When news broke yesterday that Israel had bombed Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza, killing patients, children, and staff, every “anti-Zionist,” “critic of Israel,” and most big American journalism outfits ran with the horrible story. The tale incited worldwide condemnation and recrimination. But it wasn’t true. Israel did not hit the hospital. The Islamic Jihad did. Hundreds of people did not die. The missile landed in a parking lot. It was Hamas disinformation.
The media’s disastrous failure on the Gaza hospital bombing story is one of the most vivid and instructive examples of the structural and inherent problems plaguing contemporary journalism. It mirrors many other fiascos of the past decade.
It is clear at this point that journalism schools are producing closed-minded, credulous ideologues who will believe anything that comports with their worldview. It’s either that, or we have a bunch of closed-minded ideologues who are willing accomplices in spreading propaganda. Functionally speaking, it doesn’t really matter. In either case, their sympathies lie with Hamas.
When it comes to outlets like The New York Times, we clearly have propagandists at work. The Times was one of the first to embrace the Hamas lie. It has spent decades spreading similar disinformation. The paper’s editorial board and its op-ed pages are teeming with Hamas apologists — as are its news pages.
Even as Hamas’s propaganda was being exposed, the Times moved forward with the story without any genuine substantiation. Since the newspaper had done absolutely no work in verifying these serious claims, it was left without facts or art. So editors simply put a picture of a bombed-out building (not the hospital) on its front page, strongly insinuating that Israel was responsible for the tragedy (that wasn’t.)
How can that be seen as anything but malicious?
Nate Silver says he’s more sympathetic to media mistakes — and, for the sake of arguments, let’s concede they are mistakes— that are made as events are unfolding in real time. The fog of war, and all that. But that’s exactly when we need journalists to sift through information and synthesize reliable accounts.
Of course, any person who’s spent more than ten minutes on the Israeli-Palestinian situation — to say nothing of those who are paid to cover the conflict — knows full well that both Hamas and the PLO are constantly lying about alleged Israeli atrocities and casualties. Anyone who has even a rudimentary understanding of this situation knows that 30-40 percent of rockets that emanate from Gaza land in Gaza. And they know that Hamas not only operates among civilians to use them as human shields — often in hospitals — but that it is keen on seeing Arab civilian deaths to gin up sympathy and sacrifice martyrs.
If you’re gullible enough to believe Hamas’s “Health Ministry,” you need to be reassigned to a job that better aligns with your skill set. Something far away from reporting. Maybe become a journalism professor.
To put this in perspective, it takes a modern nation like Israel days to come up with specific casualty numbers — maybe longer when babies are torn apart by bullets and the elderly are burned alive — but when the terror group Hamas tells the media that 500 died within minutes after a bomb goes off in a hospital and the Times et al run with it. Smaller outlets follow. Self-professed “disinformation” beat reporters and repeat it to their followers. Hamas apologists in Congress spread the blood libel.
Most outlets refuse to correct the mistake. When the media irresponsibly – or purposely – run Hamas propaganda, Israel is put on the defensive and forced to debunk unsubstantiated events. This immediately spurs conspiracy theories among the usual suspects: fringe YouTubers and Washington Post columnists. The story then usually deteriorates into an Israelis say/Palestinians say situation as if both are equally reliable.
For example, the AP reports that “After blast kills hundreds at Gaza hospital, Hamas and Israel trade blame as rage spreads in region.” Technically true, yet incredibly misleading. Indeed, the AP gives equal weight to the side that offers video, audio, and pictures that debunk the Hamas claim … and the other side, the one that uses children as human children and murders babies and kidnaps women. Then again, the Associated Press shared an office tower with Hamas intelligence for years. The outlet claims it did not know. Which means its reporters are either liars or preternaturally clueless. Again, functionally the same.
There’s a lot to hate about social media’s influence on society, but if this were 1995, those Hamas lies would have led the news on all three major networks and been front-page news on every major paper. It would have taken months, if we were lucky, to debunk the story. And this goes for thousands of other stories that have been debunked over the past couple of decades — beginning, most famously, with Dan Rather’s concocted hit on George W Bush.
Many of these same people brought you the Russia collusion hysteria and Kavanaugh rape hysteria and a slew of other hoaxes. These are the people who became mouthpieces of the state when Covid broke out and mouthpieces for the Obama administration when it was campaigning for the Iran Deal.
Many of these same people are the would-be censors who lament the nefarious misinformation that festers and spreads on social media. There have always been conspiratorial people and rumors and disinformation. The real problem today is that we can no longer trust establishment media to debunk rumors and offer facts.
Actually, considering their reach and role, establishment media are often the biggest disseminators of disinformation.