Mainstream Media: Where’s the Analysis?

Why is mainstream media so often exemplified by a “he-said, she-said” method of reporting? When it comes to any given issue, it is true there are different perspectives. But not all perspectives are legitimate, and not all deserve an equal amount of consideration. A classic example is that a quote from a neutral observer of a given conflict, like Amnesty International, is much more credible than someone like Egypt’s corrupt and brutal dictator, Hosni Mubarak. You wouldn’t just put both perspectives side by side as being equally legitimate if the facts can easily disprove either or both perspectives. At some point, one must consider whether a statement, whether a quote or a presented fact is indeed accurate or whether it is not. This is done through analysis.

Here in law school, the only route to academic success is the use of analysis. Those who have not endured the trials of law school may not appreciate how rare the use of analysis is even in the upper years of law school.

On an exam, to satisfy the grader, you would have to write in a manner like this:

  • the blue rule probably applies because the gray ground combines with purple water rendering the substance bluish in color.

That’s it, and A exams often have reasoning that is literally that simple. But you would be surprised how rarely that type of thinking is employed. Most students will write:

  • the ground is gray.[regurgitating fact] therefore the blue rule applies [conclusion].

What’s missing? The part which connects the fact to the conclusion.

Others may write:

  • The ground is grey [fact], the rule is blue [law], therefore the blue rule applies [conclusion].

This includes the law, which is a required element, but it does not explain why the conclusion is reached. My personal theory is most law students are at least initially incapable of analytical thinking because they rarely use it in real world scenarios.

Why is this? One possible answer is the fact that teaching from kindergarten through undergraduate university is premised on reading/hearing, remembering and regurgitation. For a history class, one learns that Pearl Harbor was attacked, and the US joined the Second World War after a long-standing policy of isolationism, and subsequently saved the day. Sound familiar?

How often do people probe for the reasons why Japan attacked Pearl Harbor? Many people would respond that Japan was trying to take over as much geopolitical territory as possible, as forays into China and Korea would indicate. But the fact that the US imposed a naval blocked in the Pacific is another reason rarely mentioned in regular discourse. The point is that, people often swallow what they are told without questioning the validity of the statements they quickly accept.

The following article was published in the New York Times after the Gaza Flotilla Raid. I will add in parentheses analysis which I hope illustrates how primitive and misleading this article is. I wonder how long it will take people to realize how little is served by turning journalism into podiums for PR parrots to recite misinformation. Why are editorials labelled as such when news stories do the same thing; getting quotes from people involved in the story? At least with editorials analysis is often involved; in news reports you generally get perspectives devoid of context. This is the problem that renders so much of mainstream media as lies and propaganda.

JERUSALEM — Israel faced intense international condemnation and growing domestic questions on Monday after a raid by naval commandos that killed nine people, many of them Turks, on an aid flotilla bound for Gaza.

Turkey, Israel’s most important friend in the Muslim world, recalled its ambassador and canceled planned military exercises with Israel as the countries’ already tense relations soured even further. The United Nations Security Council met in emergency session over the attack, which occurred in international waters north of Gaza, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel was flying home after canceling a Tuesday meeting with President Obama.

With street protests erupting around the world, Mr. Netanyahu defended the Israeli military’s actions, saying the commandos, enforcing what Israel says is a legal blockade,[international law and organizations, including the UN, disagree with this, but Israel’s opinion is stated as is without any other balancing information] were set upon by passengers on the Turkish ship they boarded and fired only in self-defense. [do multiple gunshots to the head, some execution-style sound like ‘self-defense’?] The military released a video of the early moments of the raid to support that claim. [in stark contrast to the lack of footage taken by the activists, which Israel seized and most of which has never seen the light of day; why would Israel seize and destroy such evidence if they mere acting in self defense?]

Israel said the violence was instigated by pro-Palestinian activists who presented themselves as humanitarians but had come ready for a fight. [if this is true, that does not explain why activists would arm themselves with deck chairs, sticks, kitchen knives and other items generally found on ships] Organizers of the flotilla accused the Israeli forces of opening fire as soon as they landed on the deck, and released videos [one video was released during the attack, and one surfaced about a week or two after; note how the NYT is omitting the seizure of the evidence or the fact the IDF was jamming signals on the boat in an attempt to block broadcast signals from going through] to support their case. Israel released video taken from one of its vessels to supports its own account of events.

The Israeli public seemed largely to support the navy, but policy experts questioned preparations for the military operation, whether there had been an intelligence failure and whether the Israeli insistence on stopping the flotilla had been counterproductive. Some commentators were calling for the resignation of Ehud Barak, the defense minister.

“The government failed the test of results; blaming the organizers of the flotilla for causing the deaths by ignoring Israel’s orders to turn back is inadequate,” wrote Aluf Benn, a columnist for Haaretz, on the newspaper’s Web site on Monday, calling for a national [note the call for a “national” inquiry. Do we expect a Sudanese “national” inquiry for the genocide in Darfur?] committee of inquiry. “Decisions taken by the responsible authorities must be probed.”

