[Marxism] Watching American TV in Beirut

Y. K. ykleftis at hotmail.com
Thu Jul 20 17:40:34 MDT 2006

Stupid and ignorant?  Or just plain ol' racist?

Watching American TV in Beirut

By Habib Battah

Thursday 20 July 2006, 12:24 Makka Time, 9:24 GMT

US TV gives the impression that Israel attacks only Hezbollah

War in Lebanon has once again become breaking news on television screens 
across the world, but a growing body of distorted reporting is being 
disseminated just as rapidly as the country is being destroyed.

In recent days, many American news programmes have demonstrated an 
exceptionally weak knowledge of Lebanese politics, skewed further by a lack 
of access to areas that have been attacked in the country and their victims.

Take Monday's coverage of the conflict on NBC's popular Today Show with 
anchorwoman Nathalie Morales, who in introducing a report on Hezbollah, 
rhetorically asks: "So just who is Israel at war with in this latest chapter 
of an ancient conflict?"

Not only does the reporter assume that Israel's war targets only Hezbollah 
(and not the Lebanese civilians, government, private businesses and the 
military, which have all been  attacked) but even contradicts earlier 
reports on her own network indicating Hezbollah's founding to be in the 
early 1980s; hardly considered "ancient" times.

Equally misleading were reports on the Today Show defining Hezbollah solely 
as the mastermind of the 1982 attacks on US marines and possessor of 
long-range missiles.

Absent in the reporting was any reference to Hezbollah's role in defeating 
the 22-year Israeli occupation of the country and its support among up to a 
million Lebanese, with many benefiting from an intricate network of social 
services and political representation.

Of course, failing to report such details contributes to the view that 
Hezbollah acts as merely a renegade organisation rather than a movement that 
encompasses roughly a quarter of the country's population.

Thousands of Lebanese civilians
have been displaced

On the other hand, when it comes to reporting the situation in Israel, 
anchors on sister network MSNBC seem to boast an intimate knowledge of the 
population, even a bit of psychoanalytical skill.

During his show Hardball with Chris Mathews, the host describes the Israeli 
town of Haifa as being similar to a city in California, "very modern, very 

Anchorwoman Rita Cosby, who freely dubs Hezbollah as "rag-tag" terrorists, 
would later describe an attack on "Holy Nazareth" as an assault on "the home 
town of Jesus", and erroneously as his birthplace - of course no reference 
to the multitude of biblical cities in Lebanon.

Many pundits are blatantly supportive of Israel's fight against "terror 
On Hardball, Mathews asks a reporter on the scene how Israelis are coping 
with "vacation plans" considering the war situation. Mathews concludes that 
a resilient character among the Israeli people, will "keep that country 
around for a very long time".

Later in the show there is analysis with field reporters and political 
pundits, many blatantly supportive of Israel's fight against "terror acts" 
and the "worldwide Islamic threat" - still no mention of the widespread 
devastation and human loss in Lebanon.

Mathew’s questions include: "How do you get Hezbollah to stop? Will Israel 
get the job done? How broad a goal is Israel setting?" And finally: "What’s 
a bigger threat to the United States? Al-Qaeda or Hezbollah?"

Lebanese have no warning of or
proper shelter from air raids
Mathews makes reference to the plight of the Lebanese only once during his 
show, when a reporter raises the possibility of a "bloody mess" for Israel.

Hours later, early on Tuesday, the casualty count in Lebanon stands at 
around 200 as cities and towns across the country are systematically 
pulverised, leaving hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians trapped and 
unable to escape the fighting.

A massive refugee crisis looms large while the country lies in complete 
disarray with its arterial roadways and bridges completely destroyed.  
Meanwhile, around a dozen are dead in Israel, with the last large attack 
occurring at a train depot on Sunday.

On Tuesday, 11 Lebanese soldiers are killed and a handful of rockets are 
launched at northern Israel with no casualties reported.

There is no indication of which side is doing the lion's share of the 
killing, perpetuating a false sense of balance on the battlefield
MSNBC decides to begin its newscast from Israel with a graphic that reads 
"breaking news: more than 250 killed in 7 days of fighting in Israel and 
Lebanon". There is no indication of which side is doing the lion's share of 
the killing, perpetuating a false sense of balance on the battlefield.

Over a live video feed, MSNBC anchorwoman Chris Jansen asks a reporter in 
North Israel about how average citizens there are coping with the short time 
lag between rocket attacks and air-raid sirens. The reporter describes a 
"quite frightening" situation for locals.

Jansen then speaks to a reporter in Lebanon over the phone, with a focus on 
the latest developments in the evacuation of foreign nationals.  We are 
never told that average Lebanese citizens across the border have absolutely 
no warning of attacks and little access to well-fortified bomb shelters.

Before a commercial break there is footage of destruction across Lebanon, 
with swaths of the capital reduced to rubble. However, the graphics indicate 
that these are images of "Mideast Crisis" and not the result of 
round-the-clock Israeli air strikes.

Unlike the static clip of masked gunmen stomping on Israeli flags - images 
repeatedly attributed to Hezbollah and the Lebanese side - we see no 
equivalent attribution of burning cities and residences to Israel and its 

The media myths continue unabated on Wednesday when an NBC reporter 
stationed on Cyprus tells a studio anchor that the American evacuation from 
Beirut will begin shortly and that the US embassy is providing a "safe 
haven" or "bomb shelters" for the thousands of US citizens as they wait.

Americans get a limited view of
the real evacuation picture
But in truth, hundreds of Americans amass on an open-air seafront promenade 
near the embassy compound, where hundreds more crowd the streets and parking 

One US citizen, who gave her name only as Liliane, decided to return to her 
apartment after waiting out in the heat for several hours, disgusted she 
said by the disorganisation and curt attitude of US military personnel.

She described the plight of a woman with a newborn child sitting on the 
pavement with other children, pleading for help.

"They just didn't care," she said, drawing a contrast with television 
pictures of a smiling US ambassador escorting evacuees on to helicopters and 
while others were ferried away on chartered ships.

"They didn’t show what was happening outside the boats. On TV it looks like 
the situation is under control."


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