Only thing is—the Economist thinks the Times hasn’t been hard enough on Israel.

Actually, the article in question from the Economist is about language, in particular, the “weasel voice” of evasion (it’s part of a continuing “Johnson” series about words/grammar in journalism, named after Samuel Johnson).
Here’s the problem with the Times’ coverage, according to the Economist:

On May 14th, as Palestinians massed at the Gaza Strip’s border, Israeli soldiers fired on them, killing around 60 people. Shortly afterwards, the New York Times tweeted: “Dozens of Palestinians have died in protests as the US prepares to open its Jerusalem embassy.” Social media went ballistic. “From old age?” was one incredulous reply. #HaveDied quickly became a hashtag campaign.

The fault was soon laid not only at the door of the Times, but at a feature of English grammar. As Glenn Greenwald, a left-wing journalist, put it, “Most Western media outlets have become quite skilled—through years of practice—at writing headlines and describing Israeli massacres using the passive tense so as to hide the culprit.” His view was retweeted over 5,000 times and echoed by other critics.

Those of you who follow the news on this blog or any other blog that isn’t part of the left will probably be aware of how outrageous this is—and by “this,” I mean the Economist article and the contentions of Greenwald. Now, I have no quarrel with the idea that “have died” is a euphemism and “were killed by Israeli soldiers” would be a better construction to use—I’m all in favor of straight talk. But if we’re into straight talk and actual, unvarnished news rather than propaganda, the Economist critique is highly misleading.

The truth? They weren’t “protests” and these weren’t just random “Palestinians” (see this article by William Jacobson here at Legal Insurrection, just to take one example). And we have no idea how many of them were killed by Israeli soldiers because the only people reporting an actual number were health officials in Gaza, who have a lousy track record for truth.

Read this article for some background to why the Economist’s piece is so outrageous:

…HAMAS displays a remarkable deftness in defining the March of Return as a peaceful demonstration while surreptitiously waging insurgent warfare. Violating the Geneva Conventions, HAMAS have planted its operatives, armed with explosives and weapons, among the so-called peaceful demonstrators. They have also sent little girls to the frontlines, directly into harm’s way.

By getting the world media, including much of the Israeli media, to define (and thus to perceive) the March as a peaceful demonstration, while using it to wage insurgent warfare, HAMAS have scored a major victory in 4GW [Fourth Generation Warfare]. Anything the IDF does to protect the border or even the lives of its own troops will make the IDF look like they’re using excessive force, never mind the fact that the limited force they’ve applied so far has, in all likelihood, kept the “demonstration” from becoming even bloodier.

Pretending to hold “peaceful” demonstrations and deftly tricking the world media into defining the March (marching is a martial metaphor) as a peaceful demonstration by unarmed civilians, HAMAS have created a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t moral predicament in which anything Israel does short of withdrawing from the area will undermine the legitimacy of the Israeli state. By making its defense forces appear “immoral,” HAMAS make Israel itself appear illegitimate.

The article from the Economist about the weasel voice is actually an entire weasel article. But to the vast majority of its readers, nothing is amiss, because it conforms to the MSM narrative that they’ve consumed over and over again. It’s really quite a seamless whole.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]


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