Sunday, July 30, 2006

Headline Killers

A Red Cross worker carries a body inside an ambulance after an Israeli air raid in Qana, 6 km (4 miles) from the port-city of Tyre (Soure) in south Lebanon, July 30, 2006. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra (LEBANON)

Israel kills 54 Lebanese, Mostly Children

News sources throughout the world have today confirmed that the illegal and ruthless targeting of a residential building in the city of Qana in Southern Lebanon has killed at least 54 civilians where at least 34 of those (more than half) were children. To demonstrate the biased journalism in the West, especially in the United States, let's examine the following headlines, keeping in mind that the last time there were major Israeli casualties in this war (or their war against Palestinians), the media's approach took a suspiciously different angle:

Yahoo! News Deadly Airstrike Sparks Fury

This particular headline is replete with Israel-cautious framing. There's no mention of the fact that it was a Deadly Israeli Airstrike. There is no mention at all of the extraordinary number of lives lost. There is no mention of the extraordinary percentage of children killed (over 50% is quite remarkable when you try to convince the world that the housing complex was a terrorist hotbed). But even more stunning is the way this headline turned the whole issue around from a news story about the savage and illegal bombing of civilians into a scare tactic about how angry the terrorists are now. Anyone who thinks these headlines are merely thrown together by an editor should definitely think twice after this one.

BBC News Dozens Killed in Lebanon Air Raid

Here again we are missing any reference whatsoever to the culprit, Israel, and in exchange the reader is immediately asked to associate (as always) the Arabs with violence: killed....Lebanon -- those are the key words in this headline. Again, the extraordinary number of civilians is also left out, as is the crucial word civilians itself. Finally, we have the sanitized phrase "air raid" whereas in the most simple terms this was an air attack, if not a bombing. Again, this is taking the violence down several notches and one wonders why this must be done at all when it is completely avoided for news items that refer to the killing of Israelis (or for that matter, Americans in other wars).

CNN Children Victims of Israeli Attack

Compared to the other headlines, this is actually an improvement, though still not free of bias. The children are mentioned, as is Israel, and the word Attack (though as always we never seen the word bombing associated with Israel, even though that is exactly what an air attack involves: massive bombing). However, the word victim is problematic because it avoids a very straightforward point: the children were killed, they were murdered and the residential building they were in when this happened was intentionally targeted. At the very least, the word victim should be replaced with killed, if not massacred.

New York Times Deadly Israeli Attack Escalates Conflict

Finally we come to the most concocted headline and accompanying news story in this little experiment. Again, there is no mention of the extremely high number of people killed, of the fact that they were civilians, of the fact that over half of them were children, of the fact that they were intentionally targeted. It is also a curious arrangement of the first three words such that it would not be surprising if the reader's first sight at the headline would read Deadly Israel Attack -- this would be a natural reaction for a great many people whose only exposure to the violence in that region has involved repeated headlines about major events in which Israel was attacked, i.e. the relatively (in comparison with the daily casualties of Palestinians in the occupied terroritories) infrequent episode of suicide-bombings. The point being that the headline would be read as an attack on Israel rather than by it.

The second major manipulation in this headline is that it takes the focus away from the issue at hand -- the fact that an incredibly high number of civilians were just murdered -- and instead attempts to frame this single horrific event in the context of a conflict, thereby both justifying the event and suggesting that an equal number of civilians are being killed on both sides, which with figures of nearly 700 Lebanese civilians killed and 18 Israelis civilians killed just doesn't add up.

Finally, it is fascinating to see how the word attack is consistently used to represent what would have been the word bombing had it been committed by Hizbollah or any other Arab group -- how many times have you seen a headline about how one of these "terrorist" groups bombed someone?

But the article itself is a far more fascinating example of the relentless pro-Israel bias -- certainly at the New York Times. It starts off by again avoiding a direct reference to if not the number then the percentage of children killed amongst the civilians -- according to the New York Times over 50% is the same as many, though if any adjective were meant to replace "over 50%" it would be most, not many.

The next well-crafted belittling of the attack suggests that the building somehow fell apart on its own rather than by a massive bombing campaign. Observe the careful wording and passive phrasing used to avoid any blame on Israel: "the attack caused a residential apartment building to collapse." No, the residential apartment building was targeted and then pounded with a number of extremely deadly bombs -- that's what made it collapse.

Next we find what would be amusing if it weren't actually about a large number of innocent civilians being murdered: the New York Times actually engages in a discussion with itself, trying to prove to us (unsuccessfully) that not that many civilians were killed anyway. First, the NYT states its own belief of the number killed "28 confirmed dead, 20 of them children" (that's over 70% children). Then it cites, 50, 57, and "as many as 60." Eventually it settles with the following unbelieveably insensitive phrase: "Whatever the actual toll..." wherein the article changes direction completely and starts admonishing the people who have begun worldwide protests against this illegal war. Nothing could have better exemplified and described the New York Times's attitude toward the non-Israeli civilians killed: "Whatever the actual toll" indeed!

The rest of the article is a typical rearrangement of the facts through careful wording and phrasing in which the angle is changed from Israel's murderous rampage on civilians into the importance of not letting the terrorists win, and so on. Terrorists, wonder the American public is deluded.

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