The Propaganda War
I had an exchange recently with someone who said, "War cannot be fought on the basis of perception, but only on the basis of truth." I disagree and maintain that war is always fought on the basis of perception. The other side understands this very well and are fully engaged in the propaganda battle, while we don't even have our boots on yet. Eric Calderwood writes in the Boston Globe (with thanks to Elizabeth Noble):
DAMASCUS - This morning, while I made my coffee and eggs, I tuned in to the best show on television. When I went next door to buy my milk, the owner of the Rawda Grocery Store was already watching it, and down in the Sha'alan neighborhood, at the restaurant where I ate breakfast yesterday, customers are sitting over their bowls of fava bean soup, eyes glued to the screen. Millions across the region are following it along with us.
The show is the conflict in Gaza. On Al-Jazeera. Israel has restricted international reporters and camera crews from Gaza, so the Qatari network is one of the few international media outlets to have a full, working bureau inside Gaza City.
Even if CNN could sneak a camera crew through the checkpoints, it's hard to imagine they would produce anything like what's on Al-Jazeera - an all-day, ever-shifting drama that throws war in your face with all its gruesome cruelty. It is openly partisan, almost never showing Israeli deaths or injuries. It is also provocative and upsetting in a way that looks nothing like news in the West. Their broadcasts routinely feature mutilated corpses being pulled from the scene of an explosion, or hospital interviews with maimed children, who bemoan the loss of their siblings or their parents - often killed in front of their eyes. Al-Jazeera splices archival footage into the live shots, weaving interviews and expertly produced montages into a devastating narrative you can follow from the comfort of your own home.
This is news without even the pretense of impartiality. After several days of following the Al-Jazeera coverage of Gaza, I've never seen a live interview with an Israeli, neither a politician nor a civilian. In the Al-Jazeera version, the Gaza conflict has only two participants: the Israeli army - an impersonal force represented as tanks and planes on the map - and the Palestinian civilians, often shown entering the hospital on makeshift stretchers. There are few Hamas rockets and no Israeli families. It's not hard to see why Al-Jazeera is accused of deliberately inflaming regional enmity and instability...
Posted on 01/20/2009 9:26 AM by Rebecca Bynum