The flotilla of cargo ships and passenger boats was carrying 10,000 tons of aid for Gaza, where the Islamic militant [Hamas is the democratically elected representative of the Palestinian people, and has proven itself less a “militant group” than Israel has during the last 5 years] group Hamas holds sway, in an attempt to challenge Israel’s military blockade of Gaza. [Note the use of the word “military”. In truth, it is an economic blockade, since hardly any goods are permitted in and none are let out. Calling it a “military blockade” serves to grant it the semblance of legitimacy, however]

The raid and its deadly consequences have thrown Israel’s policy of blockading Gaza into the international limelight; at the Security Council on Monday voices were raised against the blockade, and the pressure to abandon it is bound to intensify.

Israel had vowed not to let the flotilla reach the shores of Gaza, which Hamas, an organization sworn to Israel’s destruction, [Hamas may talk of destruction, Israel actually does it by acting in various ways to destroy Palestinian statehood, yet that fact isn’t added after the word “Israel”] took over in 2007. [they were actually elected in free and open elections monitored closely by international organizations; this error is amended at the end of the article, but not edited here as it should be]

Named the Freedom Flotilla, and led by the pro-Palestinian Free Gaza Movement and a Turkish organization, Insani Yardim Vakfi, the convoy [“convoy” is the wrong word to use here. A convoy is “a group of ships or vehicles traveling together, typically accompanied by armed troops, warships, or other vehicles for protection.“] had converged at sea near Cyprus and set out on the final leg of its journey on Sunday afternoon. Israel warned the vessels to abort their mission, describing it as a provocation. [how and why is sending aid denied by Israel to a quasi-sovereign entity even Israel claims not to occupy in international waters a “provocation”?]

The confrontation [again, weasel word. a confrontation is “a hostile or argumentative meeting or situation between opposing parties : [EG] ‘a confrontation with the legislature'”; what actually happened was a commando attack in the dead of night] began shortly before midnight on Sunday when Israeli warships intercepted the aid flotilla, according to a person on one boat. The Israeli military warned the vessels that they were entering a hostile area and that the Gaza shore was under blockade.

The vessels refused the military’s request to dock at the Israeli port of Ashdod, [the request may be true, but what is assumed here is that Israel would actually allow the aid to reach Gaza from Ashdod. Were this true, there wouldn’t be a need for an aid flotilla in the first place, now would there?] north of Gaza, and continued toward their destination.

Around 4 a.m. on Monday, naval commandos came aboard the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, having been lowered by ropes from helicopters onto the decks.

At that point, the operation seems to have gone badly wrong. [assumes rappelling Israeli commandos were not sent down to kill, or that the witnesses on board claiming they were fired upon with live ammunition are lying]

Israeli officials say that the soldiers were dropped into an ambush [note the IDF video: when in the history of special forces operations are soldiers dropped onto an angry group of people wielding weapons?] and were attacked with clubs, metal rods and knives. [note also the article fails to ask why aid activists would wield sticks and deck chairs against naval commandos. Was there a reason for the activists to maybe defend themselves?]

An Israeli official said that the navy was planning to stop five of the six vessels of the flotilla with large nets that interfere with propellers, but that the sixth was too large for that. [really? so special forces are trained only to disable small ships?] The official said there was clearly an intelligence failure in that the commandos were expecting to face passive resistance, and not an angry, violent reaction. [which is why the IDF sent elite naval commandos armed with loaded guns, as opposed to say, the coast guard, police, or even regular naval forces?]

The Israelis had planned to commandeer the vessels and steer them to Ashdod, [again, my understanding of military is they are trained to kill. a coast guard would surely be better trained to guide a ship to port] where their cargo would be unloaded and, the authorities said, transferred overland to Gaza after proper inspection. [the logic here seems to imply that only by sending ships to meet Israeli officials on the high seas would Israel accept aid to be delivered to Gaza]

The military said in a statement that two activists were later found with pistols taken from Israeli commandos. It accused the activists of opening fire, “as evident by the empty pistol magazines.” [That’s certainly possible. Or maybe they just seized the guns and manually unloaded the ammunition?]

Another soldier said the orders were to neutralize the passengers, not to kill them. [which is why some of the dead had multiple gunshot wounds to the head]

But the forces “had to open fire in order to defend themselves,” [and elite commandos would never be able to disarm stick-wielding activists without lethal force, right?] the navy commander, Vice Adm. Eliezer Marom, said at a news conference in Tel Aviv, adding, “Their lives were at risk.” [which is not supported by the fact none of the IDF commandos died]

At least seven soldiers were wounded, one of them seriously. The military said that some suffered gunshot wounds; at least one had been stabbed. [what about the activists? weren’t they injured too?]

