Your all-purpose bogeyman

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on February 14, 2008

I came across this article by former PBS ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin in Salon earlier this week decrying the abolishment of the ombudsman job at many media outlets.

It's an interesting subject to me, but the most interesting part of the column is unrelated to the ombudsman's job, it's this:

The Middle East has always been a difficult story to cover. There is an intensity and unpredictability about this story that isn't found in other hot-button issues. At the beginning of the Intifada, my e-mails were running 6-to-1 accusing NPR's coverage of bias in favor of Israel. But in March 2003, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a Passover seder just outside Tel Aviv, killing more than 40 people. Within a day, my mail switched and began to run 8-to-1 accusing NPR of being pro-Palestinian, even though the tone and volume of the reporting had not changed.

I think the shift was due to two factors: 1) the Patriot Act appeared to silence a lot of pro-Palestinian opinion. I suddenly stopped hearing from people with Middle Eastern names. 2) The Passover bombing marked the first time in the Intifada that Israelis were killed in a specifically Jewish (as opposed to Israeli) circumstance. For many NPR listeners, that raised the existential threat of anti-Semitism and many pro-Israel and Jewish listeners responded passionately.

I'll buy Dvorkin's second factor. The first factor, however, is nothing more than leftist media alarmism. The Patriot Act was signed into law on Oct. 26, 2001, yet it only seemed to have an effect, suddenly, on complaints to Dvorkin 1 1/2 years later?

Bolshevik Storytelling.


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February 2008



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