From horrendous headlines to content made of blather, the media remain unrelentingly anti-Semitic, hence unrelentingly anti-Israel. It’s not so much an “Arab Spring” or the Palestinian Movement’s proposed UN do-se-do, in September, with which we have to be concerned, but with sloppy reporting and with sloppy consumption of those ideas that are given over.
In no small part, it is by dint of questionable witnessing that our enemies have experienced many successes in whittling away our land and in otherwise denuding our heritage. Consider the lack of careful reporting on the Itamar massacre. Consider the world’s focus not on the actual murders near Eilat, but on the probable loss of material goods in Washington and in New York.
The “proper”'' roles for government and for media get muddled time and again as heads of state look for election gold and as heads of broadcast agencies look for gold, for silver, and for other sources of revenue. Although Israel remains democracy’s best Middle Eastern ally, leaders seem willing to cash in on the immediate gratification of an uninterrupted flow of oil or on the ability to place correspondents in risky regions over the proprieties of truth, of justice and of an authentic way of doing business.
Per the former, many mighty nations have asked Israel to defer defending itself as well as have asked Israel to cede components of her sovereignty. They admit publically that they care more for their pockets and less for the Jewish homeland. Often those ill-advised political deeds and the motives behind them go unreported in the media.
Per the latter, just as Sino fashion, food and folklore became popular during the Nixon administration, in no small part as a means of retooling common thought about specific international relations, these days, Arab fashion, food and folklore have become the frenzied choice of the media. It’s not accidental that, for example, The New York Times, over the last decade, has featured more Arab-friendly language and images on its front page than it had in all of the previous decades combined or that the publication has engaged in increasingly egregious acts of Jew bashing. Likewise it ought to surprise no one that for several seasons the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has co-opted Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books about family values, about love, about friendship, and about faith, presenting them as an ethical mash known as Little Mosque on the Prairie (more on this particular aberration in another blog posting).
As long as it’s lucrative and trendy to use media channels to wallop Israel, few media gatekeepers or the agencies that observe them, will protest the newest wave of bias account giving. This dilemma, moreover, leads to a second problem; few citizens question the pabulum fed to them by news outlets.
Consequently, politicians that are rabidly hostile to Jewish needs get reelected and public sources of information that glower with anti-Semitism get reified for irresponsible communication. Pack journalism, questionable media research, and biased reporting, i.e. unethical media practices, get intertwined with motives of government and of publics in such a way as that they shore up the additional problems of unethical international policy and of unethical citizen responses to global issues.
It seems as though no one cares any longer about the confusion of “proper” notions of policy and freedom with inflated ones. The passing on of news and of other information continues to degenerate. People assimilate more and more balderdash.
However, even if other nations are willing to allow their social and moral duties to slide, we can not afford such indolence. Halakah forbids us from relying on miracles. Just as the Temple will not fall from the sky and we have to help build it, we can not and ought not to wait for benevolent social channels to speak well of our land and of our people.
Beyond groups like the Jewish Internet Defense Force and Hasbara, it behooves us to back or, better yet, to actively participate in, small and large efforts to disseminate favorable information about Jews and about our mother country, Israel. As Alvin H. Rosenfeld, Director, Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Irving M. Glazer Chair in Jewish Studies, Indiana University, Bloomington, suggests in “Rhetorical Violence and the Jews: Critical Distance,” “[l]anguage matters, and its contamination by thoughtless or malicious people can be invidious.”
By placing our thoughts front and center in the world media, we can start to reclaim what is rightfully ours. It is far more important, after all, that we assume our duty in describing “Israel,” and in delineating “Jewishness” than that we make sure that the price of gasoline remains relatively “affordable” for privileged others who want to simultaneously power three family cars, than foreign governments’ fat cats can once more claim seats of power or than media chiefs can impact the masses through unfavorable coverage. Even if the international presses remain in a phubar state, we can rhetorically guard our holy land.