Appalling war news reporting

I'm appalled by what passes as news reporting on the warfare in Gaza.

Even one of the best newspapers of Germany uses such entirely inappropriate terms such as 'Israeli soldier abducted' or '3000 Hamas elite fighters'.*

There's warfare. A soldier cannot possibly be abducted by the opposing warring party unless he's off-duty in civilian clothes. Thus no Israeli soldier was 'abducted', he was probably captured. Israel no doubt took hundreds of Gaza inhabitants captive during the last days - were all these men "abducted"? One might discuss whether civilians would be "abducted", but armed men in a war zone can only be captured, not abducted. And this goes both ways. "Abduction" is a criminal activity, and its's not merely misleading, but a lie to use this word on perfectly normal 'working as intended' wartime behaviour.

The '3000 elite fighters' is total bollocks. The "elite" in there seems to serve but one purpose; to imply that to defeat them completely would be a tough, bloody fight. The German language offers much better ways to express this - without lying about the actual relative qualification of those men.
Besides - 3,000? Wouldn't this tiny share of the population in Gaza (0.17%) justify a report on how tiny Hamas' armed wing actually is? A real mobilization of able-bodied men in a population of this age and size would yield about a hundred times as many combatants**, and even more if women were mobilised as well. It's almost as if the armed wing of Hamas wasn't more than an (armed) loudmouth sideshow.

Inaccuracies in reporting on wars and warfare are unavoidable, but this kind of journalistic nonsense is easily avoidable and appalling, because we're not even a warring party. We should be able to expect our journalists to stay rather neutral or at least quite accurate in this conflict. 
Obviously, such expectations would have been too high. This is a horrible litmus test result; imagine we'd be a conflict party sometime in the future. How badly are our journalists going to fail then? How could the public form a well-founded opinion on the conflict if it's being fed that kind of crap?


*: See FAZ of today, article "Ein folgenschwerer Angriff". 
**: France mobilised about 10% of its population for the military during the First World War. Their share of military age males was no doubt smaller than in the Gaza Strip now. The World Factbook says there were an estimated 335,820 able-bodied males in military age in Gaza Strip in 2010.

//Comment system is on, but I would only let comments pass which focus on the media, not on the regional aspect of the topic.//


  1. Interestingly enough, I heard a story discussing the captured soldier on NPR here in the US. They always described the soldier in question as captured, not abducted. The factor that would make it an "abduction" as opposed to a "capture" I think, is if it happened before the ceasefire was broken. But to judge one way or another, you'd have to have some idea who broke the ceasefire first, and know when the event happened.

    1. By that reasoning to break the ceasefire and kill someone would be murder. I don't think that's how it would be called usually.
      IMO it was a capture if it happened while he was in uniform.

  2. The main stream media analysis of any conflict is very poor and very deceptive. They seem to just blindly accept government statements and narrations without reading the reality 'behind and between the lines'.

    The 'why' and 'how'.

    Deeper analysis is of course much more labor intensive and boring for the average viewer who very likely already made up their minds anyway.

    So I guess they stick to the more trivial 'where, when, what'. Spoon fed information. However even here the quality is very bad and deceptive. False definitions. Selection bias.

    So one might only watch it to know something is going on and verify the facts independently.
    Or just to see "what other people believe", since the "majority opinion" is what people believe other people believe.

    But even taking account of these points it seems that the main power of main stream news doesn't even appear to be deceptive reporting on "what, where, when",
    but the power to persuade the public to focus on some matters and away from others
    and to usually frame any topic in a narrow box.
    Letting the public blow of steam in the safezone of the box.

    I am not only blaming the media.
    If there are no buyers, there are no sellers.
    The uncritical public is also responsible for this mess.

    Understanding cannot come from news.
    As good nutrition cannot come from candy alone.

    Claims are cheap, evidence is expensive.
    We get what we pay for.

  3. Ever since online journalism can track clicks on articles, they are more aware of what actually matters for news buyers. Corresponding to this pattern, resources are invested into news stories. The Gaza issue is one of the most unimportant things on the planet, ranking slightly above the killing of rhinos and much much below showing the underwear of a low level celebrity.

  4. Warped public perception of foreign violence, be it a disturbance or a full blown war, is one of those things which I have spent a lot of time thinking about. The media is warped lens, well intended or not. When biased, as was the U.S. media from early on in the Vietnam War, you get complete public misrepresentations. The best specific example was public perception of the 68' Tet Offensive, a huge victory for the U.S. and her unsung Ally (Australia), was seen as a defeat. The fact is that it was a big military victory while paradoxically being a political defeat. After that the ranks of the Vietcong were something like 90% Northerners because there were no longer enough Southerners. I have always thought of faulty media analysis as a much more comprehensive issue as a result.

    I liked this article because it made me think about the finer points of this complexity, particularly incorrect verbiage. Nice post.