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The agenda behind New York Times headline

by Noga Gur-Arieh

3 weeks ago

A headline – few short words that frame a whole story. Earlier today, The New York Times published an article referring to the rockets being fired from Gaza to Israel and the Israeli Defense Forces' response. In what appeared to be an objective headline, lies a very specific agenda, as the image built in the readers' minds is of Israel being a vicious aggressor.


Just like during the first days of operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, the escalation in the area is being covered by foreign media. As you all probably know, it takes one short headline to build a certain perspective in readers' minds, which will determine the way they read the rest of the story. This framing technique aims us, the readers, to the direction the editor points at, without us noticing.


How come it goes unnoticed? Because a news report is something we think of as objective and neutral. Our favorite news channel/paper/website is believed to provide us plain information about recent news from our close community, our country and the even the rest of the world, but there are two other parts the media take in our lives, which we tend to overlook: agenda setting and framing. This means the media also tell us what to talk about, and what to think about those topics. In the past few days, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has escalated, as violent protests of Jews and Arabs raged in Jerusalem, and missiles were fired from and to Gaza. The tragedy that hit Israel upon the discovery of the three abducted teens' bodies, alongside the killing of the 16-year old Palestinian boy, sparked hatred amid radicals on both sides, as calls for revenge were made and riots took over the streets of Jerusalem. At the same time, rockets were fired from Gaza to Israel, one hit a house that hosted a summer camp. As response, the Israeli Air Forces fired at a terror cell. Now, the IDF is preparing for another operation in Gaza, as yet another attempt to stop the terror organization Hamas.

 

Earlier today, The New York Times published an article referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict escalation, under the headline: "Palestinian militants and Israel trade attacks." (The article under the same link was altered later in the say.) In what appeared to be a neutral, objective headline, lies a very specific agenda, as the image that was built in the readers' minds is of Israel as a war-seeking aggressor. This image is being built in two steps:


First, the participants in the events reported are referred to as "Palestinian Militants" and "Israel." This "David and Goliath" plot, which is being used often in order to cause an anti-Israeli reaction, makes it seems like a uneven, unfair battle – a country against a small group. This makes the reader sympathize with the "David" in the story, the weaker player which is the "Palestinian Militants." The use of these words in order to describe the participants also create separation between the attacks from Gaza and the Palestinian Authority, whose President recently created a unity-government with Hamas that rules Gaza.  Moreover, it is stated that the other participant is a state, Israel. This creates the picture of Israel leading an aggressive agenda, and the other side of the conflict, the PA, has nothing to do with the attack. This image will later come to mind when another story involving Israel and the PA will reach the news, and the readers will remember Israel as a war-seeker and the PA as a peace-seeker.  

Second is the way the course of events is being described: "trading attacks." This presents the attacks as mutual and simultaneous, instead of a matter cause and effect - the way it was.  "Hamas fired at civilians, the IDF responded by firing at terror cells in Gaza," would have created a completely different image in the readers' minds.


This is merely an example of the consequences of media framing. At the end of the day, all journalists are people with personal opinions. This makes the same story receive different versions in different newspapers.  So how can we know the truth? Read carefully, and always try to take the agenda out of the facts.

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