The powers-that-be try to get away with awful canards – but sooner or later the truth will out!
The recent tragedy of James Miller is but one of many examples…
- On 2nd May 2003, James Miller was shot while making a documentary in the Gaza strip about Palestinian children. The accompanying reporter Saira Shah recounts that after Mr Miller was pronounced dead it had been a single shot at his neck, she was driven to an Israeli military base and interviewed by an officer with between six and 10 soldiers present: the officer “spent a lot of time trying to get me to agree that [a wound on James' back] must mean a Palestinian shot him”. But the truth will out. On 3 April 2005, Mr Cobb-Smith , a former British Army officer with a 19-year record and a security consultant, informed Mr Miller’s inquest that he had no doubt Israeli soldiers had deliberately killed the award-winning cameraman and director. The Guardian reported, ”Having collected evidence and investigated the scene over a period of days, Mr Cobb-Smith told the inquest: This was calculated and cold-blooded murder without a shadow of a doubt [Miller was murdered, inquest told].
The Israeli army’s first reaction was to absolve themselves and shift the blame to the Muslim camp.
A similar mentality was to be found in the Serbian mindset:
- On 5th February 1994, a bomb landing on the main market square in Sarajevo killed 68 and left 200 wounded. Within days, the canard was spread by Serb propagandists that this was an act carried out by the Bosnian army in order to gain international sympathy! Among the statesmen of the day who peddled this line were Lord Owen and Baroness Chalker (who found it ‘impossible’ to tell an MP ‘who is responsible for the shelling in Sarajevo). Members of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) also said the shell was fired from Bosnian Government positions. Justice was done on 16 January 2004, when at the Hague’s International Tribunal for Yugoslavia, Berko Zecevic, an expert in designing ammunition concluded that the shell could only have come from the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS) positions.
The quest to ‘manufacture opinion’ leads to all manner of intellectual dishonesty – consider these two examples:
- On 9th October 2001, the Australian Navy intercepted a refugee ship, codenamed Siev 4, which was sinking with 219 mainly Iraqis on board . In the course of the Australian general elections later that year, incumbent Prime Minister John Howard alleged that the refugees had been throwing their children into the sea so that coastguard officers would be forced to rescue them and so accept them as asylum seekers. Howard’s gambit was to portray himself as someone tough on asylum – and his distortion served to increase hatred towards Muslim refugees. In August 2004, Mike Scrafton, a former senior advisor to the Australian defence minister, revealed that he had told Howard on three occasions that the story of refugees throwing children into the water was untrue. The country’s law enforcement agencies, who would have known the facts, did not consider it appropriate to set the record straight at the time. In fact the Minister for Defence released photographs of children in the water as evidence that the incident had taken place!
- Covering the reports of gang rapes in Sydney in 2001/2002, the journalist Janet Albrechsten linked sexual violence and Islam. She quoted the French psychotherapist Jean-Jacques Rasaillís research: ‘Pack rape of white girls is an initiation of passage for a small section of young Muslim youths’. However Albrechsten had inserted the word ‘Muslim’ in the scholar’s original passage. Rassail underlined his denial of Albrechsten’s quotation and linkage in a letter to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (for details of this incident see ‘Muslims and the News Media’, edited by Elizabeth Poole and John E Richardson, I B Tauris, 2006, pages 136-137)
- The extent of media manipulation is often only known because of some brave whistle-blower. In August 2005, Israel dismantled a number of its illegal settlements in Gaza – the media giving full-scale coverage of settler anguish and the discipline of the Israeli Defence Force in the face of provocations. Rachel Shabi, in the Guardian (9 January 2006) however probed: ‘the media caught every tearful defiant move on camera. But how much was real and how much stage-managed?’ Making human drama out of a political crisis
Shabi quotes David Ratner, a reporter for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper: in most settlements he visited, events were not spontaneous but “completely under control”. A photojournalist confirmed this. “Remember the reports from Gush Katif [the largest Gaza settlement], against the backdrop of a huge bonfire built by settlers, so that it looked like a report from Saigon? It was a done deal, the settlers had told the soldiers they would not resist too much if they could build the fire.” There were numerous reports of hysterics and tears that appeared to be staged for the cameras: ‘the result, some journalists fear, is that settler and government objectives dovetailed into a common purpose of making the Gaza evacuation appear difficult (and therefore unrepeatable) if the media coverage made disengagement look like Sharon’s “painful concession”, it made the IDF look like heroes’. (160)