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Mechanics of Media Complicity with Terrorism – Part Two

As noted in a previous blogpost, global media, including those that strive to provide ‘balance’ in their reporting, has become complicit with terrorism.

Specifically, global media deliberately enables the ‘win-win’ proposition that lies at the heart of terror group strategy to embed within civilian infrastructure:

  • a win if a country that tries to follow the laws of war doesn’t defend its civilian population out of concern about civilian casualties – the result: the terrorists can continue with impunity;
  • and a win if a country that tries to follow the laws of war does defend its civilian population and causes tragic yet unavoidable civilian casualties – the result: global media manufactures pressure for that country to stop defending its civilian population and the terrorists can continue with impunity.

As mentioned, the complicity of the global media with terrorism can be discerned through the combination of short- and long-term cycles.

The short-term cycles are those in which global media manufactures pressure against a country to stop defending its civilian population in a specific crisis, creating the win that the terrorists want.

The long-term cycles are those in which global media establishes a distorted over-arching narrative context which is the enabler for global media to quickly shift the discussion from the terrorists’ brutality to the supposed underlying culpability of the country that was attacked, thereby manufacturing pressure on that country to stop defending its civilian population, again creating the win that the terrorists want.

The long term cycle thus reinforces the short term cycle to put global media on the same side as the terrorists.

Taking this analysis to an additional level of depth, this longer term cycle – the creation of a distorted over-arching narrative – is achieved by global media through active and passive methods:

  • the active method involves the continual reinforcement of underlying biases in media reporting of the conflict;
  • the passive method involves media reporting that carefully avoids ‘inconvenient’ arguments or evidence that serve to challenge the underlying bias.

The BBC is used again as an example.

The active method  may be typified by the July 2023 BBC interview with the former Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennett (https://www.instagram.com/reel/CuUJDplAxRB/ ). The context to the interview is a counter-terrorism operation in Jenin. Specifically, and this is essential to note, this was a counter-terrorism operation that took place in the midst of a crowded refugee camp which resulted in zero civilian casualties. Virtually unprecedented. Despite this, the BBC reporter still accuses Israel of ‘being happy to kill children’.

Any objective analysis would consider this to be a good example of how Israel tries to follow the laws of war. Instead, somehow, the BBC still found a way to reinforce the trope it has carefully cultivated that Israel is ‘cruel and vengeful’ and enjoys ‘butchering Palestinian children’. (Anyone who has even briefly studied historical antisemitism can see clearly in this the rising ghosts of the virulently antisemitic past.)

The passive approach may be typified by the failure of BBC and global ‘balanced’ media to report the evidence provided yesterday by the IDF Spokesman on the systematic launching by Hamas of rockets in proximity to schools, mosques and UN facilities.

This was released on the IDF Spokesman’s X (formerly Twitter) feed on Monday evening, 22 October:

This feed is one of the most closely followed by global media to receive the authoritative Israeli comment on ongoing events. There can be no excuse that no one saw it.

And yet a quick web search shows that the only news media that picked this up outside of Israel are the two right-of-centre UK tabloids, the Sun and the Daily Mail.

Now this is particularly egregious.

It goes to the very heart of the terrorists strategy, as outlined above.

It speaks to the difficult challenge the terrorists’ strategy poses for Israeli efforts to defend its civilian population while following the laws of war.

This issue – who has responsibility for tragic Palestinian civilian casualties – has been the cause of riots around the world and the great surge in both antisemitism and islamophobia on the street; it is why Jewish places of worship, schools and community offices now have armed police presence in so many countries around the world.

Ultimately it speaks to whether the terrorists win – whether they will be allowed to survive another day to launch further unspeakable atrocities against civilians in the future.

Yet simply ignored.

These active and passive methods are too systematic to be one-off operational failures as implied by the periodic BBC apologies that come usually after concerted political pressure. Rather, they permeate the BBC.

Thus, BBC international editor Jeremy Bowen’s thought piece early last week, written in bold type in its opening paragraph no less, again homed in on this same trope of Israel ‘killing children’ (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-67148622).

Bowen’s article will receive less attention than the Bennett interview because it was carefully worded to reflect some notional viewpoint of ‘Palestinians and millions of Arabs’. But nonetheless there it was again – Israel and killing children.

It is this consistent reinforcement, through act and omission, through language that is blatant and through language that is more coded, that works to establish in the minds of decision-makers and the general public alike the basic understanding that Israel is ‘cruel and vengeful’ and ‘deliberately targeting children’.

It is not surprising then, that as Israel seeks to defend its civilian population against a brutal terror attack that the global conversation can be changed so quickly from sympathy to condemnation, that Israel is not allowed by the international community to defend its civilian population, that the terrorists win.

About the Author
Adam Gross is a strategist that specialises in solving complex problems in the international arena. Adam made aliyah with his family in 2019 to live in northern Israel.
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