Readers rightfully assume that newspapers go through the effort of educating its readers. As such, the papers should include descriptions and backgrounds of the main actors in any news story.
“Good” actors and “bad” actors are often labelled as such. For example, readers would imagine that the media would specifically call out a terrorist organization, and almost all of the time, they do. The exception is the terrorist group Hamas.
Consider this comparison:
A group that is often-mentioned in the New York Times lately that is labelled a terrorist group is the P.K.K. The Kurdish group has been fighting for years against Turkey to gain independence and has used violence to achieve its goal. Some people consider the Kurdish aspirations for independence similar to the Palestinians, but there are many differences, such as the fact that the Kurds are actually a distinct people compared to Arabs and Muslims in Syria, Iraq and Turkey where they live, as opposed to Palestinians who are an indistinguishable part of the broader Arab world. The P.K.K. fights alone for the Kurdish people, while the whole Arab world fights for the Palestinian Arabs. Put those facts aside and look at recent reports from the New York Times.
The NY Times is consistent in labelling the P.K.K. a terrorist group. It may state that the label is attributed to Turkey and other groups such as NATO, the United States or just “widely considered.” But it usually avoids just stating that Turkey alone considers the group to be a terrorist organization:
- October 12, 2015: “Turkey and its NATO allies consider the P.K.K a terrorist organization.”
- September 9, 2015: “The Kurdish group, which is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, has been attacking Turkish security officials almost daily since the breakdown of the fragile peace process.”
- August 12, 2015: “a Kurdish separatist group known as the P.K.K., which is widely listed as a terrorist group”
- August 6, 2015: “Mr. Erdogan has said he is acting in Turkey’s national security interests in targeting terrorists of all stripes, both the Islamic State and the P.K.K”
- July 29, 2015: “Under alliance rules, they are bound to protect Turkey from threats, and they have long listed the Kurdish militant group that fought a long insurgency in Turkey, the P.K.K., as a terrorist organization”
- July 26, 2015 (an exception to prove the rule): “targeting camps of the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party for the first time in four years… ended an unstable two-year cease-fire between the Turkish government and the Kurdish militants, also known by the initials of their Kurdish name, P.K.K.”
Readers of the New York Times are educated by the paper over-and-again that many countries outside of Turkey consider the P.K.K. a terrorist group. Understanding that designation gives readers specific context with which to consider the story. A government fighting a terrorist group is logical and appropriate; a defensive action of “the good guys” against the “bad guys”.
Now consider the labeling of Hamas in the New York Times.
Hamas has been labeled a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” by the United States government since 1997. This is not subject to interpretation but is established fact. It was awarded this designation on the same day as other notable terrorist groups including: Abu Nidal; Hizbullah; Palestine Liberation Front; Palestinian Islamic Jihad; Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine; PFLP-General Command; and the P.K.K. It is also consider a terrorist group by the European Union, Canada and other countries.
However, the New York Times does not call Hamas a terrorist group. Instead it prefers to call it a “militant group.” The Times does not call attacks by Hamas “deliberate attacks” but uses terms like “resorting to violence.” The Times does not say that Hamas is the favorite established political party of the Palestinians, winning 58% of the Parliament, but uses terms like “dominates Gaza” to make it appear as an outside force against its own people.
All of these observations are plain facts for any reader of the Times to see (some examples are listed below, but do your own search of Hamas and the Times and see it for yourself). These descriptions by the Times are used to transform readers’ mindsets:
- from thinking of Hamas as a terrorist organization, to a freedom fighting group.
- from a group that seeks to destroy all of Israel, to one that simply wants freedom of movement.
- from a group that actively seeks to kill innocents, to one that is left with no choice.
- from a popular Palestinian political party, to a small outside force.
From a terrorist group that violently seeks to overthrow a democratic government which must therefore be combatted aggressively with force, to a group that justly uses an armed struggle to achieve modest ends which should be placated.
- July 17, 2015: “Saudi support for reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, the two dominant but feuding Palestinian factions“
- June 30, 2015: “the ruling Islamist group, Hamas“
- June 8, 2015 “Hamas, the militant group that dominates Gaza”
- June 3, 2015: “Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, has worked to enforce the cease-fire with Israel,” makes Hamas part of the peaceful solution (enforcing a cease-fire), not the core of the problem.
- May 26, 2015: “The militant group Hamas used last summer’s war” separates Hamas from launching the war to a group that just used the war.
- September 4, 2014: “…orchestrated by Hamas, which Israel regards as a terrorist group committed to its destruction” makes the characterization specific ONLY TO ISRAEL and not the US and many other countries.
In short, the liberal paper goes through efforts to transform the broadly popular terrorist group that seeks the destruction of Israel and murder of Jews, to a fringe militant religious group that controls a part of the Palestinian population and occasionally resorts to violence against Israel. In such a narrative, who does the Times label as the “good guy” and who is the “bad guy”? In such a scenario, is the current wave of violence just an “intifada” or “uprising” or part of a broader war to destroy the Jewish State?
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