One of my favorite lines from Star Trek : The Next Generation was when the android, Data, gave his interpretation of Shylock’s famous speech: “If you prick me, do I not leak?” It was just so silly, it left me giggling. (I liked it only slightly less than Worf, the stern Klingon warrior, announcing when transported back to Sherwood Forest, “Captain, I am not a merry man.” But that’s a digression….)
It’s the leaking part I’m stuck on. I thought of it when I read a cuddly human interest story about a locally based Lebanese family that safely made it back home from Lebanon, which they were visiting when the war broke out. In addition to getting out of the war zone, they managed to land at Heathrow just when the recent terrorist alert broke out, and British authorities grounded all air traffic. Interestingly, the family got caught at Heathrow because they decided to stay in Lebanon rather than join the evacuation a couple of weeks ago. Despite the fact that their children were with them, they apparently weren’t overwhelmed with fear.
In any event, it’s a decent human interest story about people traveling during “exciting” times. What got me, after this fairly neutral story of their picaresque adventures, was the last line the story’s writer just had to throw in:
As he [the happy father, with children safely returned] spoke, in the background, a Lebanese television network displayed live footage of the latest carnage from the fighting in Lebanon. [Emphasis mine.]
I don’t think I’m being hypersensitive when I consider that word usage just a wee bit biased. In fact, considering Israel’s extraordinary military effort, there’s almost no carnage. And it’s becoming more and more apparent that the “carnage” relayed through video and still images is staged, altered, and out and out faked. (For overwhelming, detailed evidence, just go to Little Green Footballs, which first exposed the iceberg’s tip with the altered Reuters’ photographs.)
I’d like to be surprised that a reporter, who should be aware of these frauds, and who should be at least a little suspicious now about the news reports coming from Lebanon, would instead churn out this kind of biased writing. To me, it was a leakage — a moment when the reporter simply couldn’t contain himself and had to give voice to his feelings on a subject in a way that goes beyond the stories point and veers into personal bias and advocacy. This is the same type of leakage one sees in movie reviews or non-political articles that compulsively slam the President, something I’ve blogged about here and here.
(And yes, I know I said I wasn’t going to blog, but I’m extremely frustrated with my project and needed a break. The break is over now, and I’m going back to my work.)
UPDATE: Here’s the beginning of Mark Steyn’s Sunday column, which also focuses on the “it just leaks” out syndrome in reporting (the leakage this time being an irrelevant attack on Tony Blair):
Here’s how an early report by Reuters covered the massive terrorism bust in the United Kingdom. They started out conventionally enough just chugging along with airport closures, arrest details and quotes from bystanders, but then got to the big picture:
” ‘I’m an ex-flight attendant, I’m used to delays, but this is a different kind of delay,’ said Gita Saintangelo, 54, an American returning to Miami. ‘We heard about it on the TV this morning. We left a little early and said a prayer,’ she said at Heathrow.
“Britain has been criticised by Islamist militants for its military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. Prime Minister Tony Blair has also come under fire at home and abroad for following the U.S. lead and refusing to call for an immediate cease-fire in the conflict between Israel and Lebanese Hizbollah guerrillas.”
Is there a software program at Western news agencies that automatically inserts random segues in terrorism stories? The plot to commit mass murder by seizing up to 10 U.K.-U.S. airliners was well advanced long before the first Israeli strike against Hezbollah. Yet it’s apparently axiomatic at Reuters, the BBC and many other British media outlets that Tony Blair is the root cause of jihad. He doesn’t even have to invade anywhere anymore. He just has to “refuse to call for an immediate cease-fire” when some other fellows invade some other fellows over on the other side of the world.
The rest of the article is, of course, worth reading. It’s about the fact that fact the terrorists use nations as stepping stones and bases for terrorism, but in fact, have no interesting in nation-building:
Lebanon is a sovereign state. It has an executive and a military. But its military has less sophisticated weaponry than Hezbollah and its executive wields less authority over its jurisdiction than Hezbollah. In the old days, the Lebanese government would have fallen and Hezbollah would have formally supplanted the state. But non-state actors like the Hezbo crowd and al-Qaida have no interest in graduating to statehood. They’ve got bigger fish to fry. If you’re interested in establishing a global caliphate, getting a U.N. seat and an Olympic team only gets in the way. The “sovereign” state is of use to such groups merely as a base of operations, as Afghanistan was and Lebanon is. They act locally but they think globally.