Sunday, June 26, 2005

Settler, settler, settler... 

Caption from a Reuters photo at Yahoo of a bearded, kippah-clad man helping move a wounded Israeli terror victim from an ambulance:

An Israeli settler moves a wounded settler out from the ambulance to Enkarem hospital in Jerusalem June 24, 2005. Palestinian gunmen killed a Jewish settler on Friday in a West Bank drive-by shooting, Israel's ambulance service said, in the latest blow to a fragile Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire. Two other settlers, including a teenager, were wounded in the attack on a hitchhiking post near the city of Hebron, the Israeli army said. REUTERS/Gil Cohen Magen
If you are a regular blog reader, an lgf-regular, you can probably sniff a "biased-media" rant a mile away. I try to ration how often I indulge my unfair-media-whine instinct, especially since this ground is already well-covered by others. But when a teapot boils, it's got to whistle. So bear with me please.

As you can probably tell from the highlighted words settler and gunmen in the Reuters text I've quoted, I'm sick of a certain ubiquitous sleight-of-hand game the media plays with us. They insist on calling people who shoot at Israeli civilians for political reasons anything but what they are: terrorists. And I say that as one who wouldn't call the same people terrorists if they shot at soldiers. I don't want them shooting at my soldiers, but that's not terror. This is. Nevertheless, Reuters, and almost every other media outlet farther left than Fox News, insists on calling them gunmen. Or activists. Or insurgents. Freedom fighters. Etc. When pressed, they invariably find journalistic principles that require them to misrepresent the obvious: "Terror is a pejorative, emotionally-laden term", or "Terrorist is a 'judgemental' term and we don't judge the conflict, just report it."

Yeah, whatever. So they call the terrorist shooters here gunmen. A triumph of journalistic integrity, objectivity, and myopia.

In the meantime, let's see the rest of this non-judgemental, non-pejorative journalistic truth-in-labelling at work. What would be the word most likely to paint an Israeli in a bad light, at least from a mainstream journalist's point-of-view? Why, settler, of course. Forget for the moment that there is nothing wrong with the word settler. But through years and years of repetition, always in some gun-toting, kick-the-arabs-out, militant religious context, the media (including Israel's own left) has managed to twist the term settler into a four letter word. The settler label comes in handy when reporters want to avoid the anti-semitic overtones of painting "the Jews" in a bad light, and worry that calling us Zionists sounds too obviously like Arab propaganda. Of course the term Israeli could be used, but that risks implying support for Israel's legitimacy, and they don't want to prejudge the conflict. So settler it is: mean, nasty settlers.

Reuters here manages to slip the word in four times within three sentences, perhaps not an all-time record, but certainly an achievement worthy of attention. It does so in reference to five separate Israelis. This superhuman sense of objectivity we hear so much about couldn't have found a single other term for any of the five Israelis? Not, perhaps, simply Israeli? That is what these people are, after all.

Or, if gunman is the prefered alternative to terrorist, the targeted Israelis could easily have been called "Israeli gunshot victims" if not "victims of terror."

Another possible journalistic excuse they might try here is that they can't know for a fact what the motives of the shooters were until they can find them and question them, preferably with two anonymous sources to back them up. Heck, it could have just been some vacationing gang-bangers from Los Angeles out having a good time. Who knows until the reporters can do the full research?

But in that case, I hope the reporter actually researched each of the Israelis' listed places of residence. Not everyone found in Gaza or the West Bank has settled there. Reporters would be just one example, but there are many many more. I'll give the benefit of the doubt and assume, perhaps naively, that the reporter doesn't confidently apply this term to every Israeli he finds, backed by a belief that all of Israel should really be labeled Palestine. The two more likely guesses are either: a) continual and habitual shoddy journalism that by mere chance and coincidence just so happens to subjectively slander Israelis while 'objectively' sugar-coating terrorism against them at every opportunity, or b) the obvious.

Ok, that's it. I've got to run out and see if I can find a pharmacy that will sell me some blood pressure medicine without a prescription, before I really blow.
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