Friday, September 29, 2006

Media War II

One of my favorite blogs is Crossroads Arabia. Its author is John Burgess, a retired U.S. diplomat with extensive experience, mostly in Saudi Arabia. His choices of tidbits from the Arab press, along with his commentary, are windows to cultures mostly unknown to Jewish Americans.

Today he chooses an article from Arab News about a recently concluded forum titled "In God's Name" sponsored by The Clinton Global Initiative. [Actually, it appears to have been a CNN Pipeline discussion on September 20th, no link available.]

What held the reporter's attention was the spectacle of Shimon Peres being grilled for "Israel's human rights abuses". The reporter was impressed that Peres did not shrink, rant, or interrupt when confronted by such accusations, but that he calmly waited until it was his turn to respond, whereupon "his artful Oscar-winning performance" won the crowd "in spite of all the facts statistics and odds so neatly and logically stacked up against him by the other more glamorous participants". The Arab representatives speaking there, whom she characterizes as "some of the best we have" were, it seems, mere bitter complainers and "no one likes people who whine and complain."

The reporter then argues that Arabs failed in the comparison as Jews didn't whine because "they were too busy educating themselves, working hard and buying up those very media institutions that are now allowing them to influence the world. They counteracted systematic campaigns of disinformation by spreading their own information...[and] turned the situation around making sure that everyone in the region danced to their tune."

Essentially, this article endorses the view that Arabs or Muslims should concentrate on increasing their appeal to and control of Western media, as The Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) urged earlier this month.

Note the open acknowledgement that Jews are counteracting disinformation. I pointed out that:
Regardless of the presence of Jews in the newsroom, if there was a "Jewish" agenda controlling the Western press, wouldn't Israel and Jews worldwide would be portrayed far more favorably? However, organizations like AP Television News Middle East Services provide "customized" - that is to say, censored or restricted distribution - news to their Middle East "clients" via "dedicated Arabic-speaking production teams." APTN-MES probably controls a substantial fraction of the worldwide distribution of APTN images and video reporting from the Middle East. How likely is it that APTN-MES would be willing to record and distribute video that negatively portrayed such organizations as Hezbollah and Hamas?

Indeed, how do we know that this wasn't what happened during the recent Israel-Hezbollah war?

I wonder how much of APTV-MES reporting is actually propaganda or espionage carried out under the cover of "customized" reporting. I don't know if Reuters has an arrangement similar to AP, but Reuters has recently been accused of loaning armored vehicles to terrorists in Gaza, and the uproar over its role in wartime "fauxtography" resulted in Reuters firing one of its Lebanese correspondents.

Foreigners are forbidden under U.S. law to buying controlling stakes in U.S. defense firms, but the U.S. mainstream media are fair game. I suppose it is much easier for oil-rich Arabs and Muslims to buy large stakes in the MSM and insist upon being favorably portrayed than it is for them to actually make themselves and their causes more appealing, especially by dumping the anti-Semitic arguments as John Burgess suggests. I think everybody can expect the quality of MSM reporting to decline even further should the leaders of the Arab and Muslim world continue to pursue this course of action.

Update, 10/1

In God's Name was broadcast by CNN International last week. The transcript is here.

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