Suggestive Journalism

Journalism can be simply a business, egging on its subjects so that it can make money, or fame, out of the resulting developments.

Oprah Winfrey poses backstage with her Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 75th Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, California, last week (photo credit: REUTERS/LUCY NICHOLSON)
Oprah Winfrey poses backstage with her Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 75th Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, California, last week
At last week’s Golden Globes Awards ceremony, Oprah Winfrey noted a phrase heard repeatedly this past year: “We know the press is under siege these days.” Of course, that should work both ways; politicians in multiple countries also feel besieged.
The real difference between the two groups is that the media a priori assume that it is only the siege they feel threatened by which is the evil one.
They claim that it’s the job of the press to be the “watchdog of the people,” so any criticism against them is illegitimate. The latent suggestion is that morality and ethics are possessed solely by journalists, editors and owners of newspapers, radio stations and broadcast studios. In contrast, the politician is considered guilty until the press declares otherwise.
Usually, the adjective “suggestive” implies more often than not something sexual and/ or indecent. We, however, wish to apply the term to a category of unethical journalism.
Suggestopedia is a holistic model of learning and teaching developed in 1978 by Bulgarian psychiatrist and educator Dr. Georgi Lozanov. He intended it in the sense that positive suggestion would make the learner more receptive and, in turn, stimulate learning.
A relaxed but focused state is the best learning environment. To create this relaxed state in the student and to promote positive suggestion, suggestopedia makes use of music, a comfortable and relaxing environment, almost a memorization séance.
In the media, music is replaced by noise.
Media noise is created in many different ways.
A prime example is the leaked-for-money audio tapes of the probably inebriated “me Rambo” ramblings of Yair Netanyahu, son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
He offered to fix up his friend with his then-girlfriend to pay off his debts, threatened to murder the bodyguard and bragged that his dad had just arranged for his friend’s dad a $20 billion oil-field deal.
We need go no further than to Janet Aviad’s letter to the editor published Wednesday a week ago in Haaretz. Dr. Aviad, a founding member of Peace Now, who cannot be suspected of being a Netanyahu supporter, was appalled by the airing of the tape and the subsequent newspaper tom-tomming of its contents. This was “unfit to print,” she wrote, adding, “shame on the media... you are losing your credibility.”
Why was it that the media avoided the real news item in this affair? The media, which poses as in principle anti-government, or at least extremely suspicious of it, claims that it is the institution that is able to stand up to power and speak the truth, or report it. Any truly professional and ethical editor would have been interested more in the following questions: did a Shin Bet (Israeli Security Agency) agent record Yair? And if so, did he do it legally? Does the Shin Bet have other tapes? And more importantly, if yes, where are they and are they to be used as a future “deep government” blackmailing sting? This is the true story, not the silly ramblings of a drunken young man.
US President Donald Trump’s announcement that UNRWA, which funds Gaza’s “refugees”, might not be receiving American donations as it did previously made some news here. But where have the mainstream media been for the past decade and more? The careful research of especially David Bedein regarding educational materials from schoolbooks as well as video clips of UNRWA “teachers” who are poisoning the minds of Gazan children have not merited media coverage commensurate with its news value.
To be sure, pictures of Hamas-run summer camps which engage in military-style training of future terrorists have received broad exposure. The link, however, between UNRWA and the Gaza reality has remained at best in the background. The only exceptions came when UNRWA installations were damaged by Israel counter-terrorism strikes and even then, the issue of cessation of funding was not mentioned. This was but another example of the media suppressing an important issue.
On December 28, the media informed us that 63 teenagers, on the eve of their induction into the IDF, signed a letter in which they asserted that “the military carries out a racist government policy that violates basic human rights...We therefore have decided not to participate in the occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people.”
Many similar letters have been published over the years, starting with the 1970 “Shministim” (high school seniors) letter expressing the same ideological position.
This recent letter merited coverage in all the media. A letter signed by 1,500 youths and addressed to Prime Minister Netanyahu asking that he not permit the planned destruction of houses in the community of Netiv Ha’avot was also sent this past week. Did it garner publicity? Not really, and certainly not in any proportion to the left-wing letter.
In late November, reservist comrades of a soldier who lives in Netiv Ha’avot and whose carpentry was then to be destroyed signed a letter of support. That, to be fair, did make it into some news sites.
But the media’s selectivity in creating the agenda in these cases basically suggested to the media consumer that the opposition to “occupation” is more prevalent and important than support for Jews residing in Judea and Samaria. This is but another example of unethical, suggestive journalism.
George Monbiot, in his Guardian column of January 10, writes “that a healthy media organization, like a healthy university, should admit a diversity of opinion... should also seek opposing views and publish them too, however uncomfortable this might be...
newspapers that claim to be so incensed about no-platforming are not above seeking to deny people a platform.”
This viewpoint is not prevalent within the Israeli media.
In an article we referred to at the time, titled “The unbearable smugness of the press” and published on November 10, 2016, on the CBS News site, Will Rahn, politics editor for CBS News Digital, lashed out at the media behavior we observe in Israel: “There’s a place for opinionated journalism; in fact, it’s vital. But our casual, profession-wide smugness and protestations of superiority are making us unable to do it well.”
We opened with Oprah Winfrey and we’ll conclude with her.
Last Wednesday, Dutch political scientist Cas Mudde, an associate professor at the University of Georgia, published his thoughts on Winfrey’s media-driven candidacy for office in the Guardian. He noted how it had “become the dominant narrative in the media, which function as the megaphone of the most radical politicians, while ignoring the fewer and fewer remaining moderates.”
He pointed a finger at journalists who “want loud and outspoken politicians of ‘opposite camps’ [and at] the same time, they will decry this [polarization], dismiss politicians, and fan the interest in political outsiders who can ‘save’ the system.”
That, too, is suggestive journalism at work.
And it resonates with the biblical story in 2 Samuel 2:14, when Avner says to Yoav, “Let the young men arise and compete before us.” Journalism can also be simply a business, egging on its subjects so that it can make money, or fame, out of the resulting developments. It should not try to claim the moral high ground.
The authors are members of Israel’s Media.