16 June 2015

The "Values" of Mainstream Journalism: Shilling for the IDF


Last month, the New York Times published an article by Isabel Kershner that was not entirely distinguishable from an Israeli army press release.
In it, she presents allegations made by officials from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and related entities that Hezbollah is frenetically militarizing south Lebanese villages. The small town of Shaqra, for example, is reported to contain a whopping “400 military sites and facilities belonging to Hezbollah.”
The upshot, according to Kershner’s Israeli sources: There will be many civilian casualties in the next war between Israel and Lebanon, and it will be Hezbollah’s fault.
Twelve paragraphs into her PR stunt, Kershner admits that “the Israeli claims could not be independently verified.” As I happen to be in Lebanon at the moment—albeit with infinitely fewer resources at my disposal than the New York Times, which operates a bureau in Beirut—I rented a car and drove to the villages singled out by the Kershner-IDF duo. I compiled my findings in an essay for Middle East Eye.
The 400 military sites allegedly saturating Shaqra were nowhere to be found, but a number of other village amenities were on display. As I wrote in my piece, these included “some houses, some farms, some hair salons and clothing stores, a colorful establishment offering ‘Botox filling,’ an equally colorful establishment called ‘Magic Land,’ a painting of Che Guevara, a pond with rancid water, and a graffito reading ‘THUG LIFE.’”
In short, Israeli claims really can’t be independently verified—which means Kershner’s experiment in militarized journalism should have never taken place, especially since it preemptively justifies civilian slaughter.
Shortly after the launch of Kershner’s offensive, blogger Richard Silverstein confronted Times Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren on Twitter regarding the article’s problematic nature. Rudoren informed him that it was “not my story,” at which point Silverstein reminded her of her position as bureau chief and the two continued their exchange via direct messages, the transcript of which Silverstein subsequently forwarded to me. READ MORE & LIKE AT WARSCAPES.