Media Comment: Our wise sages

A society should be judged by the stature and relevance of its sages. But what should be done when such people are lacking?

Yair Lapid 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Yair Lapid 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The politician was blunt in his critical review of the behavior of the media. In a recent speech he said, “No wonder that faith in our institutions has never been lower, particularly when good news doesn’t get the same kind of ratings as bad news anymore... every day you receive a steady stream of sensationalism and scandal and stories with a message that suggest change isn’t possible; that you can’t make a difference; that you won’t be able to close that gap between life as it is and life as you want it to be. My job today is to tell you don’t believe it.... See, the question is not whether things will get better – they always do. The question is not whether we’ve got the solutions to our challenges – we’ve had them within our grasp for quite some time.”
No, that was not a quotation from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu deflating the sharp media attack on his recent “elections - yes, elections - no” episode, the formation of a new coalition with a man who called him a liar, defending his Iran policy or his commitment for the continued residency of Jews in Judea and Samaria. Those were the words of US President Barack Obama in a commencement speech before the students graduating from the all-girls Barnard College in New York City on May 14.
Such a message does not manage to get absorbed by our media. Dalia Mazor, at the age of 62, has a long media history in Israel. She received her first training as a soldier at the army radio station – Galatz. In 1969, she started work as an anchor at the Israel Broadcasting Authority’s Channel 1 TV station.
For a period of 13 years, she was the main anchorperson of the daily IBA news program, at a time when it still had very high ratings.
She retired from the IBA a year ago and since then serves as an anchor on Channel 2’s New Day morning program. One might think that as a veteran with so much experience, Mazor would be the model of what we media consumers expect a professional and ethical media personality to be. But no, after so many years of involvement, she simply felt, it seems, that she could express herself however she wished. On May 6, in the wake of a question on the issue of new elections and the polls favoring the Likud leader, she had this to say: “It is sad that Netanyahu will be reelected.”
Eitan Lifshitz is another one of our “wise leaders.”
He has a Friday morning program on Galatz in which he reviews the news of the week. Last Friday he had some profound advice for our politicians: “If a solution is not found for the [Bet-El] Ulpana Hill neighbor - hood one should destroy their homes with their residents.”
No, he did not mean to literally eliminate them, only to treat them like the Gush Katif residents, that is, expel them from their houses. What happens to them after the expulsion is of no further interest.
Yaron London is a media icon, today, a Channel 10 presenter. As also reported in The Jerusalem Post, he has taken it upon himself to provide the just solution to the “haredi problem.” This is what he had to say in an op-ed article in Yediot Aharonot on May 7: “Has the time not arrived in which we should express what lies on our heart? Haredism educates to parasitism and encourages poverty. It is the strongest of purveyors of ignorance, pre-conceived notions and other stupidities.”
Esti Perez is one of the mainstays of Radio Kol Yisrael’s Reshet Bet news programs. One of her specialties seems to be youth education. Last December, in a ceremony in Lydda, Arab youths did not rise in honor of President Shimon Peres. In reaction to a complaint of the Bnei Akiva youth movement on the issue, Perez said, “Perhaps it is a bit exaggerated to ruin all the relationship just because someone did or did not rise for the president.”
As we all know so well, our politicians are redundant.
All that our democracy really needs are our media darlings. Anat Davidov, also of Reshet Bet, let us know exactly what she thinks about the recent spate of suggested laws aimed at reducing the powers of the Supreme Court: “Anti-democratic legislation.”
She was not the only one, by any means. Jonathan Rieger of TV Channel 2 news termed them “anti-civil legislation.”
One of the most interesting aspects of our media sages is the terrible seriousness with which they take themselves. A year ago, Yair Lapid, before he went out of the box had this to say of himself in an article in Yediot: “It is true that I am not a left winger, but you must admit that it is a bit strange that in all my 30 years [as a journalist] no one has even tried to hint against or for whom I should write.”
A society should be judged by the stature and relevance of its sages. But what should be done when such people are lacking? Well, the speech we quoted from at the beginning of this article contained some very good suggestions from President Obama: “So don’t accept somebody else’s construction of the way things ought to be. It’s up to you to right wrongs. It’s up to you to point out injustice. It’s up to you to hold the system accountable and sometimes upend it entirely. It’s up to you to stand up and to be heard, to write and to lobby, to march, to organize, to vote. Don’t be content to just sit back and watch.”
Our media “sages” would shut up if we the public would clarify to them that we are not interested in their opinions. We would add that our true sages have this advice : “Wise people, be careful with what you say,” and especially, “Silence is appropriate for people of wisdom.”
The authors are, respectively, vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch.