PART I: IDEOLOGICAL TRAVESTIES IN THE EU COVERAGE
As for the EU coverage when the Israelis let in the media, the reporters for the London Times
and the Guardian
--- the two main newspapers of "quality" coverage in Britain, along with the conservative Daily Telegraph
--- abruptly claimed that a huge massacre had occurred. The Times reporter talked about devastation of almost unparalleled sort. That was within minutes of visiting the city. And yet the same day, in the same city, the reporters for the New York Times
and the Los Angeles Times
--- both experienced war correspondents --- not only said that the ruins they visited showed that no massacre had probably occurred, but added, as good correspondents ought to have, that it would take days of removing the rubble and investigating the site before a conclusive judgment could be made. No such caution was signaled by the London Times and Guardian correspondents.
Instead, according to a UPI analysis of the way in which the Times reporter especially disgraced herself, "Janine di Giovanni writing in the London Times even claimed the devastation was on a worse scale than anything she had seen in Bosnia, Chechnya or Sierra Leone, where scores, even hundreds, of thousands of people had died. The reactions of veteran reporters of real wars like Ernie Pyle or Marguerite Higgins to that kind of hyperbole would likely have been derisive laughter."
[See UPI analysis.
It's actually part three of a three-part series that the UPI published on the travesty of EU coverage.
PART II: THE EU MEDIA SCRUTINIZED IN RETROSPECT
Heaven knows what Le Monde
or the German or Italian or Spanish media reported. I forget exactly, but it was as bad as the British coverage, and probably worse. Here, though, we can rely on the UPI analysis just mentioned: it represented an extended appraisal of the EU and US coverage of Jenin. As the analyst notes about the EU media,
"Most of the major press and broadcasting outlets in Western Europe uncritically gobbled up the Jenin Massacre Myth with self-indulgent abandon. Their record contrasted particularly unfavorably -- and even, it might be argued, contemptibly -- with the remarkable balance and restraint the U.S. broadcast and print media showed after Sept. 11."
In contrast with the restraint and balance the UP analyst found in US coverage of the 9/11 attacks about the role of Muslims in it, and the similar restraint it showed during the Jenin battle. "Much of the [EU] coverage was exaggerated, wildly inaccurate and reflected a sweeping rush to judgment against an entire nation and the ethic group that identified with it
Tom Gross's National Review
article you referred to, Joey, is exactly in line with the UPI analysis. As he notes at one point:
The British media was particularly emotive in its reporting. They devoted page upon page, day after day, to tales of mass murders, common graves, summary executions, and war crimes. Israel was invariably compared to the Nazis, to al Qaeda, and to the Taliban. One report even compared the thousands of supposedly missing Palestinians to the "disappeared" of Argentina. The possibility that Yasser Arafat's claim that the Palestinians had suffered "Jeningrad" might be — to put it mildly — somewhat exaggerated seems not to have been considered. (800 thousand Russians died during the 900-day siege of Leningrad; 1.3 million died in Stalingrad.)
He then singles out one respected British source, the London Independent
Compare this [US coverage of the same Jenin battle scenes on April 16th, 2003] with some of the things which appeared in the British media on the very same day, April 16: Under the headline "Amid the ruins, the grisly evidence of a war crime," the Jerusalem correspondent for the London Independent, Phil Reeves, began his dispatch from Jenin: "A monstrous war crime that Israel has tried to cover up for a fortnight has finally been exposed." He continued: "The sweet and ghastly reek of rotting human bodies is everywhere, evidence that it is a human tomb. The people say there are hundreds of corpses, entombed beneath the dust."
Reeves spoke of "killing fields," an image more usually associated with Pol Pot's Cambodia. Forgetting to tell his readers that Arafat's representatives, like those of the other totalitarian regimes that surround Israel, have a habit of lying a lot, he quoted Palestinians who spoke of "mass murder" and "executions." Reeves didn't bother to quote any Israeli source whatsoever in his story. In another report Reeves didn't even feel the need to quote Palestinian sources at all when he wrote about Israeli "atrocities committed in the Jenin refugee camp, where its army has killed and injured hundreds of Palestinians."
And so --- reading this stuff again --- you can only peruse it in wide-eyed disbelief and are left wondering, in the end, just how ideologically putrid and professionally incompetent EU journalism can be --- all this, remember, in the so-called quality press, not just the gutter tabloids in London or on the Continent. In fact, according to Gross, about the only exceptions in the EU media that weren't reflexively filled with anti-Israeli prejudice were an occasional tabloid:
On both sides of the Atlantic, the mass-market papers have corrected the lies of their supposedly superior broadsheets. On April 17, the New York Post carried an editorial entitled "The massacre that wasn't." In London, the most popular British daily paper, the Sun, published a lengthy editorial (April 15) pointing out that: "Israelis are scared to death. They have never truly trusted Britain — and with some of the people we employ in the Foreign Office why the hell should they?" Countries throughout Europe are still "in denial about murdering their entire Jewish population," the Sun added, and it was time to dispel the conspiracy theory that Jews "run the world."
PART III: ANTI-SEMITISM IN THE EU MEDIA TOO? EVEN LE MONDE NOW SAYS YES
The London Sun's
reference to "denial" about the Holocaust --- while probably exaggerated --- was accurate enough, however, in capturing the emergence of revived anti-Semitism in the EU. As the UPI analyst who spent weeks researching the contrasting coverage in the EU and the US of the Jenin battle put it,
The reaction of the Western European media differed profoundly in its nature from that of U.S. newspapers and broadcasting news outlets. The allegations were equally widely reported in the United States. However, the U.S. broadcast media proved far more resistant to anti-Israeli and even anti-Semitic hysteria than that in Western European. This appears to have been the case precisely because no single state-funded or state-approved corporation dominated broadcast news in the United States, as is the case in Britain and France.
In those and other smaller countries, a well-entrenched left-wing media elite has been hostile to Israel and its policies for decades. And they have long enjoyed a cozy, unchallenged bureaucratic dominance in the state broadcasting news organizations that to a large degree set the braking news and analysis for the entire print press.
Therefore, entire echelons of editors and executives in these organizations were willing to accept uncritically the fierce unsubstantiated and hysterical reports coming out of their correspondents in Jenin. And even when individual newspapers like Le Monde in Paris or Il Foglio in Rome expressed caution or skepticism about the initial massacre claims, their warnings were drowned out in the broadcast media din. In the United States, by contrast, there is no single state-owned or subsidized national broadcasting service to set the tone."
As for Le Monde's
admission that "the sharp attacks on Israeli policies by European leaders "has lowered the borderline, evidently, which was already uncertain for some, between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism", it appeared in its November 17th edition, and we'll return to it in a few moments.
PART IV: IDEOLOGY OR JOURNALISM IN THE EU? OR BOTH?
The short answer: both.
From all appearences, the bulk of EU journalists don't know the difference and don't care. In a far-flung manner, whether in print or on TV, the media in the EU are ideologically tainted in what seem to be tangled, hopeless ways, with even the British media shot through with attack-dog journalism and pc-pieties. Their aim isn't to report the news accurately and analyze it in a balanced manner; it's to manipulate and shape it, as activists in support of their left-wing causes.
Only against this background can an outsider make sense of the systematic prejudice against the Israelis and even anti-Semitism voiced throughout the EU . . . a charge that the existing president of the EU, Prime Minister Berlusconi of Italy, himself raised a couple of weeks ago in so many words when a EU survey showed that tiny Israel, roughly the size of New Hampshire and about 10 miles wide at vulnerable points along the Syrian and Jordanian borders, was overwhelmingly regarded as the greatest threat to world peace by the EU population . . . 59% seeing Israel in those terms. [Even Le Monde now expresses a similar view, not that it owns up to its own systematic attacks on Israel over the decades.]
