Bogus Balance

Even after the Paris massacres jolted the world into reality and into the recognition that there are good and some very bad players out there, Western media persist in feeling compelled to assign some sort of “equivalence” between those who are murderously targeted and those doing the targeting.

A typical example of such “bogus balance” lay in a November 15 New York Times news story revealing a new level of incitement by a Hamas-run satellite channel, which has been encouraging Arabs in Israel to attack and kill Israelis. A similarly eye-opening piece by the paper’s Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren at the end of October described at length how contemporary Palestinian popular music is being used to agitate Palestinian youths and impel them toward hatred and violence.

Each of the two articles exposes the depth of depravity that festers in Hamas and Palestinian “activism.” That is a responsible and healthy thing. The more recent filing, though, which carried a dual byline, Diaa Hadid and Majd Al Waheidi, saw fit to include a bogus balance line.

After describing how Hamas’ programming, beamed into Israel, is heartily “devoted to chronicling the stabbings, vehicular attacks and clashes with Israeli forces” that have occurred recently; how “a Quranic verse encouraging Muslims to fight” flashed on the screen after a guest on a program praised a woman who tried to stab an Israeli security guard”; how the set for the Hamas program features “a masked Palestinian holding a knife dripping blood over a Star of David”; and how a children’s show featured young Arabs expressing the desire to kill Israelis, the following line appears:

“Incitement, of course, is not a one-way street.”

The evidence for Israeli “incitement,” presented in the subsequent paragraphs, consists only and entirely of the fact that a nongovernmental Israeli website featured (for a time) a computer game, now removed, in which users are given “umbrellas and selfie-sticks to beat back attackers dressed in Hamas green and carrying knives, rifles or firebombs.”

Comparing exhortations to murder actual people to a computer game in which a player tries to fend off such attackers as they attack is beyond illogical. It is comical.

But it is typical of many media’s misunderstanding of the concept of objectivity. Trying to equate two adversaries when there is no equation between them — when one seeks to spill blood and the other seeks to prevent the same — is not fairness. It is folly. And dangerous folly, as it only encourages the violent-prone to vent their lowest urges, knowing that their blood-lust will be “justified” in the media by invoking the “equal” evil of its enemy.

Last week, another article, in the November 20 issue of the same paper, about the murder of five people in Tel Aviv and Etzion, this piece written by another Times reporter, Isabel Kershner, took pains to inform readers that “At least 16 Israelis have been killed in stabbing, vehicular and shooting attacks by Palestinians since the beginning of October,’ but that “about 90 Palestinians have been killed over the same period…”

None of the latter, however, were killed, as were the Israelis, in a premeditated manner, but rather because the Palestinians were attacking Israeli citizens or clashing with security forces. What possible reason could there be, then, for juxtaposing the two numbers? There can be only one answer: obtuseness in the pursuit of “objectivity.”

Other examples of false equivalence are regularly on display in the media. When CNN laments the “wave of violence between Israelis and Palestinians” or the Associated Press carries a timeline of “the latest developments in ongoing tensions between Palestinians and Israelis,” a subtle and mendacious message is planted in the public mind: there is no difference between premeditated hate-fueled violence and attempts to stop it.

It may be too much to expect the media to communicate salient truths like the fact that there never was a Palestinian state in any part of what Palestinians are claiming as their birthright, that Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza brought only a terrorist government and rains of rockets onto Israeli towns, that Palestinian leaders have turned down realistic two-state plans or that anti-Israel sentiment is usually a flimsy mask for old-fashioned Jew-hatred.

But it shouldn’t be too much to ask that false equivalencies not be made, that attackers and victims are not equal parties to the crime of murder, that attempts at objectivity are sometimes insanity, that there are, as the civilized world is coming to recognize, good and evil operating in the world.