The Instigator
peaceintheeast
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
bluesteel
Pro (for)
Winning
3 Points

Media in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/27/2011 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,455 times Debate No: 16165
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (5)
Votes (2)

 

peaceintheeast

Con

How do we know what is true when we read/watch news about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Americans are invested in the conflict for a bounty of different reasons and the sources for the ways they stay up-to-date have dramatic effects on the way they relate to the conflict. In the relationship between people in the U.S. and the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, I think Americans are blindly polarized by biases in media sources.
bluesteel

Pro

Thanks for the topic!

I'll defend that the media coverage towards the Israel-Palestinian conflict is not biased and that our problems with regards to our policy towards Israel stem mostly from government inadequacies, not problems with the media.

Definitions

The media is defined by Random House Dictionary as "the means of communication," and traditionally has been limited to radio, print news, and television, but has involved to include online media and the blogosphere.

"Mainstream media" would refer to a vague conception of traditional media sources, but the word mainstream does not appear in the resolution, so this debate will also encompass non-traditional media sources.

Burden of Proof
While my opponent may try to avoid proving anything by taking Con, it is her burden to show how the media coverage is bias so that I might refute this. The presumption should be that there is no problem with the media coverage, since for the radio and television, the FCC requires that any news station provide equal coverage to both sides of an issue in order to maintain their lease on government bandwidths.

Contention 1: Time Magazine
Even though it's mainstream, Time Magazine ran a cover story very critical of Israel, entitled "Why Israel Doesn't Care About Peace," suggesting the U.S. must take a more hard-line stance towards Israel to get them to cede ground on a Two State Solution.

Contention 2: Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera recently opened a branch in the United States called Al Jazeera: English, which provides a more Arab viewpoint to the Palestinian conflict. Al Jazeera: English has both a television station and online "print media."

Contention 3: Blame the lobbyists
AIPAC and the Pro-Israel lobby have more to do with public opinion towards Israel and the Palestinian conflict than does the media. CNN, for example, prides itself on its un-biased reporting and NPR is required to provide un-biased reporting. The way our government treats Israel has more to do with AIPAC lobbyists than it does with CNN's and NPR's news coverage.

I await my opponent's case so that I may refute it.
Debate Round No. 1
peaceintheeast

Con

Thank you for the challenge.

I first need to clarify, though...my argument is intended to attack known bias in the media but I am unclear if your purpose is to argue that there should be bias in the media or that there is no bias in the media.


Could you explain your point about the FCC requirement? If you are referring to the Fairness Doctrine, it is my understanding that it was repealed long ago.


On the Time Magazine article: You make a good point in saying that publishing a poignant article provoked action on the part of the Israeli government. However, it proves that in this case, the media had a specific agenda, and if it had a particular agenda, then it can no longer claim to be communicating information but rather, opinion. As many regard Time as a news source, it is unacceptable for it to commit such bias.

On the Al Jazeera point, if you look closely, you will see that Al Jazeera English does not publish the same material as Al Jazeera in Arabic. It would be much easier simply to translate articles from Arabic than to pay to have new articles written for the English-speaking audience. Because different audiences have different pre-concieved notions of the conflict and also different roles in the conflict itself, Al Jazeera must be conscious of how its audiences can be manipulated by the mere wording, much less content of the articles published.

Finally, where do you think the lobbyists are getting their information?

bluesteel

Pro

Thanks.

Peaceintheeast, are you going to present a case that there is bias in the media regarding the Palestinian Conflict? If not, there's nothing for me to refute and the judges should give the debate to me by default.

I first need to clarify, though...my argument is intended to attack known bias in the media but I am unclear if your purpose is to argue that there should be bias in the media or that there is no bias in the media.

I'm arguing that if you look at the totality of the coverage, including all media sources, that you cannot prove systematic bias in one direction (either Pro-Israel or Pro-Palestinian). The NY Times front page story on the new Fatah/Hamas partnership even pointed out multiple times that Hamas is not considered a terrorist organization in many parts of the world. I've seen numerous articles that say that no Two State Solution will work if Hamas doesn't sign off on it, and Israel's treatment of Hamas as categorically a terrorist organization is harming the peace process.

