Media manipulations on Palestinian geopolitics

Celtic fans stage pro-Palestine protest / Reproduction Telegram
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By FRANCISCO FERNANDES LADEIRA*

It is important to reveal the ideology of international news, its manipulative mechanisms and discursive traps

In the international coverage of the major Brazilian press, the predominant editorial line will always be that which is in accordance with the interests of the external agendas of the imperialist powers. There is no exception.

In this sense, to try to attract public support, geopolitical discourses in the media resort to certain cognitive shortcuts (linguistic resources to make the chaotic configuration of international relations intelligible to ordinary citizens) and use manipulation strategies such as framing, fragmentation of facts, concealment of historical constraints and choice of certain sources over others.

Last Saturday (October 7), the headline on international news from the country's main media outlets (with few variations) was the following: “Attack by the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas surprises Israel”.

For the reader/viewer/listener who is not familiar with Palestinian geopolitics, the impression is that the State of Israel was the “victim” of a “free attack” by “Hamas terrorists”. However, this is pure media manipulation.

As professor Reginaldo Nasser stated, in an interview with Fórum, the “terrorist” label for Hamas is completely inappropriate, given that the group is currently a political organization that, in fact, launched a military operation against the siege of its territory (Gaza Strip). In other words, there was not an “attack on Israel”, but a “legitimate reaction” to the Israeli occupation exercised over the territory that rightfully belongs to the Palestinian people.

But the media manipulations did not stop there. As Perseu Abramo has already pointed out, one of the main manipulation strategies of the mainstream Brazilian press is the so-called “pattern of concealment”, which refers to the absence and presence of real facts in journalistic production. This is obviously not the result of ignorance, nor even a mere omission in the face of reality. It is, on the contrary, a deliberate militant silence about reality.

In this way, information is hidden in the news that Gaza – surrounded by land, sea and air by the State of Israel – presents one of the worst humanitarian situations in the world (where food insecurity is extremely high, reaching 75-80% and, Furthermore, there is strict control over the entry of food).

Furthermore, it is important to remember the media silence regarding the recent wave of actions by Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right government against Palestinians, especially in places sacred to Islam, such as the Al-Aqsa Mosque. This is the reason given by Hamas for the offensive against Israel. Any minimally plural journalism, which listens to both sides of a conflict, would have mentioned this issue.

Consequently, in the mainstream media, the Palestinian group's attacks against the Zionist State had no cause; only consequences. In this way, by hiding the facts mentioned above, it is possible to construct the narrative of a “surprise terrorist attack against Israel”.

But it is not enough to label Hamas as a “terrorist” and Israel as a “victim”, constituting the Manichaean cognitive shortcut of dividing the world between “good” and “evil”. It is necessary to generate what the French linguist, specialist in discourse analysis, Patrick Charaudeau, calls the “pathemic effect”, whose objective is the engagement/involvement of the reception instance, through performance in the world of affections, awakening feelings in the public such as hatred, compassion, sadness and/or solidarity.

Thus, images of Israeli victims of “Hamas attacks” are incessantly shown. The losses on the other side, by the way, in a much greater number, are strategically neglected. It is no coincidence that reports in Israel focus on human losses; while news about Gaza emphasizes material losses.

Also along these lines, the discourse is constructed that the Israeli army only targets “military installations” and Hamas “attacks, above all, the civilian population; Therefore, it is terrorism.”

Fortunately, this manipulation was denied by professor Isabela Agostinelli dos Santos, in the middle of Globonews, on the “17pm Edition” program, stating that any quick research is enough to confirm that Israel's bombings hit civilians and hospitals in Gaza. Therefore, according to the professor, “Palestinians have the right to defend themselves, however they can”.

However, unlike Isabela Agostinelli dos Santos, most of the “experts” heard by the media about the Israel-Hamas conflict limited themselves to repeating the same platitudes, Manichaeisms and commonplaces present in the “analyses” of “exempt” columnists. such as Demétrio Magnoli, Jorge Pontual and Guga Chacra. “The international community condemns the terrorist attacks by the Hamas regime on Israel”, was what was heard/read most in the news in recent days.

Here, the media's geopolitical discourses resort to a metonymic resource, which aims to disseminate the interests of the great powers as if they were also the interests of the entire planet. The expression “international community” is not related to a possible consensus between different nations on a geopolitical issue. It generally tacitly reflects the positions of the United States and its allies.

Countries such as China, Russia, Norway and Switzerland, members of the “international community”, do not label Hamas as a “terrorist organization”.

The term “regime” is associated with authoritarianism, disrespect for human rights or lack of individual freedoms. In this logic, we do not see references to “the Israeli regime” or “the United States regime” in the news.

Finally, referring to the public's geopolitical memory, the hegemonic media is trying to promote the narrative that the “Hamas terrorist attack” is the “Israeli 11/XNUMX”.

This is no coincidence. “September 11” is perhaps the greatest example of how the “media event” replaced the “historical event” in the collective imagination. Most people do not remember “September 11” in all its complexity, as a “response” by Muslim people to years of humiliation imposed by the United States (the “historical event”); but from the images of individuals desperately throwing themselves from the Twin Towers of World Trade Center (the “media event”). In other words, they remember “form” to the detriment of “content”.

Thus, the attacks by Al Qaeda and Hamas – against the United States and Israel, respectively – can be perceived as something that “happened out of nowhere”, through the actions of “Muslim fanatics”.

However, unlike two decades ago, when large communication groups reigned practically sovereign when it comes to disseminating information about the main planetary events; Currently, with social networks, we have access to alternative views on global geopolitics, which makes it more difficult for the hegemonic media to transform their discursive construction into an “official version” of a given event (in what Noam Chomsky called a “fabricated consensus” ).

Therefore, more than ever, it is important to reveal the ideology of international news, its manipulative mechanisms and discursive traps.

Critical recipients, who check information and compare different types of sources, are unlikely to be vulnerable targets for mainstream media narratives.

Thus, by understanding the language used by media outlets, we are not held hostage by an editorial line that seeks simplistic and biased explanations for today's most complex topics. It means, above all, not becoming a “geopolitical illiterate”.

*Francisco Fernandes Ladeira he is a doctoral student in geography at Unicamp. Author, among other books, of The ideology of international news (CRV). [ https://amzn.to/3ZL4TAD ]


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