Needless to add, the US held second place in EU opinion as the greatest threat. Anti-Israeli, anti-US, and anti-Semitic views justle one another in jarring ways in the EU these days, not just the Arab world's media, and in the anti-globalist movements abroad as well. No one less than the current British Foreign Secretary
--- Jack Straw, a member of the Labour Party --- has referred to the "general parody" in the EU media and much of politics that "demonizes" the US, its power, and its purposes in the world. This is not normally the language a Foreign Secretary uses about his own country or fellow member-countries in the EU. If he has done so, and publicly in the Wall Street Journal
, you know for certain, no two ways about it, that there are high-pulsating prejudices and resentments at work in the EU media and public opinion.
A Quick Qualification
Keep in mind a point that these buggy articles on the EU --- and NATO earlier this year --- have repeatedly made: there is almost certainly a gap between public opinion and the pc-pontificating EU media elites, whether in the quality or mass circulation newspapers and TV programs. That gap does vary across countries, but generally in some countries --- like Denmark, Holland, Britain, and Italy --- reflexive anti-American resentments in public opinion don't pulsate with the same vigor that you can now find rife in France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, and Sweden. Take President Bush's visit to London today, November 18th. Contrary to what you would infer if you read most of the
the media, even Labour Party voters, it turns out in a opinion poll just published today, like the US and, what's more, welcome Bush's visit to their country. Specifically, according to the results published in The Guardian
" . . . public opinion in Britain is overwhelmingly pro-American with 62% of voters believing that the US is "generally speaking a force for good, not evil, in the world". It explodes the conventional political wisdom at Westminster that Mr Bush's visit will prove damaging to Tony Blair. Only 15% of British voters agree with the idea that America is the "evil empire" in the world."
66% of Labour voters said that the US was a "force for good", and Conservative voters topped that: 71% shared that view.
It must all come as an astonishment to the anti-globalizers and other Bush-haters in Britain to learn how much at odds with public opinion they are. Those haters include the Communist-identifying Mayor of London Ken Livingston, who warned that President "Bush is the greatest threat to life on this planet that we've most probably ever seen. The policies he is initiating will doom us to extinction."
PART V: JEW-SCAPEGOATING: THERE'S AN URGENCY HERE.
As for anti-Semitism in the EU, even the French government is no longer in denial. It's a big change, however belated. Recall from the previous buggy article on US exceptionalism --- the 2nd in this mini-series --- that UNESCO and the Wiesenthal Center recently convened a meeting in Paris on the new anti-Semitic spread in Europe and elsewhere. At the meeting, so the head of Wiesenthal Center
We met with President Jacques Chirac. He assured us that attacks against Jewish institutions originated in the poorer neighborhoods outside of Paris. But when we left the Elysee Palace to meet with Baron de Rothschild a few blocks away, members of our delegation wearing yarmulkes were assaulted by Frenchmen shouting, "Jews go to Israel
The French Government Finally Reacts: Le Monde Too
Well, guess what? This last weekend, after a Jewish school was burned to the ground in a French city, the French government now admits
that there is, after all, a serious problem of vicious Jew-hating racism in the country, and it pledges to get tougher in combatting it. Let us hope that it follows through with its new commitment. And believe it or not, Le Monde
--- three years after serious anti-Semitic attacks started erupting in France --- ran an editorial on November 17, 2003, in which the discovery of a serious racist problem, fraught with violence, was finally owned up to in full-scale fashion: the sharp attacks on Israeli policies by European leaders "has lowered the borderline, evidently, which was already uncertain for some, between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism." And for the first time the buggy professor remembers, Le Monde said that there has been an "increase, in the world and in France, of an ever more virulent Islamism" . . . to the point that it "no longer hesitates to make of the `Jews' the cause of all the earth's evils."
