Norman Geras on Greg Philo

… were you to utter some other stereotypical racist trope than an anti-Jewish one today in more or less any liberal company, you’d be for the high jump, as the saying is. Jews pulling secret strings to wield power over media or government, however, this is simply part of the air we now breathe. The moral and ideological stink is so pervasive that there are a lot of people who don’t even notice it.

Read the whole piece on normblog.

52 Responses to “Norman Geras on Greg Philo”

  1. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Norm is overly generous to Greg Philo. To many of us, both in and out of the Sociology of the Media area of study, the Glasgow University Media Studies Unit was a model of “how to do it”.

    In at least three books, they pioneered the way to objectively study how to deconstruct the news. They chose to record hundreds of hours of television (much if not most of it from the BBC) news coverage on the reporting of labour disputes. They then put this information through a strict content analysis and published the results.

    Among much else, the Unit noted how “taken-for-granted”, middle-class views of the world (that which the late Alvin W. Gouldner labelled as ‘domain assumptions’) ruled the way these disputes were presented. Essentially, although ostensibly fair and ‘balanced’, much was in practice filtered through an unwitting pro-management lens.

    Greg Philo appears to have forgotten the lessons he attempted to teach the rest of us, and done the same as the BBC, et al, in the way he views and presents the I/P conflict.

    How are the mighty fallen.

  2. Brian Robinson Says:

    Careful review, dated but still worth reading, by Mike Brennan in Democratiya 3 | Winter 2005, of the first edition of Philo & Berry’s ‘Bad News from Israel’.

    Here http://www.dissentmagazine.org/democratiya/article_pdfs/d3Brennan-2.pdf or
    http://bit.ly/jKASDJ

    Brennan concludes that the (2004) book is flawed because ‘rather tendentious and agenda-driven’, with a selective use of historical material.

    However we learn that “BBC journalist, George Alagiah, claims that news editors are constantly reminding journalists that they have about 20 seconds in which to grab the audience’s attention”.

  3. Absolute Observer Says:

    The idea of Jews controlling the Washington and London and being the reason for their being “at the top of every Islamic terrorist’s list of targets” seems to appear first.
    (I say “first” – what I mean, of course, is outside the neo-nazi and racist press, for which such an idea is a staple).

    “This is the real tail wagging the White House dog, with hugely damaging consequences for the US and its allies.”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/1998/aug/28/julianborger?INTCMP=SRCH

    “This motley group is pinning Israel down in the territories against the national will, and – through the deployment of its extremely effective lobby – Israel in turn has tied Washington’s hands in the pursuit of a balanced Middle East policy.

    This is the real tail wagging the White House dog, with hugely damaging consequences for the US and its allies. It is a primary reason why the US and Britain are at the top of every Islamic terrorist’s list of targets.”

  4. Greg Philo Says:

    This is a daft argument. We don’t write about ‘jewish people’ controlling media. We write about Israelis and Palestinians and about the Israeli state. This includes writing about its information strategy and its relative success. The Israelis also reached the same conclusion when the foreign ministry calculated the amount of coverage they were receiving. As for pressuring the media do you think they are the only state which tries to do this? Do you remember the pressure from Margaret Thatcher and Norman Tebbit on the BBC , the fights over Northern Ireland and the Falklands war or the constant conflicts with Alistair Campbell and the resignation of the Director General, Greg Dyke? We have written a good deal about such issues. In the current research we were told that the Americans were ‘leaning’ on the Jerusalem Bureau. Now is it ok to write that but not if it had been the Israelis? In the past we did indeed write about how the assumptions which structure coverage were relatively unconscious, a sort of received wisdom within news rooms. But that was a long time ago. Now the propaganda wars are fought overtly and the journalists are very much aware of them. It is our job to analyse what is happening, within a whole complex of power structures. Meantime if anyone attacks anyone else on the basis of their religion or ethnicity then you can count me in on the fight against it.

  5. Absolute Observer Says:

    “Yet the public response of the BBC is to avoid reporting our latest findings. Those in control have the power to say what is not going to be the news.”

    Or maybe the BBC think the work is rather weak.
    http://www.dissentmagazine.org/democratiya/article_pdfs/d4PhiloandBrennan.pdf

    Or maybe the BBC think that the idea that Israel is able to determine what goes into the BBC news is regurgitated garbage which connects with some very nasty history and is the invention of green inkers and charlatans (as indeed it was until recently, when better pople who should know better started giving it academic legitimacy).

    And, since you refuse to consider these possibilities (after all, I should imagine it is very hard to accept the negative judgements of others after having invested so much time and effort into it), you are left with no option to explain the BBC’s not covering your work as yet another example of Israel’s PR omnipotence; as a kind of “hidden hand” that blocks the communication of “truth to power” – your truth, their power (the supine BBC; the strong Israel).

    —————————————————————————-
    “Yet the public response of the BBC is to avoid reporting our latest findings. Those in control have the power to say what is not going to be the news.” Philo (Cif).

    That’s the great thing about conspiracy theories.
    Not only are they immune to criticism or rejection, but each criticism and rejection is taken as evidence of the validity of the “thesis” itself.

