Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Yellow Press is Alive and Well and Living in France

Growing up in Liberal Massachusetts, I had been taught that Yellow Press was a right wing device that was invented for arousal and exploitation of the basest emotions in the populace. As I was helping Richard Landes prepare the France2/Enderlin petition (if you have not signed it and forwarded it to everyone you know, please do so!) I made a very interesting discovery.

As the petition (see the preceding two posts) sails past thirty six hundred signatures this morning, I have been thinking about something Charles Enderlin wrote in a January 27, 2005 letter to the French newspaper Le Figaro. He was writing in response to an editorial, written by Denis Jeambar and Daniel Leconte that had appeared in the paper two days before. Jeambar and Leconte were among the hand-picked group of journalists that had been allowed to seen the imprisoned rushes. In their editorial they had debunked Enderlin’s implication that he was protecting the world from seeing the boy’s “unbearable” death agony when he edited the footage for broadcast. In fact, Jeambar and Leconte wrote that there was no such “unbearable” footage and that there was not even any clear proof that the boy was dead or, even shot.

Enderlin replied by reiterating his claim that the scenes he had cut were unbearable and that they showed that the boy was dead. Then he says something very odd and revealingly irrelevant. He writes, “Furthermore, for me, the image corresponded not only to the reality of the situation in Gaza but also to that in the West Bank. The Israeli army responded to the Palestinian uprising with massive firing of live bullets.”

This remark is a tip-off that even Enderlin himself is aware that his false accusation that the IDF shot the boy in cold blooded murder is indefensible (even though he is trying his best to defend it by hiding the evidence, stonewalling and rationalization). More importantly, though, it revels the prototypical attitude of Yellow Journalism.

I remember studying the Spanish American War when I was in High School and learning about how the Pulitzer and Hearst newspapers used the explosion on the battleship Maine to inflame the passions of the nation. I remember too having it drummed into me that it was the tone of the headlines, the nationalism and the strident calls for revenge that made that episode a shameful exercise in jingoism and propaganda. It is only now, contemplating all of that in the light of the al Durah affair and, specifically, in reading Enderlin’s fatuous justification for his accusations that the real shame of Yellow Journalism has become plain to me. Ringing prose, loyalty to one’s country and defiant headlines are not Yellow Press. Yellow press is the subtle, decadent mixture of self-importance and prejudice that leads a journalist to decide that he knows what facts people need to know and what facts are unimportant- even if it means that he reports incorrect facts and hides actual ones.

Yellow Press was born as an outgrowth of Joseph Pulitzer’s vision as a publisher that, in contrast to the generally accepted ideal of impartial journalistic integrity, journalism should be used to as a vehicle of social change. As Wikipedia has it “Pulitzer believed that newspapers were public institutions with a duty to improve society, and he put (his newspaper) The World in the service of social reform.” Of course social reform is one of the early code words for what we today call progressivism and which is, in reality prototypical socialism. Pulitzer was then, as the newspaper establishment in the U.S. is still (with some exceptions) a left-leaning, self-righteous band of socialistic sympathisers.

The New York Times expressed this "social reform at the cost of truth" doctrine of activist journalism best when, in an editorial about the use of faked documents by Dan Rather, that, "Memos on Bush Are Fake but Accurate". Of course the Times was writing in support of Rather and his fatwah asserting the "accuracy" of the faked memos. Americans proved, once again, that we have the freest and most resilient people and government on earth when the blogosphere exposed this travesty and the outcry resulted in the sacking of Rather. Dan Rather was a far more potent media icon here than Enderlin ever was in France so one is left to conclude that it must be an indication of the endemic anti-Semitism and residual leftist western self-hatred that Enderlin and France2 are allowed to hide within and even take aggressive action (as in the law suit against Philippe Karsenty) under the protection of the French government and legal system.

The problem, then, with Yellow Journalism is not the strength of the prose but the intent of the writer. The yellow tinge comes from its purposeful (mis)use of evidence to make points and to influence opinions. It was not the headlines that were the root of the problem, it was the underlying assumptions that led to their being used to elevate lies and misrepresentations to the status of Assumed Truths.

So, it turns out that the last little “justification” that he “tosses off” betrays the corrosive bigotry and prejudice that underlies the blood libel he still defends. Enderlin still believes that he is the sole judge and jury of what Israel was doing in response to the gathering Intifada, that from the comfort of his hotel room and Bureau Chief’s office in Jerusalem, he was entitled to pronounce that, even if this instance was a fake, the accusation against the IDF was deserved because of other, even more imaginary incidents of which he had even less evidence and information. He has, in this simple rationalization, revealed that he is not a journalist but a propagandist of the most corrupt and insidious kind.

For the damage he has done to the profession of journalism alone he deserves to be exposed and the management of France2 must be asked to account for their dereliction in allowing their reputation and facilities to be used and depleted in this way. The release of the rushes in question will begin that process of exposure and accountability.

If you add to the damage Enderlin and France2 have done to journalistic standards, the spurious law suit against Karsenty, the terrible toll of lives lost, terror inspired and savagery rationalized by those false accusations, it is imperative that they be held responsible for, at the very least, an apology and an attempt to reverse some of the effects of this malfeasance.

Once the rushes are released and evaluated, if they show what Jeambar and Leconte say they show and assuming that France has laws against the incitement to violence and libel, there should be legal steps taken to punish Enderlin and France2. The maximum punishment (The incitement to violence, bigotry and terror that Enderlin and France2 have engaged in bear a very strong resemblance to Hate Crimes as defined by French Law. This is from Wikipedia: “In 2003, France enacted penalty-enhancement hate crime laws for crimes motivated by bias against the victim's actual or perceived ethnicity, nation, race, religion, or sexual orientation.”) should be sought, not just because of the grievous results of the al Durah blood libel but also to serve as an example and a deterrent to warn all other journalists that changing facts and fabricating stories to achieve political ends cannot and will not be tolerated.


Yehudi said...

I love your Online "No-Spine Zone!"

Anonymous said...


Yes, but.

I don't think the so-called "rushes" will ever see the light of day.

And if by chance they do, you know as well as I that there will be a non-stop chorus of cries that "they are not authentic," or "they have been altered", or that "the real ones stolen," or worse yet still, that "the facts may be wrong but the narrative remains true."

This is, of course, the "fake but accurate" meme that was launched many years ago but resurrected writ large by the TANG memos hoax and seen most recently reprised in the Duke lacrosse rape hoax.

There are no journalistic standards, I am sorry to say. There is only the Narrative, and which like all systems, it must be given energy for it to be maintained.

And no, neither the release of the rushes nor the prosecution of those involved will lead to the end of this or any other blood libel.

The structure of the contuining war against the Jews has grown so in complexity such that only something catastrophic will destroy it.

Just sayin'.

Jewish Odysseus said...

Yaacov, Caroline Glick at the Jerusalem Post has just reported that the IDF has formally requested the rushes from France 2. In September 2007.

It only took 'em **SEVEN YEARS** to ask for the evidence that they were libeled with.


Jewish Odysseus said...

BTW, Daniel, I sure hope that extra "e" was a typo!