Gaza coverage: The media’s confirmation bias is an overreach especially in conflict reporting where instead of inciting emotions, its job is also to dial down the warmongering Image Credit: Shutterstock

In an Orwellian take, history is not just notoriously compromised, its very foundation is rooted out to be casually replaced by a narrative that has no beginning, only an end.

Repeated enough times, the lie becomes the truth. Something distressingly similar is unfolding around the tragedy in Gaza where a section of the western media continues to tell a dystopian version of events unfolding in real time.

A month after the hostage crisis, Western television networks still berate Palestinian guests, for their own oppression and for a collective western guilt unless, they come across a Bassem Youssef, the Egyptian comedian. But on most days’ conversations in studios are a pendulum that swings back to its starting point.

It is the hill on which the media’s conscience has died for what is glossed over is the death toll in Gaza, the 10,000 and counting includes 3000 children born into a land where innocence is lost before even the joy of a first toy.

The cardinal rule of journalism is that there are two sides to a story. In a news cycle, news is gathered, disseminated, and put out for consumption. The process is no different than brushing teeth before bedtime. Through its one-sided coverage several global media houses have gone straight to bed, its thoughts whitewashed.

Read more

A moment of reckoning

The story they choose to tell is as far removed from the ground as the US is to outlawing guns or controlling racism. Says Palestine’s permanent observer to the UN Riyad Mansour, “History for some media and politicians starts when Israelis are killed.”

Celebrated Israeli writer Yuval Noah Harari writes in the ‘Sapiens’ that humans have been living in dual realities — physical and imagined — since the cognitive revolution.

“Unlike lying, an imagined reality is something that everyone believes in, and as long as this communal belief persists, the imagined reality exerts force in the world.” Ironically, nowhere is this imagined reality more forceful than in the defence of Israel’s actions by some sections of American and European media.

The world ‘evolution’ as it was once envisaged has gone through its own fiction, in modern civilisation people are more unequal than they are equal.

Is it the colour of skin, is it their displacement or is it the social construct where people who survive in the world’s largest open-air prison cannot have the same voice as those who control their land, air, and water? Burying the voice of those already silenced is the first fail of journalism in what is turning out to be a moment of reckoning for global media.

Palestinians attempt to flee after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah in the South of Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023

Dialing down warmongering

In 2018 one of America’s most respected newspapers headlined that dozens of Palestinians ‘died’ in protests as the US prepared to open its embassy in Jerusalem. In October this year there was a similar tilt in a British headline which reported that 500 people ‘died’ in Gaza after Israel’s retaliatory air strikes while more than 700 people were ‘killed’ in Israel since the Hamas attack. The media’s confirmation bias is an overreach especially in conflict reporting where instead of inciting emotions, its job is also to dial down the warmongering, both in thoughts and language.

The objectifying of people by the media where one race is dying but another is the only one being killed is the othering that syncs historically with the apartheid in South Africa and the British subjugation of its colonies.

Strangely no questions are being asked on the existence of the medieval system of the ruler and the subjugated. anti-Semitism is also at play on the other side of the divide, it however remains unchallenged that while Hamas killed, IDF continues to kill, many times over.

Guilty until proven innocent, judge and jury sitting in some television studios or writing the front pages have given their verdict. It is indisputable that for every rightful coverage of the Israelis hostages there is an equal lack of coverage of the victims in Gaza who have lived a lifetime in the same month. It is here that injured girls ask are they being buried and doctors in hospitals realise that the next patient is their own daughter.

20231107 gaza strip
Palestinian children attempt to escape Israeli bombardment in Rafah, southern part of Gaza – an area where the displaced population from northern Gaza has moved in

Truth can never be selective

Russia-Ukraine war made Kiev the global underdog and Zelenskyy a Time magazine cover. The European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called it war crimes for “cutting off men, women, children of water, electricity … acts of pure terror.”

Leyen has not spoken recently nor has the media asked. Culture’s impact on political dynamics as well is journalism is by no means meagre. Does the understanding of sociocultural boundaries allow for the slant in coverage? Is that why Zelensky is a poster boy for the west while the sovereignty of countries like Afghanistan and Iraq can easily be violated to protect American interests?

Predictably among the biggest supporters of the Israeli assault on Gaza are sections of the Indian media which have long gone to the dark side. Its narrative is broadly and unapologetically ideological but in its coverage of the Israel war, it is like the puppy wagging its tail while the big boys go out to play.

Hope though comes from the very place where the sun is no longer shining, Gaza. It is here that journalism is being tested, it is also here that above and beyond the call of duty is being redefined.

A reporter lost his wife, son and daughter in an Israeli air strike but was at work 24 hours later, a news channel engineer lost 19 family members and there is more to come. Fighting the social media warfare of fake information photojournalist Motaz Azaiza’s daily posts on Instagram are searing, “I don’t feel like I am going to make it to the end, so please forgive me,” he says.

Another journalist who lost his colleague half an hour before his live report ripped his press jacket and helmet on air, “we are only waiting to die.” It is to these brave journalists that their western counterparts in news studios are doing the gravest injustice. Truth can never be selective.