    A win-win situation without ever having to leave the circle of chalk (or should that be salt) that is the mark of the contemporary poverty of theory that reduces the complexities of social and political realities to the machinations of the purposeful human agency.

    If only the world, its relations, its conflicts and contradictions were that transparent – then any fool could see them!

  6. Greg Philo Says:

    They should answer the evidence, simple as that. If anyone thinks it’s weak, let them show it with their own study. This isa reply I put on the Guardian blog making the same point:

    Our argument is about balance and that both sides should be heard equally. It is not hard to summarise the main elements of each side’s argument about the reasons for conflict. The Israelis say that it continues because they are fighting a war on terror, that their opponents are against western democracy and in addition are anti-semitic. They are not interested in peace but only in destroying Israel which is under attack initially from suicide bombs and now from rockets, which force Israel to respond.
    The Palestinians would say that they were forced from their homes and land when Israel was created, then Israel took over the lands to which they had fled, and now they live under a brutal military rule, a kind of apartheid,in which thousands of their people are killed, kidnapped and imprisoned without trial. Israel is therefore a terrorist state and they are trying as a people to throw off this oppressor.

    Now which of these two do you think appears most on television news? If you are in any doubt, do your own study and count the references as we have. Journalists tell us that they have a lot of problems if they reference the second perspective. Are we not supposed to report this in our results?
    There are two big issues which flow from this. The first is that it is not possible to have sensible proposals for peace unless the arguments of both sides are part of the public and political discussion. The second is how does the BBC explain the absences in its own coverage, to the point where its journalists are contacting us to complain, and how can it defend its refusal even to cover the results of a study such as this? There must be a public debate about the quality of coverage and the BBC really has to deal with its own responsibilities in facilitating this.

    • Blacklisted Dictator Says:

      Greg Philo writes:
      “Our argument is about balance and that both sides should be heard equally. It is not hard to summarise the main elements of each side’s argument about the reasons for conflict. The Israelis say that it continues because they are fighting a war on terror, that their opponents are against western democracy and in addition are anti-semitic.”

      How often has The BBC stated that the Israelis believe that Hamas is anti-semitic? As far as I am aware, this is part of the Israeli “narrative” that rarely receives any exposure on The BBC.

      Please supply us with the facts. After all, you have done the research.

  7. Absolute Observer Says:

    “The second is how does the BBC explain the absences in its own coverage, to the point where its journalists are contacting us to complain, and how can it defend its refusal even to cover the results of a study such as this?”

    And the answer provided by yourself – the machinations of a purposeful human (Israeli) agency.

    As the review linked to above, notes
    “Rather, claims made about the data appear to owe more
    to the taken-for-granted assumptions of the researchers – that the media is a tool of the dominant classes, creating rather than merely reflecting attitudes, beliefs and ideas – than to any theoretical knowledge.”

    —————————————————————————
    “There must be a public debate about the quality of coverage and the BBC really has to deal with its own responsibilities in facilitating this.”

    And, not for the first time in these matters, the call to “public debate”.
    Jenny Tonge calls for a “public debate” on the allegation that Jews were stealing organs from Haitians.
    https://engageonline.wordpress.com/2010/02/19/t-wests-youtube-channel-and-jenny-tonge/

    And in Hungary, there are calls for a “public debate” on Israel’s attempts to occupy Hungary.
    https://engageonline.wordpress.com/2010/03/18/accusations-of-the-israeli-occupation-of-hungary/

    And, Walter Laquer cites the case in Germany during WW1 that demanded – and was successful – in having a “public debate” about whether Jews were serving at the front. (“The Changing Face of Antisemitism; 2006)
    (I read also that the case was true in France).

    And, in a case nearer to home, Richard Kuper called for a “public debate” on the power of the “Israel Lobby”.

    (And, note too, that Mearsheimer and Walt complained that their work was initally rejected by the Atlantic (?) not for quality concerns but because of the fact that they were scared of “the Israel Lobby” and called equally for a “public debate”.

    Interesting to note that the recent “public debate” that did take place – “Move over AIPAC” was framed by noting the “stranglehold” the “Israel Lobby” had over the US government and Congress.
    http://thecst.org.uk/blog/?p=2582

    In these circumstances, the call to “public debate” – beloved also by those wishing to limit/stop immigration, limit/stop abortion, re-introduce capital punishment) – is no different for the call to referendum made by leaders of the mob in the late-19th and early 20th century, often, but not always, on precisely the same questions.

    Indeed, just as explanations of political processes that rely on the machinations of specific and identifiable groups of individual are a parody of difficult, comples and, at most, tentative political explanations, so too calls for “public debate” like the call for referendums before it, are but parodies of true democracy and rational discussion.

  8. NIMN Says:

    It’s funny how a pattern emerges.

    IJV and JJfP have been rejected by the majortiy of Jews in the UK. Their response – the Israel Lobby.

