One of the themes around here is the way that narratives can get reinforced by the press and become conventional wisdom, even if they aren't true. So, even though it's a bit far afield from our usual topic around here, it's worth having a quick look at some of the press reaction to the Israel-Gaza flotilla story, just because it's in the news and attracting a lot of attention. What really struck me today was the vehemence and uniformity of the support for Israel among some of the right-of-center radio and television personalities.
From Rush Limbaugh's "Rush in a Hurry" email newsletter: Mr. Limbaugh: "This flotilla's purpose was to provoke Israel. The people on those boats had their PR campaign ready to go before the flotilla even set sail from Turkey. They knew exactly what to say. They knew exactly what was going to happen when they challenged the Israeli blockade. This is not about a nuclear-free Middle East. What we're looking at here is another all-out assault aimed at an Israel-free Middle East."
From Sean Hannity's "Hannity Headlines" email newsletter:
Mr. Hannity: "I'm watching the world's reaction to all of this and it's sad and shocking all at the same time,. But what's most shocking starts with our own president. Predictably, the whole world has erupted in this condemnation of Israel over this raid this weekend and the only thing Obama can say is 'the U.S. regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained and is currently working to understand the circumstances surrounding the tragedy…'" Hardly a voice of support for our loyal ally in the Middle East... More Mr. Hannity: "Israel warned this so called group of peace activists again and again to respect their blockade and told them there would be consequences. They precipitated this confrontation by refusing to listen to the warnings – and now the world condemns Israel for all of this."
The journalists are reporting this as, well, there goes Israel again. Unfortunately for the journalists there's videotape of this peace ship and the Nobel Prize winners on board. Please. They're stabbing one IDF soldier. They're beating with a pipe another one. They threw overboard a third soldier. He has major brain damage now. They went on board these, you know, our Navy SEALs basically with the IDF, they went on board with paint guns because they didn't want any trouble. So they went on with paintball guns. They had a sidearm but they were told not to use it unless your life was in danger. Even when they did start to use their sidearms, they shot at the legs of the people! And yet it's Israel.
Here is the, here's the problem with this story. The IHH, these are the people that sponsored this little love boat cruise, they also sponsor Hamas the Muslim brotherhood. They're also the ones that sent in the millennium bomber that was going to blow up LAX. This is not a peace cruise.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal had a good editorial but also a piece by Max Boot declaring the event "a tactical and strategic fiasco that does further damage to the Jewish State's tattered international reputation." It certainly doesn't seem to have hurt Israel's reputation with Messrs. Hannity, Beck, and Limbaugh. The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America has more on the "mainstream" press's handling of the events.
Credit Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations for recognizing years ago that talk radio was an influential medium and for inviting lots of radio hosts to visit Israel. Credit Messrs. Beck, Limbaugh, and Hannity for consistency in realizing that if they support freedom in America they should also support Israel, which is the most free country in its neighborhood. Not much credit to much of the largely left-of-center American Jewish community, many of whom regard Mr. Limbaugh, Mr. Beck, and Mr. Hannity as a bunch of radioactive, threatening, borderline fascists. Still, it's something to behold, and not noticed widely enough. These three guys combined have a bigger audience than the New York Times and the New York Review of Books and the Nation. On Israel, they sound like a New York Sun editorial. I actually think one of the reasons right-wing talk radio has been so successful and left-wing talk radio has been less successful is that the left-wing talking points are already mostly out there in the newspapers, while the counter-narrative is less easily available.