[OPE-L:5986] US media and Palestinians

From: Allin Cottrell (cottrell@wfu.edu)
Date: Fri Sep 21 2001 - 22:33:33 EDT

I've recently fired off several quick postings on the US media
coverage of apparent jubilation in parts of Palestine at the news of
the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.  At this
point I'd like to offer a few reflections on why I've felt obliged to
send those messages.

It's not my brief to defend the US media; but I believe strongly that
the left is not well served by credulity and falsehood, even if the
false statements seem in some sense "congenial", in appearing to
confirm the worst one might think of US capitalism.

After following up the Internet references offered by Chai-on and
Paul Z, it's my impression that the CNN falsification story was born
of two or three people around the world (possibly independently,
possibly not) thinking "Hey, we've seen that before".  To date, none
of the people involved (to my knowledge) have come forward with any
evidence to that effect, and one of them (the one whose posting was
most widely disseminated on the Internet, and whose claim was at
second-hand in the first instance) has explicitly admitted that he
has no evidence.

Following up Chai-on's URL reference was interesting, in that one can
see how Internet legends are spread.  After the original posting (now
disavowed), others chimed in saying "that must be right; they showed
that clip at 11 am EST, by which time it would be sunset in
Palestine, but from the light it was obviously mid-afternoon.  It
must have been old footage."  Well.  The news was round the world by
9:30am EST, or thereabouts, when it was still broad daylight in the
Middle East.   Further, if one is interested in being "charitable",
it's not too suprising that some Palestinians might have been
jubilant when the news first emerged.  My memory is that as of 9:30
EST on September 11 all that most people knew was that had been a
spectacularly successful attack on prominent US targets.  The full
story of thousands of innocent people killed came later.

Other postings (e.g. from Rakesh and Nicola) have said the question
of actual falsification is secondary; the real point is the way the
US media used the video from Nablus to (I'm putting this in my own
words) demonize the Palestinians.

Even that, it seems to me, is highly questionable.  I admit I'm on
less firm ground here.  I'm not a TV watcher, but I did watch CNN and
NBC closely for a couple of hours or so on September 11th.  My
comments have to be taken as applying to the "real time" coverage; I
can't speak about subsequent regurgitation.

Anyway, when I saw the "celebration in Palestine" footage on that

(a) It confirmed what I had read half an hour earlier at the
Washington Post's website, in a brief from their Israel

(b) The clip was very short.

(c) The clip was bracketed by a report that Arafat had condemned the

(d) The news anchors went out of their way to say they had no
evidence this was representative of the reaction of Palestinians in
general.  Far from encouraging viewers to conclude that all
Palestinians were delighted at the deaths of Americans, they seemed
concerned to forestall that conclusion.

I remember the last point clearly, because when I first read of
jubilation in Nablus at washingtonpost.com it was immediately clear
to me that this was potentially very bad news for Arabs (and, as
Rakesh says, anyone with a brown skin) in the US.  So when the item
came up on TV I was watching closely to see how they'd handle it.  As
it happens, I was quite favorably impressed.  Amidst all the reports
of shock and outrage, and the messages of solidarity, pouring in from
around the world, a report of celebration was certainly newsworthy,
but I don't think it was overplayed.

Allin Cottrell.

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