Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The mystery of Jewish-controlled media and its anti-Israel bias

No single element of American Jewish power is more tangled in myth and mystery than the relationship between Jews and the media. Nowhere is the gulf wider between the way Jews see themselves and the way their neighbors see them.

Put more starkly, the gap in perception is this: non-Jews commonly see the mass media as a key stronghold of Jewish power, a major source of whatever influence Jews wield in American society. Jews, by contrast -- especially affiliated, activist Jews -- commonly describe the media as a major source of anti-Israel bias.

The two views seem like polar opposites, either-or propositions, thesis and antithesis. They cannot both be true. And yet, to a great degree, they are.
This is how J.J. Goldberg begins the 11th chapter of his phenomenal book, "Jewish Power." He notes that in 1989, at the start of the Intifada, 79 percent of American Jews felt the news media applied a double standard in judging Israel more harshly than its Arab neighbors.

Today, many still believe mainstream magazines and newspapers and radio stations are anti-Israel. They point to the "Protocols of Christiane Amanpour" on CNN, the phony footage of a murdered Palestinian boy from France 2, and, my favorite, the reportage of "National Palestinian Radio."

I have agreed on specific occasions, though in hindsight I'm not convinced the bias is deliberate. Neither is Jeff Jacoby, an op-ed writer for the Boston Globe, who speaking last night at Syracuse University said the phenomenon has more to do with ignorance than malevolence.
Jacoby read excerpts from two New York Times editorials about the deaths of terrorists. He showed a picture that's caption described an Israeli police officer standing over a beaten Palestinian youth. In reality, the youth was a Jewish boy from Chicago who had just been mugged. He was running to the police officer for protection.

"Nobody in news media questioned the storyline of Israeli brutality and a Palestinian victim," Jacoby said.

Jacoby said one factor that contributes to this bias is ignorance. A good journalist is expected to be able to cover a story with no prior knowledge of the situation, Jacoby said. Too often, these inexperienced reporters "get bamboozled."

"If they go in with ignorance, very often they will get the story wrong," he said.

An over-emphasis on Israel in the news is another factor in coverage bias, he said. Many reporters are based in Jerusalem because Israel defends the right to a free press. Thus, more investigative stories about Israel are produced because there is no fear of the government harming reporters.

"Where journalists are concentrated, coverage tends to be negative," he said.

4 comments: said...

No mystery -- there's a scientific basis for these dueling perceptions.

" ... a study (a pdf is available here) by Robert P. Vallone, Lee Ross and Mark R. Lepper, psychologists at Stanford University, in 1985. That study measured perceptions of media bias relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. People who held strong opinions on the conflict going in were more apt to perceive bias in news accounts. Pro-Palestinian subjects saw a pro-Israel bias, and vice versa."

Hat tip to

Anonymous said...

"No mystery -- there's a scientific basis for these dueling perceptions."

Exactly correct. And what is the news media in the age of corporate oligarchies if not a means of manipulating public perceptions in such a way as to have a positive effect on the bottom line? Is it so far removed from the realm of possibility that the news outlets are in fact slanting the stories one way or the other in order to produce the desired response?

LanceThruster said...

I would say it goes beyond merely how things are covered to what actually gets any coverage at all. Cui bono? A good site to see a more rational and honest approach is Mondoweiss [ ]

Anonymous said...

" A good site to see a more rational and honest approach is Mondoweiss"

Sorry, I'm afraid not. The blog as a concept is slightly autistic, as its not about debate, and therefore cannot claim objectivity where there is none. Mondoweiss is all about phil and his slavish devotion to an -ism and a ready stream of ideological sycophants and fellow travellers, who exercise the same form of cognitive dissonance which is practiced on the right. Though I enjoy agiti-prop as much as the next guy, I think it was better the first time around when Ilya Ehrenreich did it for Pravda.