[If you read French, you might find this article published in the left-wing Liberation yesterday by a French high-school student, a Jew, on what it feels like to be assaulted daily by Jew-hating racists particularly revealing.]
President Bush Forthrightly Condemns the New EU Anti-Semitism
The French government isn't the only one now worried about the rapid growth of anti-Semitism in the EU, something nearly respectable in circles that wouldn't have voiced it in the past decades after WWII. The US government not only is worried, but more to the point, President Bush explicitly criticized the EU's new anti-Semitism in his important speech the first day of his trip to London, November 18th, 2003. "Leaders in Europe," he said in plain, to-the-point terms,
"should withdraw all favor and support from any Palestinian ruler who fails his people and betrays their cause. And Europe's leaders -- and all leaders -- should strongly oppose anti-Semitism, which poisons public debates over the future of the Middle East." (Applause.)
Why the urgency on this matter just mentioned ?
Tersely put, scapegoating Jews as the cause of major social and political problems is age-old in European civilization, and it's now raging in a menacing, vicious way throughout the Arab world and much of the rest of Islam: witness the recent bombings of two synagogues in Istanbul last week too. In the EU, whose countries are now just entering a very difficult, jarring phase of economic rejuvenation and reform --- which will require, despite denials and other political rhetoric, painful changes in both the economy and the welfare state over most of the EU --- the inevitable dislocations and backlashes will almost certainly provoke widespread protests and probably violence in many countries.
The predictable outcome? The all-purpose Jew-as-Scapegoat
--- AKA, globalization and US dominance in its current form --- is very likely to be at the forefront of these backlashes in many quarters . . . even as the much greater likelihood of growing conflicts with the alienated, increasingly crime-ridden Muslim immigrant communities will erupt too.
Something Else: Jenin Illustrated Israeli Democracy In A Commendable Light
More generally, the blatant double standards used about Israeli democracy in the Arab media --- and rife in the EU media now as Le Monde
admitted in its editorial of November 17th --- were particularly evident at the time of the Jenin battle. As the battle raged, some Arab-Israelis, represented in the Knesset (Parliament), petitioned the Israel Supreme Court to halt the removal of bodies from the city, lest the Israeli military seek to cover up what they worried might be a massacre. The Israel Supreme Court accepted the petition, ruled in its favor, and ordered the Israeli High Command to stop the removal, a legal decree it naturally abided by. The notion that an Arab court anywhere, in any country, could order its government and military to do anything --- never mind in the midst of a battle --- is so derisory and at odds with reality that it boggles the mind, no less, no more. And yet it is the EU media, poll-parroting again the Arab line, that Israel is not a genuine democracy --- rather, a disguised military tyranny of a racist sort. See gordon-newpost
As for the repeated survey results that Palestinian pollsters find when they sound out Palestinian views in the PA-ruled areas about which democracies they admire --- by far, the Israeli and on a recurring basis --- don't expect to find much coverage, if any, in the EU media about this result. PC-infested minds --- those of journalists, editors, publishers, and readers --- don't like to have disturbing facts thrust their way.
PART VI: WHAT'S UP HERE? THE PSYCHOLOGICAL ROOTS
Psychoanalysts would call the EU media's reportage denial and projected prejudice. Social Psychologists would call it cognitive dissonance --- a reactive mental striving after a coherent outlook on controversial matters that fits in with predispositions and biases and leads to a rejection of any conflicting evidence. Other Social Psychologists would call it "an intolerance of ambiguity." The Media and other Talky Continentals, at least those caught up in the tangled nonsense of post-modernism --- which means in the media most of them, it appears --- would probably say that "facts" aren't really hard stuff and that what counts if context and interpretation: e.g., cognitive dissonance, intolerance of ambiguity, and closed-mindedness.
Most of us would simply dub it "closed-mindedness", AKA ideological prejudice and biases, reinforced by "group-think" . . . an apt description of a great deal of the EU media, and probably most of it.
