Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Please Read Solomonia.com Today
What an amazing article...
Sol interviews Boston University history professor Richard Landes, mostly on the topic of Prof. Landes's upcoming 21st Century Media Group project -- which aims to show how news is distorted, deliberately or otherwise, by comparing raw footage to the edited news derived from that footage.
In particular, Prof. Landes wants to show how news of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict relies heavily on footage of Palestinian activities... which are deliberately staged for the cameras. (Are the Western media unwitting dupes for swallowing this whole? Or are they complicit? Prof. Landes claims that some of both is probably involved, and leaves the issue open.)
This isn't news to the right-of-center crowd (which is where you find most of the pro-Israel folks these days, unfortunately). What's amazing is that Prof. Landes openly describes himself as a leftist... and blows the whistle on his fellow leftists for sabotaging the very people they're trying to help.
There's this great line by Bob Simon [of 60 Minutes], 'In the Middle East, one image can be worth 1000 weapons.' I think that there's a prevalent view in the press that since the Israelis have most of the weapons, the media can "level the playing field" by giving the Palestinians the media victory.Or this:
In fact what they're doing is they're prolonging everyone's misery. They're prolonging the conflict. It's not pro-Palestinian to run this propaganda, it's pro-Palestinian leadership which is systematically exploiting its own people's suffering to pursue a vendetta and the media is essentially backing the nastiest people in the conflict and telling themselves that they're somehow siding with 'the Palestinians.'
"I'm not about truth per se," he's quick to correct me. "I'm for honesty -- that's something different. Look, the post-modern argument is that there is no such thing as objective truth. Right? Everybody's got a story. Ultimately in a sense they're right, because if you're only going to say things that are objectively true, that are not contested, that are not dependent on people's perceptions, then you're only going to say, for instance, 'the man died.' You can't even say, 'that man killed him,' much less, 'he murdered him.' OK? You could say, 'he killed him,' if, say, you got a picture of him slicing the other guy's head off. If you say, 'he killed him,' we're still in the realm of objective truth. Everyone's going to agree. But murder? That's motive, and motive is a judgment call.Where, indeed? I think he's put his finger on an important part of what's wrong with post-modernism: the obsessive quest for objectivity, in fields of ethics and morality, where they don't apply the same way as they do in other fields.
So 'objective truth' means we pass no judgments. Now I personally think that if you can't pass judgments, you're not going to last long. It doesn't say much about you as a moral being."
"I had a student who came to me the other day during office hours. He's doing a paper on the Nazis. He's writing a bibliographical essay and there's a book he's describing, and his summary says something along the lines of, 'This was a very interesting book, but it's pretty biased and I don't know how much I can rely on it, but there are still some facts I can use even though most of it is biased.'
What's its bias, I ask him? 'Well, it's very critical of the Nazis.'" Landes laughs and shakes his head.
"Where did we go wrong?"
As I used to argue endlessly with people: on a moral level, people are different. Perhaps, on some etherial level, the death of one person is as tragic as the death of another. But in practice, it makes a great deal of difference to me if the dead man is my father or a total stranger. And that's the way it should be.
It's the same as saying that an accidental death -- say, an innocent bystander accidentally killed during a police raid -- is objectively just like a hostage deliberately murdered by her kidnappers. Some people go to a lot of trouble to argue that these two events are equivalent -- after all, isn't there a dead body in both cases, someone who didn't deserve to die? Yes, as far as it goes, and it's also true that both deaths are tragic. But they are not morally equivalent, not at all. (Nor are they legally equivalent -- the former is involuntary manslaughter at worst; the latter is first-degree murder.)
On the subject of honesty, Prof. Landes -- who, as near as I can tell, is no admirer of George W. Bush or his policies -- says this:
No, it's a liberal issue! Look it's...the thing people don't understand is that 'our' conservatives - the people like George Bush and Ariel Sharon - are so far to the left when you place them in the framework of, say, Arab politics that it's a joke...OK? There's no Arab leader that would tolerate the kinds of attacks that George Bush has tolerated without making sure that the people who did it were severely punished for their effrontery. The Arab Michael Moore, who exposed the lies told by the Palestinian media -- that Arafat used to dupe the Palestinians into a losing war -- would never have survived long enough to show it.(punctuation added)
Quite right -- but how often have you heard this said? How often have you heard leftist academics say it?
Read the whole thing, please. This is important stuff.