Shocker: Liberal Harvard Prof Says Media Pawns of Hezbollah

April 25th, 2007 3:22 PM

No one ever mistook Harvard for a right-wing, neocon bastion so the fact that Marvin Kalb, a left-wing, former CBSer professor there just released an extensive report documenting how the Western media play right into the hands of Islamic terrorists comes as quite of a shock.

The report goes beyond that, however, and mentions how that the Western media has become transformed "from an objective observer to fiery advocate" for groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. Here's an excerpt:

For 34 days in the summer of 2006, the world’s attention was once again riveted on the Eastern shores of the Mediterranean. There, in Lebanon, a lovely country of cedar trees and sectarian strife, a bloody war erupted between Hezbollah and Israel.

It quickly became apparent that this was not the traditional war between Israel and an Arab state; it was rather an asymmetrical war, the new prototype of Middle East conflict, between a state (Israel) and a militant, secretive, religiously fundamentalist sect or faction, such as, in the case of Lebanon, Hezbollah, the “Party of God,” often referred to as a “state within a state,” or, in the case of the Gaza strip, Hamas, the radical wing of the Palestinian movement that refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist as an independent nation.[...]

In this “transnational” world of media interconnectivity, at the very apex, stands the Internet, perhaps the most revolutionary technology in the modern world. During the summertime war in Lebanon, it helped produce the first really “live” war in history. True, during the first Gulf War of 1991, two American networks did broadcast one “live” report each from liberated Kuwait, and during the second Gulf War of 2003, many networks did “live” broadcasts along the U.S. invasion route from Kuwait to Baghdad. But not until this war have networks actually projected in real time the grim reality of the battlefield—pictures of advancing or retreating Israeli troops in southern Lebanon, homes and villages being destroyed during bombing runs, old people wandering aimlessly through the debris, some tailed by children hugging tattered dolls, Israeli airplanes attacking Beirut airport, Hezbollah rockets striking northern Israel and Haifa, forcing 300,000 to evacuate their homes and move into underground shelters—all conveyed “live,” as though the world had a front-row seat on the blood and gore of modern warfare.

To do their jobs, journalists employed both the camera and the computer, and, with the help of portable satellite dishes and video phones, “streamed” or broadcast their reports from hotel roofs and hilltops, as they covered the movement of troops and the rocketing of villages—often, (unintentionally, one assumes) revealing sensitive information to the enemy. Once upon a time, such information was the stuff of military intelligence acquired with considerable effort and risk; now it has become the stuff of everyday journalism. The camera and the computer have become weapons of war.

For any journalist worth his or her salt, this should spark a respectful moment of reflection. Not only did this new and awesome technology enable journalists to bring the ugly reality of war to both belligerents (and others around the world), serving as a powerful influence on public opinion and governmental attitudes and actions; it also became an extremely valuable intelligence asset for both Israel and Hezbollah, and Hezbollah especially exploited it.

If we are to collect lessons from this war, one of them would have to be that a closed society can control the image and the message that it wishes to convey to the rest of the world far more effectively than can an open society, especially one engaged in an existential struggle for survival. An open society becomes the victim of its own openness. During the war, no Hezbollah secrets were disclosed, but in Israel secrets were leaked, rumors spread like wildfire, leaders felt obliged to issue hortatory appeals often based on incomplete knowledge, and journalists were driven by the fire of competition to publish and broadcast unsubstantiated information. A closed society conveys the impression of order and discipline; an open society, buffeted by the crosswinds of reality and rumor, criticism and revelation, conveys the impression of disorder, chaos and uncertainty, but this impression can be misleading.

It was hardly an accident that Hezbollah, in this circumstance, projected a very special narrative for the world beyond its ken—a narrative that depicted a selfless movement touched by God and blessed by a religious fervor and determination to resist the enemy, the infidel, and ultimately achieve a “divine victory,” no matter the cost in life and treasure. The narrative contained no mention of Hezbollah’s dependence upon Iran and Syria for a steady flow of arms and financial resources.

Entire report is available here (PDF link).