Tuesday, June 16, 2015

  • Tuesday, June 16, 2015
  • Elder of Ziyon
Last month, CNN - under the headline "Israeli settlers reportedly chop down 800 Palestinian olive trees" - parroted absurd Palestinian allegations without bothering to do a modicum of fact checking. (The story also quoted another false story that 175 "right wing Jewish extremists" went to the Al Aqsa Mosque.)

Under a firestorm of criticism, the author of the article Don Melvin insisted that there was nothing wrong with the story, saying that he was clear what the source of the reports were. Even yesterday on Twitter he kept at it:

This is incredibly disingenuous. Generations of news consumers are conditioned to believe official sources that are quoted by the media if there is no indication that the source itself is suspect, and CNN did no exert any effort to uncover the actual facts of the report, leaving the readers with no context that could indicate that the story in the official PA news agency was false. On the contrary, they continued to quote Wafa quoting B'Tselem that indeed settlers do terrible things, confirming the false story in the minds of the readers.

CNN endowed the Wafa news agency with the same gravitas it would give a think tank or a human rights organization issuing a report.

CNN did not say a word to indicate that the reports were false, and Melvin knows very well how the stories would be understood by his audience. I would bet that Melvin, who is based in London, believed the stories himself so much that he did not think they were worth checking, and now he is spinning his gullibility behind his quoting a known lying source as if the audience would know that the source is trash beforehand.

Today, there is another story in the official PA news agency Wafa. It is similar to stories they have run dozens of times before, claiming that Jewish settlers are raising and releasing thousands of wild boars annually in order to destroy Palestinian crops. In this case, the article says that Jews in Ariel are jealous of the beautiful lands that their Arab neighbors in Salfit are using to plant figs, grapes, berries, olives.

The article says that the Jews come with truckfuls of wild boars at night and release them in the Arab fields.

If CNN is to be consistent, they should report this story from the official PA news agency accusing settlers of crimes as well. They won't. Because if they report it as straight as they reported the lies about the olive trees, even people who were raised on a diet of anti-Israel propaganda would think it is absurd that Jews would be raising vicious, wild (and unkosher) animals and somehow place them into trucks (!) for no reason except to terrorize Arabs.

The olive tree/"Jewish extremist" story, on the other hand, seemed plausible to causal readers. This is exactly why CNN's defense of the story is indefensible.

From a pure question of newsworthiness, the wild boar story is far more relevant - because Mahmoud Abbas himself has publicly made the same accusations. A real news organization would hold a politician to higher standards and go after him for saying such absurd lies. But Abbas is untouchable in the mainstream media, and no one at CNN will ever ask him a single difficult question.(I have a long list of such questions that not a single reporter ever asked Abbas.)

This, ladies and gentlemen, is media bias. The choice of stories that are left unreported are just as important as those that are reported. Treating one national leader with kid gloves while mercilessly attacking others is clear proof of bias.

Deep down, Don Melvin (and any real journalist) knows that everything I am writing is true. His reporting on the olive trees and "storming Jews" may have been technically true in that is attributed the source but its style was highly irresponsible because readers would not know the source is suspect. CNN's lack of reporting over the years of the other absurd accusations against Jewish settlers is a clear indication that, to CNN and the other mainstream media, the only news formula that matters is "West Bank Arabs are good. Jewish settlers are evil."

Anything that can challenge that meme is simply to be ignored, because the meme is the story at CNN, and "reporting" is only meant to support the meme, not to uncover the truth.

Yesterday I tweeted Melvin with an article I wrote last September, showing a litany of news stories in a single week that I covered but that were ignored by the media, asking "Is This Newsworthy?" and asking him to answer. Of course, he didn't respond. And neither did any other reporter I asked at the time. Because they know that the bias is there and they can[t admit it without making themselves look bad.

There are plenty of stories that fit any definition of newsworthiness that are ignored, while others that adhere to pre-existing biases are trumpeted, because the narrative the media wants to push is more important than facts.

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