Thursday, May 13, 2010
The Importance of New Media
(The following is an adaptation and expansion of my talk at the Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors event in LA, Spun out: Watch Dog Media Bites Lap Dog Media, on the importance of New Media.)
When people ask me how I got into New Media, I tell them it began with the New York Times. The Sunday New York Times. For those of you who have never seen it the Sunday New York Times is a behemoth, a whale. Section after section of newsprint. World, Metro, Fashion, style, architecture, wine, end tables, spring hats and a pullout on Zimbabwe. Reading through the entire Sunday New York Times was a challenge, a way to show your commtiment to old media journalism.
For a lot of New York Jews, the New York Times is the new bible. And on Sunday, you can see why. The Sunday New York Times is bigger than the bible. It's more grandiose than the bible. Because we're the People of the Book and we love words. Sometimes even when they're hatefull words directed at us.
Back when I was reading through the Sunday New York Times, including the section on end tables, I was a consumer of news. Which really meant that I was paying for and buying someone else's point of view. And when I thought those views were wrong. When I knew those views were wrong. When I could prove those views were wrong, what could I do about it?
What can a consumer do about a bad product? He can try to argue with the company that sold it to him. People who don't like the product that the New York Times tries to sell them about Israel or America, about Islamic terrorists and high taxes, can try to write a letter to the editor complaining about the point of view they're buying. And the letter may or may not be printed on page 19, somewhere between spring hats and the end tables, And the Times along with the rest of the same mainstream media will keep on selling the same product.
How do you argue with a megaphone? A megaphone is bigger and louder than you. So I stopped trying to argue with the megaphone. I dropped the New York Times and Dan Rather and News on the Hour, you give us 22 minutes and we'll give you the world, and instead I began to talk to the people who were listening to the megaphone. I began commenting, reporting, analyzing and investigating. And suddenly I had my own megaphone. I stopped being a consumer of news, and I became a producer of news.
I have always been interested in politics and world events, but I came to realize that I had been doing it as a consumer. I had been buying a product that the media corporations were selling me. And even when I disagreed with the product, I still kept buying it. And I suspect there are many people here who are still buying product that they disagree with. And that's what new media is about. It's about refusing to buy the expensive rotten products of mainstream media anymore.
Why is New Media important? It's as simple as the First Ammendment to the Constitution. Freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Freedom of the press only matters when there is an actual free press. If there is no free press, then the Constitution becomes a piece of paper.
When the mainstream media gives you one point of view and one point of view only, there is no longer a free press. You can choose to get the same point of view from the New York Times or CBS News or CNN or any of a thousand of the tentacles of the same big media beast. But that is not freedom of speech or freedom of the press. Those only exist when there is diversity of ideas. When there is a marketplace of ideas. Not one man with a thousand faces telling the same thing, a thousand different ways.
Henry David Thoreau wrote that there's always injustice in government just as there's always friction in a machine. It's when injustice becomes dominant in government, then friction has its own machine. So too the media today is no longer biased. Bias has its own media. There is no telling the two apart anymore.
There's a point at which bias becomes propaganda. When the media stops thinking and stops investigating. When it just repeats one side's talking points over and over again. Then it is no longer a free press, but a propaganda press.
And we can see that all around us today. A year ago hardly anyone called Jerusalem a settlement. Settlements were supposed to be small villages over in the West Bank. Then Obama called Jerusalem a settlement. And suddenly everyone in the media was calling Jerusalem, a settlement.
You can see how destructive and pervasive this is, because when a Republican congressman got up to defend Israel, what did he say? He said, that Israel has the right to build settlements in Jerusalem? He meant well but he couldn't help using biased language that the media had put into his head.
The media never questions the idea that one of the oldest cities in the world that is mentioned in the three major religions in the area is somehow a settlement. The New Media does that. The media never questions the implicit racism in describing a Jewish home as a settlement and an Arab home next to it as a building. On the same street in the same city. It's the New Media that challenges it over and over again. And I'm proud to say that I'm one of those people who refuses to let it go.
Jews are major consumers of the news. We read our Sunday New Times and our weekend news programs and our monthly political magazines. We like to be informed and educated. But too many Jews have embraced information coming from sources that are hostile to our interests and even our survival. And that has to change.
In the 2008 election, Jewish consumers of the mainstream media thought they were getting the facts. Instead they were getting the lies.
Over and over the media assured us that Obama didn't have anti-Israel advisors around him. That he wasn't biased against Israel. That he wasn't a member of a church that hated Israel. And now a year later some of them are waking up.
