By Richard Landes World Last updated: April 4th, 2013
The image that shocked the world
The image the world didn’t see: Enderlin, having already declared the boy dead, cut this final sequence from his broadcast.
Anyone who remembers the halcyon dreams of the 1990s, of civil society spreading the world over, heralding a new peaceful, global millennium, must marvel at the path the young 21st century has taken. Even those who paid attention to global Jihad before the millennium could not imagine how vulnerable the West would prove in the coming, wildly asymmetrical war. Those who, over the course of the last 13 years, have awakened to the ever-growing danger of Islamism and to the astonishing inability of decent people – Muslims and non-Muslims – to effectively oppose its aggressions, owe themselves a brief lesson in cognitive warfare, and a second look at the nuclear bomb of that warfare, the Muhammad al Durah affair.
All asymmetrical wars take place primarily in the cognitive arena, with the major theater of war the enemy’s public sphere. The goal is to convince your far more powerful enemy not to fight. In defensive cases, from the Maccabees to the Vietnamese, this has meant getting imperial powers to “go home.” But Islamists who want to spread Dar al Islamconduct an offensive campaign: how to get your targets to surrender on their own home ground? In this seemingly absurd venture, they have had remarkable success.
The mainstream news media – their journalists, editors, producers – constitute a central front of this cognitive war: the “weak” but aggressive side cannot have success without the witting or unwitting cooperation of the enemy’s journalists. The success of global Jihad in eliciting our media’s cooperation with their goals
Palestinians, like most belligerent armies, propagate stories about how vicious and hateful the enemy. The primary audience for this propaganda is the home front, which it incites to vengeance of the most ruthless kind, even justifying killing children in cold blood.
But since 2000, and for reasons that beg for serious investigation, the Western media has almost systematically presented these “lethal narratives” as news even though some/many of them are patently false. The dominance of such “lethal journalism,” undermines the very fabric of the civil society upon which, ironically, Western journalists depend for their freedom.
The nuclear bomb of current Jihadi cognitive warfare, is the Al Durah Affair. The story first hit the airwaves on September 30, 2000, and marks the takeover of “lethal journalism” among Western Middle-East correspondents. According to France2’s correspondent from Jerusalem, Charles Enderlein, Israeli troops targeted and killed a defenceless 12-year-old boy and badly wounded his father. The story spread like wildfire, an icon of hatred. Not only did global Jihadis use it to recruit for Jihad, but Europeans seized upon it for a substitution theology that freed them of Holocaust guilt: the Israelis were the new Nazis and the Palestinians the new Jews
“Human Rights” NGOs made Israel the global villain, and at Durban, with Muhammad al Durah as the patron saint of the hatefest, this “conference against racism” laid out a plan for the systematic delegitimization and eventual destruction of Israel – a battle plan that suited both “progressive forces” in the West (like Judith Butler) and the global Jihadis whom the “Left” embraced in the war against imperialism (like Hamas and Hizbullah).
In the saturnalia of scapegoating that followed, the press played a critical role: it delivered Palestinian lethal narratives about Israeli evil into the information circulation of the West as news. Starting the with orgy of stories about the “Jenin Massacre”, Western mainstream news inverted the reality (at Jenin the Israelis acted with more concern for enemy civilians than any army in the history of warfare), in favor of the invented Palestinian accusations. And with each cycle of violence, the news media electrified both the forces of Jihad and a global audience among whom this narrative carried immense emotional resonance. This lethal journalism has poisoned the West, given wings to global Jihad, and literally allowed an aggressive Muslim Street to take root in Europe and other Western democracies.
A year ago, the shooting spree of French-born Jihadi Muhammad Merah included small children at a Jewish school, to get revenge for “the Jews [who] kill our brothers and sisters in Palestine“. This man grew up in a world that constantly reported to him the Israel is a child-killer, both on Arabic channels and mainstream French channels like France2. His media-inspired rampage, rather than inspiring horror, made him a hero in his own community, and the media, a year later, reports the affair as a psychotic breakdown with no mention of media and religious incitement. This bodes very poorly for a nation (and a continent) that is, now over a decade late, beginning to awaken to the threat to its civic fabric.
On April 3, 2013, the French court will decide for the fifth time in a defamation case brought by Charles Enderlin and (state-owned) Franc2 against a private citizen, Philippe Karsenty who, in 2004, called for the station’s director and Enderlin to resign for “having been duped and duping the public.” In terms of legal issues it’s something of a no-brainer: citizens in a democracy have a right to publicly criticise public figures; journalists have a responsibility to the public with whom they have a privileged relationship of access. The idea that a state-owned news agency should use the courts to throttle legitimate criticism is, democratically speaking, scandalous.
In terms of both intellectual integrity and civic sanity, there’s no question. In the last round, on January 16, Karsenty once again demolished Enderlin and France2’s news reporting before the court, and France2’s only answer was to replay the news reports that used the staged footage Karsenty had just shown to the court. Even the judges seemed puzzled at the lack of substance (and his technical incompetence – unlike earlier times, no one from the company was there alongside Enderlin who couldn’t even run the videos he wanted to show).
There are two possibilities, and if the past is any guide, they will play out as follows. 1) The court has the integrity to find against Enderlin’s effort to silence criticism, and the mainstream news media will either fall silent or complain about restrictions on freedom of the press; or 2) a politicised court will find against Karsenty, and the press will trumpet the victory as proof that the Israelis killed Muhammad al Durah. Decades in the future, acute observers may look back at this moment as a turning point – for good or ill – in the battle for democracy in the West.
Yesterday, the court, without explanation, delayed its decision until May 22. For those arguing a politicised court which would naturally side with state-owned and politically correct France2, this needs explanation. A kangaroo court does not hesitate. If it hesitates, it’s because the evidence is so “badly” in Karsenty’s favor that the judges hesitate to defy it. Whether for fear of contradiction, or some (significant but not decisive) remaining elements of intellectual integrity, this is good news.
The fact that they remain uncommitted, rather than deciding for Karsenty’s obvious right to criticise a journalist, however, means the weight of public honour (Enderlin’s, France2′s, the Palestinians’) remains inappropriately significant in their calculations.
While the court’s failure to defend the values of civil society would just add one more to a long list of such failures on the part of Western elites to defend a legacy of freedom and human dignity it took many centuries of great suffering and struggle to achieve, a defense of those principles could inspire the forces needed to turn around this great ship, now being led by its allegedly progressive elite into civilizational suicide.Share