The ONLY active voice for American Arab Journalists.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The bias that exists in the American news media

The bias in the mainstream American news media
By Ray Hanania

Although the American media hates to admit it, when it comes to Israel, the news media in this country is biased. Unfair. Un-objective. And, skewered to one side. Israel’s.

Just saying that can keep Arab Americans from being hired at most American newspapers.

The reality of the bias is two-fold. It exists among the reporters and it exists on the Op-Ed pages of the nation’s newspapers (and in the commentaries of the broadcast media).

Let’s talk about the reporters.

Imagine, if you will, if the lead reporter covering the Lebanon-Israel fight was based on Beirut and was, let’s say, Palestinian. Can you imagine the horror of the conflict that would be conveyed from the "Arab side?"

Well, you’ve just imagined Wolf "Ze’ev’ Blitzer anchoring from Jerusalem on CNN, with a very pro-Israel perspective that by its nature is imbalanced.

It’s not that Wolf is anti-Arab. But your personal feelings, upbringing and even your religion ALL DO PLAY A PART in how you cover a story.

Because the Middle East conflict is not about the big differences that separate Arabs and Jews, but about the nuances of a vicious conflict that takes thousands of lives every year. And those nuances in the conflict are very important.

Part of this problem is that the Arab community hasn’t pushed their children into journalism. Arabs in American come from a Middle East controlled by tyrants, dictators and monarchs who regularly undermine civil rights and prohibit truly free speech.

Well, speech isn’t free in America, either, though. In the Arab World, there are certain things you can’t say in the media like criticize the King, government, public servant or leader, or religion, or the country's politics. That could get you censured, detained, arrested and even jailed. It might even result in your death.

Americans are not so uncouth. There are certain things that Americans don’t like to hear and if you say them they won’t just grab you and throw you in jail or kill you. They will quietly complain to your employer, who will fire you or "lay you off." They will complain to the police who will investigate you and conduct 45 page long FBI reports on who you are, speaking with and impacting negatively everyone who might have significance in your life.

That’s how censorship works in America, the land of the some people are more free than other people.

Arabs are not used to free speech in the Middle East, and they have never really had it in America. So they don’t tell their children that being a journalist is a proud profession, but rather a profession of scandalous rogues and deceitful political manipulators.

Sound familiar?

Clearly, Arab Americans need to fight back and push their children into the journalism profession because in America, the real religion of power is communications and the news media is temple in which they pray.

Then there is also the issue of the lopsided, skewered in favor of Israel Op-Ed pages of most newspapers.

The fact is that newspapers are either ignorant or are afraid to publish both sides of the Middle East conflict.

It is amazing to me that some newspapers will have "two sides" both written by supporters of Israel, and never publish an Arab American voice.

The Op-Ed pages are not supposed to be a score board, but they should have some balance. When you have 100 columns by pro-Israel writers and maybe two by pro-Arab writers, something is wrong. And if you don’t see the problem, then you are not a professional journalist. You are a hack. A political activist shilling for a partisan perspective. Don’t call yourself a journalist. You are a disgrace to the profession.

Because, there are many good people in journalism who see this problem. In fact, the majority of journalists recognize this issue. But, only a small handful can do anything about it. The Op-Ed editors and the management of the newspaper. And the majority of them also see the problem and like it that way.

Another problem is that when a newspaper does offer an "Arab viewpoint" it almost always has to be paired up with the pro-Israel view point.

Are you that fearful of running an Arab American commentary?

Apparently, the answer from the cowardly journalism lion is a roaring "YES."

Shame on all of you.

That is not journalism. And until you change it, you cannot call yourselves professional journalists.

We Arab Americans are not asking the mainstream American media to be pro-Arab. We are asking that they just be fair and include our voices in the public discussion.

(Ray Hanania is a founder of the National Arab American Journalists Association and an award winning columnist, author and standup comedian. He formerly wrote for Creators Syndicate until he was told that most American newspapers did not want to publish his views. Reach him at

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