    In the US the failure to see the “truth” about the Israel/Palestine conflict by Congress and the President is put down to the “Israel Lobby”.
    (But see, http://www.economist.com/node/18744129)

    In the UK, Labour’s failure to take action against Israel (even during the Gaza bombings) is explained by the number of Labour Jewish MP’s (Mike Cushman, UCU)

    In the US, the failure of the “truth” of 9/11 to be reported is down to the “Israel Lobby” (UCU activist list)

    In the UK, the BBC’s failure to put both sides case forward is the result of the “Israel PR)”.

  9. conchovor Says:

    ‘The Israelis say that it continues because they are fighting a war on terror, that their opponents are against western democracy and in addition are anti-semitic. ‘

    That is not all they say.

    They say Jews have historically been regarded, by themselves and others (including Palestinian Christians and Muslims), as a people exiled and dispossessed, with a right of restoration and return, as a of justice and need.

    A right Palestinian Muslims and Christians have historically Resisted, in large part, first through the apartheid of imperial Christianity and Islam, then the nascent Palestinian Christian and Muslim nationalism, which first Resisted Jews living in the land in above the tiny numbers to which imperial Christianity and Islam had accustomed them; then to seeking to expel or eliminate Palestinian then Israeli Jews; in the case of the P.L.O. until 1988; in the case of Hamas, until today.

    Many Israeli Jews acknowledge Zionist Jewish acts of ethnic cleansing. But they also claim the same, or worse, was threatened against Palestinian or Israeli Jews.

    Which fact is often omitted, ignored or excised by pro-Palestinian Arab Muslim and Christian nationalists such as yourself, Greg.

    In short Palestinian Arab dispossession, mostly to other parts of original British ruled Palestine, was no worse than displacements that occurred in the civil wars that birthed other states, and should be adapted to new state realities, even as have been and will be others’, including that of Jews, who presumably will have no ROR to the territory of a Palestinian state.

  10. conchovor Says:

    ‘ Israel is therefore a terrorist state and they are trying as a people to throw off this oppressor.’

    A state whose birth they tried to thwart a priori, and their national representatives continued to do so, the P.L.O. until 1988; Hamas until today.

    By all means represent the two national and nationalist narratives as fully as the other. Not just the Zionist Jewish narrative as suits Greg Philo’s polemic.

    But do try to do so, rather than merely rehearse it.

  11. conchovor Says:

    ‘The Palestinians would say that they were forced from their homes and land when Israel was created, then Israel took over the lands to which they had fled’

    i.e. a narrative of exile and dispossession which is also the Jewish nationalist one.

    Your polemical, rhetorical goal, Greg, is to depict Israel as fundamentally born in original sin, and thus fundamentally illegitimate, in comparison with Palestinian Arab Muslim and Christian nation and nationalism.

  12. Absolute Observer Says:

    “Meantime if anyone attacks anyone else on the basis of their religion or ethnicity then you can count me in on the fight against it.”

    Let me clarfiy something at the risk of being misunderstood
    I do not doubt for one minute the sincerity of your antiraicsm (including your anti-antisemitism).

    The points being made are that despite your own subjective intentions, your views on the injustices of the occupation and your frustration at what you see as the failure of the BBC to “get it right”, the ways in which you think and express these concerns appear to bear an uncanny and unfortunate resemblence to racist ways of thinking about Jews and Israel.

    To repeat.
    Nothing that I have said is in any way intended to cast doubt on your commitment to fighting all forms of racism (including antisemitism).
    It is rather those ways of thinking about Israel and Palestine and what you see as the limits of the BBC in reflecting your views that, in the light of comments made, need to be reflected upon.

    If a racist expressing racism is, quite simply, a wrong. then an antisracist (such as yourself) falling victim to racist ways of thinking is, to my mind, a tragedy; and not just for Jews.

  13. conchovor Says:

    ‘your frustration at what you see as the failure of the BBC to “get it right”’

    Greg wants to fix it so that the Israeli, as well as the Palestinian, side is represented as suits his agenda.

    That for him is ‘balance’.

  14. NIMN Says:

    so, let’s get this right.
    Greg Philo constructs a particular narrative about the Israel/Palestine conflict that he claims is “The Truth”. So sure is he of his own Truth that he is furious that when the BBC report of Israel and Palestine, they make no reference to it. Since it is the uncontested Truth and there is no logical reason why anyone, least of all the BBC should ignore it, he looks for more illogical reasons. And, at the current time, the top of the list to explain such refusal is, and can only be, the Power of Israel; a Power so strong that not only is it the “tail that wags the dog” in the USA, but also the BBC in the UK.
    My, what power this Israel has!!

  15. Greg Philo Says:

    I am not interested in polemic only that the arguments of both sides are featured on a news service which is required to do so by its Charter. I am not angry or frustrated by the BBC’s response to our work, it’s just how they are, the broadcasters were much worse about us when we first started! A much more important issue is the need to think about how to resolve conflicts and that can’t be done without public debate, and the BBC does have a role in this. I think propaganda wars are about as futile as real wars when trying to achieve peace. So although freedom of speech is sometimes misused, understanding and speaking about the views of each side is indispensible. And each side will have to put up with the dicomfort of hearing what the other one thinks.

    • conchovor Says:

      ‘And each side will have to put up with the dicomfort of hearing what the other one thinks.’

