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I saw this documentary once
It is not unknown for me to occasionally to begin a story with, "I saw this documentary once..." Something along the lines of I saw this documentary once where they showed how spiders are really intelligent and actually have a basic grasp of English; sufficient that they can spell out words in their webs. In this documentary, the spider was able to use this talent to save a pig from being slaughtered.
I do it because I think it is funny.
I also do it because, deep down, I have lost any faith that, given a conflict between truth and sensationalist entertainment, truth will get a look in edgeways. It goes for documentary makers. It goes for journalists. It especially goes for journalists.
I have posted several times recently complaining about the bias inherent in news stories. I would like the opportunity to recant. I no longer believe there are biased news stories. That would require them to actually be reporting news.
Incidentally, half-truths, deceptions and outright lies do not count as news. If someone was reporting on our recent house purchase, they could report it as "we had to go into debt because the other party took a lot of money from us". True, but willfully misleading. Similarly the vendors could have it phrased as "they came and occupied our home and we were told we had to vacate it." Again, true but misleading. The truth, of course, is quite mundane, but then, legal, ordinary house purchases rarely if ever make front page news.
But one of the two one-sided half truths may have made a major news story. Particularly if the reporter didn't check facts.
In Australia, there has been some mumblings of discontent about free press after Howard, Coonan and Fielding gave Packer a big present. In general, if journalists were interested in broadcasting truths rather than sensationalised beat-ups mascarading as news, it would be of concern. In reality, apart from the occasional kow-towing to either boss or to a political dogma, journalism is just another form of entertainment. Some choice - journalism as polemic or journalism as entertainment.
Take, as an example, the fauxtography out of Lebanon. This was picked up by Reuters, distributed widely around the world and published without question. It was unmasked when a blogger looked at it, saw something was amiss, and brought attention to the obvious photoshop editting. The fact that it was published so widely by a credulous media shows that the Fourth Estate does not serve its purpose. As far as hard questions go, pointing the mistakes out was easy. Did the Guardian, the Times or the Independent do it? No. The BBC? Nup. The Age, Oz, SMH or Hun? Not a chance. The ABC? Ha! They kept broadcasting it for hours after Reuters pulled the story.
So anyway, if their bullshit detectors aren't going off over that, what use are they? If they will believe that, I'll stick an ad for a bridge in their classifieds. And as I've said in earlier posts, reporting lies can have serious consequences.
Just as a side note, this isn't a "MSM bad, blogs good" post. Blogs are just as bad, especially those preaching the truth. I'm excused because I don't claim to be telling the truth. This site is to be taken for entertainment purposes only. (Not yours, mine)
In the last couple of days, however, I have realised. It all makes sense. And I am sometimes guilty of it too. For some reason, stories are better received if they have an air of authenticity. "Based on a true story." "It happened to a friend of a friend of mine." Hollywood and TV have known for a long time. Even jokes starting off, "I was on a plane once..."
Indeed, I have started off some of what I consider my better posts with things like 'this is a speech from' or 'you might have missed this story but'. Just in case anyone is wondering, I write virtually everything on this site. I might borrow the odd line here or there, or throw in a cultural reference, but then the context I'm moving it to is my own, just as artists using crucifiction take their own context to make give it their own meaning. Admittedly I rarely understand their meaning, but anyway...
So given that entertainment is better received if it allegedly true, we can excuse journalists pretty much anything. They can tell outright lies and it doesn't matter. They will usually stick more or less to the facts (generally while reinforcing readers' prejudices), but only to maintain an air of authenticity. Give them a sensational story which might not actually be true, and any air of so-called journalistic integrity is jettisoned faster than you can say "why is that yeti wearing a watch?".
This brings me to the first blood-libel of the century. In 2000, just days into the intafada, a Palestinian cameraman recorded 27 minutes of footage. Almost all of this was so-called Pallywood - Palestinians engaged in mock gun battles with "Israelis" and faking injuries for the camera. In the midst of this, there is a 55 second shot where a 12 year old Palestinian boy, Muhammad al-Dura, is cowering with his father. The image then claims to show him being shot during cross-fire between Israeli troops and Palestinians. I'll refer readers here for a more detailed description of the events, background and evidence that, at the very least, the Israelis did not shoot him. Particularly well reasoned details can be found at The Augean Stables.
Those images shocked the world. Those muslims inclined to riot at the drop of a centuries-old quote took to the streets. Statements were made such as "Death to all Israelis, kill all the Jews." European consciences were eased over the holocaust. When Daniel Perl was beheaded, the murders apparently interspersed the video with images of al-Dura. Al-Dura became a symbol of Palestinian struggle and many people, Israelis, Palestinians and others, died as a result.
All fairly predictable responses, really. You'd think, then, given the seriousness of the consequences, that any responsible journalist would make absolutely certain of their facts. Saying, "I trust my cameraman" isn't good enough. Unfortunately, Charles Enderlin did just that. He broadcast a report making spurious accusations against Israel, based on images of a cowering boy taken in amongst scenes of Pallywood, and France 2 distributed it throughout the world. Free. They can't even be excused on the grounds of trying to make a
Admittedly, if true, the story is a huge one. Which is why, at this point, journalistic integrity is essential. Because, however, "news" is entertainment, not truth, there is no such thing as journalistic integrity and they can do as they please. And no station who broadcast it; no reporter who reported on it, without checking the facts with a reasonable certainty, is excused. None at all.
Back to Enderlin now. You can find his attempts at self-justification elsewhere (down the page). But to claim that it was acceptable to broadcast without checking because it reflects the reality of what was going on in Gaza and the West Bank is the height of dishonesty. If it is truly what is going on, then file that story. Based on facts. Indeed, if it is going on, there should be little trouble finding real evidence which will pass a bullshit detector. Every foreign corresponent in Israel would have been looking for it. Why didn't they find it if it is the "reality"?
Now, having been caught in his own lies (he may not have originated them, but he took ownership), he is now bullying people who "insult his honour". Ironic, because he has none, but anyway... Playing Zola, Phillipe Karsenty j'accused Enderlin. In what, from the reports I've been following, sounds remarkably like a rigged trial, Karsenty was found to have wronged Enderlin and France 2 and was ordered to pay damages. Details of the trial can be found (read in order)here, here,here,and here.
So given that journalists can't be trusted to leave fake stories alone, what value is the media, diversified or otherwise? Entertainment value only.
My favourite procrastinations
The Head Heeb - Jonathan provides a balanced view on various Israeli and (former) colonial states in less developed regions of the world.
The Bladder - a sports satire site. Well worth a look.