Journalist Robert Fisk Critiques "Lobotomized" U.S. Media Coverage

By Szremski, Kristin | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, June/July 2002 | Go to article overview

Journalist Robert Fisk Critiques "Lobotomized" U.S. Media Coverage


Szremski, Kristin, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


Kristin Szremski is news editor of a suburban Chicago newspaper.

Saying that Americans are practicing a "dangerous form of self-absorption," English journalist Robert Fisk excoriated mainstream media coverage of the war against terrorism, the causes of Sept. 11, and the Middle East during a speech at Chicago's North Park University in April.

Though he was critical of media reports in both Britain and the United States, Fisk characterized American coverage as "lobotomized." His speech, "Sept. 11: Ask who Did It, but for Heaven's Sake, Don't Ask Why," was well received by the overflow crowd. Fisk, who lives in Beirut and has covered the Middle East for 25 years, discussed the complicity of the American media in perpetrating a bevy of misconceptions thrust upon the country by Washington regarding the Sept. 11 attacks and U.S. policy in the Middle East.

"I hate the `what' and `where' stories that leave out the `why,'" Fisk said. He used himself as an example of skewed media coverage. On Dec. 8, Fisk, reporting from Afghanistan, was brutally beaten by a mob outside Kandahar after his car broke down. The angry men bashed his head with rocks, and he was "kicked and cut." An elderly, religious man came to Fisk's rescue. Still, Fisk said, he worried about giving the story proper treatment. He didn't want to add "one more Muslim-bashing story" to the overwhelming number of Islamophobic articles that appeared after the bombing of Afghanistan began.

Most journalists, he feared, would report that a colleague was attacked by a mob of Muslims. Fisk said, however, that he understood that, as a Westerner, he represented to that group of men who had just endured savage bombing and the loss of loved ones, the military might that had caused their suffering. The context in which these events occur are extremely important, he emphasized, but largely overlooked in typical media coverage.

Twenty years ago, he pointed out, the very same people the U.S. now is pursuing were used by this country's military to fight against the Soviet Union. Then, he noted, Afghan guerrillas were called freedom fighters.

"How they fought for us, those Afghans," Fisk said. "How they believed in our words."

Regarding the media's lackluster and less-than-truthful coverage of Afghanistan, Fisk pointed out that the camps now called breeding grounds for terrorists were actually built by the CIA.

"Strange, isn't it," he asked, "that those simple facts didn't make it into news reports?"

Media coverage of the Middle East is flawed and biased, Fisk alleged, and language purposely has been watered down or "differentiated" to provide a skewed viewpoint.

"Our reporting has become incomprehensible," he maintained. "It doesn't render any real understanding."

As an example, Fisk cited the word "terrorism," which, he contends, has become overused and has taken on racist connotations. Pointing to coverage of the 1982 Israeli-backed massacres of the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon, Fisk said that the Phalangists responsible for the murders were never called terrorists.

And Baruch Goldstein, the American Jewish settler who gunned down men worshipping during Friday prayers in a Hebron mosque, was called a "deranged fundamentalist."

According to the mainstream media, Fisk said, "Palestinians are terrorists. Arabs are terrorists. Israelis are not. The Palestinians as a people are reduced to the level of criminals, generically violent."

Another example of manipulating truth through the use of particular words, Fisk cited the use of "disputed territories" vs. "occupied territories" when referring to the West Bank and Gaza. "By deleting the word `occupation,'" he argued, "you're erasing the Israeli checkpoints, the Israeli settlements."

Using the word "settlement" instead of "colonies" and "settlers" instead of "colonizers" also helps legitimize the illegal occupation of Palestine, he said. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Journalist Robert Fisk Critiques "Lobotomized" U.S. Media Coverage
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.