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December 06, 2006

The Washington Post's Levantine Lexicon

The Washington Post’s Anthony Shadid won one of journalism’s highest awards, the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in 2004, for his coverage of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and ouster of dictator Saddam Hussein. Contradictorily, his recent reporting from Lebanon reads like a competitor for the Public Relations Society of America’s Silver Anvil. The PRSA gives its Silver Anvil for “excellence in public relations�? in “the forging of public opinion ....�?

Forged opinion, alright

In by-lined articles in the December 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6 editions of The Post Shadid:

* Writes twice of Hezbollah’s “culture of resistance to Israel�? — not to its repeated anti-Israel aggression or its goal of destroying the Jewish state. Mentions “the contention of Hezbollah’s foes that it started the latest war with Israel�? as if that was in question rather than a fact;

* Writes twice of “Syria’s 29-year military presence,�? not occupation, of Lebanon and once of “Syria, long the king-maker here ....�? But he refers twice to “the 1982 Israeli invasion�? of Lebanon, not Israel’s war against the Palestine Liberation Organization in Lebanon, once to Beirut’s “southern suburbs, devastated by Israeli bombing this summer,�? not at all to Hezbollah’s thousands of rockets fired into Israel;

* Twice quotes Lebanese referring to“‘Sayyid Hasan’ ... an honorific for the Hezbollah leader�? Hasan Nasrallah. Nasrallah ally Michel Aoun is “an influential former general.�? Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, whose government Nasrallah seeks to overturn, gets no honorifics or complimentary adjectives;

* Describes Hezbollah in the same article as an “armed militia, social welfare group and nascent political party ...�? It “evolved from a shadowy organization blamed for two attacks on the U.S. Embassy and the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks here, killing 241 soldiers, into a sprawling movement that fields a crack militia, serves in parliament and delivers welfare — from education to compensation for war damages ....�? While Hezbollah has “evolved,�? its opposition includes “the right-wing Phalangist Party, that commanded the largest Christian militia in the civil war�?;

* Does not refer to Hezbollah’s designation by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization, its kidnapings and murders of Lebanese and Westerners in the 1980s and ‘90s, or its reported involvement in the bombings of the Israeli embassy and Jewish community headquarters in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1992 and 1994, respectively;

* Treads lightly over Hezbollah’s role as Iranian and Syrian anti-Israel proxy in Lebanon, whitewashing the “Party of God’s�? aggression that sparked this summer’s war with Israel. Avoids mention that the fighting appeared meant to sidetrack both a U.N. investigation into Syria’s role in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and Western pressure for sanctions against Iran for its suspected nuclear weapons program;

* Excuses Hezbollah’s “state-within-a-state�? aggrandizement, writing that “the movement has adapted,�? participating in parliamentary elections, entering the cabinet after Syria’s withdrawal and “as pressure built for its disarmament, as called for by U.N. Resolution 1559 [2004] it struck its alliance with Aoun .... Each turn can be read as defensive [emphasis added]: protecting its weapons, preventing Lebanon from growing too close to the United States, and promoting the ambitions of the Shiite community, long disenfranchised and still sometimes perceived as second class�?;

* Writes of “the fervent young men of Hezbollah and its allies�? on one side of the barricades, “soldiers in red berets toting U.S.-made M-16 rifles�? on the other; and

* In three of the five articles, gives the conclusion to pro-Hezbollah demonstrators:

“‘I’m staying until the government falls,’ he said, narrowing his eyes. ‘Dignity is more important than anything else’,�? “‘The war went for 33 days, but the protests can go on for a year,’ .... Around him, tents had multiplied ... He smiled. ‘I don’t think it will take that long,’ he said, pointing at the Serail [government headquarters]. ‘I’m hoping tomorrow they all leave’,�? and “‘We want a Lebanese government that doesn’t take its decisions from the Americans and the Zionists.’ Behind [Hussein] Ismail was another poster of Nasrallah. ‘He promised a victory, and victory is coming, just like he said.’�?

Fig leaf

Passing references to Iranian and Syrian support for Hezbollah in Shadid’s often over-long, loosely edited news features don’t change the slant shown and promoted by The Post’s tendentious word choices. For more on how such coverage misinforms readers, see Washington Post-Watch, December 2, at

Posted by ER at December 6, 2006 04:24 PM


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