before, I
don’t like to make predictions, but I’m going to take a stab at one, as I think
the media got it wrong once again. The demonstrations might be over for now, but
the concept that was dubbed “social justice” is far from dead. The entire
episode has revealed a source of political power that has been either absent or
I believe that a political party wise enough to tap that
power will get into a position to make some major changes in the national
agenda, instead of continuing the shell game the government is now playing in
its attempt to redistribute a paltry percentage of our taxes.
the influence the media have in democratic countries, one must keep in mind that
while retrospectives are a good thing, events should also be viewed in the
context of how they were covered and what information was
disseminated. The press almost always reacts, but often it overreacts.
That has a strong impact on the perceived importance of a story. I’m sure we’ll
be seeing many similar examples in 2012.The writer is an independent
media consultant and a former producer at the Fox News Channel in New