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October 31, 2014 1:01 pm

Will the True Agitator Rise?

avatar by Simon Jacobson

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Office of The New York Times, in New York City. Photo: WikiCommons.

Office of The New York Times. Photo: Wiki Commons.

I am not the type that gets quickly (or even slowly) agitated. But an article in yesterday’s New York Times agitated me to no end.

The article was about a victim of an assassination attempt, whom the editors coined, well, an… agitator.

Here is the opening lead of the article: “An Israeli-American agitator who has pushed for more Jewish access and rights at a hotly contested religious site in Jerusalem was shot and seriously wounded Wednesday night by an unidentified assailant in an apparent assassination attempt.”

What knee-jerk reaction did you have when reading this? As soon as you label someone with a loaded and inciting name like “agitator” — especially at the outset of an article — you have already declared him guilty in some way, and in effect prejudiced the reader.

Here you have a glaring example of slanting a story with one provocative term. By using the word “agitator” as the lead line, essentially, a reputable newspaper — no less one on the caliber of the venerated NY Times — is explaining, if not justifying, the attack After all, doesn’t an agitator deserve to be attacked? Didn’t he bring it on to himself?

By allowing its own biased perspective influence this article the great NY Times has become an agitator in its own right — imposing its position on its readers.

Would the Times dare describe a gay or civil rights activist (under attack) with the name “agitator”?!

Objective reporting would seem to dictate that you first report the facts (one man attempted to assassinate another) before commenting on the personality and character of the intended victim.

Would the Times ever dare open an article with stating that “a promiscuous woman was sexually attacked by a man,” suggesting somehow that the victim was at fault?! Never. It’s simply a form of yellow journalism to present a loaded case without allowing the reader to decide based on the facts.

Regardless whether you agree or disagree with Yisroel Glick’s positions, civil people can all agree that assassins, actual or potential, are the true agitators. As such an appropriate lead to the article should have read: Alleged terrorist or Muslim aggressor wounds Israeli activist.

Deja Vu

This episode brought back memories from another “biased” NY Times story, which I personally witnessed. During the Crown Heights riots in the summer of 1991, when blacks were wantonly attacking Jews and vandalizing their stores and homes, culminating in the cold blooded murder of Yankel Rosenbaum, the Times covered the events in its own inimitable style. In the name of so-called fair and balanced reporting the Times wrote that first a car in a Jewish motorcade hit and killed a young black child, Gavin Cato. Then a group of blacks killed Mr. Rosenbaum– as if the two were identical events. In fact, they were as different as can be: The first tragic death was by all accounts an accident; the latter — a deliberate and per-mediatated murder.

In an attempt to set the record straight, I submitted at the time an op-ed article laying out the events of that evening as I personally witnessed them. Needless to say, the Times did not accept my submission.

It seems that my grandfather was right after all. Years ago, when I was a a teenager, he told me that everything written in the newspaper is a lie, even the date on the masthead, because the paper was printed last night…

At the time I argued with my grandfather, presenting my “progressive” perspective that he mistrusted all news outlets since he was coming from the primitive Soviet Union, where propaganda ruled the media, and a newspaper can call itself “truth” (Pravda in Russian means truth; the Communist Yiddish paper was called “emes” — truth in Yiddish, never mind that it was spelled ayin, mem, ayin, samech) — imagine a newspaper in the USA being called “The Truth.” But today, in the modern and evolved free world, where freedom of press is a divine right, we can trust the media. “Zeide,” I said, “we live in a new world. Today the media can be trusted.”

Never mind that his son-in-law, my father, was a journalist. On second thought, this may have been part of the reason why my grandfather was jabbing the media.

But today, as I have grown into a grandfather myself, I have come to think that my zeide may have had a point.

Lest you think that I have become a suspicious grouch or a conspiracy theorist, distrusting every story I read, let me assure that this is not the case (I may be).

It’s only to underscore that we should take everything we read — even from established and respectable sources — with a grain of salt.

Let us all remember, and the media above all (due to the responsibility that they carry in delivering the news to the public): We are all biased and subjective, carrying within prejudices and per-conceived notions. The honest person, the man or woman of integrity, is not the one that is objective, but the humble one — the one that acknowledges his or her subjectivity, and feels accountable for presenting a skewed (even slightly) story, due to a personal or self-interest-based viewpoint. (Another example of this are those journalists and pundits that felt proud of their involvement in the Oslo talks, hoping to achieve glory, and when those talks failed, their injured pride caused them to dig in and maintain obstinate and untenable positions about Israel and the two-state solution).

And recognize that sometimes the ones accusing others of being agitators may be the greatest agitators of them all.

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  • HILLARY = OBAM 3, and 4


    . Where is our President Obama as our foreign policy has turned into a complete disaster.

