Friday 30 November 2012

Birds of a feather...

.........Tweet Together

Sue: I know I’m stuck in the dark ages, lagging behind the rest of the world, out with the in crowd, uncool,  you’ve guessed it - I haven’t got a Twitter account. I won’t bother to make excuses. I just haven’t.

Anyway that doesn’t stop me spying on other people’s Tweeting activities, because at the moment on Twitter, it’s where all the best bias hangs out. It’s not only who you Tweet to, it’s also who Tweets to you, and the timbre within those 140 characters can sometimes resonate with meaning. 

The spotlight has fallen upon the tweeting habits of the BBC staff since the Jon Donnison Tweet fiasco, when he was caught out making a specific error, which was both extremely awful and at the same time a little bit understandable. It was awful because he must have wished very much indeed to publicise a picture that would inflame the public’s already widespread anger at Israel, and in his haste he forgot to check the picture’s credentials. Perhaps if he’d discovered his mistake he’d have found a genuine one to promote instead. After all, children were indeed killed in Gaza; showing the wrong picture could, to some people, in a following wind, be regarded as symbolic rather than actual. It’s that old “we know it’s happening anyway” excuse.

So Donnison’s downfall was not because of the slippery, biased ongoing Tweeting, it was more or less on a technicality. But it was quite a big technicality, assuming that the BBC’s integrity and credibility depends upon the veracity of BBC related reporting. 

The equally transparent political partisanship of Paul Danahar has also been in the headlights. 
Both Paul and Jon (not Ringo) were summoned to Israel’s Government Press Office under the possible threat of having their press accreditation revoked or withdrawn. However, nothing was withdrawn, and it seems they weren’t even made to apologise. We’ll probably never know what was said, but Paul and Jon were adamant that it didn't include ‘sorry’.

Their Tweeting habits  reveal who their friends are, and where their sympathies lie. 

An solitary observation here, a reply there, a link somewhere else, or a brief conversation is unlikely to provide conclusive proof of one particular individual’s prejudice, but look at the whole picture. Stand back. Can you tell what it is yet?

We all know that war, abuse and injustice bring about personal tragedy to someone, somewhere. Death and destruction should be reported, there’s no doubt. But what the BBC should not do is concentrate on one mawkish aspect of the horror of war in an obsessive manner - and here’s where the word disproportionate really comes into its own - while ignoring or showing a distinct lack of interest when the same, and worse, is known to be happening elsewhere. In Syria, where the number of civilian casualties is enormous, the particular image that exposed Donnison’s failure of judgment, scruples and journalistic rigour was used in error! Can’t anyone see the irony?

Even if the moral justification (‘we expect higher standards from Israel‘) for such selective journalistic focus was valid and sincere, merely showing images of dead and injured children is still a cheap, lazy and exploitative way of propagandising. It makes me, and anyone else who dares point it out sound callous just  for saying so. It’s lazy in that it is a substitute for examining the real moral justification behind the conflict, and effectively dispenses with the need to maintain appropriate impartiality.

Craig: From your link it looks as if Judge Dan at IsraellyCool has been 'blocked' by Paul Danahar for this tweet yesterday:

@pdanahar I couldn't help but notice you only share articles from @haaretz. Is that a @BBC job prerequisite? or are you just biased?

His article about it is called 'Truth Hurts, Doesn’t It, Paul? 

It certainly is the truth and that 'blocking' does indeed seem to show that it hurts. The evidence? Looking back over Paul Danahar's tweets since the start of November and noting down all the mentions/links he gives to non-BBC media outlets produces the following list:

6.11.2012 Huffington Post
8.11.2012 Mediaite
Associated Press
10.11.2012 Ha'aretz
11.11.2012 Ha'aretz
13.11.2012 The Atlantic
14.11.2012 Ha'aretz
16.11.2012 Ynet
The Daily Beast
17.11.2012 Enduring America
The Daily Beast
18.11.2012 The Foreign Press Association
The Times (London)
19.11.2012 Jerusalem Post
Jerusalem Post
20.11.2012 Jerusalem Post
The Times of Israel
The Economist
21.11.2012 Ha'aretz
22.11.2012 +972
24.11.2012 Huffington Post
The Guardian
Washington Post
25.11.2012 Egypt Independent
New York Times
New York Times
26.11.2012 Jerusalem Post
New York Times
27.11.2012 Ha'aretz
28.11.2012 London Review of Books
29.11.2012 Ha'aretz

This results in the following tally of mentions/links:

Ha'aretz - 17
Jerusalem Post - 4
New York Times - 3
Huffington Post -2 
Ynet - 2
The Daily Beast - 2
+972 - 1
London Review of Books - 1
Egypt Independent - 1
Washington Post - 1
The Guardian - 1
The Times of Israel - 1
The Economist - 1
Reuters - 1
The Times - 1
Mediaite - 1
Associated Press - 1
The Atlantic - 1
Enduring America - 1
The Foreign Press Association - 1

SueHa'aretz is the leftie paper which is not very supportive of the Israeli government, so it's like the BBC quoting the Guardian I suppose.

Craig: Which they also do a lot. Wikipedia gives people a good idea of where Ha'aretz stands, for those who aren't too familiar with it. The reference to the BBC here made me smile:

Haaretz describes itself as broadly liberal on domestic issues and international affairs.[30] Other describe it alternatively as liberal, centre-left, left-wing, or even hard left.  According to the BBC, it has a moderate stance on foreign policy and security issues. David Remnick in The New Yorker described Haaretz as "easily the most liberal newspaper in Israel", its ideology as left-wing and its temper as "insistently oppositional." The newspaper's op-ed pages are open to a variety of opinions.
J.J. Goldberg, the editor of the American The Jewish Daily Forward, describes Haaretz as "Israel's most vehemently anti-settlement daily paper". US weekly The Nation describes Haaretz as "Israel's liberal beacon," citing its editorials voicing opposition to the occupation, the security barrier, discriminatory treatment of Arab citizens, and the mindset that led to the Second Lebanon War. Aijaz Ahmad, writing in Frontline, described Haaretz as "the most prestigious Israeli newspaper".

Just to add a little something though about those four mentions of The Jerusalem Post, Sue. Three of them are digs at the paper's reporting:

RT Does anyone have pets who are freaking out because of the rocket sirens? If so, please contact me today for a story.

for balance also tweets: 'happy to interview whose pets are freaking out from Israeli fire'.

The dogs had their day! Here's 's"Air raid sirens causing pets anxiety" story. via

It reminds me a bit of the way BBC employees love to have a go at the Daily Mail on Twitter. There are no digs at Ha'aretz, as you might expect.

CODA: For much more on the BBC and its relationship with Twitter, please read Biased BBC's David Preiser and his sterling work:

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