Thursday, January 25, 2007

1 Chron 12:32 Report, 25: Richard Landis of Boston University on restoring balance on opinions

Over the past few days as have I attempted to jury rig a substitute PC, and as I did a spot of troubleshooting* -- I went blog visiting.

*Troubleshooting update: looks like a dead motherboard [more precisely, maybe one dead component that is holding the system in a perpetual reset state -- nope not the power supply, which has a valid Power_Good signal, 4.18 Volts (Thanks, Scott Mueller!), or the front panel switches, and so far as I can see the CMOS backup battery is okayish at 3.2 Volts] . . . stay tuned . . .

For instance, I found some fascinating back-forth on the Design theory issue, here and here, at the ID in the UK blog. As usual, any open-access for comments ID supportive blog attracts a circle of spin-meisters who labour hard to discredit its major claims; too often using specious or even outright deceptive arguments. In this case, one argument was based on misrepresenting Professor Walter Bradley's expertise by suppressing the relevant part of his biography. The second case tip-toes around the core issues and contentions raised by the Design Theorists, starting with the proper definition of ID and the central empirical test issues it raises. I of course added a balancing comment or two. (Of course, if the blogger then moderates comments, the cry "censorship" soon will be heard. Heads I win, tails you lose, in short. No, a nuh so it go!)

Along the way, I also ran across this fascinating perspective on writing philosophy papers, by Bruce Hauptli of FIU, which will well repay the investment of time to read and heed it. It takes my remarks here on countering media spin, to the next level. (This, DV, joins my list of links today!)

That bridges us to the main focus for today, Professor Landis' presentation to the 7th Annual Herzlia Conference in Israel, and his remarks on the agit-prop and naive or quisling media of the West. (CV, Dr Landis' fascinating blog also joins my list of links today.) Excerpting a few key points from his paper:

First of all, as a historian of civil society, of the millennium-long struggle in the West to achieve this extraordinary marvel of the modern world, this experiment in human freedom, I want to say: European democratic civilization can fall before the Islamic challenge. Something similar happened before, in the 5th century, when a culturally superior Roman civilization fell to a primitive tribal Germanic culture. And if Europe continues on its current path, that will happen sooner rather than later.

Second, this is going to get worse before it gets better. Starting in October 2000, the most terrible form of apocalyptic movement, active cataclysmic – we are the agents in the vast destruction that precedes our millennial victory – entered the public sphere of world culture and rather than being beaten back, took hold and grew stronger. Once these movements, which in the past have killed 10s of millions, “take,” they are like forest fires. They cannot be stopped, at best they can be channeled. We are in for a long and unpleasant conflict that will demand a great deal from us.

Third, modern media play a critical role in Global Jihad’s success. Not just the use Jihadis make of modern technology to spread their message, but the role our modern MSM play in both disguising and encouraging the phenomenon. And the core of the problem, the ground upon which this dysfunctional relationship between Jihad and MSM first emerged, but also the most dramatic on which it plays out, is the MSM’s treatment of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

There has been much discussion of whether or not the MSM has been unfair to Israel, including formal investigations into particularly obnoxious organizations like the BBC, and, by and large the answer is, “well, maybe… but it’s not so bad.” And Israelis, like the protagonist in Richard Farina’s novel, have been down so long it looks like up to them. “It could be worse… it has been worse… it’s getting better.”

But all of this is not nearly good enough. The MSM are the eyes and ears of modern civil societies. Without them we cannot know what is going on outside of our personal sphere, with them we can make our democratic choices in elections, assess foreign policy, intervene humanely in the suffering around the globe. But as any paleontologist will tell you, any creature whose eyes and ears misinform it about the environment, will not long survive. So it is with our civic experiment: especially in this period, where predators grow increasingly bold: a MSM that misinforms us, betrays the very people it is supposed to serve.

Let me cut to the chase. If this wondrous experiment in human freedom that was launched on both sides of the Atlantic in the late 18th century survives to the middle of the 21st century, historians will look back on the performance of the MSM in the first decade of that century, in particular its coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and give the journalists’ “first draft of history” an F . . . .

