Fisk Says Internet Is Having An Impact
THE INDEPENDENT (London, UK)
The Internet threat to truly honest reporting
'In the States, the Internet is challenging the monopoly of pro-Israeli
28 May 2001
I don't use the internet. I've never sent an e-mail in my life. But I've
got to admit a new political fact. The internet is changing the American
view of the Middle East. For the first time in decades, the monopoly of
pro-American, pro-Israeli news in The New York Times, The Washington
Post, the Los Angeles Times and the big US TV networks is being
challenged by the websites of dozens of European papers whose reporting on
the tragedy in the Middle East is far less skewed towards the Israeli-US
State Department point of view.
And the Israeli lobby groups in the States don't know how to react.
Several papers, including The Independent, have been bombarded by hundreds
of letters and e-mails from supposedly outraged American "readers" most
of them from parts of the United States where The Independent, for
example, is not on sale and many of them written in vitriolic, even
violent language. A number have been written in answer to an appeal from
an outfit called "honestreporting.com", which carries a series of
misleading and, in some cases, untruthful statements about my own
They are balanced, however, by large numbers of letters and e-mails asking
why the American press doesn't give the full coverage of events found in
The Independent and other European newspapers.
Among my recent mailbag has been a letter that wishes my swift departure
for Hell and eternal punishment ("Dear Mr Shit Fisk," it begins), and
another from an American law student at Oxford who addressed me as "You
evil, fucking man". The student, who said he was Jewish, added his phone
number to the letter and apologised for his language after I threatened to
take his letter to the police.
Of course, it was ever thus. The Bahraini press has cartooned me as a
rabid dog for revealing details of Arab secret- police torture since
rabid dogs have to be exterminated, this was a threat, not a joke and
the Egyptian press has called me a "black crow" for condemning Egypt's
fraudulent elections. An Arab student in the American Midwest is e-mailing
friends with the information that I'm a member of Mossad, the Israeli
intelligence service, apparently because a Jewish family invited me to
speak at a local university.
But honestreporting.com's supporters whose letters often reveal that
they've never actually read anything I've written are in a class of their
own. Only last month, I wrote a comment-page article in The Independent
describing the way in which any serious journalist who criticised Israeli
policy the operation of death squads, for example, or the building of
illegal Jewish settlements on stolen Arab land was reviled as
"anti-Semitic". This, the most disgraceful of the accusations made against
Western journalists, permeates many of the letters provoked by
There's no doubt what prompted this revealing deluge of purple prose.
Honestreporting.com urges its supporters to read The Independent's
website. It would like, somehow, to close down The Independent's Middle
East coverage and, to be fair, The Guardian's as well and return
Americans to the bland, generally pro-American (and thus pro-Israeli)
reports of the US press. Much of my ordinary mailbag I'm not counting
the lobby boys now comes from the US. University departments are asking
me and other European journalists to lecture in the States, where our
discussions tend to be a lot more straight-talking than that of our
But honestreporting.com's methods are themselves revealing. In one
"communiqué", it manages to quote my 1982 description of a Palestinian
woman's face as that of a Madonna and a Lebanese friend's (described by
the outfit as a Palestinian) weeping at the departure of the PLO from
Beirut. What they don't mention is that they were weeping because they
feared that in the absence of Palestinian fighters, they would be
massacred by Israel's brutal Lebanese allies which is exactly what
happened a few days later.
Then it quotes from my article of 17 April this year, in which I remarked
that some Israeli leaders had been "bestializing" [sic] Arabs, referring
to my account of how Palestinian taxi drivers are humiliated as they
approach Israeli checkpoints on Arab land. But honestreporting.com and
the "honest" bit is a joke in itself didn't mention that the quotes come
from two different articles. The "bestialisation" story referred to
Israeli leaders who had at various times called Palestinians "serpents",
"two-legged beasts", "cockroaches in a glass jar", and "crocodiles". Of
course, honestreporting.com erased all mention of that in its
So, long live the internet. It certainly seems to be frightening the guys
who want to prevent Americans from hearing our voice on
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