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How to Cover Up a Massacre of the Innocents

Posted in the database on Thursday, January 26th, 2006 @ 19:56:13 MST (1487 views)
by lenin    Lenin's Tomb  

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Don't talk about it, mention it only in passing, get the facts wrong, refuse to investigate. The massacre is as follows:

Before dawn on January 15th, an Israeli special forces unit killed a Palestinian mother and her 24-year-old son in their home. The mother had three bullets in her; the son 15. The Israeli soldiers also shot and wounded the woman's husband and four other family members: young women were shot in the pelvis and chest, young men in the foot, chest, torso, liver. The firing lasted over an hour. Then the Israeli squad shot at an arriving ambulance and prevented it for 45 minutes from tending to the dying, bleeding family.

It was all the result of a "misunderstanding," as the Israeli press put it.

The Israeli special forces commandos, invading a Palestinian village, had mistakenly taken a man standing guard in his home against vandalism for a resistance fighter. At first the Israeli military claimed that the now-dead man had shot at them, but before long the soldiers admitted that they had fired first. They saw the man cock his gun, they explain. The soldiers say, and at least some witnesses concur, that after they killed the man, someone from inside the house returned their fire. The soldiers claim that they then continued to shoot, but that their firing was "precise and limited." The husband says that even when he yelled at them to stop, that his wife and son were dead, the onslaught continued for at least an hour. None of the Israeli soldiers were killed or wounded.

According to the Israeli military, none of those they killed or injured had been wanted by Israel. It was simply an error. The 4,000 villagers of Rojeeb, east of Nablus, declared a state of mourning to honor the dead. Hundreds attended the funeral.

And the coverage:

That day and since, the US press has carried long news stories on Israel/Palestine. Yet, almost none of the reports have mentioned the above incident. The Boston Globe seems to have missed it entirely, as did the Chicago Tribune, the Atlanta Constitution, the Baltimore Sun, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News, a multitude of other papers across the country, and, it appears, every mainstream American television and radio network.

The LA Times mentioned it in two sentences in the next to the last paragraph of a 20-paragraph story titled "Israel Eases Curbs on Palestinian Election" (and got the facts wrong); the New York Times reported it in the last two paragraphs of a 24 paragraph story. The Washington Post and Newsday reported it in their briefs columns. Not one reported the raid correctly.

And the intermediary:

How did AP cover the killings?

For almost all American newspapers, the Associated Press is the primary source for international news. AP supplies 24-hour news feeds to 1,700 U.S. daily, weekly, non-English and college newspapers; 5,000 radio/TV outlets; and 1000 radio stations.

A Lexis-Nexis search of its coverage of this incident, and others, is revealing. The Associated Press has several wires that distribute the news.

On the "Associated Press Worldstream" wire, AP sent out a story headlined "Israeli troops kill Palestinian mother and son in apparent mistake, Palestinians say." This Worldstream wire is distributed throughout Europe, Asia, South America, and the UK. Only a smattering, at most, of US papers appear to receive it.

On the "Associated Press Online" wire, AP distributed a report headlined "Israeli Army Kills 2 in West Bank Village." Stories on this wire appear to be sent in an automatic feed to newspaper websites, where such stories are typically filed under the "additional AP stories" link. Most readers don't come across them if they're not featured in the print version of the paper.

On the "Associated Press" wire, the wire from which almost all US newspapers draw the news that they print in their newspapers, it carried a report headlined "Disgruntled policemen block main roads in Gaza Strip; Israeli army kills two in West Bank."

As with the Online and Worldstream wires, the US wire also included some information on the incident near the end of some of their other stories. This information was minimal; sometimes incorrect. None of the above stories told that the soldiers were part of an Israeli special forces unit, the kind that is sent to assassinate resistance fighters; none reported that an ambulance had been fired on and prevented from attending the wounded; almost none, in fact, even mentioned that there were wounded. Most emphasized the false report given by Israel that its soldiers had been fired upon first.

Perhaps most troubling of all is the differential in headlines. It is hard to understand why the American wire carried such a different headline from the other wires, and one that so underplayed the deaths, since all three stories were so similar.

The Third Filter: Sourcing Mass Media News.

Or, from Guardians of Power: The Myth of the Liberal Media by Messrs Edwards & Cromwell:

Robert McChesney, professor of communications at the University of Illinois, notes that professional journalism relies heavily on official sources. Reporters have to talk to the PM's official spokesperson, the White House press secretary, the business association, the army general: 'What those people say is news. Their perspectives are automatically legitimate.' Whereas, McChesney notes, 'if you talk to prisoners, strikers, the homeless, or protesters, you have to paint their perspective as unreliable, or else you've become and advocate and are no longer a "neutral" professional journalist.'



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