Monday, January 17, 2011

Rhetoric to bend the mind

At RMEW, we focus on the use of language by the propagandist (Reuters) to consciously and unethically coerce readers to adopt a point of view of the propagandist's choosing.  The specific rhetoric employed, the connotations associated with that rhetoric, and the reader emotions elicited typically reveal the propagandist's own view and agenda.

Take the following cursory biography of Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak written by Crispian Balmer:
Factbox: Israel's Barak quits party, stays center-stage

(Reuters) - Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has broken away from his center-left Labor Party and created a new parliamentary force which will almost certainly remain allied to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
His move follows months of squabbling within the once all-powerful Labor Party, with some senior members challenging his leadership and many supporters unhappy over his close ties with the right-wing Netanyahu.
Here are some facts about Barak.
* As Israel's prime minister from 1999 to 2001, Barak held peace talks with Syria that failed to reach a deal on the future of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. He made an unsuccessful attempt to achieve peace with the Palestinians after they began an uprising in 2000.
* Born in 1942 in an Israeli kibbutz, Barak served as a career soldier and rose through the ranks to become chief of the armed forces in 1991. He is Israel's most decorated soldier.
* Barak took part -- along with Netanyahu -- in the 1972 rescue by Israeli commandos of hostages on a [             ] hijacked Sabena airliner at Tel Aviv's international airport.
* Barak holds an undergraduate degree in physics and mathematics and a post-graduate degree in systems analysis from Stanford University in the United States.
* As defense minister in the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Barak was an architect of Israel's 2008/2009 offensive in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
* In the Netanyahu government, Barak has repeatedly insisted that the administration was serious about reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians. He is also believed to have been active in planning operations to combat Iran's nuclear program.  [emphasis ours]
First, note how Reuters seeks to establish an image of unbiased, authoritative reporting with the presumptuous "Factbox" format.  No subjectivity here, just unvarnished, unquestionable truth.

Whereas Balmer refers to Barak as breaking away from his "center-left" political party, the Israeli Prime Minister is characterized literally as an object of a more extreme political persuasion, "the right-wing Netanyahu".  Moreover, we have never seen Reuters use similarly hackneyed political tags to label Palestinian Arab leaders, other than "moderate".

In an effort to sanitize Palestinian violence, Balmer then refers to the Palestinian terror war, which lasted more than five years and cost thousands of lives on both sides, with the euphemistic and Arab-ethnocentric term "uprising".  This, a violation of the Reuters Handbook of Journalism which specifically proscribes against the use of such hollow and biased rhetoric.

By contrast, Balmer casts the Israeli military response to thousands of Palestinian rockets fired into Israeli civilian communities between 2002 and 2008 as an "offensive".  

In his discussion of Barak's participation in an Israeli rescue of a hijacked airliner, Balmer strategically omits mention of who, precisely, was responsible for the hijacking: the Palestinians.  Such a disclosure obviously would not reflect well on them.

And finally, Balmer violates the Reuters Handbook yet again, by employing the word "insisted" to invite reader skepticism as to whether the Israeli government is genuinely committed to a peace deal with the Palestinians.

Taken together, these rhetorical devices transform a story of less than 300 words into a powerful, yet nearly subliminal advocacy message on behalf of the Palestinians.

UPDATE 12:40 PM: Mendacious astrology freak, Allyn Fisher-Ilan regurgitates some of the same rhetoric in her "factbox".

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