Thursday, July 01, 2010

Extremists vs. moderates

Five years ago, I did a Google News search of the phrases "extremist settlers," "extremist Palestinians," "moderate settlers" and "moderate Palestinians."

At the time, the ratio of extremist settlers to extremist Palestinians was 106-1 and for moderate settlers to moderate Palestinians, 0-125.

Over the years,  the routine use of those phrases in the media has diminished, but the ratios haven't changed that much.

Here is an expanded survey from today's Google News that explains a lot about subconscious media bias and its long-term effect on ordinary consumers of the news:

"Extremist Arabs" - 0
"Extremist Palestinians" - 0

"Extremist Settlers" - 11
"Extremist Israelis" - 3

"Moderate Arabs" - 7
"Moderate Palestinians" - 7
"Moderate Settlers" - 0
"Moderate Israelis" - 4

And, just for kicks...

"Extremist Muslims" - 15
"Extremist Jews" - 3

"Moderate Muslims" - 57
"Moderate Jews" - 1

Over years, the effects of constantly seeing the loaded phrases consistently used together must have a cumulative effect on the readers. And the result is that, subconsciously, many people automatically assume that Israelis are more extremist and intransigent than Palestinian Arabs are - a complete 180 degrees from the truth.