Unless you know your way around the blogosphere or get your news from publications like the Malaysia Sun, Australia’s Sunday Morning Herald or Germany’s Die Welt, you likely missed the story last week that some 84 Hollywood celebrities – actors, directors and producers – had signed an ad condemning Hizbullah and Hamas that appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Hollywood Reporter and Variety.
Continued from last week, some random observations of what others have been saying about the warfare in Lebanon, beginning with a series of fiercely anti-Olmert columns by Ari Shavit in Haaretz, Israel’s preeminent left-wing daily.
What’s been most striking about the media coverage of the war between Israel and Hizbullah is the sheer familiarity of it all. It took many of the usual suspects about a week or so to get their preset narrative – both sides are blameworthy, Israel’s response is disproportional, an immediate cease-fire is the only answer, and can’t we all just get along? – up and running, but that’s exactly what happened as soon as Lebanese civilian casualties began to mount and inconveniences like background and context could be shunted off beyond camera range.
Media coverage of the fighting between Israel and Hizbullah has gone largely as expected – CNN, The New York Times and other liberal outlets see events largely through a prism of Lebanese civilian casualties, while Fox News, the New York Sun and other conservative organs present a broader picture of Hizbullah provocations and the suffering of civilians on both sides.
Next week the Monitor will examine aspects of the media coverage of Israel’s war on Hizbullah. This week, we take a stroll down memory lane, revisiting an early Monitor column from October 1998 (yes, the Monitor’s been around for nearly eight years now). The piece was titled “The Times Reverts To Old Hab-its,” and its conclusions should be kept in mind as one reads the paper’s editorials on the current fighting:
Several readers responded to last week’s Monitor on the departure of Dan Rather from CBS News by making reference to Rather’s predecessor, the legendary Walter Cronkite, as some sort of paragon of journalistic objectivity. The Monitor begs to differ.
Dan Rather is finally out at CBS News, nearly two years after his shoddy and discredited reporting – in the midst of a very tight presidential campaign – on President Bush’s National Guard service, and more than a decade after his CBS Evening News settled into last place among the network newscasts, where it’s remained ever since.
Not exactly light beach reads, the following books on American presidents deal with Mideast issues in an extended and intelligent manner. These are not necessarily the best all-around biographies or studies of the individual presidents listed (though some rank right up there), but the strongest in terms of exploring presidential attitudes and policies toward Israel.
When Nick Berg, an American entrepreneur who traveled to Iraq in search of business, was savagely murdered two years ago by Islamic militants, his father seemed angrier at George Bush than at the hellish creatures who slowly and painstakingly sawed off his poor son’s head.
Since returning to private life some three decades ago, Henry Kissinger has doggedly attempted to restore some luster to a rather badly tarnished image. Lionized by the press in the mid-1970’s as “Super K,” the unprecedentedly powerful secretary of state and mighty architect of American foreign policy during the Nixon-Ford era, Kissinger saw his stock fall rapidly in the 1980’s and 90’s as conservatives criticized him for what they saw as his defeatist policy of détente with the Soviet Union and liberals lambasted him for what they viewed as his amoral, Machiavellian sacrifice of American ideals on the altar of pragmatism and realpolitik.
When reporter Abraham Michael Rosenthal’s byline began appearing in The New York Times back in the 1940’s, the sensitivities of the paper’s owners – German Jews of the fully assimilated “Our Crowd” variety – dictated that he use the initials A.M. in place of his glaringly ethnic first name.
Arizona Sen. John McCain, the early front-runner for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, had a potential John Connally/Mike Dukakis/John Kerry moment earlier this month, and hardly anyone seems to have noticed.
William Sloane Coffin Jr., the left-wing Presbyterian minister who gained notoriety in the 1960’s for his militant antiwar stance and his association and identification with radicals of every stripe while serving as chaplain at Yale University, died April 12 at age 81. The coverage in the mainstream media was almost uniformly laudatory – as it invariably is for those who establish themselves as outspoken critics of the United States.
