What Our PR Problem Really Is
Over one week ago, a commenter named Jeff, on Oleh Musings, stressed to me the importance of good public relations campaigning for Israel. I reacted saying it wasn’t my strong suit, that my speciality was more of putting down the other side, that I didn’t believe the PR self-defense of Israel achieved much, and that I wasn’t going to change the way I blog. My reaction was very much a knee-jerk one, and it wasn’t one of my best moments; but only now, with the terrible insights gained in the aftermath of the foiled Fort Dix jihad plot, my thoughts about the question of PR have come to full fruition.
First off, it isn’t true that my focus is solely on negative portrayals of the other side. It’s an important aspect, for certain, but positive portrayals of Israel aren’t lacking here. What makes my blog different from, say, Honest Reporting, isn’t the positive defense of Israel but the focus on generalities rather than particular points. Honest Reporting takes points from the anti-Israel media and refutes them, while my modus operandi is to refute the ideological underpinnings of the detractors of Israel and Zionism. I do that because I’m really better at addressing ideological roots than at refuting particular points, not because I think positive, defensive PR of Israel doesn’t work.
Positive PR works. So why did I respond to Jeff in such a way, saying it doesn’t? It was a knee-jerk reaction, true, but—pardon me for encroaching into the territories of esteemed psychobloggers like Dr. Sanity, ShrinkWrapped and Sigmund, Carl & Alfred—beneath every knee-jerk reaction lies a deep-seated recognition. I’m frustrated with the way the positive PR efforts have so far achieved little in countering the picture painted of Israel as one of the most brutal, cruel, immoral states in the world. Now, in the wake of the realizations prompted by Fort Dix, I know exactly what the issue is.
I had assumed that years and years of Muslim propaganda, together with help from the Marxists, had wrought this effect (the present situation of Israel being viewed demonically). But now my memory of the 1992–5 Balkans War reveals to me that there’s absolutely no need for a long period of propagandizing in order for a state to be demonized in the eyes of the world. For, as I recall, Yugoslavia had not occupied any special place in my mind until that war. I had thought of Yugoslavia the same way I’d thought of Poland: just another one of those Communist Bloc states, suffering repression beyond the Iron Curtain. I was ignorant about the history, about the dynamics, about the context—almost everything. In short, when the war erupted in 1992, I was an ideal blank slate. But in less than a year, I was rooting for the Bosnians and condemning the Serbs. In less than a year, I was in the same frame of mind as commenter Tristan Weitenberg described on the Jihad Watch thread:
I have the same feeling some other posters have when thinking back of the Balkan wars in the 1990’s and the bombs on Serbia. One feels so silly when reading about the jihad in Kosovo, and how we supported, and still are supporting, those gangsters. I remember how the Serbs were portrayed as nazis. My mother even joined in some anti-Serb action. They had petitions which they sent to Milosovic. Something like: ‘Please, mister Milosovic stop your terrible war.’ But they never did the same thing to Izetbegovic.
Your typical Muslim-with-moonbat anti-Israel “peace rally”, just with Serbs instead of Israelis, Milošević instead of Sharon or Olmert, and Bosnian Muslims instead of “Palestinians”. But more importantly, it didn’t have to wait decades until such thoughts and actions formed. Less than a year after the outbreak of war in the Balkans. Less than a year. How can it be possible?
I’ll tell you how, in two words: Mainstream Media.
The Western MSM has undergone a process of corruption through overreach ever since the Vietnam War. Yes, a lot of commentators would trace it to much earlier, bringing the New York Times’ Walter Duranty’s total silence about the famine in Stalin’s Russia in the 1930’s as an example, but it was Vietnam that irrevocably set the MSM on that treasonous road. Neo-Neocon, who was there to see it happen and later reflect, brings out all the details (in two parts:   ). That event in which Walter Cronkite chose to take matters into his own hands (overreach) and to ignore the judgment of military experts of the Tet Offensive as a victory, not a defeat (corruption through disregard to the facts), was the moment when the MSM started its slide into its present state, its state of being part of, as Daniel Pipes said, “the Islamists’ auxiliary mujahideen”.
So when the MSM cast the Serbs as modern-day Nazis in 1992–5, backing it up with context-free photographs, that was that: the world looked at the photos and read the reports, the interviews and the articles, and arrived at the only possible conclusion. The Serbs were killing the Bosnian Muslims, so of course they had to be the aggressors. Context? Where do you see any context? Where do you see any report or photo or article backing up the truth that the Bosnian Muslims were carrying out their (now familiar to us) usual Islamic routine of attempting to achieve an Islamic political foothold on non-Muslim lands by force? If the MSM didn’t report it, then it never existed. Orwell wept.
