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Hugh Taylor

Fighting Anti-Israel Bias in the Media

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Don’t you just love getting told off by young people who don’t have the faintest clue what they’re talking about? If you’re pro-Israel, it’s a common experience in the current moment. I was recently rebuked on social media by a 20-something who once freelanced for me. She cited Hamas propaganda as the reason I should “check my facts” before posting about the war. As my southern father might have said, “I done been told.”

I shouldn’t blame her. A young person whose brain has been pickled in disinformation trying to shame me for not knowing the “truth” of the Gaza war? Welcome to 2024.

Young Americans are against Israel. A Gallup poll revealed that favorable views of Israel among 18-34 year olds dropped from 64% to 38% in the last year. In terms of headcount, that means 18 million young Americans changed their minds about Israel in a year. Overall, Americans’ views of Israel are still generally good, with 58% surveyed by Gallup being favorable, though that number is down from 68% last year—the steepest drop in two decades.

Why is this happening? The war itself, an impossible situation for the IDF, has created “bad optics” that plays into the Hamas strategy of killing its own children for PR purposes. Hamas then amplifies the bad optics with outright lies that the media accepts with little question. We thus have screaming headlines featuring the genocide lie, the civilian death count lie, the starvation lie, the occupation lie—promulgated by UN agencies staffed by Hamas terror operatives to a gullible press, some of whom are also in the employ of Hamas. These lies are remarkably durable, with news outlets still citing death and starvation statistics that the UN itself has retracted.

The anti-Israel message is winning in the media, with the New York Times, for example, publishing an astonishing 3,488 articles about the war in its first seven months.

The anti-Israel message is winning in the media, with the New York Times, for example, publishing an astonishing 3,488 articles about the war in its first seven months—the vast majority of which were critical of Israel and a full 46% focused exclusively on “Palestinian suffering.” The Times is just one paper, but it represents influential mainstream news coverage of the conflict.

Tik Tok has accumulated over 27 billion views of videos with the hashtag #Palestine. The hashtag #FreePalestine attached itself to 214,000 Tik Tok videos in a single month, which were then viewed 525 million times. Worldwide, this hashtag was attached to 1 million videos that received 4 billion views.

A third of young Americans trust Tik Tok as their news source.

So what? Isn’t Tik Tok just a kid’s app? Not really. A third of young Americans trust Tik Tok as their news source. According to The Forward, a New York Times poll found that 44% of Americans aged 18-29 use TikTok “often.” The same poll revealed that 48% in this cohort age group believe Israel is intentionally killing civilians in Gaza. Fifty-five percent of them oppose providing further aid to Israel.

Why would media outlets like the Times and social media apps like Tik Tok work so hard to distort the story? In the case of the former, Times editorial leadership skews liberal. They appear to favor the progressive pro-Palestinian narrative, the facts and their journalistic integrity be damned. As for Tik Tok, one explanation is that the Chinese-owned company, influenced if not outright managed by the Chinese government, simply wants to sow discord in the US, and the war is an effective issue for that purpose.

Ultimately, though, the drivers of the media’s hatred of Israel don’t matter. The impact is real, regardless of the causes. As someone who has worked in public relations in the tech field for over 20 years, I would say the libels levelled against Israel have “landed” with the audience. They’ve been heard and absorbed as fact.

One expression from my PR career that comes to mind when I think about Israel’s media fiasco is “Quantity is quality.” The sheer mass of negative press coverage has a qualitative impact on the dialogue. This phenomenon is common in large-scale, well-funded social engineering projects. Like, you know how breakfast is the most important meal of the day? You might be surprised to learn that this nutritional “law” is, in fact, completely made up. It is the product of a massive PR campaign from the pork/bacon industry dating back to the 1950s. The multi-decade De Beers campaign that convinced women that “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend” is another example.

If you can get the press to repeat your nonsense enough, everyone starts to believe it. The Third Reich’s Joseph Goebbels, the original OG of PR men, put it less delicately: “If you repeat a lie a thousand times, it becomes the truth.”

It’s boiling the ocean.

This is where Israel finds itself today. Trying to convince people that the stories they are reading are, at best, distorted, and at worst, racist lies, brings to mind another well-worn phrase from the world of technology marketing: Boiling the ocean. Want to persuade people to give up their iPhones for a Windows Phone? Forget it, you’re boiling the ocean. Want Microsoft Office users to switch to Open Office? Boiling the ocean. Want pro-Palestinian youth to contemplate the true story? You can’t. It’s boiling the ocean.

I say this not to be negative, but rather to be realistic. I have nothing but admiration (and some small donations) for organizations like Honest Reporting, MEMRI, and FLAME, and I hope they keep plugging away with their newsletters and pamphlets. But, how much can emails and personal Facebook posts to the choir really affect an environment where anti-Israel videos get billions of views and the world’s leading newspaper devotes almost half its coverage to the plight of the “poor Palestinians”?

How much can emails and personal Facebook posts to the choir really affect an environment where anti-Israel videos get billions of views and the world’s leading newspaper devotes almost half its coverage to the plight of the “poor Palestinians”?

Not too much. That’s the sad truth right now. I don’t have a lot of clever suggestions when it comes to shutting off the firehose of anti-Jewish hate that’s poisoning the minds of tens of millions of young Americans. I do have one piece of advice, though. Play rough.

Intelligent debate, clever memes, and fliers won’t work. It’s time to put resources into getting people fired. Sue. Use the Robert Maxwell technique, which involves suing newspapers every single time they write about Israel. He was successful in shutting off media criticism of his business by making it so costly to report on him that most papers simply stopped. If the New York Times knew that it would have to spend $25,000 on lawyers every single time they published an article critical of Israel, they might slow their coverage down a little.

Pull ads. Boycott advertisers. Shame media executives publicly. Initiate shareholder lawsuits. Put pressure on financial firms, banks, and private equity funds that support anti-Israel media outlets. Maybe some enterprising hackers could paralyze the outlets that spew hate.

Worried that such tactics aren’t fair? Well, neither is their coverage, and Jews are dying from it. Boo-hoo. We’re at war. We need to start fighting on one front where Americans can make a difference.

About the Author
Hugh Taylor is an observant Jewish writer and essayist whose work has appeared in The Daily Beast, Huffington Post, and The Washington Spectator. He has worked at Silicon Valley startups and in the Fortune 100. He earned his BA and MBA at Harvard University.
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