Ed Koch who actually campaigned for Obama, writes that he now weeps. But there was no need to weep, only a need to read. The information was out there in New Media. Thousands of blogs did the hard work, researching and presenting this material on Obama's ties to Rashid Khalidi. On Robert Malley's contacts with Hamas. On the influence that Ayers has on Obama. On Samantha Power's talk of invading Israel.
And instead too many Jews went on believing what the New York Times and the LA Times and the Washington Post and NBC News was telling them. And we can see the consenquences of that now.
I attended a pro-Israel rally last month where three of the speakers admitted that they regretted voting for Obama. But what they should have really regretted doing is getting their information from Old Media instead of New Media.
When Samantha Power talked about invading Israel, the old media tried to ignore it. It was New Media that kept bringing it up. And when Old Media said that Power was gone and that Obama would have nothing more to do with her, we were the ones telling you that was a lie. Today she's a director at the National Security Council.
In 2007 I wrote about James L. Jones' anti-Israel bias. Today Jones is the second most powerful figure on foreign policy. And when he was caught making a joke about a Greedy Jew, it was another blogger, Yid with Lid, who made the catch. New media. Not old media. Never old media.
During the election it was bloggers who looked deeper into Obama's ties to Rashid Khalidi, who demanded that the LA Times turn over their video of Obama at a dinner honoring Khalidi. Not the mainstream media. Never the mainstream media. During the election, I did extensive work exposing the ties of Obama's closest clergymen to Louis Farrakhan, including Father Pfleger, a story I broke well before the mainstream media picked it up.
Day after day, New Media was raising serious questions about Obama. We were putting the information out there, many Jews refused to look or listen. They bought into the lie circulated by the media that it was just a few right wing emails smearing Obama. And now as Israel and America are at their worst crisis point in decades, it's clear that if anything we understated the seriousness of the problem.
Do you have to believe us? No you don't. But let me illustrate the difference between us and them. During the height of the Obamacare debate, Time Magazine ran a piece on allegations that Ezekiel Emmanuel, Rahm's brother supported distributing medical resources based on what the person does for a living and how much he can contribute to society. The Time piece used a single sentence from one of Emanuel's articles and filled up the rest with quotes from him arguing that he had been misunderstood. I debunked the piece by quoting and linking to the full text of all of Emanuel's articles. The Time piece only linked to their own stories about him.
That isn't something special that I did. Every single blogger sitting around this table does the same thing every day. You can see their work and their sources and you can decide for yourself. You can't do that with the mainstream media. That's the difference between us and them.
You don't have to accept our point of view. All you have to do is listen. Because you can't get the full story from only one source. And that's the problem with the media today.
When Biden came to Israel, the media shouted and over again that Israel had insulted him by approving one stage of a multi-stage construction project. When Russia recently told Biden not to bother coming because he wouldn't be allowed a place in the Red Square to observe the WW2 Victory Parade. No major American paper covered it. Because it wasn't on the list of approved stories to run.
New Media covered it. I covered it. Old Media was too busy smearing Arizona.
This is why it is vital that Jews embrace New Media. I began this by talking about the New York Times. About what it prints and what it doesn't print.
This is an event held by the Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors. What was the New York Times doing while the Nazi killing machine was in full swing? The same thing it's doing now while Jews are being murdered by Islamic terrorists. While a madman in Iran is building nuclear weapons with genocide on his mind. They buried the story.
New Media is vital to Jewish survival, because it allows our interests to be heard, not just those of the same people who think the world would be a better place without Israel in it. While the Holocaust was happening, newspapers like the New York Times buried the news in small paragraphs on Page 19. 300,000 Jews killed here. 70,000 machine gunned there. Just numbers, statistics. Nothing anyone cared about.
Instead the Times warned about alarmists who would disrupt what FDR was trying to accomplish. And the Jewish leaders listened to them. And 6 million died.
There was no new media them. Just desperate ads taken out in major newspapers begging to help save the Jews of Hungary. The Jews of here and there who still had not been ground under. There is a new media today. And there are those bloggers who will stand up not just when Jews are murdered, but long before it so this time we have a fighting chance.
For me the vital issue can be summed up as, Al Taamod al Dam Re'echa. Do not stand by while your brother's blood is being spilled. I am a blogger because I refuse to stand by and watch. And if New Media means anything, it is the power to stand up and fight back against the lies and propaganda. To make sure 70,000 Jews being machine gunned to death will never be buried on Page 19 again.
If you believe this matters, then support New Media. Because real freedom of the press means being armed with the information to stand up to evil.
Spanish Language Translation at REFLEXIONES SOBRE MEDIO ORIENTE Y EL MUNDO