Tuesday, September 19, 2006

What's behind France2's stance in the al Durah case?: the press and honesty

Wretchard at Belmont Club has a post about the France2 case, in which he asks the following question:

While the Press is probably honest in most things -- who won the NASCAR race, what the stock price is, who won a particular election, etc -- in certain areas more than others a kind of horrible distortion has crept into their coverage. And the question is why. Members of the press are not inherently evil. They are not very different from most white collar workers or academics. With their individual foibles to be sure, but no inherited large scale defects in character. The reason huge events, like the Ukraine famine, for example, and perhaps the recent war in Lebanon, can be so horribly misreported is a subject worthy of a whole book. I tend to think that the memetic cavalry of ideologies is drawn towards certain issues and makes certain they spin them. The effect is that in areas we care about most we have inaccurate coverage, but in areas we care about least (say the yearly production of Ipods) we have the most accurate coverage. Well, I'm not the one to write that book.

I'm not the one to write that book--or books--either. Others have done so before me, notably Bernard Goldberg and Peter Braestrup.

I utterly agree with Fernandez, as far as he goes. I would add that I think there really is a belief held by too many in the MSM that "fake, but accurate," is an okay stance to adopt, due to post-modern "truth is relative" thinking. Combine this with the strength of mindset and pre-existing belief systems in shaping our perceptions of events, and you have paved the way to this sort of media madness.

There are often personality factors operating, as well. Arrogance is one. In the France2 case, Enderlin was not only arrogant--and if you read Nidra Pollner's latest description of the trial proceedings, you'll see just how far that arrogance went--but, in addition, Enderlin had a decade-long relationship of trust with his cameraman, Talal. It was on the strength of that cameraman's word that Enderlin, who was not present at the scene in Gaza, spread the news about Israelis murdering the 12-year-old al Durah. And once an arrogant person has backed a lie and thrown his entire reputation behind it, it's very difficult to have the humility to face the truth and publically reverse yourself. There's humiliation involved, and also acknowledgement of betrayal by someone you once thought your friend and trusted colleague. Often, it's just too big and bitter a pill to swallow, and so it is spit out instead, sometimes with enormous consequences.

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