      That sounds great, Greg. Maybe you’ll give the Israeli Jews a fair crack at that, too.

      • martin Says:

        Isn’t his point that the Israelis are already getting their crack by a factor of 10 to 1.

        What I would like to know is when are the BBC or any other ‘news’ media going to tell us that around 80% of Israel’s freshwater comes from the land it illegally occcupied after the ’67 attack on its neighbours. And that without the control of those sources Israel would not have been able to encourage the massive immigration into a land which is 80% desert, nor make the desert bloom.

        When is the media going to tell us that Israel allows the Palestinians only one third the quantity of freshwater per capita as it does it own citizens, and makes them pay 3 times as much for it.

  16. Brian Robinson Says:

    I was exchanging emails with a friend on this subject a few days ago. He wrote that Israeli influence on American politics “for sure” is strong in the USA — “How else can you explain the repeated ovations for Netanyahu’s speech in congress?” He specifically feels that this “has to be” the result of Jewish influence on politics in the USA.

    How would you (or anyone here) respond to that view?

    • conchovor Says:

      To tee off Obama?

      The House of Representatives has a Republican majority.

    • Bill Says:

      (Congress will clap at anything, just watch any State of the Union address. They’re worse than those TV talent show audiences. They send them to Sea World specifically to hone their skills from the experts.)

      But once again as I’ve said before, “The Lobby” is as effective (and ineffective) as any other Lobby in the US. Their effectiveness comes not from being able to control or pull strings behind the scenes, but for people to identify with them a-priori. The tail doesn’t wag the dog. We wag the tails that are our more successful lobbies.

      The AARP is a powerful lobby (probably our most powerful one) because not all of us are going to die young and pretty. The NAMBLA lobby isn’t because… well do I *have* to spell it out? Getting more serious, even the Corn/Ethanol lobby is effective because of our support for farming and corn (maize) is major crop in the US, and we recognize corn’s commercial value as food (ok it’s mostly a food snack in the US) and livestock feed and a (dodgy fuel additive) over Brussels Sprouts or Sugar Beets (If you could make gas out of those nasty green things, I still doubt they’d get a lot of lovin’, and even the commercial value of beets is undervalued and relatively unknown to most people because most of us hate them despite people claiming that we haven’t had them cooked property). One of our most controversial lobbies, The Gun Lobby, has influence since the NRA has been able to latch on to a critical constitutional right and make it stick and even rural liberals play with guns (deal with it city boys). The “Israel Lobby” is effective for many reasons but for two examples: we recognize who is our more likely friend in a pickle (compared to Israel’s neighbors) and that means a lot. Also mainstream Americans on the right and left frequently use “Where you’d sit is where you should stand” to chose between shades of grey and despite Israel’s flaws, we’d rather be in Bibi’s Tel Aviv than Hamas’s Gaza. We don’t need a “Lobby” to tell us how to feel about Israel. We tell “The Lobby” (and all the other Lobbies) what to say if they want to keep their tony K Street digs lest they be reduced to having to split rent with the kiddie diddlers. If mainstream americans had a visceral dislike for Israel in the US then “The Lobby” would have little effectiveness — or more likely, “The Lobby” would be calling for Israel to return to the borders proscribed by the UN in 1947, or 1967 or those by the Romans in 137 (depending on the the numbers they got from their pollsters).

      • Brian Robinson Says:

        Many thanks Bill for your time / trouble spelling that out. I shall copy to him what you wrote (he doesn’t want to visit here — I get the impression he doesn’t like exposing himself to views that are the polar opposite of his own.)

        He thinks you’re extremists! Are you? His word, not mine. “Engage is certainly beyond extreme.” But he didn’t say extreme what. I think it’s something to do with the definition of antisemitism and seeing it where others (such as my colleague / friend) don’t / can’t.

        While on the subject, and whatever I might have said or thought in the past, I do not make the charge of ‘bad faith’ as some of Engage’s critics do. Absolutely not, especially as I’ve got to know your arguments better. I do not think and do not believe what some say, that Engage people are pretending to be concerned about antisemitism when they’re really engaging in apologetics for Israeli human rights abuses.

        I know that ‘Engageniks’ really believe what they say they believe and what they think they believe. The argument about the definition of antisemitism reminds me in some ways of the ferocious rows that used to take place within the early psychoanalytic movement, when groups of analysts faced with the same, if elusive, phenomena came to wildly diverging conclusions about them.

        For sure some anti-Israel rhetoric either is frankly anti-Jewish or makes anti-Jewism (Conor Cruise O’Brien’s word again) more likely. But that doesn’t mean that people looking at the same phenomena
        with different ‘mental sets’ (all benign, all valid) wont come to opposing conclusions.

        For example (hypothetical): “You say ‘single democratic secular state’, but I hear “Delegitimisation, dissolution of the Jewish state”; or, “You say ‘peace talks’, but I hear ‘ surrender'”, and so on.

        With words like ‘antisemitism’, much depends on where you draw the boundaries.

