Media

5 Signs of Madness in the Media This Week: Tom Friedman Compares Gaza Disaster to Broadway Edition

Disturbing coverage, with a hat tip to NYT's skewed Israel coverage.

Thomas Friedman
Photo Credit: Comedy Central

The mainstream and right-wing media continues to be a bubbling pot of overblown hysteria and wild propaganda against the public interest. Here are some of the more disturbing episodes from this week, from the war on Clintons to the New York Times unbending PR-blitz for Israel. 

1. CLINTON-HATE 4EVER

War, war, war, planes shot from skies, gore in the Middle East, nothing deters our faithful scribes from serving up reheated delicacies off the putrefying banquet that is Clintoniana.  Is it too much to hope that if we get the salacious stuff out of the way now, we won't have to put up with four —or god forbid,  eight — years of it under a President HRC? Delving deep into the “Who Cares” Files, Lloyd Grove over at the Daily Beastly scans the L section of the index in Daniel Halper’s "Clinton, Inc." book.

Turns out Monica blew off an opportunity to do a commercial wearing a blue gap dress on which she spills International Delight Coffee Creamer, with the comment, “Oh no , not again.” Grove plucked seamy lines from that squirm-inducing, Barbara Walters pitch letter to Monica, and shared it in all its “simpering sycophancy and self-celebration, garnished by veiled threat."  From Grove’s long gloss: “It is no crime to sell your story,” Walters wrote to Lewinsky in November 1998, “but I don’t have to tell you what public opinion will then be: You will be viewed as an opportunist. ‘We have known it all along,’ the critics will say. ‘This is the kind of person Monica Lewinsky is.’…But beyond the payment, I fully believe that no one else could possibly do the kind of interview that I could do. It isn’t only my own reputation for fairness and integrity. It is also that you and I have a trust and respect for each other that will permeate the screen.”       

Mining the same rich vein, scribes at the New York Daily News trolled advance pages of a memoir by journalist Lucinda Franks to find a 1999 interview in which Hillary blamed Bill’s philandering ways on Virginia Kelly’s child abuse — details of which are never shared. The story ran on the front page of Gotham’s left-leaning tabloid

2. TOM FRIEDMAN'S CLUMSY ANALOGY:  OFF-BROADWAY IS TO BROADWAY AS THE ARAB WORLD IS TO...

Last week, New York Times' Tom Friedman road-tested themes that he will either use in his next book or his next Davos speech, maybe both. In a column called "Order Versus Disorder, Part 2", he put Gaza in global context. Clearly, Israel is on the side of order according to Friedman. But he also claimed that Israel’s action is original and a sign of things to come.

“I’ve argued for a while now that it is always useful to study the Israeli-Arab conflict because it is to the wider war of civilizations what Off Broadway is to Broadway. A lot of stuff starts there and then goes to Broadway. So what’s playing Off Broadway these days? The Israeli-Arab conflict has become a miniature of the most relevant divide in the world today: the divide between the “world of order” and the “world of disorder.”

Putting aside the appropriateness of using a Broadway show metaphor for the unfolding carnage, his theme is just plain wrong.  The Israeli show isn’t based on an original screenplay at all. In excusing a massive Palestinian civilian death toll as acceptable collateral damage, and aiming for total civil society breakdown, the Israelis are merely producing a lower-budget version of that 2003 American blockbuster called Shock and Awe.

3. NYT CONT. — THE LONE LOST ISRAELI SOLDIER

Traditionally, its coverage of Israel has been sympathetic, to say the least, and when the Times is even slightly off message on that nation, staunchly pro-Israel New Yorkers beat up on it. As the body count approached 32 dead Israelis and 718 dead Palestinians (do the math, 1 Israeli = 22.4 Palestinians), the paper of record decided to go in-depth on Page One on how Israeli society might react to a single missing Israeli soldier.

In "A Blast, A Fire and an Israeli Soldier Goes Missing," Jerusalem embeds Kershner and Rudoren,  cinematically recount the disappearance of IDF Sgt. Oron Shaul, in Gaza. 

“It was around 1 a.m. when the decades-old Israeli armored personnel carrier rumbled into the Gaza Strip on Sunday and headed for Shejaiya, a Hamas stronghold on the eastern edge of Gaza City. Seven soldiers were crammed inside, including Sgt. Oron Shaul, 21, from the Golani infantry brigade … .”  

A few paragraphs in, the story explains why this particular incident – tragic, yes – deserved this level of attention, at this time: “Capturing an Israeli soldier — or even withholding a soldier’s remains — can have a powerful impact on Israeli society, more in some ways than death.”  

Putting this unfortunate editorial decision in context:  It’s hard to imagine a Times story going in depth with such dramatic relish from inside the other side, and with a topic sentence like this: “Killing a Palestinian can have a powerful impact on Palestinian society.”

4. ANTI-IMMIGRANT HYSTERIA

Down in Fortress Texas, Prince Ricky, camo-clad on a speedboat on the Rio Grande, pulled a demonstrably untrue “fact” about murderous illegal aliens out of his hat a few weeks ago. He said of 203,000 “illegal aliens” who had crossed the border in the last five years, they committed 3,000 homicides and 8,000 sexual assaults.

To combat the incoming criminals (who might be using the undocumented children as a ruse), Prince Ricky mobilized 1,000 Texas National Guard troops as a “force multiplier” to a “surge” in state Department of Public Safety officers patrolling the borders of the Lone Star State.

The Austin Statesman subjected those figures to “politifact” check and found them, umm, wanting in veracity. The site consulted a criminologist at John Jay College in NYC, who examined FBI Uniform Crime Statistics for Texas and calculated that from 2008 through 2012, 3,903 persons were arrested on homicide charges in the state. If Perry is right, that would mean almost every homicide committed in the state of Texas was committed by an undocumented immigrant.

Not one to attend to fact-checks pumped out of liberal institutions like colleges, Rush Limbaugh recycled the number for his minions, in a report this week on how the White House was sending a team down to the border.

“Now, if Obama's team of experts — if they get back alive, 'cause, I mean, that news that Governor Perry had last night? I mean, 203,000 people in the last five years were booked into jail. That's not the total number that came across. That's just the number came across ended up in jail— and of those 203,000, 3,000 homicides, 8,000 sexual assaults.”

5. RIGHT-WING SCHOOL PROPOGANDA Republican Florida state senator Alan Hayes plans to introduce a bill that would make Dinesh D'Souza's soon to be released  "docudrama," America: Imagine a World Without Her, required viewing for students in the state’s 1,700 Florida public high schools and middle schools. The Hollywood Reporter broke that story. Among the stunts in the film, which proposes that Americans are under attack by their own government, the former conservative whiz kid-turned-dingbat interviews the President’s Kenyan half-brother George Obama, but insists he’s not a wink-wink, Birther.

We look forward to the sequel, “Florida: Imagine a State Where School children are Force-fed Rightwing Claptrap.”

 

Nina Burleigh has written for the Washington Post, Rolling Stone and New York magazine. Follow her on Twitter: @ninaburleigh

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