Daily Briefing: Today’s Media: Blurring The Lines Between Fact and Opinion (June 14, 2019)

“Traditional media, i.e.’mainstream media’ is now irrelevant. The new society is ruled by tribal societies in the digital space. Nation state lines in the sand are meaningless.” – James Scott (Source: Flickr)






























New York Times Suggests “Terrorist” Label For Israel:  Gilead Ini, CAMERA, Apr. 12, 2019
No, Israel Isn’t a Country of Privileged and Powerful White Europeans:
 Hen Mazzig, Los Angeles Times, May 20, 2019

An Update on Our Research Into Trust, Facts, and Democracy:  Michael Dimock, Pew Research Center, June 5, 2019
The Big Lie About Israel: David Mikics, Aish.com, June 9, 2019

New York Times Suggests “Terrorist” Label For Israel
Gilead Ini
CAMERA, Apr. 12, 2019

This week’s New York Times story “Terrorist Label for Iran Force” is, as the title suggests, about the U.S. decision to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terror organization.

The Times story is also about Israel. Reporters and editors made sure of that. And considering the way those journalists shoehorned the Jewish state into the conversation — by suggesting that maybe Israeli intelligence should also be designated as a foreign terrorist group  — it is, most troublingly, a story about a newspaper that has lost any measure of self-restraint when it comes to the small, Jewish country that so often dominates its attention.

In three paragraphs, reporters Edward Wong and Eric Schmitt make a case that not only maligns Israel but also misrepresents the rationale given for the American terror designation; mischaracterizes the Revolutionary Guard; and conflates vastly different ways a country might use martial force:

Under a provision of the USA Patriot Act, low-level officials are empowered to deny entry to foreigners who are associated with an organization that the officials decide meet broad standards for terrorism — even when the United States government has not formally applied a terrorism label to that group.

Until now, American officials had never interpreted laws as permitting them to deem a government entity a terrorist organization. The Trump administration’s decision to breach that constraint with the Iranian group raises the question of whether other government intelligence services that use violence — including those of Israel, Pakistan, and Russia — also now meet that standard. If so, should American officials deny visas to people who work with those agencies? State Department officials say the rushed announcement meant such policy details have not been worked out.

It’s a mouthful, so let’s break it down. The first paragraph mentions “standards for terrorism” that the U.S. uses to deny visas to people associated with terror groups.

The second paragraph notes that the American government has for the first time formally applied those standards for terrorism to a “government entity.”

And the third paragraph is where the sleight of hand happens. The reporters downplay the Revolutionary Guard as merely an “intelligence service” that “uses violence.” (It’s much more than that.) They imply that “use of violence” is the American benchmark for defining terrorism and listing the Revolutionary Guard as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. (It isn’t.) They suggest that if the Revolutionary Guard is being punished for running afoul of those terror standards then Israeli intelligence might also be guilty of terrorism and might also deserve to be sanctioned. (That’s anti-Israel incitement, not objective journalism.) And finally, they tell readers that the State Department hasn’t “worked out” whether that will happen. (No, the administration is clearly not weighing whether to sanction America’s longtime ally.)

These contorted paragraphs are a prime example of how the newspaper’s preoccupation with casting Israel in a negative light comes at the expense of a well-informed public. Straightforward coverage of the U.S. decision about the Revolutionary Guard would leave readers with a clear understanding of the American criteria for designating Foreign Terrorist Organizations, would forthrightly describe the U.S. justification for applying the designation to Iran, and would not mislead about the State Department’s policy direction. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

No, Israel Isn’t A Country Of Privileged and Powerful White Europeans
Hen Mazzig
Los Angeles Times, May 20, 2019

Along with resurgent identity politics in the United States and Europe, there is a growing inclination to frame the Israeli Palestinian conflict in terms of race. According to this narrative, Israel was established as a refuge for oppressed white European Jews who in turn became oppressors of people of color, the Palestinians.

As an Israeli, and the son of an Iraqi Jewish mother and north African Jewish father, it’s gut-wrenching to witness this shift.

