How the Media Partnered With Hezbollah: Harvard’s Cautionary Report

Tell me again that there is no leftist media bias:

While the war between Israel and Hezbollah raged in Lebanon and Israel last summer, it became clear that media coverage had itself started to play an important role in determining the ultimate outcome of that war. It seemed clear that news coverage would affect the course of the conflict. And it quickly transpired that Hezbollah would become the beneficiary of the media’s manipulation.

A close examination of the media’s role during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war in Lebanon comes now from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, in an analysis of the war published in a paper whose subtitle should give pause to journalists covering international conflict: “The Israeli-Hezbollah War of 2006: The Media as a Weapon in Asymmetrical Conflict.” Bernard Kalb, of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, methodically traces the transformation of the media “from objective observer to fiery advocate.” Kalb painstakingly details how Hezbollah exercised absolute control over how journalists portrayed its side of the conflict, while Israel became “victimized by its own openness.”

The lessons from the Harvard paper go well beyond historic analysis. Kalb’s thoroughly and persuasively documented case points to the challenges to journalists in future “asymmetrical” conflicts in which a radical militia provides access only to journalists agreeing to the strictest of rules.

Journalists did Hezbollah’s work, offering little resistance to the Islamic militia’s effort to portray itself as an idealistic and heroic army of the people, facing an aggressive and ruthless enemy. With Hezbollah’s unchallenged control of journalists’ access within its territory, it managed to almost completely eliminate from the narrative crucial facts, such as the fact that it deliberately fired its weapons from deep within civilian population centers, counting on Israeli forces to have no choice but defend themselves by targeting rocket launchers where they stood. Hezbollah’s strong support from Syria and Iran — including the provision of deadly weapons — faded in the coverage, as the conflict increasingly became portrayed as pitting one powerful army against a band of heroic defenders of a civilian population.

Gradually lost in the coverage was the fact that the war began when Hezbollah infiltrated Israel, kidnapping two of its soldiers (still held to this day) and killing eight Israelis. Despite the undisputed fact that Hezbollah triggered the war, Israel was painted as the aggressor, as images of the war overtook the context."

The media (The AP, Reuters, CNN and so on) really are the enemy.


Paul Hue said...

I don't know what to do about this, except for the real Freedom Fighters to enter armed conflict knowing that the world's news media and a devoted portion of their domestic population (leftists & liberals) will operate in this fashion. Real Freedom Fighters have a special list of considerations that they alone must observe, and this observance is what makes them Freedom Fighters in the first place.

For example, only real Freedom Fighters have an incentive to avoid civilian casualties and destruction. This is why the tyrants fire from -- and on! -- civilian residences: if the Israeli or US soldiers fire back, the media will report civilian killing and destruction. Conversely, if the Israeli and US troops fail to fire back, the tyrants perform more of their own killing and destruction, which in turn the news media and devoted leftists will blame on Isreali and US troops.

So the tyrants in a conflict have a no-lose situation, and the real freedom fighters a no-win situation. There seems zero chance of changing this.

I do not know how to avoid this, but certainly the real Freedom Fighters must account for this in their war strategies.

Meanwhile, in other areas the real Freedom Fighters have special standards. This includes corruption and certain choices. Whereas the news media and leftists will actually blame the US and Israelis for attrocities committed by the tyrants, and will simply overlook corruption and other financial misdealings, Israeli and US entities must at all cost behave correctly, though they often fail. For example, the US spending so much to build a palatial embassy in Bagdahd, bombing the wrong targets, and populating the transitional govt with US honkies. The US did not have to make those mistakes.

A very frustrating situation, I agree.

But we do need to acknowledge that in the lead up to the US invasion of Iraq, Bush pretty much got a free hand from this otherwise lefty-biased media.

Nadir said...

I can't believe you guys still support Israel's slaughter of thousands of innocent people in supposed retaliation for one captured soldier.


Paul Hue said...

We don't view Israel's actions in the way that you do. We believe that Israel's leaders want its nation to live within its own set borders, with all residents having personal liberties and full citizenship and total control of its own government via democratic processes, and no designs on conquest of other nations except in self-defense. Thus we support Israel's army invading a neighboring nation to squash militaries firing into Israel and capturing its soldiers on raids into Israel.

When surrounding nations transform themselves into civilizations that have as much democracy and freedom of religion and speech as does Israel, we can start discussing Israel's anti-democratic special status for Jews.

You and Tom, conversely view Israel as a modern incarnation of the Third Reich, with intentions of conquering vast areas of Arabia and transforming the goy residents there into either corpses or vassals.

sixstringslinger said...
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sixstringslinger said...

No Nadir, what's shameful is that you continue to make excuses for dysfunctional, homophobic, women-oppressing, death-cult "nations" and societies such as Palestine, run by Hamas, a group of thugs that knowingly uses its own citizens as human shields. A "government" elected by the Palestinians themselves.

You make excuses for their murderous ways all the while codemning the only free, open, liberal society - Israel - in the Middle East. A society YOU, as a "PROGRESSIVE" (that's a laugh) should defend to the last breath; a society where gay men and women can hold public rallies without fear of being stoned to death; a society where even Palestinians can vote, run for office and participate in Israeli politics; where even Palestinians can live and prosper.

Shame on YOU for being such a fool. Shame on you for hating your own country so badly that you would side with dysfunctional f*ckheads like that out of spite for the U.S.'s support for the only free, democratic, liberal society in the middle east.

But I'm sure all this was ingrained in you from your "Middle East Studies" classes in college. Right?

Tom Philpott said...

Gosh, Six, is Michael Savage pounding the "tenured radicals" card this week?

The ironies here are many. Israel's invasion of Lebanon went on for days and days before any critical commentary appeared in the mainline US press. When it did, hysterics like Six essentially begin equating criticism of Israel with treason. "Shame on you for hating your own country so badly," he screeches, sounding like a functionary from the 1950s defending the university purges.

Meanwhile, in Israel, which actually has a rigorous press and robust public debate, criticism of the incursion--which, we now know, was egged on by Condoleeza Rice--flew from day one. Here, it's been largely forgotten, shuffled into the regions of instant historical amnesia. Those who remember it on the right blame the media for its abject failure. In Israel, the invasion is widely viewed as a vast blunder, an action that consolidated Hezbolla's status as the only group in the region wiling to take on Israel.

Tom Philpott said...

If "the media (The AP, Reuters, CNN and so on) really are the enemy," how shall we engage them? Arms? Jail time--a stint at Gitmo? Rewrite of the Patriot Act to reign them in?

Paul Hue said...

I believe with Six that to a great extent the press behaves as the enemy of US and Israeli efforts to defend and expand civilization. However, I also believe that modern civilization has no choice but to accept this conduct, to account for it in all battle plans, and to counter it only by having people like me and Six expressing ourselves as clearly and articulately as possible.

One problem that I cite Bush for is seemingly not knowing that permitting even a little torture would result in reporters from the world's free press portraying it as something even worse than that practiced by Hussein, Castro, Ho Chi Mihn, etc. Sure, it's wrong for the press and the "peace activists" to do this. But in a free nation this will happen in the modern era. So why not wise up and account for it? Why not eliminate torture? Why not build "war on terror" prison facilities that account for the fact that some prisoners are innocent, and that some guilty prisoners are candidates for changing sides?

And, perhaps, why not assume that well-meaning armies in the modern age intending to replace a tyranny with civilization can do so only if a critical mass of civilians already want this?