But honestly, I'm just assuming that you would argue that the coverage has been too pro-Israel. But I guess you could argue that it's been too pro-Palestinian, so I don't even know what bias I'm arguing against.

C1) Time

On the Time Magazine article: You make a good point in saying that publishing a poignant article provoked action on the part of the Israeli government. However, it proves that in this case, the media had a specific agenda, and if it had a particular agenda, then it can no longer claim to be communicating information but rather, opinion.

My opponent never proves that Time Magazine had an agenda by publishing an article critical of Israel. If taking a position for one side or another means "having an agenda," then unbiased reporting would be really boring. My opponent's vision of unbiased reporting would consist of dry articles that are a straight recitation of facts. Articles are only interesting when the author advances and clear, concise, and convincing thesis. Unbiased reporting means giving authors on both sides of an issue access to publication, not refusing to take a stance.

Imagine if you were trying to see how you felt about Solar Energy, and no one was allowed to talk in favor or against solar energy. It'd be very difficult to become educated on the topic. All articles would just read like the CIA World Factbook or an Almanac - just a list of facts and statistics.

C2) Al Jazeera
On the Al Jazeera point, if you look closely, you will see that Al Jazeera English does not publish the same material as Al Jazeera in Arabic. It would be much easier simply to translate articles from Arabic than to pay to have new articles written for the English-speaking audience.

No one would watch Al Jazeera if it was a straight translation of Arabic. Subtitled movies don't fair well in the United States for the same reason - because it's boring to watch someone speaking in a language you don't understand, for an hour, and having to read subtitles. Al Jazeera: English advances the same agenda and perspective, while trying to appeal to an English-speaking audience, featuring people who speak English and understand local culture, as well as Mid-East culture.

C3) Lobbyists

Most people acknowledge that the flow of information is lobbyists to media, not media to lobbyists. Lobbyists create material, journalists sometimes use that material rather than doing original research (*cough* Fox News *cough*). So blame the pro-Israel lobby for being more effective at corralling public opinion than the pro-Palestinian lobby; don't blame the media, which actually counteracts AIPAC's agenda by publishing dissident voices.

My opponent still has not proven that the coverage of the Israel-Palestine Conflict is biased.
Debate Round No. 2
peaceintheeast

Con



I find it fascinating that it seemed only natural to you that by saying the media is and shouldn't be biased, I was actually saying that the media shouldn't be biased toward Israel. I was not arguing that media as a whole swings one way or another, simply that most people do not watch every news channel and that since each news channel covers news with strong leanings in one direction, it would be easy to find one's self exposed only to one side of the debate. This promotes ignorance. . 

On the existence of bias in the media:

You may remember the “flotilla" incident in May 2010, when a boat carrying humanitarian aid arrived off the coast of the Gaza strip in an attempt to break the blockade Israel had instituted around it. After the flotilla refused to turn away, Israeli soldiers boarded the ship and (this is where the facts get fuzzy) someone attacked someone first, and several people aboard died and a few Israeli soldiers were injured. Al Jazeera, a popular Middle Eastern news source, which publishes both in Arabic and in English, first reported the event with an article entitled, “Israel attacks Gaza aid fleet; At least 19 people killed after troops storm convoy of ships trying to break Gaza siege." Quickly reviewing their assertion that the “attack took place in international waters,” the article soon moves on to review both opinions of the occurrences. It explains, “The Israeli military said four soldiers had been wounded and claimed troops opened fire after ‘demonstrators onboard attacked the IDF Naval personnel with live fire and light weaponry including knives and clubs.'" Here, Al Jazeera makes Israel look like it feels victimized by the event. The next line of the article states that the “Free Gaza Movement, the organisers of the flotilla, however, said the troops opened fire as soon as they stormed the convoy." Thus, the reader knows that not only are opinions of the event different from others, but also that the very facts given are different, as shown by the contradiction between the Israeli military’s account and the Free Gaza Movement’s account of what happened. Al Jazeera sides with the Free Gaza Movement in the next line of the article: “Our correspondent said that a white surrender flag was raised from the ship and there was no live fire coming from the passengers." If Al Jazeera is bluntly confronting anything here, it is Israeli honesty, not Israeli actions. Al Jazeera demonizes Israeli actions, as we can see by the title of the article, but also Israeli words. A follower of Al Jazeera would not only draw from this article that Israel did a bad thing, but also that Israel’s spokespeople are liars and cowards. From this, it would be hard to remain neutral.

