Monday, November 15, 2010

Partisanship and quotes

In the hands of an unethical news agency, the asymmetric use of quotation marks can be employed to subtly but powerfully manipulate the audience to adopt the agency's own political view.  In this story for example, note how Reuters correspondent Dan Williams speaks for the Palestinian Arabs (no citation) in suggesting that Israel is violating her "international obligations" by allowing Jews to build in Judea and Samaria (the "West Bank") and that the Israeli government will only agree to extend its previous unilateral concession to freeze building in the territory with a "bribe" from the United States:
In private, Palestinian officials have expressed anger over U.S. incentives to get Israel to prolong the partial moratorium on Jewish settlement building, saying it effectively constituted bribing Israel to fulfil basic international obligations.
It's important to note that while the Palestinians may indeed believe this, it is Reuters' Williams that is actually doing the talking here.

By contrast, here's Williams citing the response of The Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria ("settler leaders") to the possibility of a new building moratorium:
Settler leaders, who said acceptance of the proposal would represent "a fundamental collapse" of the government's integrity, called an emergency meeting to discuss the issue.
Where the party and its politics is anathema to Williams, the Reuters correspondent distances himself by applying a strict and truncated use of quotation marks to report on what has been said.

Readers, in the meanwhile, are led to believe they are getting an impartial, evenhanded presentation of the facts.

UPDATE 3:32 PM: As The Economist reports, it is just as likely that the Obama administration is blackmailing as "bribing" Israel to extend the building freeze.  What say you, Dan?

UPDATE 6:37 PM: Apparently, it is the Palestinian Authority which is looking for a bribe to fulfill basic international obligations.  Dan?  Dan...?

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