Monday, August 2, 2010

Stinky journalism 101

Oh dear.  It must be something in the water cooler at Reuters offices.  The agency's "special correspondent" in Lebanon, Alistair Lyon -- whose pieces serve as a case study in media bias -- is at it again.  In today's "analysis", Lyon describes for us the tense situation in the Middle East:
Israel, Hezbollah and its close allies Syria and Iran all say they espouse peace but are preparing for battle. Belligerent talk, even if intended to deter, is fuelling an ugly atmosphere.

Tension over Iran's disputed nuclear ambitions and a sense of despair about prospects for peace between Israel and Syria or the Palestinians also feed war fears in a region where U.S. power to influence events looks increasingly challenged.
And who does Lyon turn to for supporting and impartial analysis on the prospects of war?  Well, the International Crisis Group (ICG), of course.  The ICG is led by former EU Commissioner for External Relations and current Oxford University Chancellor, Chris Patten, along with former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour.  Patten you may recall, rejected an inquiry in 2003 into the diversion of European taxpayer funds to finance Palestinian suicide bombers because he "needed an investigation like a hole in the head".  In recent years, Patten's Oxford has been the recipient of over $300 million in donations from the Saudis.  Arbour is famous for having originally endorsed the wildly antisemitic and oxymoronic Arab Charter of Human Rights while with the UN.  Oh, and did we neglect to mention ICG Executive Committee member George Soros?

In its report on the conflict, the ICG refers to Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizbollah as "the so-called axis of resistance" (so-called by whom we wonder) and Reuters' Lyon, who frequently parrots Arab rhetoric, is happy to parrot this euphemism as it implies Israel is the aggressor in the conflict.  But while Lyon suggests that:
Hezbollah would almost certainly find itself fighting Israel again in the event of any Israeli strike on Iran.
implying a kind of hazy happenstance, the ICG report offers a little more clear and causal explanation for Hezbollah entering the war:
Meanwhile, as tensions have risen, the so-called “axis of resistance” – Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizbollah – has been busy intensifying security ties. Involvement by one in the event of attack against another no longer can be dismissed as idle speculation.
For Lyon, Israel may attack Iran for purely strategic reasons:
... to stop it from breaking its own presumed nuclear monopoly in the Middle East. 
with no mention of Iran's pledge to create a Middle East "without Zionists" and many other calls for Israel's annihilation.

Lyon then regresses to the puerile "he said/she said" argument over whether Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons:
Even the United States has acknowledged that it is planning for a possible war on Iran, which denies Western assertions that its nuclear programme has military as well as civilian purposes.
omitting the finding of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran is indeed seeking the bomb.

In an effort to do a little PR work on behalf of Hezbollah, Lyon inanely suggests that the group can legitimately be viewed as:
... a group rooted in resistance to Israeli occupation of Lebanon
Er, that would be the occupation that ended a decade ago, yes?

And how's this for loaded language:
Hezbollah leader Saeed Hassan Nasrallah has vowed to hit back in kind for any Israeli attack on civilian targets.
Because both Nasrallah and Lyon know that Hezbollah's military assets are seeded deep within civilian communities and will become, under international law, legitimate targets when Hezbollah launches missiles from these areas.

Perhaps the most amusing part of the ICG report summarized by Lyon are the recommendations near the end.  Along with numerous admonishments to countries like Israel to "end implicit or explicit threats to harm civilians or damage civilian infrastructure in any future war", is this one solitary piece of advice for Hezbollah:
Make every effort to discourage and prevent hostile action by the civilian population against UN personnel and property.
Soros must have written that bit.

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