In contrast, The Jerusalem Post is known as one of the more right-wing Israeli newspapers. It also publishes in both Hebrew and English. Its May 31 article describing the scene on the flotilla includes particularly defensive statements, including, “The soldiers responded with crowd dispersion measures,” and “At one point activists succeeded in stealing the weapon of one of the soldiers, leading to an escalation in violence." The Post addresses the dispute over ‘real facts’ in the line, “According to unconfirmed Turkish reports, 10 activists were killed and dozens more were injured." Thus far, all of the media spokespeople have expressed distrust toward others with regard to telling the whole and true story. In this case, the Jerusalem Post condemns the validity of the “Turkish reports” by the fact that they have not yet confirmed them. Here’s the clincher; the Post, like Al Jazeera, relays the Israeli armed forces report on the behavior of the men already onboard the ship. The Post’s description is,” according to defense officials, upon boarding the ships the commandos were attacked by activists with rocks, knives and metal pipes." No mention of live fire. The reporters cannot even agree on what other reporters said.

It may seem like a nit-picky explication, but news sources use this kind of word-play consistently to convey certain messages.

On the misuse of news coverage to pursue political agendas:

An agenda can be as simple as trying to make your readers adopt your opinion. True, a known "opinion piece" is an appropriate arena for opinions, but news sources are not. If getting hard facts from the news is too boring for the American people, then I think we have other issues to worry about.

I agree that news sources should do their own research, rather than relying on lobby groups. This poses a good first solution to biased media.

bluesteel

Pro

Thanks for the debate peaceintheeast.

Rebuttal

Intro

I find it fascinating that it seemed only natural to you that by saying the media is and shouldn't be biased, I was actually saying that the media shouldn't be biased toward Israel.

That is a reasonable deduction, given the topic is "media in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict," not just "the media."

I was not arguing that media as a whole swings one way or another, simply that most people do not watch every news channel and that since each news channel covers news with strong leanings in one direction, it would be easy to find one's self exposed only to one side of the debate.

1) This just proves that on balance, the media isn't biased. News sources balance each other out.

If the NY Times has a slight liberal bias and the Wall Street Journal has a slight conservative bias, then the two even each other out. Most people who read the news today read online news, usually using a conglomeration site like Yahoo News or Google News, where they get a sampling of many different publications, with different political leanings. [1] A study by Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse M. Shapiro, both of the University of Chicago, found that although theoretically people could use the internet to segregate their viewpoints and only visit sites that agreed with them, in actuality most people used the internet to broaden the number of different viewpoints they received, usually through sites like Yahoo or Google News. [2]

2) This just isn't true. CNN was so committed to unbiased reporting that it fired Lou Dobbs for taking too conservative of a stance.

This promotes ignorance According to Pew Research, the viewers of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and the Colbert Report are the most educated, on tests of political knowledge. These two shows have a clear liberal bias yet their viewers are much more informed on issues than the average American. A show taking a stand one way or another does not inherently mean that it is turning its viewers into ignorant zombies.

On the existence of bias in the media:

My opponent essentially presents two different stories here, one from Al Jazeera and one from The Jerusalem Post and points out that they have a different set of facts about events.

1) Having a different set of facts is NOT bias. Bias is interpreting the same set of facts in different ways. For example, if one geological researcher said there were 90 billion tons of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale and another researcher said there were only 70 billion tons in the Marcellus Shale, you would not say that both researchers are biased. The facts are in dispute.

2) My opponent's description of the Al Jazeera article even shows that it gave coverage to both sides, the Free Gaza Movement and the Israelis before drawing its own conclusions. This is the definition of unbiased reporting; offering both sides. The fact the newspaper draws its own conclusions is only natural. Even Walter Cronkite, the most trusted man in the world, didn't just report facts; we expect reporters to INTERPRET those facts for us, weighing relative likelihoods.

3) The two publications obviously balance each other out, as my opponent proves. You can read both, on a site like Google News, to get a sense of what both sides think.

4) People know the biases in their sources, which is why they seek out multiple sources. Any intelligent person would realize that AL JAZEERA would be biased toward the Palestinian cause and that THE JERUSALEM POST would be biased towards the Israelis.