        • Bill Says:

          Many thanks Bill for your time / trouble spelling that out

          (Literally it seems)

          Unfortunately, the broader “narrative” about an overpowering lobby that steers opinion (rather than triangulates to it) is one of those “Higher Truths” that no dose of reality can’t touch. If *any* given lobby (be it Big Pharma, Big Guns, Big Corn, Big Senile or Big Jews) isn’t already inline with the broader conventional wisdom despite the various complaints* about all of the above that lobby isn’t going to make any headway. Once again, cases in point, Big Child Molestation, Big Drunk Driving, Big Sugar Beets, and while we’re at, it Big Iran.

          *ahem… while wanting lots of pills, cheaper gas (but expensive Doritos and Bourbon), RKBA for hunting and sport, while not wanting our kids turning us to soylent green while taking our third afternoon nap, or a flawed-but-who-is ally from being railroaded into a bad-faith deal.

  17. Toby Esterhase Says:

    “And each side will have to put up with the dicomfort of hearing what the other one thinks.”

    It seems to me that this kind of essentialization of nationalist narratives should be opposed.

    When the peace process was strong, the key divide wasn’t between Israel and Palestine but between those Israelis and Palestinians who were for peace, on one side, and those Israelis and Palestinians determined to smash the peace process, on the other.

    Greg has repeated this image of nation v nation a couple of times in this conversation – but in truth there are lots of competing Palestinian narratives and lots of competing Israeli narratives.

    Often the left in the UK wants to support “The Palestinains” or “The Palestinian struggle” and so it kind of invents the movement which it wishes was conducting the struggle – and that is a democratic, anti-colonialist, antizionist movement, secular movement for freedom. It then says that Hamas and Fatah are actually, in some kind of mystical way, the current manifestation of this timeless “spirit of Palestinian resistance” to use Seumas Milne’s words.

    I think the strenth of Engage is when it says that we shouldn’t support one nationalism or the other, but we should support the politics of peace and reconciliation.

    The same is true of course of Israel – Israeli s presented as a single homogenous block with a single narrative – often under the name “Zionist” – and it is said to be war like and dishonest and hugely powerful in the media etc etc.

    There are some narratives of Palestine and some narratives of Israel which are incompatible with eachtother, and so are narratives for war.
    There are other narratives of Israel which are entirely compatible with other narratives of Palestine. these are narritives for peace.

  18. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    And there is still the point I presented at the beginning of this thread on “domain Assumptions” which Greg Philo appears to avoiding addressing – but perhaps I missed it. And then, of course, in his desire to present the peace-loving face of the Palestinians (all of them), he manages to miss the eliminationist elements of the Hamas and Hezbollah Charters. Funny that: they are available, in English, on the net.

  19. Greg Philo Says:

    “And each side will have to put up with the dicomfort of hearing what the other one thinks.’

    That sounds great, Greg. Maybe you’ll give the Israeli Jews a fair crack at that, too.”

    Sure, I’ll debate with anyone.

    “he manages to miss the eliminationist elements of the Hamas and Hezbollah Charters. Funny that: they are available, in English, on the net.”

    You could at least look at the book you are complaining about. It’s discussed on page 82
    I haven’t said that all Palestinians are peace loving. I have said that they see themselves as resisting a brutal military occupation, and that perspective is featured very much less than the Israeli account of the causes of the conflict. It’s just research evidence, if the results had been different, I would have reported them.

    • conchovor Says:

      ‘and that perspective is featured very much less than the Israeli account of the causes of the conflict. ‘

      I must say I rarely see the account that Israeli Jews are resisting the exclusivism, explusionism or eliminationism that characterised Palestinian Arab nationalism, from its beginnings and much of its subsequent history, that Jews increasingly met from the late 19th century on. Never mind the imperial Christian and Islamic apartheid that preceded it.

      So far as I can see, the opposite is true: it is increasingly common to see a de facto Palestinian Arab Muslim and Christian, but anti-Jewish, nationalist narrative. Palestinian Arab Muslims and Christians, with the tiny number of ‘their’ Jews, had lived for centuries in peace, harmony and justice, before Zionist Jews came, spoilt and stole it all. That was the gist of The Promise, after all. Jews aren’t really a nation, there was no historical exile, their claims to the land are completely bogus etc.

      A lot of which is pretty much your narrative, Greg, isn’t it?

    • conchovor Says:

      ‘It’s just research evidence, if the results had been different, I would have reported them.’

      You mean you didn’t have an a priori axe to grind, which didn’t shape which evidence you looked at, and how much of it?

      Please forgive my skepticism.

  20. jjb Says:

    Greg, you are indeed patient indeed to engage with these hasbaraparrots.

  21. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    If I read every book I was referred to, I’d never have time to comment, let alone live a life.

    However, that aside, nowhere in the reports we have had available on _this_ thread is there any reference to the eliminationist nature of both Hamas and Hezbollah by yourself, let alone the claim that Benny Morris makes concerning the failure of Fatah to remove similar clauses from _their_ Charter. Now, you may see Morris as unreliable, but I’ve yet to read any refutation of this claim (made in his latest book “One State, Two States”). Besides, whether based on research, of whatever sort – maybe your trademark content analysis of news reports – one would expect acknowledgement of the background.