PART VII. WHAT HAPPENED TO PROFESSIONAL JOURNALISTIC STANDARDS IN THE EU?
One thing for sure: whatever you call the root problems here, most standards of professional journalism appear to be heading into the sewers in West Europe save for occasional pockets of quality such as The Financial Times
and The Economist
in London and the Frankfuerter Allgemeine Zeitung
Something else, closely related: the education of journalists in Europe.
As someone who knows the British, French, Germany, and Swiss university systems first-hand, the buggy prof can't find much to praise about educational systems that produce such incompetent, prejudice-ridden hokum of a thoroughly unexamined knee-jerk sort. It's distressing, no other word for it: a sign of marked decline in standards or maybe even in any willingness to appreciate what good standards --- educational or journalistic --- should be. Possibly, who knows for sure? --- the Europeans are paying a big price for being so stingy in financing higher education. The US spends about 2.0 - 2.5 times as much on higher education as a % of GDP than the EU countries as a whole. Even in Britain, despite the generally higher standards in the university system, it's been estimated that the government would have to spend tens of billions of dollars to bring it up to par fully with American standards in our better universities --- 60% of Californians age 18 to 22 are in various post-high school institutions --- and the government just doesn't have the money: too many other claimants. Worried about insufficient funding, even Cambridge is threatening to cut itself off from all government support in order to raise tuition fees to a level that will bring in enough money to maintain its well-deserved reputation.
[If, to get down to cases, you want specific figures, here they are. In 1998 --- the latest year for the figures across countries --- the US spent 1.9% of GDP on higher education, the EU 0.7% on an average. For Britain, the figure was 0.8%, France 0.8%, Germany 0.7%, and Italy 0.6%. The biggest spenders were Denmark and Finland, both about 4 million in population, which spent 1.1% each. The figures include both public and private spending. Japan spent the same as the big EU countries, 0.8% of GDP on higher education. Only South Korea spent more than the US: 2.2%. For the figures, see the OECD.
For what it's worth, the same OECD table shows that whereas the EU countries spent an average of 1.8% of GDP on R&D the same year, 1998, the US figure was about 50% higher: 2.6%. Japan's, interestingly, was slightly higher still: 3.0%. Only tiny Finland and Sweden (9 million people) spent at or higher than the US on R&D: Finalnd 2.9% and Sweden an astonishing 3.8%.]
Keep in mind a related point: all EU higher education is totally specialized. There is nothing equivalent to the liberal arts or general requirements that exist in US universities; in the upshot, historians only study history, sociologists only sociology, physicists only physics and related math requirements.
A second upshot? Most EU pontificating journalists on, say, globalization have never had one course in their education on economics. Similarly, the same hot-air ideologues who blather on about American politics or foreign policy have most likely never had a course on American history or IR theory or comparative foreign policy. Again, the few exceptions on both counts will be in the high-quality moderate journals or newspapers like The Economist
or The Financial Times
or Die Frankfuerter Allgemeine.
Apparently, aside from this handful of praiseworthy exceptions, the tunnel-visioned journalists elsewhere in the EU media aren't even aware of their educational deficiencies --- not that it matters. Their training, apparently, even in second-tier British universities, seems to have prepared them for far-flung, ideologically tainted commentary of an oracular sort.
About all that you can say about The Guardian
and The Independent
--- the two most prominent British left-wing dailies --- is that they do invite occasional outside experts to comment in their columns, something in itself laudable, but also hardly a compensation for what passes for reportage elsewhere in those same papers. And on the Continent, as far as I can tell, inviting outsiders who might risk tainting the ideological line set by the publishers and editors is something rare, only slightly better than being able to spot a unicorn walking down the Champs Elysee in Paris.
