Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The MSM and the pro-Syria rallies in Lebanon: just the facts, ma'am, just the facts

Yes, there was a big pro-Syria rally in Lebanon yesterday. Very big. That's one thing that is certain.

If, like me, you've been upset at the editorializing and spinning the MSM seems to give to its articles lately, and would like to see a return to straight "just the facts, ma'am" writing on the news pages, leaving the editorializing for the opinion page--well, you should be heartened by the MSM coverage of this rally. Because nary a word, hardly a whisper, of editorializing or even of speculation occurred in the reportage by the NY Times, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, the LA Times, or Newsday (those were the only ones I checked; I stopped at that point, too weary and disheartened to go on).

I was alerted to the Newsday article , (which might just as well have been written by the Hezbollah press agent, so closely does it tow the party line) by a Little Green Footballs post. But, well, that was Newsday. Surely the NY Times and the others, with their vaunted insight and keen analysis, would at least include a few questions as to whether this crowd was really Lebanese, whether it might have been a wee bit coerced or threatened--you know, that sort of thing.

But no, not even a whisper of doubt was heard in the land of the MSM. It reminds me of the MSM's poker-faced reportage of those 99% votes showing how deep Saddam's support was. What a time for the MSM to take their news straight!

If you can bear to read the articles, you'll find nary a word to question the fact that everyone in the crowd was a full-throated and stout-hearted supporter of Syria and Hezbollah, and of course a Lebanese national. No mention of the fact that Syrians in Lebanon number perhaps a million, perhaps more, and could be mobilized for such a rally. No mention of the little fact of possible threats or coercion, despite lines like this from the NY Times article, "Officially, the demonstration was sponsored by several political parties. But the rally was all Hezbollah, complete with well-designed banners, anthems, crowd control and a secret police infrastructure to ensure that things stayed peaceful." To insure that things stayed peaceful--right!

The Globe article is basically the same. Its opening assertion that the demonstrators were Lebanese, "hundreds of thousands of Lebanese celebrated Syria's long military presence here yesterday and cheered ..." is never questioned. But it's odd. In the Washington Post article, despite the fact that the author and subject matter are the same as in the Globe (the Post's Scott Wilson), the articles are slightly different. The Post's opening sentence reads, "Hundreds of thousands of people..."

Hmmm. Not "Lebanese;" "people." Pretty subtle, though, if it's an attempt by the Post to indicate that those "people" demonstrating might not all have been Lebanese. And the Globe article also omits any mention of the following hint, which appears in the Post article, "Scores of men dressed in black, Hezbollah's grim-faced security detail, monitored intersections and took up positions on the tops of buildings overlooking the teeming plaza and narrow side streets."

I don't claim to know who these demonstrators really were and what exactly they represent, and I'm certainly not an expert in the region. But I know enough, after all this time, to be skeptical about such demonstrations, and not to swallow the Hezbollah party line whole without even questioning it.

But then, I'm not a credentialed reporter.


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