August 17, 2006
Look at any of the casualty figures coming out of Lebanon in the world's major media organizations, and you'll see something very close to this:
The Lebanese death toll, meanwhile, rose to 842 when rescue workers pulled 32 bodies from the rubble in the southern town of Srifa, target of some of Israel's heaviest bombardment in the 34-day conflict. The figure was assembled from reports by security and police officials, doctors and civil defense workers, morgue attendants as well as the military.
The Israeli toll was 157, including 118 soldiers, according to its military and government.
What is missing from this death toll (which CBS News has now quietly removed from this web report) are the casualties sustained by Hezbollah.
Many people would presumably be interested in knowing the toll the war has had on Hezbollah, as Hezbollah's actions did indeed trigger this latest war. But a recalcitrant media has steadfastly refused to provide these figures.
The Israel Defense Forces, as a standard practice, makes an effort to photograph and document each Hezbollah fighter confirmed killed, and also estimates the number of unconfirmed/unclaimed Hezbollah casualties from air strikes and artillery fire. Certainly, a media that has spent a considerable amount of their time and resources ferreting out and reporting America's secret national security programs could easily access unclassified information, some of which has been published on the IDF's own web site. Even a cursory analysis of the world's media reporting out of Lebanon reveals that in photographs, on video and radio broadcasts, and in print, Hezbollah casualties are almost never reported. So why does the media choose to underreport Hezbollah's casualties?
The answer may at least partially lie in stories of Lebanese casualties that the world media does choose to report. Story after story, photo after photo, dead and distraught Lebanese civilians clog the mediastream, building a false, grim montage of a war in which primarily Israeli soldiers and Lebanese civilians die.
This is not the whole truth of this war, but a partial truth developed through complacency and an apparent willful disregard to report the facts on the ground. Instead of seeking and publishing the entire truth, newsrooms have decided that they will publish the stories and images framed by foreign, mostly Arab Muslim reporters, even though their own cultural interests in these events are a clear and undeniable conflict of interest precluding even a pretense of unbiased reporting.
This is beyond bias, it is a reckless and willful disregard for reporting the whole truth in favor of reporting "news" that is easier to sell in a larger world media market. The casualty statistics are there, but the media sticks to the narrative they have helped create because while honest reporting is a goal, the business of the media business is business.
If it "bleeds it leads," but only if what leads sells advertising. News consumers around the world consume the news that more closely matches their perceptions of how reality should be, and stories critical of Hezbollah, stories that show their failures and deaths, don't sell in world population featuring 1.3 billion Muslims that hope for Israel's demise, or at the very best are indifferent to their fate. It is anti-Semitism by cashflow, a pocketbook jihad that buys the media's silence.
This morning I received a comment from an IDF sergeant, stating in part:
It's not classified, but I dought[sic] you'll ever see these figures in the MSM. According to our statistics we (the IDF) have scored OVER 600 CONFIRMED enemy kills (photgrphed [sic], documented, claimed and added to the killboard, I personally scored 2 kills to add to my record) and another 800-1200 unconfirmed/unclaimed kills (this estimation includes kills form airstrikes/artillary shelling). The Hizb'Allah losses aren't counted, on the most part, against the official number of Lebanease[sic] casualties.
Hezbollah has suffered 500-600+ confirmed fatalities, and estimates are that another 800-1200 are dead; perhaps half of Hezbollah's armed forces, and yet the media chooses to ignore these readily accessed figures in favor of a more marketable Lebanese civilian body count.
The media chooses to underreport Hezbollah's casualties because it is bad for business, while it unashamedly pimps civilian corpses for profit. That is just one of the ugly realities of this war that isn't considered "all the news that's fit to print."