APRIL 18, 2004
Forum: How can you trust what they say?
If you run a radio discussion show and you’re strongly anti-somebody, how do you accomplish bashing your target yet avoid (or try to avoid) being accused of bias? Simple, you provide the appropriate panelists and biased callers to do most of your work for you.
Such is the case of Boston University WBUR’s widely disseminated National Public Radio (NPR) panel discussion program, “The Connection,” hosted by Dick Gordon, which has for several years placed the U.S. and Israel at the top of the blame list for Middle East problems — as for example, an entire hour in January 2003 that featured only one panelist, radical professor Noam Chomsky. Mr. Gordon, like his NPR colleagues, professes a concern for balance in discussions but scrutiny of the broadcasts suggests otherwise.
A Gordon soulmate caller from Toronto commented on the topic “Al-Qaeda on the run?” (March 26): “Most Muslim … and many Christian countries now believe that Sharon, Bush and Blair are bigger terrorists [than Sheikh Yassin] so they should be killed also. So, we are not addressing the problem here.” Mr. Gordon characteristically responded: “[what] you’re describing is kind of like a rhetorical response … you say, ‘no, your terrorists are worse than our terrorists,’ right?”
Sometimes, the bias is accomplished by a simple omission. For example, Mr. Gordon, failed to include Israel in a list of countries that are frequent victims of terrorism — even though Israel, having more per-capita terrorist casualties than any other country, has suffered the equivalent (in terms of population size) of the September 11, 2001, attacks here every other week for the past three years.
In a March 11 broadcast discussing the recent bombings in Spain, Mr. Gordon said: “Do you consider the Madrid bombings as Spain’s problem or do you see them as part of a larger international dilemma of terrorism? Let’s think about this. There was a time when bombs in places like Northern Ireland, Spain, Russia, Indonesia and elsewhere were treated as isolated incidents in other parts of the world, mainly internal conflicts.”
Why omit Israel from this list? If Mr. Gordon had included Israel in the list, it would break his record of essentially never referring to suicide/homicide bombers of Israeli civilians as “terrorists,” preferring the much more benign term “militants,” intended to evoke the false image of freedom fighters.
In a March 8 broadcast, “Doctors across borders,” Mr. Gordon’s panel consisted of two physicians, a Palestinian and a left-wing Israeli, members of a fringe group touring the U.S., who were a nice fit for Mr. Gordon’s scheme of things, allowing him to set the stage for others to demonize Israel in this discussion of the bloodshed and suffering.
At one point, the Palestinian sympathized with the “suicide bomber” she had treated before “he passed away … he was the victim of a political group who gave him the bomb and — also of Sharon’s policy.”
Not surprisingly, this broadcast failed to mention the major cause of all the bloodshed and suffering: the daily brainwashing to hate and kill Jews inculcated by Arab news media, mosques and schools. Such is the sort of distortion of reality provided by the Boston NPR artful dodger — consistent, as a matter of fact, with the distortions about the Middle East so often provided by its associates throughout taxpayer-supported NPR.
If these artful dodgers can distort and manipulate to accommodate the bias shown here, how can you trust what they say about anything? You might ask, “Does this really matter that much since not a lot of people listen to them?”
Unfortunately, the movers, shakers and opinion makers (especially teachers) are influenced by their broadcasts and all too often fail to perceive or care about their agenda. Anyone who has access to the Internet can confirm the charges made here by simply accessing “The Connection” web site’s archived audio recordings. At least one element of the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists is relevant here: Journalists should examine their own cultural values and avoid imposing those values on others.MYRON KAPLAN
Mr. Kaplan is a Boston-area media analyst