Thursday, January 06, 2005
Great article on the media..
Reader Drennan Lindsay referred us to an absolutely superb article--a speech, actually, delivered at a conference on Jan. 1--by Melanie Phillips. Ms. Phillips is a British writer whose name I've heard, but whom I have not followed closely. From now on I will. Phillips' article is titled: "The Reporting of Iraq and Israel: An Abuse of Media Power." Her focus is Great Britain, but what she says is also applicable to the American press. She begins: A friend went into Blackwells university bookshop in Oxford and asked the counter clerk: 'Do you have a copy of Alan Dershowitz's The Case for Israel?' 'There is no case for Israel', the counter clerk replied. She states her thesis early on, and proceeds to document it with chapter and verse, in a dense, brilliant, eloquent argument: Britain is gripped by an unprecedented degree of irrationality, prejudice and hysteria over the issues of Iraq, the terrorist jihad and Israel. All three are intimately linked; all three, however, are thought by public opinion to be linked in precisely the wrong way. This is because all three have been systematically misreported, distorted and misrepresented through a lethal combination of profound ignorance, political malice and ancient prejudices. This systematic abuse by the media is having a devastating impact in weakening the ability of the west to defend itself against the unprecedented mortal threat that it faces from the Islamic jihad. People cannot and will not fight if they don’t understand the nature or gravity of the threat that they face, so much so that they vilify their own leaders while sanitising those who would harm them. The speech is relatively long; it weighs in at 17 pages in PDF. But it is worth studying closely. Ms. Phillips concludes: The outcome is a society which no longer understands how to distinguish truth from lies, no longer understands or accepts the desirability of objectivity and no longer is capable of rational debate based on facts and logic. Instead, all evidence is filtered through prism of prior political prejudice and emotion to which it is wrenched to fit. It replaces evidence by propaganda, rationality by gullibility. And it is perhaps the single greatest incitement to terror. Terrorism is designed to achieve maximum publicity and to manipulate public revulsion so that pressure is put on the leaders of the democracies to surrender. It cannot be said too often that what drives al Qaeda is not the exercise of disproportionate force by the west but the perception of its weakness and incapacity or unwillingness to fight in its own defence. But even al Qaeda must surely have been taken aback by the craven willingness of the British media to fall into line by abusing and persecuting their own leaders at a time of war. These terrorists know that the more barbaric their acts, the more hysteria and pressure the British media will direct at Blair and Bush. So al Qaeda has every incentive to ratchet up the atrocities. That’s why the hostage Kenneth Bigley was videoed sobbing for his life in a cage; and the media duly do what the terrorists want and put it on their front pages and news bulletins, and the pressure on Blair to split from America becomes more and more intolerable. The appalling result of all this is that, if a terrorist outrage in London were to claim the lives of hundreds or thousands of people, the reaction of many Britons might not be a revival of the spirit of the Blitz and an iron determination to defeat fascism and tyranny. It might be instead to turn on Tony Blair and blame him directly for bringing about the slaughter. And that, of course, is precisely what makes such a terrible outcome more likely. There can be little doubt that al Qaeda, such a shrewd judge of western decadence and the differences in moral fibre between the countries of the west, will have noted the fact that in Britain, the worse the terrorist outrage that is committed, the more the public will turn on Tony Blair. Every single defeatist, distorted or dishonest article about Iraq, Israel and the war on terror makes another barbaric atrocity more likely. It is this weakness and moral confusion that comprise the great goal of terrorist strategy; it is this that has characterised the west’s response to Islamic terror for many decades; it is this that has brought us to where we are today. In the war that has been declared upon the free world, the western media’s abuse of power is perhaps the most lethal weapon of all.