by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The coverage in the United States of the war between Israel and Hamas is comically lopsided in the Palestinians’ favor. That much in not in question. But the reasons for the disparity are worth teasing out.
One view holds that a considerable number of reporters and editors stateside are simply anti-Israel, if not outright antisemitic. But a more complicated, less sinister explanation might be that the skewed coverage is simply a product of that paternalistic belief held by so many American newsmen that says it’s their duty to “protect” readers and special-interest groups from news coverage that may feed various -isms and phobias. It’s a savior complex wherein they pull their punches, leaning heavily into ludicrous euphemisms and obscuring facts and reality, because they believe that, in their capacity as information gatekeepers, it’s their responsibility to manage the public’s perceptions and emotions.
It’s patronizing, it’s insulting, and it’s antithetical to the role that journalism is supposed to play in terms of maintaining a well-informed polity. But it’s definitely something major news media do from time to time. We see this constantly in cases where news organizations selectively withhold the race, religion, and sometimes even the name of accused and suspected criminals. We see this when newsrooms become selectively shy about identifying party affiliations in stories involving political scandals. The press is here to make sure you don’t get the wrong impression. This savior approach to journalism seems a more realistic, and charitable, explanation for much of what is wrong with American news coverage of the war between Israel and Hamas.
Journalistic assumptions could be summed up like so: Gaza needs rescuing from a technologically and militarily advanced opponent, and, by God, the U.S. media are here to help! Muslims in America need protection from Islamophobia, and, by God, American journalists and editors are here to help!