Tuesday, January 13, 2009
The AP's vanishing demonstrators and Israel's propaganda war
by Saifedean Ammous
By now, anyone who has followed the Israeli massacre of Palestinians will be accustomed to the absurd reality that the life of a Palestinian is worth about 100th to 1000th the life of an Israeli, depending on the news outfit. “Respectable” media outlets like the Guardian and the BBC will give every one hundred dead Palestinians the same space they give to one dead Israeli, whereas crappy propaganda outfits like the NY Post, NY Times, the New Yorker, CNN and Fox News, will give every 1,000 Palestinians the same space they give one Israeli. This has become normal.
But today, this racist arithmetic was taken to absurd levels by the folks at the Associated Press who decided that it also applies to demonstrators in New York.
I was part of a demonstration on Sunday that had thousands and thousands of people show up and protest the Israeli mass-murder of Palestinians.
I was at the front of the march when we turned on 58th street. I stopped on the sidewalk to chat with police and to examine the crowd. It took the back of the demo some 20-30 minutes to get to the corner of 58th after the front had reached it.
I spoke to the chief policeman at the demo and asked him for a crowd estimate. He said 20,000 was a reasonable estimate, though he would not confirm that this would be the police’s final and official estimate. Since he is the one who will be issuing the crowd estimate, it’s safe to assume it would’ve definitely exceeded 15,000. It certainly could not go as low, as… I don’t know… 150.
So imagine my surprise as I come home, turn on my computer, and find this article by Karen Matthews, for the AP, claiming that there were 150 people in the demonstration. I’ve managed to get pictures and videos that show incontrovertibly how utterly nonsensical this article is.
This CNN I-Report video was made by someone who heard the crowds chanting from 50 floors up (which should give you an indication of the numbers) and took out their camera:
Note that in this footage the camera cannot show both the beginning and the end of the demonstration. Even from this height, the demo was too long to be caught in one frame. Also note that the crowd that appears around the 00:20 mark is different from the crowd that appears at the 1:10 mark, since the first crowd had two giant Palestinian flags spread on top of it while the second group doesn’t. These are two ends of the demonstration, not the same crowd pictured again. Once you take that into account, you will realize that this truly was a huge demonstration.
But what is even more ridiculous about this is how a pro-Israel demonstration on the same day managed to get not only far more (and far more favorable) coverage on the media, but also a precise (and probably exaggerated) count of the demonstrators. By all accounts, the pro-Palestine demonstration dwarfed the pro-Israel one, as testified by people who saw both, people who went to the pro-Israel demo and then saw the video above, and people who saw videos of both.
I called Karen Matthews on Monday, and I got a silly jumble of excuses and explanations and justifications which are too ludicrous to even be wrong, or to waste computer pixels on. Now the AP have promised to look into it, but it’s safe to assume not much will happen. Please continue to call them on +1-212-621-1670, email them on firstname.lastname@example.org and email Karen Matthews at email@example.com
At the very least, we have an obligation to make their next few days miserable with phone calls and emails so they think twice before pulling off such a hoax again.
What we’re witnessing here is not just the run-of-the-mill incompetence of another American journalist when it comes to the Middle East. The attempts at submerging any news of any protest on Palestine in America have been quite blatant and extreme this time round, even by the standards of American media.
More than ten thousand (by conservative estimates) marched in DC, at the doorstep of the Washington Post, and that newspaper failed to mention it, as did most other media outlets. I was part of another demo with at least 1,000 people in New York on Dec 28, which no New York paper or TV station mentioned—a fate not much better than that of another bigger demo on the 30th. A massive rally that blocked an entire four blocks around Times Square for hours on January 3rd didn’t get enough coverage, and the NYT amazingly estimated the crowd at only “hundreds”. Friends and acquaintances from all across the country are reporting being in protests that have been completely ignored by the media, or had their turn-out severely under-reported.
Israel’s PR machine has been laying the groundwork for this bout of mass murder with months and months of hard work that saw a fully pliant media accept Israel’s narrative and echo it completely and unquestioningly. Shiko Behar has already incontrovertibly documented—twice—how the mainstream media’s mantra that Hamas broke the cease-fire is a load of nonsense. This has obviously spilled over even into the reporting of global solidarity with the Palestinians.
But the internet is here. And things are different this time round. Israeli PR has come ridiculously close to fooling all the people all the time, but there is absolutely no way it can succeed. It is worth noting that even with all of American media competing over who can be more pro-Israel than Israel’s Foreign Ministry, pro-Palestine demonstrations nationwide are dwarfing their pro-Israel counter-parts in numbers and fervor. In cities across the country, people are seeing these massive demonstrations, and also seeing how little media coverage they are getting. People are also witnessing gruesome scenes of murder in Gaza and are astounded at a media bending over backward to justify these deaths away. And the internet continues to provide a searing light of truth into this darkness as websites such as Electronic Intifada, Al-Jazeera, and Anti-War.com are gaining credibility and readership by the minute, and blogs, Youtube and Facebook become more and more important.
This ridiculous and calculated giant PR campaign, like all ridiculous and calculated giant schemes, is producing massive negative unintended consequences: a growing realization everywhere that everything reported by mainstream media on Israel is a load of crap. Israel may well be abusing and stretching its PR machine to the point of uselessness.
Posted by Saifedean Ammous at 06:27 AM | Permalink