Thursday, November 15, 2007

Where is the MSM on this one?

In 2000, one of the key events in the Palestinian 2nd Intifada was footage showing the apparent killing of a young child (Muhammed al-Durrah) by Israeli Defense Forces. For much of the world, including the usually somewhat pro-Israel American media, this event encapsulated the Palestinians' struggle against Israel. As a result, news outlets around the world uncritically picked up the edited footage for broadcast.The event sparked mass outrage and severely hurt Israel's image. It also led directly to the murder of two Israeli soldiers at the hands of Palestinian security forces. You may remember the resulting footage of that event in which the murderers proudly displayed the fresh blood of the victims on their hands.

Anyhow, for the last several years, questions have been raised as to whether the al-Durrah killing was staged or, if real, could have been perpetrated by Israeli forces. The claim that the event was staged has led to a defamation suit by the producers of the footage (who are French). The entire story is far too long to explain myself, but suffice it to say that the questions raised about the footage are very serious and very legitimate. This isn't to say that the footage is necessarily fake or that the IDF is necessarily innocent, as there are plenty of questions to go around about the case.

We will have to wait for the results of the case to find out how much truth there is to the allegations. But, the media's complete silence on this issue is what staggers me. I did a quick search of both CNN and the BBC for stories about al Durrah: not a single hit came up discussing the allegations of fraud or at least of Israeli innocence in the matter. This is how things so often go with the MSM: whenever a story comes out suggesting inaccuracy in their reporting, they duck their heads in the sand and refuse to reopen the issue until and unless it becomes impossible to continue to stand by the story. Even then, the best you will get is a mild retraction. Rarely, if ever, will you get an acknowledgement by the media that they rushed to judgment on the issue (see, e.g., the Duke lacrosse scandal).

If it turns out in February that the French court rules against the producer of the al-Durrah footage, I worry that the best the MSM will do is to make a quick footnote indicating that this story was a hoax. I do not expect that they will make even remotely the big deal about such a verdict as they made about the original footage- and that to me is the big problem with the MSM, which is of course largely a government granted monopoly/semi-monopoly in most places these days. Compare this with the blogosphere, where retractions and self-criticism are readily and publicly made.