In response to occasional reader inquiries, the Monitor has put together the following list of some worthwhile books on the media, arranged in no particular order. (Though many of the titles are out of print or otherwise hard to come by, most should be available at any decent-sized public library. And thanks to the Internet, even books long out of print are available at surprisingly affordable prices from sites like Amazon and Alibris.)
It’s not exactly news that The New York Times editorial page detested Ronald Reagan. But who would have thought that seventeen years after the end of his presidency and nearly two years after his death the Times would still seek to denigrate Reagan’s legacy, on its news pages, in a manner that can only be described as petty and inappropriate?
It was a far-fetched scenario as recently as a year ago, but Al Gore is quietly making something of a political comeback. Moderate Democrats who despair that the early frontrunner for their party’s 2008 presidential nomination, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, is likely unelectable, can’t help remembering that Gore won half a million more votes than George W. Bush in 2000. Meanwhile, the party’s base voters, appreciably more to the left than the country at large and angry at what they perceive to be Clinton’s drift to the center, are looking for someone other than her to carry the anti-Bush, antiwar banner.
Judging from the shocked reaction among right-wing bloggers to a paper on U.S.-Israel relations written by professors Stephen Walt of Harvard and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and issued this month by Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, one would think the paper’s authors were a couple of unknowns with no discernible paper trail.
Jay Bennish, the Colorado teacher who told his class that the U.S. “is probably the single most violent nation on planet earth” and that President Bush’s State of the Union speech “sound[ed] a lot like the things that Adolf Hitler used to say,” was given a relatively free ride by the national news media.
He’s the columnist who complained that “Hitler died in 1945, but anti-Hitler hysteria is still going strong”; cautioned against “the excessive moral prestige Jews have in the media and the public square”; whined about “Jews deciding the standards, setting the criteria of humanity”; and observed, in chilling if artful prose, that because Jews “set themselves up as the arbiter, there is, if you’ll pardon the expression, a certain ‘kill the umpire’ impulse.”
Yes, another piece on The New York Times – and those who don’t understand why the Times warrants constant scrutiny probably have no business reading a media column in the first place.
Readers with long memories are asked to indulge the Monitor's use, for the second time in three years, of a quote about The New York Times from the noted essayist and author Renata Adler. In the introduction to her book Canaries in the Mineshaft (St. Martin's Press, 2001), Adler, herself a Timeswoman many years ago, dismisses the "paper of record" in typically acerbic fashion, encapsulating in a handful of words everything that's gone wrong on West 43rd Street.
It’s time again for the Monitor’s latest listing of worthwhile websites and blogs. (As always, there is no particular order to the list; names appearing toward the top are not necessarily more valuable than those closer to the bottom.)
The winner of the Monitor’s second annual Henry Schwarzschild Award for most offensive comments by a Jew in the public spotlight goes to Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. The prize, which last year went to Israeli uber-leftist Uri Avnery, is awarded to the person who, in the Monitor’s considered opinion, by his or her statements displays a contempt for the Jewish people, a disregard for historical truth, a desire to sup at the table of Israel=s enemies, or who otherwise plays into the hands of the enemies of Jews and Israel.
Milton Himmelfarb died earlier this month at age 87, and chances are you never heard of him if, like most Americans, you tend not to be a devotee of intellectual and political journals. But Milton Himmelfarb — Mendy, as he was known to his family — was, by virtue of temperament, history and family, a seminal figure in the development of neoconservatism as one of the country’s most influential political forces.
There was no escaping the news of Ariel Sharon’s massive stroke last week. Newspapers, magazines, radio, television, the Internet — all were chock full of breaking stories; backgrounders on Sharon’s life; sound bites from doctors, Israelis, Arabs, Jews in New York, and various Jewish organizational types desperately trying — without much success — to seem even a little bit relevant.