- An F for failing to source-check – any impartial study will show that journalists systematically and incorrectly favored Palestinian over Israelis sources of information during the Intifada
- An F for failing to correct their errors — leaving Israel between libel and silence.
- An F for obsessively reporting the Arab Israeli conflict while people suffered from genocidal campaigns in other parts of the world
- An F for giving into intimidation and practicing access journalism without informing their public
- An F for scarcely mentioning the tidal wave of paranoia and hatred that currently dominates the Muslim media
- An F for echoing and amplifying the demonizing narratives told about Israel which they treat with unqualified credulity
- And F for allowing our media to be exploited by totalitarian forces as a theater of war rather than protecting that civic public trust from such vicious propaganda. . . . .
Unfortunately, whether they mean it or not, the MSM today has fallen into so many bad habits, so many pervasive compromises, that like the Augean Stables of old, they have encrusted layers of manure that resist any effort to clean. And unlike the old Augean Stables, which stank up the only the Peloponnesus, thanks to new technology, the MSMs failures stink the world over.

Which brings me to the basic problem Israel and the Jews face in this young and so-far deeply disturbing 21st century. They have been the major target of the Jihadi assault, and the main victims of the MSM’s failures. And so far, the response has been to take the same stance of concession and placation, to the Western media that the Western media take towards the Muslims: don’t criticize, don’t challenge, placate, mollify. Whatever you do, don’t attack.

“We don’t dare start a war with the media,” said one MFA official, “we can only lose.” . . . . The Jewish leaders in the diaspora, playing by the positive-sum rules of the late 20th century, responded painfully slowly to the sudden zero-sum turn of direction at the end of 2000. Indeed, like the Israeli government, they discouraged those – leaders or rank and file – who started to fight back.

I understand the arguments, the concerns, the kinds of damage that can come if the media turns on us. But that’s beginning to sound more and more like the joke about the two Jews in line for the showers at Auschwitz. One sneezes and the other whispers sharply, “Hush, Yankl, you’ll make it worse for us” . . .

All in all, a devastating, sadly well-warranted indictment of a civilisation that in turning its back on God who blessed it beyond all other cultures in history to date, has lost the will to face terrible truths and fright for its survival in the face of a rising tide from the East. Indeed, as Mark Steyn has aptly pointed out, it no longer even manages to reproduce itself, apart from the accelerating numbers of Islamic immigrants. Thus, Bat Ye'or's warning of the possible end-state: Eurabia under Islamic domination, is well worth pondering.

But, Landis's argument has a twist, based on the now proverbial point that the Chinese character for "crisis" has two components: danger plus opportunity. So, he further argues:

The worse things get, the more people wake up, the more they are willing to reconsider their paradigms and policies, the more they are willing to make sacrifices necessary to survive. And this is true across the boards: When did Pharaoh listen? When it hurt. When did his heart harden? When things got better. So not only are Europeans beginning to awaken to the nightmare they have inherited from their irresponsible leadership, but also to the role of their MSM in blinding them to its onset. Similarly, Jews and Israelis are beginning to realize that we must fight back. Even the MSM may begin to realize that, whatever excuses they come up with for their performance, they cannot, we cannot afford it any longer. And, as Bernard Lewis commented yesterday, maybe even the Muslims, realizing the power of the Jinn they have released from the bottle, and the unhappy fact that they will be the first consumed by its murderous zeal, will also reconsider who the enemy is . . . .

there are people waiting to hear from you, waiting for Israel to confront the suffocating dysfunction of paranoid Muslim defamation and MSM complicity, people waiting to hear Israel fight for its honor and dignity. Indeed they’ll be better equipped to defend themselves with Israel’s example.

Third, the blogosphere, and more broadly, cyberspace offer a means to reach the public without pleading for better MSM coverage. In the blogosphere there are legions of sharp analysts who do not answer to the siren call of political correctness and the pack mentality that has so many journalists cramming every incident into the storyline of the Israeli Goliath and the Palestinian or Lebanese David. Internet sites permit vast amounts of information, including systematic critiques of the media’s performance to reach increasing numbers. Every paper, radio program and TV news station should have a blog that monitors it, critiques it, contradicts it where appropriate. In the end, a responsible MSM will thank the blogosphere for the criticism.

A review of the recent articles in this blog will underscore the force of this point.

We can also make a very similar case for publicly standing up and defending Bible-believing Evangelical Christian faith from the equally pernicious slanders that it is an enemy of scientific progress, of just and sustainable socio-economic development and of liberty. Of course, those who pursue a secularist agenda -- just like the Mahdist-Jihadist advocates and their fellow-travellers -- will continue to abuse their institutional power and the naive trust of the public at large. But in the end, I am highly confident that the tide will turn as the public wakes up to the threat they face at the hands of those who have so cleverly misled and beguiled over these many years now.

So, DV, let us now turn our focus on 1 Chron 12:32 to how we can best act in our troubled and turbulent times. END

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