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The Western Press and Hezbollah

Two, three, many Nasrs.

12:00 AM, Jul 10, 2010 • By LEE SMITH
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Even after Octavia Nasr apologized for her ill-advised “tweet” over the July 4 holiday expressing her “respect” for the recently deceased Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, CNN fired its senior editor for Middle East affairs. And now bloggers and journalists are up in arms. Some are blaming the job action on “neoconservatives,” which presumably includes THE WEEKLY STANDARD’s Daniel Halper who commented on Nasr’s “tweet” here. Israel Lobby author Stephen Walt writes that CNN’s “spineless response” is “one more reason why mainstream journalism is increasingly seen as morally bankrupt.”

The Western Press and Hezbollah

Octavia Nasr

Walt and some of the others have half a point--why is Nasr being singled out for openly expressing the U.S. media’s default position on Hezbollah, Fadlallah’s one-time colleagues? For instance, does anyone doubt that the New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh “respects” the late cleric’s even more vicious rival, Hezbollah General Secretary Hassan Nasrallah, whom he interviewed in the pages of the New Yorker?

The Western press delights in rattling the bourgeois sensibilities of its audience by showing the multifaceted aspects of Hezbollah--it’s not just a militia with an appetite for slaughtering Jews, it’s also a social welfare outfit that provides educational opportunities!--and even collaborates with the Party of God by publishing doctored photographs of Israeli “war crimes.” The op-ed pages of America’s dailies are replete with articles promoting Hezbollah’s “pragmatism” and “moderation” (which also happens to be the position of the president’s counter-terrorism czar John Brennan, and a recent CENTCOM analytical exercise), while reported pieces from Lebanon pass along Party of God press releases as objective analysis. If every U.S. journalist who quoted Hezbollah mouthpiece Amal Saad Ghorayeb as a respected “scholar” was fired, the bars of East Beirut would lose 25 percent of their business.

In Beirut, it’s well understood that the U.S. press corps is at least deftly managed by Hezbollah and its pro-Syrian lapdogs, if not actively in the party’s corner. First stop for most is Michel Samaha, Lebanon’s former minister of Information, an apparatchik of the Damascus regime, who arranges interviews with Hezbollah higher-ups and other friends of the Islamic resistance. The only people who don’t understand how the game is played in Lebanon are American media consumers, because the foreign desk editors back in the U.S. surely know what’s up.

After all, if these editors were truly interested in objective reporting, heads would have rolled after last June’s Lebanese parliamentary elections, which the U.S. press almost unanimously predicted were going to be won by the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition. Curious editors from coast to coast might well have asked their Middle East correspondents and Beirut bureau chiefs how they were unable to discern what would become a victory for the opposing March 14 forces. Why did they all get it so wrong, or why weren’t they at least getting polling numbers from the other side of the ballot in what turned out to be a relative drubbing for team Hezbollah’s allies?

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