Digital Diplomats

Welcome to Class 4, in which we will consider the issue of bias in the media.

Bias can be defined by the acronym - D.I.S.T.O.R.T.

  •  Distorted context

  •  Imbalanced or One-Sided Reporting

  •  Selective Omission

  •  Terminology that is questionable

  •  Opinion presented as fact

  •  Reversal of time

  •  Trivialization of Israeli suffering

Let's look at examples that demonstrate each of the types of media bias.

  •  D - Distorted Context

Here is an example from the BBC

In this BBC article about Jerusalem, Jews who want to live in Silwan are painted as foreigners grabbing control of historical Palestinian land. The context is distorted with the Jewish history of Jerusalem beginning in 1967. No mention is made of the 3,000 year connection between the city and the Jewish people.

  •  I - Imbalanced or One-Sided Reporting

Here is an example from the Washington Post

This is a photo gallery that ran for about 2 weeks on the Washington Post website during the period directly after the flotilla incident. As you can see, the vast majority of pictures are of anti-Israel protesters or sympathetic shots of passengers injured on the ships. There are far fewer pictures that would explain the event from an Israeli perspective. The gallery, especially the numerous shots of anti-Israel protesters holding up banners, is an example of imbalanced reporting.

  •  S - Selective Omission

Here is an example from the New York Times

The article paints a bleak picture of life in Gaza. "There is scarce electricity, food, and jobs and no hope ..."

The article omits to mention that Israel allows hundreds of trucks each day into Gaza with supplies. It also neglects to mention why Israel is blockading certain items. That the


Hamas government's support for terrorist attacks against Israel make it impossible to allow an open, unsupervised border.

  •  T - Terminology

When is a militant a militant, and when is he a terrorist? Read this article.

  •  O - Opinion as Fact

Here is an example from the BBC

When discussing the partition of Mandatory Palestine, Bowen claims this "fact":

"The Jews got the best of it - more than half the country, even though they owned around 10% of the land and there were twice as many Arabs."

Here is how he sums up the Britain's 1917 Balfour Declaration:

"One nation promising the land of another to a third."

His opinion that the land had belonged to the Palestinian people and there were no legitimate Jewish claims to it is not factual. Yet as the BBC's Mideast Editor, people assume his words are objective and not based on his personal opinion.

  •  R - Reversal of Time

Here is an example from the NYT

The reality was: The Israeli attack was a direct response to a Palestinian attack. The Palestinians were killed when they fired on Israeli soldiers.

  •  T - Trivialization of Israeli Suffering

Very often, Palestinian suffering is considered major news. Headlines, pictures, and articles depict Palestinians who have been harmed by Israeli actions. Yet the very real suffering of Israeli civilians - in places like Sderot and elsewhere - are usually downplayed or even ignored outright. This creates an impression among readers that Israeli actions are arbitrary and unjustified, not to mention overly aggressive.

Read this article which, among other examples of media bias, discusses this disturbing trend.

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