Media as a weapon?

A letter to the editor
by Chris Hibbard

(originally published in The Meliorist Jan. 21
in response to the previous Jan. 15th issue)

First off, I would like to applaud The Meliorist for a fair and balanced approach to shedding light on the current Gaza conflict. I feel that the contributing authors suitably summarized the conflict itself, including rationales for both sides, essentially summarizing a very complicated issue for the paper’s readership. With that being said, I must admit to feeling a bit flummoxed by the attention the crisis is garnering in general – not just in The Meliorist, of course – but via all North America’s major media outlets, print and otherwise.

My justification for this is rooted in the notion that this intentional, oversaturated dedicated coverage is a double-edged sword. I am sure that concerned parties in both Israel and Palestine are pleased by the intensity of the spotlight, which tends to swing back and forth, promoting the ideals, platforms and motivations each party is working from. Nothing gets your message out faster and louder than Fox, CNN and every other major network repeatedly showing smoke, bodies and other gruesome sensationalistic images.

The main motivations are obvious – Israel longs to eradicate the Hamas regime, a party legitimately elected by Palestinian people, thereby protecting themselves and their nation state from an unforgettable threat of genocide. Meanwhile, Hamas longs to protect Palestine citizens, ensuring that food and supplies make it to the people, and some Palestinians may long to see Israel and the Jewish people that reside there destroyed. Neither side is entirely right and neither side is entirely wrong. There are always three sides to every story, and the truth is contained between the lines of all of them.

Meanwhile, the situation is disproportionate to be sure. Once upon a time, we effectively forced two cultures to live across the street from one another. One neighbor began throwing a bunch of pebbles, but the other can afford to load catapults with boulders. Considering that both ‘religious states’ involved are rooted in Old Testament notions including eye for an eye, etc., this imbalance is intriguing. Yet here in North America, by paying so much attention to this present chapter of an ancient conflict, are we not in fact encouraging more ‘violence begets violence’? If our media just stopped, turned a blind eye, and blacklisted Israel and Palestine from having any attention at all until they stopped shooting and starting talking, how would that affect the conflict? If no one is watching, and no one is on the sidelines cheering either way, then the conflict may need to resolve itself that much more quickly and the most overtly hostile elements would not attain their public goals. Between Israel’s extreme reaction and all the media attention, I would not be surprised to learn that by participating vicariously we are essentially fermenting more Islamic hatred of Israel, converting more young holy ‘warriors’ to the cause – blowing themselves up for what?

Yet here we are, with a two-page feature in the U of L paper focusing on what is merely the latest chapter in a turbulent 60-year-old relationship – the world’s oldest family conflict so to speak – our nation’s media all focused on one corner of the world like never before. Now, with an Israeli national election just around the corner, this heated ground assault is likely creating as many ‘terrorists’ as it is thwarting, laying the groundwork for new political leadership in Israel at the same time. Essentially, I say we just turn the cameras off – don’t support either side – let all involved know that we protest the entire situation. We don’t support Israel, and we don’t support Palestine, because frankly, we don’t support violence used to promote political agendas.

I know that many will say that this is something we can not do, citing a duty we have as a wealthy and free country to protect others, to wave flags, to pick sides – to engage ourselves in the conflict, if only through conversation and debate. Some would say that we have a special trustee relationship with Israel, since we had a hand in relocating the people there in the first place. But here we have these two stubborn neighbours tossing explosives into each other’s backyards – both willing to murder and to sacrifice and neither willing to concede defeat.

This crisis could lead in two possible directions; closer to a deep divisive schism, pushing us one inch nearer to a World War III or closer to a peaceful, humanity-based resolution in which civilian citizens and human lives (both Muslim and Jew) become the focus. Either way, by filming shoulder-fired rockets, by interviewing terrorist leaders, by zooming in on death and tragedy, are we not effectively making matters worse? Our eyes are peeled and the whole world is watching, waiting and wondering – only to turn off the TV and resign to bed.

The longer the incursion lasts, the more Palestinians that die. The more Palestinians that die, the more hatred for Israel is inspired. The more hatred that is inspired, the more Hamas’ popularity grows. The more that grows… the more the cameras focus.

What we should be doing, in one humble opinion, is focusing our efforts not on information and media attention, but on helping with necessities – providing the food, water, medicine, blankets and tents that are in increasingly short supply. Let’s slap our blue helmets on and wave a white flag. Let’s feed the hungry and heal the sick, showing what objective assistance is all about. Let’s turn our bloody televisions off to focus on what’s important and on what we can actually, physically do to help.

Meanwhile, it feels sensational, overwhelming and celebratory, even. War crimes! God-soaked violence! Pain, fear and death! In my mind, violence committed in the name of religion should be shunned, despised and criticized – not plastered up for all to see. By dropping bombs indiscriminately and then recording the explosions, we are merely turning the wheel of bloodshed and retribution – playing right into the hands of evil.

~ by Chris Hibbard on January 23, 2009.

One Response to “Media as a weapon?”

  1. Finally someone who’s making sense! This war is getting so much attention and support, and some people practically see it as entertainment! Why does America try so hard to kill as many people as possible in order to help a war be won? What’s wrong with using that energy to save as many people as possible and end a war? Israel should be turning the other cheek; not that responding and starting a war is ever good, but this is just ridiculous. It’s like a student swearing at a teacher, who then punishes her by setting her on fire.

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