This “reporting” came to everybody’s living room, in the form of newspapers and TV bulletins. To everybody’s living room, and with no counterpoint. Given that state of affairs, is it any wonder that, less than one year after the outbreak of that war, a tabula rasa like me could do no other than swallow that party-line? And if the MSM hadn’t been so one-sided, is it far-fetched to assume that the war could have ended with different results? I don’t doubt it.
My dad says often about the MSM, “They’re the ones who seat the kings on their thrones in our day, and they’re the ones who take their crowns off their heads”. Corrupt, irresponsible, drunk with power and giddy with their sense of self-righteousness, the mainstream media outlets have long moved away from objective reporting, reporting as it should be, into serving their independent agendas. Reporting should be all about the flow of information, but the Backstabbing Brutus Corporation sees it fit to block the publication of a report detailing its anti-Israel bias. For the item of a Mickey Mouse clone preaching Islamic world domination to kids in Gaza, the Associated Press first issued the truthful title, “Hamas ‘Mickey Mouse’ wants Islam takeover”, but then replaced it with the whitewashing title, “Hamas ‘Mickey Mouse’ preaches resistance”. Next to the source attributions of AP and Reuters reports on the Israel/“Palestine” conflict, Arab names frequently appear. One of those, Diaa Hadid, holds the following opinion:
The intensity of Hadid’s involvement over the last nine months has had a strong impact on her views. When she first arrived in the Middle East, Hadid expressed a desire to make more Israeli friends. Now she has trouble separating the personal from the political.
“I can’t look at Israelis anymore. I can’t separate your average Israeli citizen from the occupation, I don’t want to be friends with them, I don’t want to talk to them,” says Hadid.
It is one thing to hold such an opinion, but it is another to practice the profession of reporting about Israel while holding it. Would you entrust the reporting on, say, Cyprus to either a Greek Cypriot loyalist or Turkish Cypriot loyalist? Diaa Hadid is confessedly lacking in objectivity, so if she is to do reporting, then it ought to be about somewhere else in the world. But she still reports on Israel, together with the many Muslims working for AP and Reuters, people whose allegiance led them to be complicit with the staging of photographs during the Second Lebanon War last summer, and at least one of them to digitally manipulate a photo, which under Charles Johnson’s hand proved to be his critical mistake. Yet to this day, even on the right side, in websites such as Jihad Watch, the news cited still comes from those agencies. They have the monopoly. They had the monopoly in the 1990’s, which led to the catastrophic results in the Balkans, and their shaping of world opinion in the summer of 2006 led to Israel’s withdrawal with Hizbullah still standing, thus emboldening both Hamas and Iran in their jihad. Too much is at stake.
You will say, “There weren’t any alternative sources of information in 1992–5, but there are now: the blogosphere”. That is true, and it is certainly working plenty of good in waking people up to the truth, but, despite this, and despite the decline of the MSM, the dinosaurs still have a way to go before they can be called extinct. Even in this year 2007, Internet connectivity isn’t universal, not even in the developed world, and besides, the easily-switched TV set and the piece of paper that can handily be taken to the lavatory are still more accessible than the intarweb, however much it dismays us.
To those Jew-haters who speak of “Jewish (or, to update it for our times: Zionist) control of the media”, my thought in response is, “I’d settle for 5% of that scenario, thank you”. This brings me back to the question of Israeli PR, defensive or otherwise: as we can see that the MSM is still a force to be reckoned with, I hold that the only way to make Israel’s public relations points heard in the world and having an impact is by owning a mainstream media outlet. By purchase or by setting up from scratch—that doesn’t matter. What is needed is for one or more (the more the better) pro-Israel MSM outlets to be funded, and to operate ceaselessly on the battlefield of conventional media.
Of course the objection that rises immediately is that such an outlet will be a propaganda channel. To which I reply: aren’t they all nowadays? Propaganda, shmopaganda: as I said, too much is at stake here; let our enemies call us whatever names they wish, because it’s better to be alive and called names than to be praised but dead.
And my message, naturally, applies to the anti-dhimmi side in general: we need at least one “Islamophobic” mainstream media outlet in order to counter the left-leaning, Muslim-sympathizing MSM that’s costing us our very civilization. The war of minds, in our age, decides the outcome of the physical battles.