“Deadly Distortions” … Accurate coverage … Is it possible? – II. Analysis

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“Deadly Distortions” … Accurate coverage … Is it possible? – II. Analysis

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This post will analyze news outlets in the United States to determine if Americans are getting fair and balanced coverage.

As a result of their analysis, Cushion and Lewis (2009) suggested that news outlets in the United States are “insular and parochial” because they tend to focus on domestic news; thus, relegating international news to a less significant level (p. 140). Unfortunately, this leaves the general populace to search for international news on their own. Most Americans are either lazy or too busy and do not look further than their nation’s borders. Instead, they blissfully follow what the news organizations provide for them which is usually short sound bites from government officials or military experts that frame countries according to their current affiliation with the United States (Herman & Chomsky, 2002). News outlets frame their content based on what countries are allies or friends of the United States; thus, they cast a certain light on countries deeming their stories or people as “worthy or unworthy” (Herman & Chomsky, 2002).

All framing issues aside, Cushion and Lewis (2009) asserted that some news outlets are no longer in the business of providing facts. Instead, they offer consumers an entertaining version with an ideological twist built on gimmicks and opinion all in an effort to capture audience share (Cushion & Lewis, 2009, p. 132). Unfortunately, these tactics combined with an insular slant do not offer Americans fair and balanced coverage as evidenced by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA). PIPA’s Principal Investigator, Steven Kull (2002) conducted a study titled “Americans on the Israel/Palestinian Conflict: A Study of US Public Attitudes” that provided the following results:

“Asked whether ‘so far this year, more Israelis or more Palestinians have died in the conflict, or is the number roughly equal?’ only 32% of respondents were aware that more deaths have occurred on the Palestinian side than on the Israeli side. Half believed that either more Israelis died (15%), or that the deaths suffered by Israelis and Palestinians had been roughly equal (35%). Another 18% did not answer” (p. 11).

Half of the respondents thought that more Israeli’s died, but the truth is that more Palestinians died as a result of the occupation. Why did these respondents believe there were more Israeli victims? Could it be because Americans hear more on the news about Israelis that are targeted by Palestinian suicide bombers than about the random deaths of Palestinians. Is it because Americans see an overuse of “Breaking News” showing bomb-blasted Israeli buses with ambulances scurrying to take the wounded and worse to hospitals or morgues (Cushion & Lewis, 2009, p. 143)?

This finding is indicative of what American freelance journalist Alison Weir, founder of the website If Americans Knew has learned from her visits to the West Bank and Gaza Strip; and, from monitoring the real number of deaths on her website. Weir is trying to inform the public about the plight of the Palestinians in an increasingly polarized environment. She shares statistics from the Israeli-Palestinian issue that differ with what the news outlets deliver on a daily basis. For example, 1,072 Israelis have died since September 29, 2000, compared to an overwhelming 6,348 Palestinians who perished in the same time frame (Weir, 2009). Clearly, every life is important and every death a tragedy. But, the disparity in reporting is colossal especially when you look at the actual coverage and realize most of the stories focus on the notion of Israelis as the victims and Palestinians as the perpetrators. In a 2004 study of Associated Press headlines or lead paragraphs, 131% of Israeli deaths were reported in comparison to 66% of Palestinian deaths (Deadly Distortions, 2004). In other words, Israeli deaths were reported on average two times more than Palestinians.

Deeply affected by this knowledge, I posted a link to an article by Alison Weir on my Facebook page and immediately received a response from an old high school colleague. He said, “She is a political activist, and a very well known, longtime anti-Semite” (S. O., personal communication, April 1, 2009). How did he know about Alison? I had stumbled across her website several years ago while doing research. I had never heard of her, yet my friend claims she is very well-known. After several Google searches I realized that mainly Zionist writers and the Anti-Defamation League were publicly condemning Alison. My hope is that more people will look at the facts and neutralize these sensational, divisive comments.

Please take 28 minutes of your time and watch Alison Weir’s video Off the Charts and decide for yourself.

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