    And the funny thing is that believers in the right of State of Israel to exist within secure borders (and I fully subscribe to the Euston manifesto, so I acknowledge Israel’s warts) spend so much of their time on this issue bemoaning Israel’s poor PR.

    I’ll have to start claiming that the BBC and all other western news reporters are actually not failing to report Israel fairly, but are actually under pressure to misreport Israel favourably. I’ll have to remember that next time, instead of yelling back at the radio/tv at what appears to me to be yet another biased “new left” report from the Middle East.

  22. Greg Philo Says:

    It is really missing the point to talk about ‘my’ version of the Israeli narrative. I didn’t make it up, it is what is put out and decided by their public relations specialists. So the narrative changes over time. For example, we interviewed Nachman Shai who had been chief spokesperon for the IDF. He told us that they had selected the war on terror instead of anti-Semitism :
    “We selected the first (war on terror) instead of the second (anti-Semitism) because we are part of the western world. We very much played the first argument. It works better with governments, they gave us more support. It’s like if you’ve run out of arguments you’re stuck with anti-Semitism. The first one is based on common interests.”
    (Page 324 MBNFI)

    Once you have established what the two preferred naratives are, then is is fairly straightforward to measure which is most prominent in news accounts.

  23. conchovor Says:

    ‘It is really missing the point to talk about ‘my’ version of the Israeli narrative. I didn’t make it up, it is what is put out and decided by their public relations specialists.’

    No. You’re selective about it. You can’t just take one person in one situation. Nachman Shai is talking about the current situation i.e. the war on terror, which dates from 2001, or so. You’re representing a more general Palestinian Arab Muslim and Christian nationalist narrative, based on more than merely one interview with one person.

    You could have interviewed a number of people, Israelis in general, academic and non-academic. Benny Morris, for instance. Taking your cue from just one person, a PR specialist, for instance, who’s likely giving the answers you want to the specific questions you ask to get what you want is not a fair or just depiction. It’s selecting to suit yourself. In any case, I wouldn’t be surprised that, had you questioned further, he would have said that Palestinian and other Arab Muslims and Christians had threatened to expel or eliminate Palestinian Jews before Israel was born.

    So you include ‘want to destroy Israel’, but omit, for instance, ‘Palestinian Arab (and other) Muslim and Christian nationalist expulsionism and eliminationism towards Palestinian Jews, since before Israel was founded’.

    You rig it so that Israel is fundamentally in the wrong, compared with Palestinian Arab Muslims and Christians, a priori; so that Israel is itself the cause of injustice.

    It’s a fix.

  24. conchovor Says:

    ‘Once you have established what the two preferred naratives are’

    Preferred by you, you mean.

  25. conchovor Says:

    ‘Once you have established what the two preferred naratives are’

    Like I said, Greg, I have rarely if ever seen it depicted in the media, Palestinian and other Arab Muslim and Christian nationalist expulsionism towards Palestinian, Israeli and other Jews.

    But I see the issue of the refugees, and Zionist Jewish acts of ethnic cleansing, often.

    The Promise, for instance depicted the latter, but not the former. I have never, in my life, seen a British drama that included the former. I’d be interested if you could adduce one.

    The most balanced documentary on British television I have ever seen was The 50 Years War, but I think that was PBS, not BBC, and that was 10 years ago, now, and there has been nothing comparable since, asides An Elusive Peace, which was more the latter years.

  26. conchovor Says:

    How many pro-Zionist, pro-Israeii rap artists on the BBC does one hear, Greg?

    How many documentaries about the threats Palestinian and Israeli Jews face and have faced? How many documentaries about Palestinian and other Arab nationalist expulsionism or eliminationism towards Israeli or Palestinian Jews, Greg?

    Compared with documentaries about Palestinian Arab refugees?

    I seriously doubt you could maintain a ratio of the former over the latter.

  27. conchovor Says:

    Did you ever consider, Greg, that the reason there aren’t as few pro-Israeli view points as you’d like is because Jews, British and Israeli, are, overall, a minority in the world, and that maybe somebody is trying to be scrupulously fair, in spite of everything, to ensure that before the hundreds of millions of those hostile to them, British, Arab and other, the relatively few Jews concerned are allowed to represent themselves, at least to some extent?

    Despite the efforts of such as yourself to change that?

  28. Saul Says:

    According to Greg Philo the reason the BBC does not give the “truth” about the I/P conflict is as a consequence of Israeli PR and only Israeli PR.
    I am sure, since he is an anti-anti-semite, he would agree that that in the past, stories of “Jewish power” to determine what the media does or does not say was not true and was a racist libel leveled against Jews.

    I am equally sure that Greg Philo would be the first to express outrage at the the following sentiments expressed by Charles Lindberg in the 1930’s where he “exposes” Jewish control of the US media for the aim of taking the US into war against what he sees as their “own interests”.

    “These plans were of course, to be covered and assisted by the full power of their propaganda.
    Our theaters soon became filled with plays portraying the glory of war. Newsreels lost all semblance of objectivity. Newspapers and magazines began to lose advertising if they carried anti-war articles. A smear campaign was instituted against individuals who opposed intervention. The terms “fifth columnist,” “traitor,” “Nazi,” “anti-Semitic” were thrown ceaselessly at any one who dared to suggest that it was not to the best interests of the United States to enter the war. Men lost their jobs if they were frankly anti-war. Many others dared no longer speak.”

