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Lies, More Lies, Damn Lies and Newspapers

CONTENTS

Zen & Understanding the Middle East

Introduction
Sellers' Market
Will to Believe
Rules of Thumb

"The truth is out there "
Use & misuse of words
False information signals more false information
Technical whiz-bang
Understand the Context
Lies, More Lies, Damn Lies and Newspapers
Beware of Generalizations
Theology and scripture
Misleading Statistics
Smoke in your eyes: a picture can be worth a thousand lies
What is Missing?
Myth versus fact versus narrative
The past was not like the present; the future will be different

Fallacy Recognition in the Middle East

Fallacies and Arguments
Cause and Effect
Slippery Slope
Gambler's Fallacy
Ad Hominem
Authority
Beliefs
Appeal to Novelty
Appeal to Emotion
Appeal to Tradition
False Dilemma or Black and White Thinking
Special Pleading
The Spotlight Fallacy
Who is to Say?

Fallacy Handbook

Lies, More Lies, Damn Lies and Newspapers

Caveat Lector - Let the reader beware of vicious op-eds. It is universally accepted that editorial writing does not have to tell the truth about facts, and it rarely does. It is absurd to write "in my opinion there was no Holocaust" or "in my opinion Israel received $400 billion in US aid," because these are not assertions of opinion. They are false assertions of fact. It is perfectly acceptable to write such things in editorials, and people do it all the time. A two article series by Chris McGreal in the Guardian smeared Israel as an "Apartheid state" and made a number of provably false allegations. The Guardian editors had hyped the article with this introduction:


After four years reporting from Jerusalem and more than a decade from Johannesburg before that, the Guardian's award-winning Middle East correspondent Chris McGreal is exceptionally well placed to assess this explosive comparison. Here we publish the first part of his two-day special report


Clearly, anyone who read that introduction would think they are getting the straight goods, but it was not so.


Nevertheless a review board cleared McGreal of the obligation to be honest.


Readers would, in the Commission’s view, be aware that this represented a particular – and polemical – approach to an extremely complicated subject, and that other versions of a historical account of the position in Israel would undoubtedly exist. It was clear from the manner in which the articles were presented that they represented the writer’s personal thesis, based on his own experiences.


Really? Was that clear to you from the introduction above? If journals are not willing to adhere to elementary standards of honesty, the only thing one can do is use them to wrap fish and stuff cracks.


Attribution - A journalist can get away with any falsehood even in a news article by putting it in the mouth of someone else or quoting someone else. For example, "Report: US used nuclear weapons in Iraq," is an acceptable news headline. The report may be completely false. "'There are no Arabs living in the Jewish quarter," according to a Palestinian I interviewed'" Such an assertion appeared in the Guardian article written by Chris McGreal. Anyone reading the Guardian would think it was true, but it was not, and McGreal, who wrote it, could hide behind the defense of "attribution." He didn't say it - someone else did. He didn't take care to check the facts and present them either of course, because they contradict his thesis. If the attribution is to a "reliable source" it may be even more suspicious.

 

Previous: Understand the Context Next: Beware of Generalizations


Understanding the Middle East I Understanding the Middle East II - Words about Words

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