    Video is on

    Another holocaust is possible. If it happened once it can happen again. Thank G-d we have Israel. We need to do everything possible to keep Israel militarily strong. Jews get out of Europe. There can be no compromise regarding Israel nor can we depend on the good will of others. This unfortunately is a lesson that many Jews have never learned. Never forget, never forgive never again. Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg

  • What did The New York Times report about the Holocaust and how did its coverage affect America’s response to the Nazi genocide?

    Throughout World War II, the American media published and broadcast timely, detailed, and accurate accounts of what was happening to the Jews in Europe. The New York Times alone printed nearly 1,200 articles about what we have now come to call the Holocaust, about one every other day.

    The articles in the Times and elsewhere described the propagation of anti-Semitic laws in German allied countries; death from disease and starvation of hundreds of thousands in ghettos and labor camps; mass executions in Nazi-occupied Russia; and mass gassings in Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek. The articles also indicated that these were not isolated incidents, but part of a systematic campaign to kill all the Jews in Europe.

    And yet, at the end of the war and for decades afterward, Americans claimed they did not know about the Holocaust as it was happening. How was it possible for so much information to be available in the mass media and yet simultaneously for the public to be ignorant?

    The reason is that the American media in general and the New York Times in particular never treated the Holocaust as an important news story. From the start of the war in Europe to its end nearly six years later, the story of the Holocaust made the Times front page only 26 times out of 24,000 front-page stories, and most of those stories referred to the victims as “refugees” or “persecuted minorities.” In only six of those stories were Jews identified on page one as the primary victims.

    Nor did the story lead the paper, appearing in the right-hand column reserved for the day’s most important news – not even when the concentration camps were liberated at the end of the war. In addition, the Times intermittently and timidly editorialized about the extermination of the Jews, and the paper rarely highlighted it in either the Week in Review or the magazine section.

    What kept American journalists from recognizing the significance of the systematic murder of six million people? Worldwide carnage on an unprecedented scale helped obscure the Jews’ plight. There was also skepticism bred by fake atrocity reports during the previous world war. The Roosevelt Administration’s determination to downplay the news also contributed to the subdued coverage. But the media had enough credible information to treat the news of the extermination of the Jews as important. And the New York Times played a critical role in why it didn’t.

    For no American news organization was better positioned to highlight the Holocaust than the Times, and no American news organization so influenced public discourse by its failure to do so.

    Because of its longtime commitment to international affairs, its willingness to sacrifice advertising rather than articles in the face of a newsprint crunch, and its substantial Jewish readership, the Times was able to obtain and publish more news about what was happening to the Jews than other mainstream newspapers. In addition, Jews of German descent owned the Times and thus knew the fate of family members, some of whom they sponsored to immigrate to the States, some of whom they didn’t. The family’s deep, if not always amicable involvement with the American Jewish community also led the Times to learn much about the Jews’ situation.

    So the New York Times was less likely than other news organizations to miss what was happening to the Jews. But it was also more likely to dismiss its significance. Fearful of accusations of special pleading or dual loyalties, the newspaper hesitated to highlight the news. In addition, the newspaper’s Jewish publisher believed that Jews were neither a racial nor ethnic group, and therefore should not be identified as Jews for any other than religious reasons. He also believed that Americans would only want to help Jews if their cause was melded with that of other persecuted people. He therefore ensured that his paper universalized the Nazis’ victims in editorials and on the front page.

    The result: The New York Times was in touch with European Jews’ suffering, which accounts for its 1,000-plus stories on the Final Solution’s steady progress. Yet, it deliberately de-emphasized the Holocaust news, reporting it in isolated, inside stories. The few hundred words about the Nazi genocide the Times published every couple days were hard to find amidst a million other words in the newspaper. Times readers could legitimately have claimed not to have known, or at least not to have understood, what was happening to the Jews.

    The Times’s judgment that the murder of millions of Jews was a relatively unimportant story also reverberated among other journalists trying to assess the news, among Jewish groups trying to arouse public opinion, and among government leaders trying to decide on an American response. It partly explains the general apathy and inaction that greeted the news of the Holocaust.

    We do not know how many Jews might have been saved had the Times acted differently. We do know, however, that the possibilities for rescue were never truly tested.

    It is also clear that had the Times and other news organizations decided that the extermination of the Jews was important, the paper could have and should have highlighted it, regardless of whether it would have saved lives. The press alone could not have altered the currents of public discourse that swamped the news of the Jews’ destruction, and certainly a single newspaper by itself could not have accomplished that. Still, the Times had a moral and professional obligation to do more than be swept along with the tide.

  • Paul

    What is the first objective of a newsman ? To get “bylines”- he wants renown by writing stories that are popular.
    And of a newspaper ? To sell more copy.

    These very often are far more important that objectivity, integrity, or credibility.

    When you read a newspaper, you should treat the material with the same suspicion you would have when buying a used car.