Okay, I don’t want to dwell too much on this story, because every aspect of it is infinitely depressing. But here’s a headline from an AP wire story that is, as of this writing, on Yahoo!’s front page as a featured story:
>Arab Media Play Down, Ignore Beheading
Fair enough. I certainly won’t defend most Arab media as bastions of free speech, and although the universal rankles a bit (how about “MOST Arab media” or “SOME Arab media”?), maybe the article will bear it out. Let’s take a look at the actual text.
The second paragraph, right after the lead:
>The biggest pan-Arab satellite television channels broadcast an edited version of the gruesome video, not showing the actual killing of Nick Berg, 26, of West Chester, Pa., a Philadelphia suburb. The businessman was abducted in April.
Um. Well, this seems to say that the BIGGEST satellite channels actually did cover the story, even going as far as to show an edited version of the tape. American networks are not showing the tape at all. So how is this playing down or ignoring it? It seems to me quite the opposite.
>In one of the most explicit displays, Kuwait's Al-Siyassah daily ran a photo of a masked militant holding up Berg's severed head.
Okay. Once again, this would seem to be featuring the story, not downplaying it. I didn’t see pictures of a severed head on the front page of any US newspapers.
>The video of the execution was released on the Internet too late for some Middle East newspaper columnists to react to it.
Which, again, is not ignoring it, but merely manifesting a typical inability of journalists to travel backward in time.
>Some opinion-makers condemned the killing. "This shows how base and vile those who wear the robe of Islam have become," said Abdullah Sahar, a Kuwait University political scientist.
Still waiting for the ‘downplay/ignore’ part.
>Some said it surpassed the American military's abuse of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison, which has been the top story for the past 10 days in the Middle East. "We were winning international sympathy because of what happened at Abu Ghraib, but they come and waste it all," said Abdullah Sahar, a Kuwait University political scientist, said of the Islamic militants responsible.
>Mustafa Bakri, editor of Al-Osboa weekly newspaper in Egypt, said Berg's death will only hurt efforts to expose American offenses against Iraqis. "Such revenge is rejected," Bakri said of the execution. "The American administration will make use of such crimes just to cover their real crimes against Iraqis."
And still waiting. This is the 13th paragraph of the article, and not a single thing to justify the headline or the lead.
>Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, the big two satellite networks, aired carefully edited versions of the video. In Al-Arabiya's edit, a militant is seen drawing a knife and jerking Berg's body to one side. The rest is not shown.
So, what are we saying here? Failure to show the actual decapitation and severed, dripping head of a murder victim constitutes cowardice, bias or disinterest on the part of the network? Because, again, no American media is showing that shit either. I can’t fathom what point is being made here.
>"The news story itself is strong enough," said Jihad Ballout, spokesman for Qatar-based Al-Jazeera. "To show the actual beheading is out of the realm of decency."
This seems eminently sensible to me.
>Lebanon's private Al Hayat-LBC station led its bulletins Wednesday with the video. Its news presenter said: "We apologize to our viewers for not showing the entire tape because of the ugliness of the scene." Kuwait state television broadcast the news of the execution late Tuesday but not the video. Iraqi newspapers reported nothing about the killing, although it may have broken to [sic] late for them.
So, once more, where’s the part where Arab media is ignoring or downplaying the story?
>Egypt's leading daily, Al-Ahram, ignored the beheading Wednesday. Two other major pro-government newspapers ran news agency reports on their inside pages, without photos. An Al-Ahram editor, Ahmed Reda, said the news came too late Tuesday night for the paper to confirm the video's authenticity with the U.S. government. Newspapers in Syria, where the government controls the press tightly, did not report it at all.
Oh, THERE it is! In paragraphs 18 and 19 of the article. I mean, you get what I’m saying here? It says something extremely damning about OUR media that a story is headlined “ARAB MEDIA IGNORE, PLAY DOWN BEHEADING”, and the story itself has 17 paragraphs about how most Arab media in fact does NOT ignore and play down the beheading followed by two paragraphs at the END of the article about some Arab media that do (one of which is censored by the government). No, no bias here. Bias is for the uncivilized countries of the East.
>In many Arab newspapers, the beheading received less display than the news of America's imposing sanctions on Syria and the killing of six Israeli soldiers in Gaza City.
Um. Well, not to put too fine a point on it, or to minimize the horror of this truly barbaric act, but why shouldn’t it receive less display? The Syria sanctions are a very big news story and will have serious economic and political discussions; some experts think it’s the first step towards possible American military action against Syria, in which many people could be killed. And the killing of six people is self-evidently more newsworthy than the killing of one, isn’t it?
Am I totally wrong about this? I just don’t know anymore. And the "othering" of Arabia continues...