Letter to a Journalist

Dear Journalist,

I hope the blood on your hands isn’t bothering you too much. I’m sure it isn’t easy, playing God. I hadn’t realized what a truly fundamental career you have, until now. I used to think that the people who really played a decisive role in whether someone would live or die were doctors, nurses, maybe judges in some countries. But I have now realized that it is you, Journalist, who has this power.

You see, as a Journalist, you can decide what to write. You can choose to write the facts, which is the more honorable aspect of your job, or you can choose to write stories, which is the more profitable aspect of your job. When you choose to write stories instead of facts, you are counting on the ignorance and stupidity of your readers, not to be able to tell the difference. What do stories have, Journalist? They have a good guy and a bad guy. They have a beginning, middle, and an end. So when stories are presented as facts, it means you have created a good guy and a bad guy, a beginning, middle, and an end. The problem is, life is rarely like a story, and I’m sure you know this. So now you have gotten yourself into a pickle, haven’t you, because your good guy is showing quite a few signs of being a bad guy. And that beginning, middle, and end system you were using is becoming increasingly convoluted, now that your good guy appears to have “started it”.

But you can’t stop now, can you? A great writer doesn’t suddenly turn his story upside down. How would that look? People would know that it was a story all along, and your credibility would be harmed. And, let’s be honest, people like a story. It’s much easier to comprehend than reality. Reality is complicated; there are just too many angles to it. So, Journalist, you have made a decision. You decided to stick to your story, and save yourself the trouble and the shame of having to start over. Problem is, stories evoke emotions. Normally, when stories are read in a book, we manage to disconnect from them, knowing that they’re not real.

But, Journalist, you didn’t write a book did you, you presented a story as a fact. And maybe you should have thought of that before, because now you have your readers getting really angry with your bad guy. You know, the one you recently discovered probably wasn’t so bad after all. And normally, when people are angry with the bad guy, they’re pretty happy when something bad happens to him. You know, karma and all. So all of a sudden, your story is making people endorse the murder of civilians who happen to have the same nationality as your bad guy! And even worse, since you’re only reporting the retaliations by your bad guy, people think he started it, and is manically going around shooting people for no reason!

Instead of the world condemning all those terrible attacks by your good guy, they’re silently letting him continue! I know — you weren’t counting on this. But, you gotta stick to your story. Your reputation is at stake here. Your office is at stake! If you stop feeding your readers the next predictable chapter in this enticing tale, they’ll stop reading it. They’ll start thinking for themselves, and God knows, when people start thinking for themselves, Journalists suffer.

I guess my main question is: was it easy? Deciding that the continuance of your story is worth more than a life? Than multiple lives?

I’m curious, whose blood on your hands made you cringe the most over the past week? Was it the blood of two parents, murdered in front of their four children while in their car? Or maybe it was the blood of two men murdered, and a woman and baby seriously injured as they were stabbed in Jerusalem? How about the blood of the 15-year old, the 25-year old, or the 35-year old stabbed in Jerusalem? Maybe the blood of the 20-year old and the 21-year old stabbed in Afula? Or was it the blood of a female soldier and 4 civilians, stabbed by a screwdriver in Tel Aviv? I guess it could have been any of these, or the dozens of other stabbings, shootings, and stonings that have occurred since October 1st.

Have you been telling yourself that they deserved it? Journalist, have you started to believe your own story? Is it easier than facing the truth — that you’re responsible for these peoples’ deaths and injuries? Journalist, what is the definition of a bad guy? In most stories, it’s the one who has power, but uses it in the wrong way.

How does it feel, Journalist, to know that you’re the bad guy in this story?

About the Author
Olivia Flasch is an international lawyer living in London. She undertook her Bachelor's Degree in Public International Law in The Hague, The Netherlands, and has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Oxford. Born into a Jewish family in Sweden, she writes about all things Jewish, as well as about Israel and the world from an international law perspective.