One More Example
In Germany, to cite just one additional country and its education, the complacent media elites were themselves shaken to learn in late 2001 that their high-school students ranked near the very bottom of industrial countries in reading skills: far below American schools, where some students are getting diplomas who are barely functionally literate. Der Spiegel
, the leading weekly --- a fount of pc-sagacities and prejudice --- had a cover story with the title, "Are German Students Knuckleheads?"
It didn't dawn on Spiegel's
editors that the term might apply to its reflexive, unrelievedly biased journalism . . . along with almost all the rest of the German media, whose reporters in America recently confessed at a Harvard symposium that they were required by their editors and readers back home to serve up only pre-conceived, thoroughly predictable ideological pap. Don't misunderstand. Our press and the rest of the media are hardly perfect, far from it. The same is true of our educational system, so diverse and locally controlled on a huge continental-scale that it's hard to generalize about it effectively. And the last thing any of us should want is complacency, either about education, our universities, or our media. [As we just noted, there are some students getting high-school diplomas in the States who are barely literate.]
PART VIII: A LOOSE, FREEWHEELING RATING OF JOURNALISM IN THE US AND EU
Granted all this, if you want a completely subjective
evaluation, I'd give the New York Times
an A-, the L.A. Times
a B, the Washington Post
a B/B+ ---and CNN and MSNBC and NPR about a B+ each, with the Jim Lehrer PBS hour nightly getting an A-. In London, the Economist
gets an A, and the Financial Times
a B+ . . . same as the Wall Street Journal
in all its editions, the European included. Le Monde
deserves no more than a C-, a fount of unbroken agitprop commentary. Der Spiegel
, just mentioned, would get a D at best: its standards so shoddy, its articles so windy despite a jaunty German journalistic style, that by comparison Le Monde
at times seems professional. Die Zeit
, another weekly, I'd give a C+ --- mainly opinionated stuff; and Die Frankfuerter Allgemeine Zeitung
a B+ . . . a lustrous exception to collapsed German wind-machines, alias newspapers and TV.
As for French TV, its networks are state-controlled, and they more or less serve up what the Elysee tells them too . . . especially in foreign policy. No ratings are necessary. You might as well have rated Pravda
in the Soviet Union days. Italian journalism, when I look at it, appears to hew to a knee-jerk, thoroughly predictable pc-line as well. As for Spanish journalism, which I look at even less frequently, it seems to produce the same ho-hum, predigested pap too.
Le Monde vs. the New York Times
Too lopsided, these evaluations?
Maybe. But recall here what happened when open scandals hit Le Monde
this year --- not by any means the first time in its history. Unlike the New York Times
after the Jason Blair affair earlier this year too --- when its huge journalistic staff demanded that the chief editor and his cohorts meet with them for a full-tilt discussion of the paper's problems, after which the chief editor was fired and a new policy was introduced that has noticeably improved the balance in the paper's coverage --- Le Monde's
publisher and editorial staff brushed off all the criticisms and launched a suit that claimed the paper was slandered. No changes have occurred since then. None likely will. That's how the most prestigious French paper handles its problems. It hasn't even lived up to its revolutionary claim two years back --- for the French media --- that it would henceforth allow its journalists to write about the news in ways that didn't conform to its editors ideological line. By contrast, Americans expect things to be done differently; and while the New York Times
could be improved, its handling of the scandal --- and its responsiveness to both in-house and external criticisms about how the lines between professionally accurate reporting and editorializing had been noticeably blurred the last three years or so --- reflect a far different way of organizing the media, markedly contrasting professional standards, and a clear willingness to improve.
And though the media may do better than the EU average in Scandinavia and Holland --- whose journalism I generally don't follow --- it seems unlikely, what with 75% of the Dutch recently insisting that Israel was the greatest threat to world peace, and with distressing results recorded in Scandinavian countries too. But note. If any visitors to the buggy site from the EU countries want to disagree --- and back up their disagreements with some evidence --- they can be certain to have their comments published here, along with my replies.