Friday, December 16, 2016

Santa Claus, and how world media treats Israel

To understand how world media views Israel, consider a recent media story from the USA that went viral (John Ziegler, "As 'viral Santa' changes his story, there are many unanswered questions for him and the media", mediate, December 16, 2016). This tale began in Tennessee on Monday, December 12, 2016, when the Knoxville New Sentinel published a tragic tale of Santa Claus and a dying 5-year old child. 

This story described how a professional make-believe Santa had been called to a local hospital room to help give an X-mas gift to a terminally-ill child. The child wished to meet Santa. 

According to the news report, this for-hire Santa went to the boy. He sat and held the child. He gave the child a gift. Then the young boy died in 'Santa's' arms.

The story went viral. It was unbelievably attractive. It had everything needed to do that: Santa Claus, a dying child, a final X-mas gift "and an extremely emotional and compelling witness in [a man named] Schmitt-Matzen who looks like the perfect modern television version of Santa Claus" (John Ziegler, "Did the news media fall too fast for the viral story of Santa and the dying 5-year old boy?", mediate, December 14, 2016). 

As with many news reports that demonize Israel, this Santa tale was a perfect candidate to go 'viral': it had the emotional 'punch' that hits you especially when an 'innocent' dies or suffers. In 'Palestinian' stories, the 'innocent' is always framed to be the 'Palestinian' 'victim'. In this Santa story, the 'innocent' was the young boy; but he, of course, was truly innocent.

But as happens with so many of those 'let's hate the brutal Israel' stories, this Santa version has raised questions: did it actually happen?

It turns out that this Santa story shares a lot with those 'brutal Israel' tales. This story hadn't been verified. There had been no corroboration. Details were lacking. No one questioned the witness--a self-employed Santa--with probing questions. 

Like so many of the 'brutal Israel' news tales, few questioned the initial Santa report. The story seemed so perfectly humane (Santa comforts a dying child), no one had the heart to become too critical with it. The same is true of stories that demonize Israel: they seem so perfectly to 'prove' Israel's inhumanity, no one thinks to ask too many questions. 

Why spoil what we think about Israel--or Santa Claus?

The anti-Israel industry gives Israel this same 'Santa Claus' treatment: news outlets run their (anti-Israel) stories based solely on a one-sided point of view--the 'Palestinian' point of view (Here, the main point of view was that of the self-employed Santa). No one corroborates these stories. Little third-party verification gets reported (or, if reported, not before the 7th-8th or 9th paragraph). Probing questions are never asked. 

The author of these two Santa stories, John Ziegler, called this Santa tale a  "classically 2016" story. It was 'classic 2016' because it carried the same imprint of so many of the news stories we've seen in 2016: a rush to print with little or no attempt to show verification (ibid). 

Ziegler is not entirely convinced this Santa tale is a hoax. He says it could be true. But he sees too many unanswered questions for it to claim to be a complete, truthful account of what actually happened in that hospital room--if in fact something had happened ("Did the news media fall...", ibid). 

Ziegler says this story is typical of the current era of what he calls a broken news media industry ("As 'viral Santa' changes his story...", ibid). He guesses that this story was so poorly vetted, we may never find out what is true, what is fake.

The same can be said about media news covering Israel. Are those 'evil, Satanic Israel' reports really true, or, are they fake?

You may never know. 

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