5) Neither publication is really American. If you read the New York Times coverage of the incident, it relates the story of both sides in a much more measured light.

But at the end of the day, disagreeing about FACTS is not bias. It's easy to disagree about who started the aggression. A story that said we needed to support Israel NO MATTER WHAT would be biased towards Israel, but a story that said the Israeli version of events on the flotilla seems more plausible is just interpreting and analyzing facts. If we have to give equal coverage to both sides in all cases, then we would have to publish Libyan state propaganda (for example, in regards to the rape incident), rather than saying that the facts presented by the Libyans are completely bogus.

Also, by itself, looking at two news stories is insufficient to prove systematic bias in the media. I should win because my opponent fails to uphold the burden of proof.

Agendas

An agenda can be as simple as trying to make your readers adopt your opinion. True, a known "opinion piece" is an appropriate arena for opinions, but news sources are not.

Newspapers do not allow reporters to express clear political opinions in their pieces, unless the piece is in the Op-Ed section of the paper. You'll NEVER see a newspaper article that says: "President Obama, the clear and obvious choice in 2012, just announced he is running for president once again." Journalists are not allowed to do that. They can interpret facts: "Obama, the clear front runner, based on polling data...", but they can't express their own personal opinions.

There's a fine line between interpreting and analyzing facts and inserting ones own personal opinion. However, by definition, an opinion is a "subjective belief" not purely grounded in fact. A conclusion one way or another about two different sets of facts is merely analyzing the relative probability of events. It's something we do all the time: in a court room, in history class, and in the news. Dry facts could be published by anyone; the very job of a journalist is to analyze facts.

Don't blame journalists for doing their jobs. Vote Pro.

[1] http://searchengineland.com...

[2] http://www.post-gazette.com...
Debate Round No. 3
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by bluesteel 5 years ago
bluesteel
wow, no proof read; it sounds like I can't speak english
Posted by peaceintheeast 5 years ago
peaceintheeast
Thanks for expressing interest. brian_eggleston recommended that I review the site "If American Knew." And this was just the (for lack of a better word) provocation I needed. Here is a site which clearly prides itself on telling earnest listeners the "truth" about the conflict. However, it is only too clear that "If Americans Knew" has a very poignant goal, other than just to educate. Its statistics point directly to the conclusion that Israel is the most wrong in the situation. And furthermore, the numbers themselves are different than those given by, for instance, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs--which of course has its own agenda too.
I think this is wrong. Media should strive to be as neutral as possible.
That's the challenge: can you defend media with and agenda?
Posted by brian_eggleston 5 years ago
brian_eggleston
Good debate topic, could be expanded a bit though. This link might help: http://www.ifamericansknew.org...
Posted by Confucius91 5 years ago
Confucius91
Greetings miss.

I believe, you must define your topic more clearly if you want someone to accept the challenge.

Sincerely
C.L.A.
Posted by Extremely-Far-Right 5 years ago
Extremely-Far-Right
What exactly are you trying to debate?
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by rakovsky 3 years ago
rakovsky
peaceintheeastbluesteelTied
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Reasons for voting decision: This debate was so close in terms of what they showed, it is hard for me to pick a winner. Personally, I believe that the media is biased in favor of the Israeli state, because they are a key ally, while Palestinians have been under occupation for 30+ years. I think both sides used some bad and good reasoning. "Peace" is trying to say the media is pro-Palestine based on one article in Time and coverage by Al-Jazaeera, which is marginal in the US. Bluesteel says that it isn't biased because news agencies have to explain news instead of being robotic and dry. I get that you can be unbiased and then take an unprejudiced opinion, but it seems like maybe if you do that, you actually take on a bias at some point, most likely. Anyway, it is Con's job to point that out, It's tough for me to pick a winner. As for the burden: I don't see why we have to assume our news is biased or unbiased. It's a guy writing a newspaper. Who knows?
Vote Placed by Cliff.Stamp 5 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
peaceintheeastbluesteelTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Also, by itself, looking at two news stories is insufficient to prove systematic bias in the media. I should win because my opponent fails to uphold the burden of proof. - indeed, con also meandered on the nature of the resolution to start