I am Mizrahi, as are the majority of Jews in Israel today. We are of middle eastern and North African descent. Only about 30% of Israeli Jews are Ashkenazi, or the descendants of European Jews. I am baffled as to why mainstream media and politicians around the world ignore or misrepresent these facts and the Mizrahi story. Perhaps it’s because our history shatters a stereotype about the identity of my country and my people.

Jews that were expelled from nations across the middle east have been crucial in building and defending the Jewish state since its outset.

Israel, the world’s only Jewish state, was not established for just one type of Jew but for all Jews, from every part of the world — the middle east, north Africa, Ethiopia, Asia and, yes, Europe. No matter where Jews physically reside, they maintain a connection to the land of Israel, where our story started and where today we continue to craft it.

The likes of women’s march activist Tamika Mallory, Temple University Professor Marc Lamont Hill and, more recently, Rep. Rashida Talab (D-Mich.) Falsify reality in their discussions of Palestinians’ “intersectional” struggle, their use of the term “apartheid” to characterize Israeli policy, and their tendency to define Israelis as Ashkenazi Jews alone.

I believe their misrepresentations are part of a strategic campaign to taint Israel as an extension of privileged and powerful white Europe, thereby justifying any and all attacks on it. This way of thinking signals a dangerous trend that positions Israel as a colonialist aggressor rather than a haven for those fleeing oppression. Worse, it all but erases the story of my family, which came to Israel from Iraq and Tunisia.

For most of history, the Mizrahim have been without sovereignty and equality in the Muslim world. In Iraq, despite being “equal citizens” on paper, my family experienced ongoing persecution. The first organized attack came in 1941, the brutal Farhud, a Nazi-incited riot that claimed the lives of hundreds of Jews and forced the survivors to live in fear. My great-grandfather was falsely accused of being a Zionist spy and executed in Baghdad in 1951. My mother’s family was permitted to emigrate that same year, but with only one suitcase. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

An Update on Our Research Into Trust, Facts, and Democracy
Michael Dimock
Pew Research Center, June 5, 2019

A little over a year ago, Pew Research Center decided to intensify its research focus on the theme of trust, facts, and democracy. The decision reflected a changing world: In the U.S. and abroad, anxiety over misinformation has increased alongside political polarization and the growing fragmentation of the media. Faith in expertise and institutions has declined, cynicism has risen, and citizens are becoming their own information curators. All of these trends are fundamentally changing the way people arrive at the kind of informed opinions that can drive effective governance and political compromise.

As part of this initiative, the Center has published more than 30 pieces of related research over the past 12 months. Two foundational efforts were our deep dive into Americans’ views of the state of our democracy and our look at Americans’ ability to distinguish between fact and opinion.

The first study found a glaring mismatch between the public’s goals for American democracy and its views on whether these goals are being achieved. Out of 23 specific measures assessing democracy, the political systems, and U.S. elections – each widely regarded by the public as very important – there were only eight on which majorities said the country is doing even somewhat well. The second report explored the public’s ability to process information in more detail by asking Americans to classify 10 statements they might see in the news as either factual or opinion. Just 26% of U.S. adults correctly classified all five factual statements as factual – that is, something capable of being proved or disproved by objective evidence. Just 35% correctly identified all five opinion statements as opinion – that is, something reflecting the beliefs and values of the person who expressed it.

Today, we released a report that looks at misinformation in America. According to the study, many Americans say the creation and spread of made-up news and information is causing significant harm to the nation and needs to be stopped. Nearly seven-in-ten (68%) say made-up news and information greatly affects Americans’ confidence in government institutions, and roughly half (54%) say it is having a major impact on Americans’ confidence in each other. More Americans view made-up news as a very big problem for the country (50%) than say the same about terrorism (34%), illegal immigration (38%), racism (40%) and sexism (26%).

