Giving the West what it wants to hear (and see): The abuse of journalism

By Ana

The June 4 edition of TIME just came out. And, of course, the cover is about Lebanon. Lebanon: The Fire This Time and the subtitle: Clashes with Islamist militants foreshadow another summer of violence–and threaten to tip the country back toward civil war. Thanks to Nicholas Blanford, spectacularized corporate media (Go Warner Bros!) has brought to the Western living room some action. Turn to the article, it’s called “Up in Smoke” with a fantastic photo of a man watching the attacks of the Palestinian camp Nahr Al-Bared. The article begins with the perspective of fleeing Palestinian refugees that had taken advantage of Tuesday’s ceasefire, providing accurate facts and an appropriate chronology, not too pink and not too sour, just right for TIME’s light readers. But then Blanford gives the evangelists what they want: a quote from the Old Testament with a declaration of Jeremiah: “Go up to Lebanon and cry,” it reads. Blanford continues saying, “…and as the familiar images–pillars of smoke, innocents fleeing the fighting, tough young men toting huge guns¬–popped up on TV screens and newspapers around the world, so the sense that fate decrees nothing but tears for Lebanon took root once again.”

After spending four months working with the Agence-France Presse (AFP), I have become increasingly irritated by the cookie-cutter labels journalists love to prop on names and figures. Why do we insist on calling the Seniora government “pro-Western” and “anti-Syrian” and the March 8 “pro-Syrian” and in the case of Hezbollah, “anti-Western”? What do these labels mean? Do they help give us a better understanding of a situation that is much more complex than Arabs versus West, no matter what the Orientalists tell us? Blanford of course adopts the same discourse, labeling Minister of Telecommunications Marwan Hamade as “a leading anti-Syrian politician” for his Western readers to situate Hamade where they want him to be: with them. Has anyone ever considered calling him “pro-Lebanese”? Or if anything, since we are talking about deconstructing labels and being pro-Lebanese, to a certain extent, can make little sense, why not just call him a “March 14 leader”?

Blanford then goes on to say, “The crackdown on Fatah al-Islam, they say, is part of a broader attempt by the U.S.-backed Lebanese government to quell any sign of anti-American Sunni extremism.” Actually, Blanford, at times of crisis, I don’t think Seniora could really care about propagating American policy to such detail. He’s cracking down on this group because they are destabilizing Lebanon. No need for broader spectacularized conclusions.

I’ll leave my comments on Seymour Hersh’s ridiculous March article for another time.

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Filed under Lebanon, March 14, March 8

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