Some Israeli officials said they had worried about a debacle from the start, and questioned Israel’s broader security policies.

Einat Wilf, a Labor Party member of Parliament who sits on the influential Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said that she had warned Mr. Barak and others well in advance that the flotilla was a public relations issue [not a humanitarian one, right?] and should not be dealt with by military means.

“This had nothing to do with security,” she said in an interview. “The armaments for Hamas were not coming from this flotilla.”

The fatalities all occurred aboard the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish passenger vessel that was carrying about 600 activists under the auspices of Insani Yardim Vakfi, an organization also known as I.H.H. Israeli officials have characterized it as a dangerous Islamic organization with terrorist links. [so here’s where you do your journalistic due diligence to ascertain whether there is merit to what would otherwise be seen as a slanderous and libelous allegation]

Yet the organization, founded in 1992 to collect aid for the Bosnians, is now active in 120 countries and has been present at recent disaster areas like Haiti and New Orleans. [now, here is the first example of analysis; but note how its inferred that the IHH could still be a terrorist organization]

“Our volunteers were not trained military personnel,” said Yavuz Dede, deputy director of the organization. “They were civilians trying to get aid to Gaza. There were artists, intellectuals and journalists among them. Such an offensive cannot be explained by any terms.”

There were no immediate accounts available from the passengers of the Turkish ship, which arrived at the naval base in Ashdod on Monday evening, where nearly three dozen were arrested, many for not giving their names. The base was off limits to the news media and declared a closed military zone.

The injured had been flown by helicopter to Israeli hospitals. At the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, near Tel Aviv, relatives of injured soldiers were gathered outside an intensive care unit when a man with a long beard, one of the wounded passengers, was wheeled by, escorted by military police.

Organizers of the flotilla, relying mainly on footage filmed by activists on board the Turkish passenger ship, because all other communications were down, blamed Israeli aggression for the deadly results.

The Israeli soldiers dropped onto the deck and “opened fire on sleeping civilians at four in the morning,” said Greta Berlin, a leader of the pro-Palestinian Free Gaza Movement, speaking by phone from Cyprus on Monday.

Israeli officials said that international law allowed for the capture of naval vessels [here’s where the prudent journalist should ask whether any of the ships in the flotilla were “naval vessels”] in international waters if they were about to violate a blockade. The blockade was imposed by Israel and Egypt after the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007. Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, said Monday that the blockade was “aimed at preventing the infiltration of terror and terrorists into Gaza.” [again, a prudent journalist would ask why notebooks and spices aren’t allowed in if the goal is to prevent terrorism]

Despite sporadic rocket fire from the Palestinian territory against southern Israel, Israel says it allows enough basic supplies through border crossings to avoid any acute [here the article admits there is a humanitarian crisis, albeit not an “acute” one. classic Freudian slip] humanitarian crisis. But it insists that there will be no significant change so long as Hamas continues to hold Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured in a cross-border raid in 2006. [collective punishment is unequivocally illegal under international law and in conflict it is considered a war crime and and otherwise as a crime against humanity]

The Free Gaza Movement has organized several aid voyages since the summer of 2008, usually consisting of one or two vessels. The earliest ones were allowed to reach Gaza. Others have been intercepted and forced back, and one, last June, was commandeered by the Israeli Navy and towed to Ashdod. This six-boat fleet was the most ambitious attempt yet to break the blockade.

Reporting was contributed by Sebnem Arsu from Istanbul, Dina Kraft from Tel Aviv, Rina Castelnuovo from Ashdod, Fares Akram from Gaza and Neil MacFarquhar from the United Nations.[ingenious; attempting to instill journalistic credibility by name dropping “United Nations” into an Israeli hasbara propaganda article]

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:[one correction, of how many errors and omissions? not to mention one that in no way affects the substance of the article]

Correction: June 4, 2010

An article on Tuesday about the deadly Israeli naval commando raid on an aid flotilla that had attempted to defy Israel’s blockade of Gaza referred incompletely to the governance of Gaza by Hamas, the militant group that opposes Israel’s existence. While Hamas took over Gaza by force in 2007, as the article said, the group’s representatives had won elections there in January 2006, defeating the more moderate rival Palestinian group Fatah. Subsequent tensions between Hamas and Fatah forces in Gaza led to open fighting, and Hamas routed Fatah from Gaza in June 2007.

This entry was posted in Media, Politics and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Mainstream Media: Where’s the Analysis?

  1. I invariably tend to mull over things a bit harder about all sorts of things after I browse over somebody new’s blog and their particular posts. There sure is some wonderful “brain food” blogs out there and I sure do feel like I’ve had a decent helping here checking out your site. I essentially appeared here via Bing when I was first doing some web research for a bit of course work that I have. Always a pleasure browsing through and I’m hopeful that you’ll keep on writing new posts. Bye!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s