    Now, however, in relation to Israel – the Jewish state – these same views have re-appeared (and not only in Philo’s work).
    And, again, not for the first time they re-appear in the form of “objective” social science/communication studies (as if the “objectivity” of science, social or otherwise has not been a vehicle, let alone a protection, against seriously problematic stances).

    Moreover, again comparisons with Lindberg are instructive, Greg Philo’s thesis is that if the Israeli PR was not so powerful and so threatening, the BBC would not only tell another story but also that that other story is the one they “really” want to tell but are stopped from so doing because of the global reach of power of Israel.

    These arguments are not new.

    They have been around since, at the very least, 1789.
    During the succeeding period they have waxed and waned, sometimes gaining more traction and sometimes less.

    Yet, aside from the spuriousness of its content, what is common to all these different moments is that the people who believe that they are presenting (and believing it to be) something new or original are always emphatic that whilst it may resemble libels in the past, this time it is true. More often than not, they provide “the facts and figures” to “prove” it.

    That they have appeared so frequently in connection with Jews and are re-appearing so frequently in respect to Israel is testament not to that history’s overcoming, but rather its continuity.

  29. Spot the Ball Says:

    http://hurryupharry.org/2011/06/10/press-tv-peter-mandelson-is-a-‘jewish-politician-with-an-obvious-zionist-mindset’/#comments

    “Press TV demonstrates that the regulator is mostly made up of former Channel 4 and BBC executives, some of whom are well-linked to and influenced by powerful pro-Zionist politicians.’

    As opposed to say,

    “Philo demonstrates that the BBC is influenced by Israel and its PR”

    No points of comparison there then

  30. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Greg Philo says “It is really missing the point to talk about ‘my’ version of the Israeli narrative. I didn’t make it up…”

    In fact, it _is_ Greg Philo’s version, whether he believes it or not, It is isn’t, necessarily, wrong that this is so. However, all academics at university level (and Greg Philo is now Professor of Sociology at Glasgow University) know that it is only in the hardest of hard sciences that “the facts speak for themselves”, and then only if the research is replicable in every detail. In the other subject areas, and especially in the so-called “soft” subjects, such as History, Political Science, Economics (even though it is called the dismal _science_) and (his and my subject) Sociology, the facts are very far from self-evident.

    As I’m sure he can verify for himself, Prof A.H. Halsey of Oxford University, in editing a book on British society built around appropriate research and publications, said in his Introduction that the empiricist will loudly proclaim that “the facts speak for themselves”. No they don’t, Halsey said, they need interpretation, which was what his volume was all about. I regret that I cannot reach for the volume from my shelves, but when I retired, I donated all my academic books to the section of De Montfort University that taught Sociology Degrees, but I half-remember that it was titled “Britain in Figures” or a “Statistical Picture of Modern Britain” or something like that.

    I’m sure that Professor Philo can verify this for himself.

    Thus, his “facts” are, and have to be, interpreted. They are not self-evident, and his starting hypothesis will be the vehicle through which these facts are viewed. Only if they stack up overwhelmingly in a “different” direction will the researcher exclaim something along the lines of “oh my goodness, I was wrong, the picture is _really_…” Only the most naive start out in a stamp-collecting way, just to see what they can find, and one doesn’t get to be a Professor and Head of Department doing that. Otherwise we’re back with Bill’s story about the scientists (and it _is_ a spoof by the authors) who found that they had all these facts and just _had_ to use them.

    And, by the way, Prof Philo hasn’t replied in any way to my very first comment about Alvin W. Gouldner and “domain assumptions” and the way in which this related to the Glasgow Media Research Unit’s earlier work, either.

  31. Blacklisted Dictator Says:

    “Just Journalism” conducts regular research on how The BBC reports the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict. The attached is just one article amongst many which contradicts Greg Philo’s “research”.

    http://justjournalism.com/bbc-focus/bbc-profile-of-hamas-downplays-targeting-of-civilians-and-ideological-extremism/

    (the article concludes)
    The absence of any close discussion of Hamas’ methods of attacking non-combatants is compounded by the lack of information about its extreme ideology, which mandates the destruction of Israel by force. Most strikingly, the BBC’s profile of Hamas makes no mention of the group’s founding charter, which states that:

    ‘Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it’.

    Along similar lines, none of Hamas’ leaders have ever contradicted its guiding principle of the full re-taking of what it regards as Palestinian lands. Nonetheless, the profile’s standfirst claims the group has moderated over time:

    ‘Hamas is the largest Palestinian Islamist group, which has had to temper its traditional militant stance, given its political role as governing authority of the Gaza Strip.’

    This is echoed by its description of Ismail Haniyeh as a ‘more moderate’ leader of Hamas. Only last week he praised Osama bin Laden as a ‘holy warrior’.