Of course, concerns about trust, facts, and democracy are not confined to the United States. In an April report, we found broad frustration with the way democracy is working across the 27 nations we polled. In Europe, dissatisfaction with the way democracy is working is tied to factors including views about the European Union, opinions about whether immigrants are adopting national customs, attitudes toward populist parties and a sense that elected officials don’t care about what ordinary people think. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

The Big Lie About Israel
David Mikics
Aish.com, June 9, 2019

Fiercely anti-Zionist students have become a fixture on American college campuses. They depend on professors for their doctrine, and the professors are spreading disinformation, as Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) between 2006 and 2012, shows in his valuable new book, Israel Denial: Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, and the Faculty Campaign Against the Jewish State.
Nelson’s argument is simple: If you want to single out Israel as uniquely worthy of condemnation among the nations of the earth, you have to sign on to a series of lies. BDS’ chief campus influencers, including Judith Butler, Steven Salaita, Saree Makdisi, and Jasbir Puar, traffic in hyperbolic calumnies about the Jewish state that are easy to refute – if, that is, one is interested in facts rather than blatant prejudice.

Yet Nelson shows that major academic presses sympathetic to BDS, like Duke University Press, have printed these false claims without bothering to engage in even the most basic fact-checking. After Nelson’s book, no one should be able to take the work of the BDS professors seriously, given their reliance on propagandistic lies.

We can start with Jasbir Puar, the Rutgers University professor whose book The Right to Maim (published by Duke) won an award from the National Women’s Studies Association, which officially endorses BDS. Puar has said in print that Israel mines organs from “Palestinian bodies” killed in violent conflict and that this is “well-documented.” But she cites no documentary proof because what she claims is impossible: Bodies killed by bullets during violent clashes are useless for organ transplants since they are instantly contaminated by bacteria. Only the scientifically illiterate could swallow Puar’s bizarre claim, which is of a piece with her equally counterfactual assertion that Israel is running a campaign to stunt Palestinians’ growth by denying them adequate nutrition. Nelson carefully demolishes this fabrication, for which Puar cites no evidence.

Nelson is very funny about Puar’s kooky obscurantism. She busily stirs her witches’ brew of bias, rumor, and postmodernist jargon, denouncing “the dark and destructive assemblage that swirls around the Jewish state, a biopolitical assemblage of control that instrumentalizes a spectrum of capacities and debilities.” But Nelson soberly adds that Puar’s high-profile work presents a deadly serious problem: A university press is presenting as evidence-based scholarship what is actually baseless slander, calculated to incite hate.

Even more lurid in his hatred than Puar is Steven Salaita, who absurdly states that any Arab entering Israel can expect a vaginal or anal search. Salaita is a self-confessed despiser of Israel who unleashed a storm of vulgar hate-filled tweets before and after the last Gaza War in 2014, and was then denied a campus appointment at the University of Illinois – a decision Nelson endorses, since Salaita in his books, as well as his social media posts, is a proud hatemonger who disdains the academic virtues of civil debate and free exchange of ideas. Like Nazis banning Jews from the professions, Salaita wants to ban Zionists from the left. Should a university hire someone like Salaita, Nelson asks, who would proudly promote discrimination on campus? … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

On Topic Links:

Can You Sue the Media for Bias?Pesach Benson, Honest Reporting,  Mar. 17, 2019 — Every so often, readers ask us, “Can’t we sue the media for bias?”

Many Americans Say Made-Up News Is a Critical Problem That Needs To Be Fixed:  Amy Mitchell, Jeffrey Gottfried, Sophia Fedeli, Galen Stocking and Mason Walker, Pew Research Center, June 5, 2019 — Many Americans say the creation and spread of made-up news and information is causing significant harm to the nation and needs to be stopped, according to a new Pew Research Center survey of 6,127 U.S. adults conducted between Feb. 19 and March 4, 2019, on the Center’s American Trends Panel.

Beware Social Media’s Push For ‘Healthier Dialogue’:  Seth Frentzman, New York Post, May 3, 2019 — The world’s two major social media platforms grow more Orwellian by the day.

Time is Wrong:  Today’s Journalists Are Not Guardians of the Truth:  Rex Murphy, The National Post, Dec. 28, 2019 — Time, that tattered, shrunken revenant of a once-popular news magazine, continues in its endless decline to delude itself that it has either the authority or the competence to name the “Person of the Year.”

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