When it comes to media bias, I’m a hard guy to surprise. That the Washington Post often sees the world in topsy-turvy terms, I take as a given. Nevertheless, the exchange between Howard Kurtz and Post reporter Tom Ricks, on yesterday’s Reliable Sources, leaves me speechless:
Tom Ricks, you’ve covered a number of military conflicts, including Iraq, as I just mentioned. Is civilian casualties increasingly going to be a major media issue? In conflicts where you don’t have two standing armies shooting at each other?
THOMAS RICKS, REPORTER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: I think it will be. But I think civilian casualties are also part of the battlefield play for both sides here. One of the things that is going on, according to some military analysts, is that Israel purposely has left pockets of Hezbollah rockets in Lebanon, because as long as they’re being rocketed, they can continue to have a sort of moral equivalency in their operations in Lebanon.
KURTZ: Hold on, you’re suggesting that Israel has deliberately allowed Hezbollah to retain some of it’s fire power, essentially for PR purposes, because having Israeli civilians killed helps them in the public relations war here?
RICKS: Yes, that’s what military analysts have told me.
KURTZ: That’s an extraordinary testament to the notion that having people on your own side killed actually works to your benefit in that nobody wants to see your own citizens killed but it works to your benefit in terms of the battle of perceptions here.
RICKS: Exactly. It helps you with the moral high ground problem, because you know your operations in Lebanon are going to be killing civilians as well.
KURTZ: Tom Ricks, “The New York Times” reported the other day, quote, “Israel is now fighting to win the battle of perceptions,” which to me says the battle of headlines. And, in fact, an Israeli cabinet minister was quoted, not by name, as saying, “That the narrative at the end, is part of the problem.” I’m starting to hear echoes of Iraq.
RICKS: Echoes of Iraq, yes. But also the Israelis are very sophisticated in their handling of the media. They consider it part of the battlefield, officially. The word “narrative” always comes up with conversations with Israeli national security officials. They consider shaping the narrative, the battle for the narrative, to be key as part of any war fighting. So they see the media as part of the battlefield. And, in fact, there’s some belief from our reporters that they have occasionally targeted the media.
Just let that sink in for a moment. Israel has constantly warned its citizens to stay in bunkers, and has carried out what most would say is a reasonably thorough air campaign to knock out Hezbollah rocket launchers. Hezbollah, on the other hand, deliberately locates its rocket launchers in civilian neighborhoods, fires from inside houses, and constantly parades the corpses of people who may or may not have been killed in air attacks before cameras for propaganda purposes. But in Ricks’s twisted world-view, it’s Israel that is deliberately getting its own people killed so that it can occupy the “moral high ground.”
As an added bit of insanity, it is Israel, not Hezbollah, that skillfully manipulates world opinion by being “sophisticated in their handling of the media.” But part of Israel’s sophisticated media campaign consists of shooting at reporters!
This is the twisted world view that underlies the Post’s reporting on the Middle East.
Via Blog of the Week Vital Perspective.