Do News Clarifications and Corrections Matter? Bah Humbug
Do corrections and clarifications to news stories matter when it comes to setting the record straight about Israel? How do we measure the impact of these corrections? Is it important to pressure news outlets to change stories when they fail to convey the truth, or worse yet, outright lie?
All respect to media watchdog organizations such as , , and . We know perfectly well these organizations are on Israel's side, on the side of the truth. They catch 'em red-handed, they do, and often manage to get the big guns, media outlets such as the New York Times, the Guardian, and the Washington Post, to retract or at least correct stories they run that make Israel out to be the bad guy, the facts be damned.
But there is something unsatisfying about the process of running down the mistakes, and getting them corrected. It makes the watchdogs look fussy and over-particular, and really, what good do those corrections do, anyway? News cycles are short. A correction on yesterday's news?
You can wrap fish with it.
Let's take for instance, this Australian story with the headline, . Here's what happened: an Arab terrorist going through an Israeli security checkpoint (which is designed for the purpose of identifying and preventing terrorists from entering civilian areas), lunges at the IDF soldier manning the checkpoint and stabs him.
The terrorist is shot dead.
Honest Reporting complained about the story because of the title, which appears to refer to extra-judicial killing, and because the text refers to the terrorist as a "Palestinian fellow," a descriptor designed to rebrand the terrorist as someone harmless.
In response to Honest Reporting's report, 9 News changed the word "fellow" to the slightly less offensive "man."
But the original title was left unchanged.
Anyone reading the story with an uncritical eye (both before and after the correction) will be left with the impression that Israel is a country of bloodthirsty, repressive, and murderous outlaws. And since Israelis are Jews, well, the reader will believe he now has good reason to dislike the Jews as a people. He will point to this story in debates online, and in conversations with friends. He will say, "It's not just me that says Israelis are murdering Arabs in the streets, it's the media."
What is lost here is the truth: terrorists are the bad guys, Israeli soldiers the good guys, keeping the Israeli populace safe.
Terrorists kill Israelis because they are Jews. Terrorists want all of Israel and they want it all Judenrein. They will not hesitate to murder in their sleep, or . They will not hesitate to firebomb a young girl riding in the passenger seat of her daddy's car on the way home from her advanced math classes at Bar Ilan. The terrorists know exactly when that car will reach that convenient in the road so they can set that smart little beautiful on fire and ruin her pretty face, maybe even kill her.
But the reader will glean none of this from the Australian news story in our example. The reader comes away with this main idea: Arabs=Innocent/Jews=Evil.
Now what if Honest Reporting had been successful, and the Australian 9 News had completely changed the title of the story? What if 9 News had changed that headline to, for instance: Arab terrorist shot, killed after stabbing soldier at security checkpoint. That would have been a truthful headline in every respect.
And it wouldn't have mattered a bit. The news cycle is brief. You blink your eyes and it's not news anymore.
A story that goes viral does so in minutes. In a few short hours, another story has superseded it and risen to the top of the page. So if you have thousands or hundreds of thousands or millions of viewers and they see an untruthful headline: Palestinian 'executed' after Israel checkpoint knife attack, they are going to see it within minutes or hours.
They will likely never see the correction. Because by the time the story is corrected, it's no longer news and no one cares. It is the impression left by that shocking original headline that remains.
And even if the reader happens to, for some odd reason, go back to the story and see that the title has been corrected, the impact of such a correction has to be weak indeed as compared to the shock of the original headline. The shock is what feeds into the public lust for ammunition against Israel and the Jews, from the alt right to the progressive left. No one cares about the accuracy of the corrected headline.
Because it can't be used against the Jews.
So it's just there, doing nothing, that correction. Except building resentment. Against the damned Jews who are so picayune and always demanding corrections. As if it matters. Everyone knows Jews=evil/Arabs=innocent. Right?
Or that headline wouldn't have been there in the first place. Where's there's smoke there's fire. Jimmy didn't hit you fer nothing. You must have done SOMETHING.
But let's look at this from a different angle: could it be that forcing the media to make these constant corrections keeps them in line? Forces them to uphold better journalistic standards? Keeps bias out of the media, makes for a free press, preserves democracy?
Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe all we do is drive the hate underground where it festers.
Or maybe it really does teach people that it's unacceptable to hate out loud but that hating in quiet and silence or at least in the company of likeminded souls is maybe okay.
It's frustrating. I believe we must expose the lies, the evil, the false narratives, the scare quotes, the absence of important context, the spin. But I'm not sure demanding or even requesting such corrections politely is a worthwhile endeavor.
In fact, recently, I saw a correction as something resembling the opposite of worthwhile. I saw a correction that seemed actually nefarious by nature. I spotted a "spun" quote in a Times of Israel article regarding the questioning of a soldier in the case against Elor Azaria, who stands accused of shooting a neutralized terrorist.
"Though he has not been formally charged, the as-yet unnamed Netzah Yehuda soldier has been questioned by Military Police 'in connection with the killing,' an army official told The Times of Israel on Monday."
It did not pass the smell test that an army official would refer to what happened outside of Ofra as a "killing." As if the motives of the soldier (again without due process) were in question, as if this soldier shot a man simply because he was lusting for Arab blood, and not because this presumed Arab terrorist had rushed a guard post in a place where rushing a guard post usually spells t-e-r-r-o-r a-t-t-a-c-k.
But the text was linked, so I went to the original article quoting the unnamed army official. And low and behold, the word "killing" was not used there. Instead, the said, “'He was investigated in connection with the death on Friday,' an official said." (emphasis mine)
"The death" as distinct from "the killing."
That's a whole different can of worms.
I was quite disturbed when reader AreaMan tried to find a way to see the writer as having made an innocent translation error and subsequently contacted the author to give him the benefit of the doubt. The author, Judah Ari Gross agreed it had been an "translation error" and changed the text so that instead of the libelous word "killing" in the second piece, it now uses the blameless word "death."
I was furious. Gross got that word "killing" out there and smeared a young soldier standing trial. That is truly an evil thing. How many people saw the original article with that slander in it?? The word "killing" is meant to ascribe an evil intention. It's a characterization, pure bias. People saw it and concluded: Elor Azaria=evil Jew=wanton murderer of Arabs.
In going back to Gross, AreaMan gives him a chance to both get that slander out there, and then retract it with a meaningless oops. It was a MISTAKE.
But who will see the correction?? Who cares?
It's the word "killing" they saw when the story was fresh that stays in their minds. They won't ever see that the word was changed to "death" and if they do, it won't register. The impression has been made. The story is not news. Not anymore
All AreaMan did was give Gross a way to spin the news while looking good, too.
All AreaMan did was give Gross a way to spin the news while looking good, too.
He, Gross, hurt Elor Azaria with that word "killing." I take that personally. And you should, too.
Corrections? They allow the media to be bad. Really bad. And then to dot their i's and cross their t's while no one is watching.
Because the show was already over one or more news cycles ago.
And who really cares, anyway?