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."