The New Observer Media Comment Double-standards of sympathy

Double-standards of sympathy

I’m generally not posting anything on the Israel-Palestine situation. I don’t have much knowledge about it. I can see it is a terrible tragedy. I am struck by the willingness of the UK government to go along with what are, apparently, clear breaches on the Geneva conventions by Israel and I might post on that later. But for now I am just struck by this example of double-standards. It isn’t just about how the media-political class condemns one side for the massacres of children and condones them by the other (I am not saying the crimes are equal). It seems that double-standards extends to how much emotional sympathy news anchors are willing to extend to people who have lost loved ones. The first clip shows a leading BBC presenter responding to the Palestinian Ambassador to the UK mentioning that he has lost several (civilian) members of his extended family in a bombing. The presenter barely registers this and immediately says “but you can’t condone the killing of civilians in Israel can you?”

This second clip, on Times radio, shows the anchor expressing sympathy to a US relative of hostages taken by Hamas.

The presenter starts with expressing sympathy. At 1.45 “Goodness me”. At 2.47, “Goodness me, ooh”. And so on.

I understand, of course, all the arguments against my point; the first interview is a political interview, the second a human interest one. The BBC is a national broadcaster and has to be more careful whereas Times radio is just a YouTube channel. And so on.

Even so, all things considered there is some kind of a telling contrast here. (Maybe, of course no more, than one journalist is cold-hearted and the other warm-hearted).

As a final point and an example of the absurd farce which passes for journalism on the BBC consider the dialog at the end of the first clip:

Presenter: In your view is this a contained but appalling conflict between Hamas and Israel or do you think that Hamas want to widen the confrontation?

Palestinian Ambassador: It’s Israel now that wants to widen…

Presenter: (interrupting) No but Hamas might want this whole area to be destabalised.

Palestinian Ambassador: continues and asks for the madness to be stopped. (Considering he has just lost several relatives and has been told on air that that is less important that the deaths of children in Israel he is doing a pretty good job keeping his composure).

Discussion questions for media students: was the presenter asking a question or pushing an agenda? What is the role of a presenter when conducting an interview of this kind with a political representative; to give them an opportunity to express their view? To question that if it seems implausible? Or to ask a question and then talk over the interviewee to superimpose her view?