MEDIA COMMENT: Misdirecting the news

Iran lied; OK but precisely about what?

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu
In the liberal Politico magazine, on April 26, Tim Alberta observed of the 30-year effort by American conservatives to prove media bias that, “It’s no secret that the majority of journalists working in national newsrooms are left-ofcenter, at least culturally. Few of them own guns, for instance, or attend church every Sunday.”
Nevertheless, he couldn’t restrain himself, pompously adding, “But most of the reporters at respected, mainstream outlets check their worldviews at the door when covering the news and strive for impartiality.”
That remains to be proven.
For example, consider the reaction both here in Israel as well as abroad to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s presentation of the Iranian files coup. Whether analyzing media reports or how the media is directing and managing the reactions of persons being interviewed, one finds an obvious effort to minimize and basically pooh-pooh what Israel revealed. The story’s focus was moved from Iran’s duplicity to the persona of Netanyahu.
Ma’ariv’s Kalman Liebskind quipped, “The Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Israel’s media have a shared enemy: Netanyahu.”
One especially blatant example was evident at US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s in-flight press conference as he was leaving Israel.
Pompeo pointed out that “we now know that they continued to store this material in an orderly fashion for some purpose – right? They kept the documents for a reason, and one can speculate as to why... [they] chose to store in secret and hide these documents.”
So what does a reporter ask? The unnamed journalist, according to the transcript, suggested, “Historical record?” and added, “you’re not willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that they don’t want to destroy their history.”
Pompeo cut him off: “The world can decide if this was for the Iranian museum that they – that they decided to hang onto it. (Laughter).”
The former American diplomat Aaron David Miller “went dark” to influence the story line, tweeting: “my head’s still exploding re: Bibi’s pitch which makes the Roadrunner cartoon bomb shtick pale in comparison.
Iran lied; OK but precisely about what? Who’s gonna read 100,000 files to find out?” He then added, conspiratorially, “How long has Israel been sitting on this?,” ignoring Netanyahu saying in his presentation that “the information was obtained within the past 10 days.”
Outlandish views were being echo-chambered, such as those of Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institution, who was quoted saying “nothing that Netanyahu has said undercuts the rationale for the [Iran deal].”
The beating of media tom-toms to get the masses dancing in a trance was obvious in Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer’s reference to the story. He wrote in The London Times the day after: “What Mr. Netanyahu delivered...was less than earth-shattering.”
And in Haaretz, Pfeffer claimed that what Netanyahu presented “wasn’t a smoking gun but a photograph of a smoking gun taken years ago,” ignoring what Netanyahu actually explained.
Barak Ravid from Israel’s TV Channel 10 also downplayed the event, tweeting “...the data wasn’t new and interesting but for those who appreciate the [spy] genre...
Begin bombed Iraq and Olmert bombed Syria. Netanyahu continues bombing with speeches.”
Ravid, in his old age, might have an impaired memory, but we note that Netanyahu’s government has more than once, even openly, ordered bombings in Syria to prevent weapons from reaching the Hezbollah, or lately, to counter Iranian presence in Syria.
Orit Galili-Zucker, a far-left former media adviser to Netanyahu, tweeted that he’s “one of the biggest liers [sic] in the world who’s saying Iran is lying and that’s a macabre joke on brainwashed uneducated citizens.”
Raoul Wootliff of The Times of Israel characterized Netanyahu’s speech as preceded by a “hyperbolic and fear-mongering build up.” Haaretz’s Chemi Shalev spun it this way: “The prime minister risks casting himself as pushing for a U.S.-Iranian confrontation just as he did with Saddam Hussein in 2002.” In other words, since there were no nuclear armaments then, there are none now.
The media message: Netanyahu Lied.
Shalev added that the operation was “a blatant play to domestic public opinion.”
The media message: Netanyahu is a Megalomaniac.
Amir Oren, now at Walla after leaving Haaretz, described the event as “Netanyahu’s Show of Illusions” during which he revealed “old and dusty documents... nothing new.”
He added that “the only thing that interests him [Netanyahu] is delaying the criminal probe against him.”
We are reminded of the media accusing Menachem Begin over the bombing of Osirak in 1982 of possibly sacrificing IAF pilots’ lives just to win the election that month.
Humor also served the media to depreciate what the Mossad had accomplished.
Amy Spiro, writing in this newspaper on May 1, noted that Amichai Stern, the tech and foreign affairs correspondent of Kan, the Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation, posted a photoshopped image of Netanyahu hawking goods on Israel’s shopping network. Jokes quickly spread. The police were opening yet another criminal probe against Netanyahu, this time for the theft of Iranian files. Another was that Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev had decided to submit the film recording to the Academy Awards in the category of Short Documentary.
Indeed, many reports highlighted the aspect of a “good show,” one that was “dramatic.” Content was quickly relegated to second place and claims that Iran was actually fulfilling the terms of the deal US President Barack Obama had negotiated were given prominence.
Incidentally, and worthy of more extensive treatment, is the phenomenon of journalists expressing themselves quite freely and without normative ethical restraints on Twitter and Telegram. The practice clearly demonstrates that there is a major problem when it comes to the ability of the public to obtain professional-quality media content.
Almost none of the senior pundits we reviewed raised the point that the total lack of on-site inspections of Iranian installations dovetails with Israel’s claim that Iran was lying or that, as Caroline Glick noted lasted Friday, the storing of the materials was a breach of Article T82 of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the “Iran deal” Dr. Haim Shine observed in Israel Hayom that “Mockery backfires on the media” and that a for ”group of well-known Israeli broadcasters, media pundits and political figures... their hatred of Netanyahu, the ‘Bibiphobia Syndrome,’ throws off their judgment, overpowering their love of country and their concern for its future and security.”
To be fair to Haaretz, last Friday, IMW awardee for excellence in economic reporting Nehemia Strassler wrote: “Might it be that Netanyahu is right? A new accord is needed, one that will prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons forever.
Our survival depends on it.”
This inserting of journalists, themselves as well as their biased opinions, into their reporting, is part of what Kelly Jane Torrance published in the conservative Weekly Standard on April 27: “There’s nothing the media love more than a story about themselves and if it isn’t about them, they’ll make it so.”
Using disparaging terms, casting doubt where there is none, quoting interested parties and providing less-than-necessary information to prevent media consumers from making informed decisions is not only unethical, but should be criminal.
The authors are members of Israel’s Media Watch. (