    In the one instance where the article does discuss Hamas’ opposition to Israel, it frames the issue in terms of Israel’s ‘legitimacy’ and actions:

    ‘It has remained steadfast to its pledge never to sign up to a permanent ceasefire while Israel occupies Palestinian territory and its troops are responsible for the deaths of Palestinians.’

    As such, rather than posit that Hamas’ refusal to recognise Israel’s right to exist is derived from an extreme Islamist ideology which rejects a Jewish state on any part of the land, the article instead frames the group’s rejectionist stance as a conditional response to Israeli actions.

    The reference to a ‘permanent ceasefire’ is also a misnomer, since Hamas has always qualified its truce offers by stating that they would be short-term only. On Wednesday, Hamas’ foreign minister Mahmoud Zahar clarified that while the group was willing to accept a Palestinian state, it would never accept Israel since this would jeopardize the ability of future generations to ‘liberate’ all of Palestine.

    In contrast to the BBC’s anodyne portrayal of the Islamist group, Just Journalism’s ‘Hamas in Gaza’ coverage has highlighted the group’s extreme statements and multiple human rights violations in Gaza and Israel.

  32. Blacklisted Dictator Says:

    The attached highlights, inter alia, The BBC’s obsession with the Israeli/Palestinain conflict which seems to be at the expense of reporting other pertinent issues in the Middle East.

    http://justjournalism.com/special-reports/preoccupation-with-israel-in-the-british-media-reporting-of-israel-egypt-libya-and-tunisia-prior-to-the-arab-spring/

  33. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    And, in addition to the comments above, reminding Prof Greg Philo what he didn’t bother to read to contextualise his book on media reporting of the middle east, I’ve unearthed the titles I needed: “domain assumptions” comes from Gouldner’s “The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology” (early chapters) and the Halsey book is “Trends in British Society since 1900” – this is the first edition. And BTW, Gouldner’s next book, “The Dialect of Ideology & Technology” is also worth a read for his discussion and definition of ideology: a very useful counterweight to the general position of “I have a political philosophy, _you_ are ideological”.

    But perhaps Prof Philo has stopped reading these comments.

  34. Greg Philo Says:

    The issue of the content of news is really not complex to determine and the methods are replicable. It is also clear what the Israeli narrative is, because their speakers keep saying the same thing , though as I’ve indicated this changes over time and arguments are reformulated according to circumstances.
    The arguments here seem to be drifting off our work onto people’s dislike of Hamas. That is your priviledge, but it doesn’t alter the research findings on what is present and absent in news accounts. Other than that there is a drift into philosophy and easy rhetoric like ‘everyone is ideological’. Me, I like analysis and figures. If it’s so easy to find different ones, then let’s see them.

    • conchovor Says:

      When was there a documentary on the middle east that was gave as much space to the Israeli narrative since The 50 Years War, or An Elusive Peace?

      When was there a drama that gave the Jewish national narrative as much space as the Palestinian Arab Muslim and Christian nationalist narrative?

      When was the last time a documentary referred to the threat of Palestinian and other Arab Muslims and Christians to Palestinian Jews, before Israel was founded?

      You select the facts, Greg, to present Year Zero, and Initial Cause of all Subsequent Effect, as Palestinian Arab Muslim and Christian dispossession.

      If you don’t find anything else

      a) either you aren’t looking or

      b) the media itself asks the questions to get the answers that must suits its agenda.

      c) I think your chief gripe is that Israel gets any space to put its case, since you think your pro-Palestinian Arab Muslim and Christian, but anti-Jewish, nationalist narrative, which suits your agenda, should be the dominant, despite the fact

      d) there is good evidence it is the dominant one anyway, to wit the answers to the questions posed above.

      • conchovor Says:

        ‘That is your priviledge, but it doesn’t alter the research findings on what is present and absent in news accounts.’

        The research you have undertaken to find the results which suit your a priori pro-Palestinian Arab Muslim and Christian, but anti-Jewish, nationalist agenda.

        You ask the questions which get the answers you seek.

    • conchovor Says:

      ‘We don’t write about ‘jewish people’ controlling media. ‘

      No. You just strongly hint at a de facto Zionist conspiracy to dominate it.

  35. Blacklisted Dictator Says:

    Greg Philo,

    “Just Journalism’s” articles, inter alia, about how the BBC reports Hamas is relevant because it undermines your thesis that the BBC is regurgitating Israel’s “narrative”.

    Perhaps you would kindly explain why it is irrelevant.

  36. F. J. Gall Says:

    “Me, I like analysis and figures.”

    As the phrenologist said to the Bishop

  37. Paul M Says:

    Me, I like analysis and figures. If it’s so easy to find different ones, then let’s see them.

    http://www.bbcwatch.com/reports.html

  38. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Greg Philo: “It is also clear what the Israeli narrative is, because their speakers keep saying the same thing , though as I’ve indicated this changes over time…”

    Either speakers keep saying the same thing or it changes over time…one thing or the other, not both. Even Two-Brains Willetts can do better than that.

    And how about a response to my references to Gouldner and Halsey? Two eminent sociologists who deserve more than silence. I’m sure that Prof. Philo doesn’t need a reminder of what they said or where it came from.


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