Monday, January 12, 2009

Are We Getting the Full Story? Do We Even Want It?

From the New York Times: Few in U.S. See Jazeera’s Coverage of Gaza War

Honestly, I'm glad this story was featured on the New York Times's website yesterday because I've been wondering if we've been getting a good picture of what's going on in Gaza. With borders closed and nearly 40 percent of casualties affecting women and children (this is not including grown male civilians), this war almost sounds like genocide.

The article above makes me wonder if here in the U.S. - the land of free speech and open media - we're experiencing a form of self-censorship. Perhaps we aren't getting the full story of this war (possibly about our own wars in the Middle East). I understand that Al-Jazeera is probably biased. Sure. It makes sense. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't be getting stories from inside Gaza just because our government's been in bed with Israel since its foundation.

I have to wonder if we value our free speech and free press enough to be asking these questions. Americans are afraid to ask questions that may lead to more unsettling ones, but I always believed the system would get the right information out there. But it seems we've gotten a little too comfortable and the media isn't doing its job. So what next? Start watching Al-Jazeera on YouTube?


Foodinese Queen said...

Check out my childhood friend's blog:

The Lazy Editor said...

I haven't read your friend's blog yet, but the mere fact that you suggested it says something. In the age of the internet, news media outlets have been forced to adapt quickly or fade from prominence. (Hence I read the NYT online. I haven't read a print edition in ... a long time).

In order to get a story from inside Gaza, I look to your friend's blog. Our media is letting us down, but the internet's endless opportunities offer us an alternative. And the internet makes it possible for us to stay in touch with old childhood friends - people we'd probably forget if it weren't for Facebook or Gmail or Blogger.

But I also recognize this blog has a small audience, and I will be reading it because I know you. Most Americans don't have a connection like this and will only know what little comes from their mainstream news sources, if they're paying attention at all.

This leads to another discussion entirely: Do Americans care about news that doesn't directly affect them (i.e., the economy and the weather?) What is our free speech worth if no one bothers to listen?

That said, I'm curious to read about your friend. Thanks for sharing.

Autumn said...

Well, essentially, Americans are lazy, so they aren't going to go looking for any other sources, even if it does occur to them that they aren't getting the full story.

But I agree--Al Jazeera might be a skewed perspective, but it's still different from the view we're getting now. It would bring us one step closer to a complete picture, if we had the ability to sift through Al Jazeera's info with discernment. (Also doubtful, in the case of most Americans.)

Joyf said...

I'm pretty sure this war is a genocide. And I'm pretty sure everybody with ears open at all knows it. I mean, I've gotten enough info to be able to conclude conclusively that the situation is definitely apartheid, and that it's the economic situation created by Israel that's germinated the militancy in Gaza. Even the economist agrees with me - their current issue has a very fair discussion of the back-and-forth. I think the thing with the American media is, they're not out to convince anybody. But information on atrocities is out there - see the recent WaPo article on media being denied access to Gaza, and the military's refusal of entry to aid workers because they had purposely bombed a house full of civilians - for anybody who cares to read it.

So - while I agree that we aren't getting the full story - that isn't the fault necessarily of mainstream media, and I'm pretty sure they'd welcome the input, through blogs and such, of those who are where their reporters cannot be. Also, I think many Americans do care about issues that don't directly affect them. I gotta say, you need to find a different group of people to hang out with if that's your impression of most people. Or maybe I'm the lucky one, with all informed and engaged friends close at hand. Perhaps Austin is too enclosed in its hipsterdom after all. :)

The Lazy Editor said...

I suspect it's quite the opposite in Austin, at least in certain circles. (I can't speak for the hipsters, although they tend to pick up trendy causes and this might be one, as disgusting as that is...) My roommate and his Americorps buddies have probably had a fast or something, and if I were there, I'd probably be more involved.

Right now, I feel quite passive about all of it. I write all this from Columbus, a place that is nothing but mainstream. I've been watching ABC Nightly News with grandma every night this week, and last night's broadcast hardly mentioned the war in Gaza, only to say the death toll was now more than 1,000. The bigger headlines were the cold front in the Midwest and Steve Jobs taking a leave of absence.

I realize stories get old, and war in the Middle East is one Americans have heard many times before. I think at this point, I agree more with Autumn that most Americans (and this is a generalization) are lazy when it comes to finding news.

I've also grown more cynical about the media since leaving college, and I think the news only reflects what people are willing to listen to. Right now, people care more about the economy than wars. I can't tell you the last time I read or heard a story on Dafur, and I tend try to find news sources that have more of an international bent.

When it comes to this current conflict in Gaza, I think any time people here can get a personal story, they'll be more likely to pay attention. It puts a human face on people most Americans, especially white Americans, would not normally identify with.

I guess I'm holding onto an ideal that if people can empathize and identify with the Palestinians, then maybe they'll start questioning our country's blind support of Israel. That's why I think we should have more personal stories from the inside, and as I read Carol's friend's blog, I find myself more and more angered by the situation. Thankfully, she provides some websites and resources for people who want to get involved. I strongly suggest you check it out.