Sunday, June 05, 2005

MSM as Impressionist art: the vote in south Lebanon

The subject? Today's elections in south Lebanon.

The assignment? Compare and contrast:

Here's exhibit A, an article submitted by Reuters, via Yahoo News.

Here's exhibit B, an article submitted by IC Publications (I'd never heard of them before, but they describe themselves on their web page as the leading publisher for Africa and the Middle East).

If you care to read further, you could substitute for the Reuters story this, by CBS news, or even this NY Times story, marginally better at explaining the background to the situation, but still woefully inadequate compared to Exhibit B, the IC Publications story.

Exhibit A was the article that came up on my home page Yahoo News (maybe I should think about changing that home page already!) when I turned on my computer screen. It describes the Hezbollah victory in southern Lebanon. Actually, I wish I had a screen-shot of the original headline, because it changed while I was writing this commentary. The original, to the best of my recollection--the one that caught my eye--read something like "Pro-Syria candidates win in Lebanon." Since I know the basics of the Lebanese situation but few of the details, my reaction was, "What's up with that?" The story, unfortunately, fails to explain or to give any context that would help the reader understand what's going on. It manages to present a few details--anti-Bush portraits, for example--but the only explanatory background it gives about why this particular vote happened in this particular area is the phrase, "the largely Shiite Muslim south."

Exhibit B, the IC Publications story, gives background that helps the reader understand the particularities of the situation in southern Lebanon--its polling and demographic history--that make the vote comprehensible, and it manages to do this without being noticeably longer than the other article. Even the NY Times, which used to be famous for giving just this sort of explanatory background, is marginally better than Reuters but still woefully inadequate. Portions of the Times article could even be construed as being slightly Hezbollah-friendly, at least the quotes the Times chooses to include. See this, for example:

Hezbollah has sacrificed its incorruptible image and focus on service for political expediency and single-minded defense of its arms, said Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a professor at the Lebanese American University...Shiites are not appropriately represented in Parliament, receive far less development money in their neighborhoods and have generally been isolated from politics. Given the latest political turbulence, they have been especially isolated, she said.

The quote seems to indicate that service to the people used to be the primary aim of Hezbollah, and its terrorist activities against Israel just a sideline for political and propaganda purposes, rather than the other way around. And those poor, poor Shiites--but nothing about the Christian and Sunni Moslem disenfranchment mentioned in the IC article.

Without the internet, the average person couldn't have done this sort of comparison-shopping. Even with the internet, it takes a lot of time and effort. I've become a regular newshound, but even I only do a search such as this when an article raises some sort of "What's up with that?" red flag, as this one did for me.

MSM reporting has become a sort of Impressionist art--sketchy, light-dappled, not strictly realistic. Don't get me wrong, I like the Impressionists--but as art, not journalism.

ADDENDUM: If you're interested in reading clear and explanatory information about, and analysis of, the Lebanese elections, see this--from a blog, of course. It seems like the closest thing we're going to get to that elusive commodity, "truth."


At 2:42 PM, June 05, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Link to IC Publications is not operative.

At 8:26 PM, June 05, 2005, Anonymous neo-neocon said...

I've been out all day till now and just saw Anonymous's note about the dead link. I believe I've fixed it. But it must have been mighty hard to make any sense of this post without it. That's what I get for leaving my computer :-).

At 1:56 AM, June 06, 2005, Blogger Michael B said...

The object of many journo-politicos' facile triumphalism and schedenfreude is telling; it also further demonstrates some de facto Left/Islamicist alliances, or in this case Left/Baathist alliances, corrosive of Lebanon's electorate.

Similarly from Patterico:
"Quelle surprise! When the heavily armed Hezbollah runs in Hezbollah space, how many seats do you imagine would be seriously contested? Besides the six that had only a single candidate, I imagine the other seats in the Shi'ite sections of the south were "contested" only in the loosest sense of the word. There was probably more anti-Syrian sentiment in the Sunni, Druze, and Christian neighborhoods… but after the car-bomb assassination of anti-Syrian journalist Samir Kassir in eastern Lebanon three days ago, I suspect opposition in the south was muted, to say the least."

h/t Pejmanesque

A Telegraph article contains additional info, from inside Syria.

More generally on this same theme, a TNC article entitled The Journalism of Warfare, which closes with this summary:

"From these examples [Fisk and Pilger vs. Victor Davis Hanson] of politically opinionated war reporting, it is not difficult to decide which is the real journalism. The choice is not between political left and political right but between sophistry and scholarship. One betrays the great tradition of Western journalism; the other fulfills it."

Finally, largely OT, but in the same issue of TNC a tribute to Kolakowski entitled Leszek Kolakowski and the Anatomy of Totalitarianism. It's prefaced with quotes by some luminaries, the following by Marx, addressed to Engels, is emblematic of the Left's evasiveness, wastreling content and self-anointed qualities more generally:

"It's possible that I shall make an ass of myself. But in that case one can always get out of it with a little dialectic. I have, of course, so worded my proposition as to be right either way."

Note the "of course" in the last sentence, this unfalsifiable hypothesis ploy is perfunctory for Marx, even as early as 1857.

At 10:46 AM, June 06, 2005, Blogger Goesh said...

"..Left/defacto islamicist allicances" pretty well sums it up in my opinion.

At 1:23 AM, June 07, 2005, Blogger camojack said...

Here's a better "home" page than Yahoo! News:
The Hunger Site
(Mine is set there)

Yahoo! News seems to be just as biased as the "mainstream" media, whence they derive most of their content...

At 8:30 AM, June 10, 2005, Blogger Linda said...

You can get a screenshot of the original headline/content of a web page, including pictures.

The Way-Back Machine

I tested it out, and it works great!


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