In the ancient times before the blogosphere, when even Internet forums were still a novelty, and blogs nonexistent, one occasionally ran across mainstream media types who would hilariously claim, with a perfectly straight face, that their news reporting was “objective.” Nowadays such specimens have become a great rarity, seldom encountered outside of circus side shows. Even the lowliest of trolls are now well aware of the existence of what is referred to as the “narrative.” The narrative requires that reality be “adjusted” to conform to a particular ideological point of view. These adjustments are seldom applied in the form of blatant lies. In these days of instant Internet fact checking, it has simply become too risky. Rather, one only reports stories that conform to the narrative, perhaps after trimming them of certain “irrelevant details” and adding some “interpretation” by “experts” to make sure readers don’t miss the point. In other words, the story is massaged until, as the Germans put it, “Es passt in den Kram” (It fits in with the rest of the crap).
Sometimes events of such a shocking nature occur that even the most carefully crafted narratives must be adjusted to account for them. One such event was, of course, the demise of Communism. As one might expect, it left the narrative of the “progressive left” in a shambles. A new, somewhat ramshackle version had to be cobbled together, from such ideological flotsam and jetsam as bobbed to the surface after the Soviet Titanic slid beneath the waves, combined with some interesting new twists. One of the more amusing of these is the left’s increasingly steamy love affair with the more extreme Islamists. It seems odd on the face of it that ideologues who once posed as champions of women’s liberation and gay rights, and vehemently denounced the agenda of the Christian right, are now found in such a warm embrace with misogynistic, homophobe religious fanatics. However, Homo sapiens has never really been a rational animal. We are simply better than the other animals at using reason to satisfy our emotional needs. When it comes to emotional needs, there are those among us whose tastes run to “saving” the rest of us and making us all “happy” by stuffing the messianic world view du jour down our collective throats. These are the familiar types who love to strike heroic poses on the “moral high ground.” Marxism scratched their emotional itch admirably for many years, but has lately fallen out of fashion. When it did, it left something of a psychological vacuum in its wake. Mercifully, no brand new surefire prescription for saving humanity was waiting in the wings to take its place. Instead, radical Islamism has rushed in to fill the vacuum. When it comes to messianic world views, it is, for the time being at least, the only game in town. Incongruous successor to Marxism that it is, it still scratches that itch. The “progressive left” jumped on board. It should really come as no surprise. After all, back in the day, they managed to convince themselves that they were “saving the world” by collaborating in the mass murders of Pol Pot and Ho chi Minh, not to mention Stalin.
Artifacts of this Islamist – leftist love affair are not hard to find. When it comes to the European news media, for example, it takes the form of anti-Semitism Lite, often euphemistically referred to as “anti-Zionism.” It manifests itself in the form of obsessive, one-sided bashing of Israel for the slightest real or imagined infractions of the left’s version of “morality,” combined with a the turning of a blind eye to the far more egregious misdeeds of her enemies. For example, deliberate attempts by the Islamists to murder Israeli civilians with barrages of rockets are reported with as much emotional detachment as the next day’s weather, but grossly exaggerated accounts of atrocities in Gaza and “blood libel” fables about the harvesting of organs from Palestinian victims become the stuff of persistent propaganda campaigns without the slightest shred of proof.
The process is nicely illustrated by the manner in which the news about the recent assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai has been reported in Europe. There, as in the US, the “progressive left” tends to be over-represented in the legacy media. It is overwhelmingly the case in Germany, where no equivalent of our talk radio or influential bloggers exists to restore a semblance of balance. Consider, for example, the coverage in Der Spiegel, Germany’s leading news magazine. A story about the assassination that appeared last week began with the ominous headline, “How Israel Covered Mossad’s Trail.” The opening blurb reads, “The Israeli secret service will neither ‘confirm nor deny’ its involvement in the murder of Hamas weapons dealer Mabhouh. However, the Dubai assassin who went by the cover name Michael Bodenheimer left a trail behind him: In Cologne and in Israeli Herzliya.” The rest of the article is a collection of circumstantial evidence combined with suggestions that the crime had all the earmarks of a Mossad hit.
The “news” here is hardly that Mossad wasn’t involved in the hit. It’s the disconnect between the way Spiegel reported on this story, which happened to fit its anti-Israel narrative, and the way it reports on similar stories that don’t. Take for example, the involvement of Al Qaeda in 911. This was a story that most decidedly did not fit Spiegel’s pro-Islamist narrative at the time. It also came at an inconvenient time, as Spiegel was in the forefront of a quasi-racist German jihad against the United States that reached levels of obsessive viciousness at about the time of 911 that would scarcely be credible to Americans who can’t read German. Nevertheless, all the same circumstantial evidence was there, complete with a trail leading back to Germany. In this case, however, instead of accepting the obvious, Spiegel’s editors dug in their heels, and tried to create an alternate version of reality. They began what I referred to at the time as the “Spielchen mit den Beweisen,” or “cute little game with the proofs,” coming up with ever more contrived reasons to dismiss the increasing mountain of evidence pointing to Al Qaeda’s guilt. Even when bin Laden appeared on tape, practically jumping up and down and screaming, “We did it! We did it!” the editors refused to throw in the towel. They were nothing if not stubborn. Reality was what they said it was, and the rest of the world be damned! They pointed out that (aha, oho), the translators of the videotape had been in the employ of the evil Americans. They produced their own “translators” from the enormous pool of experts they have constantly at their beck and call, ready to “prove” the most absurd concoctions. These came up with a “corrected” translation on demand which (surprise, surprise) exonerated bin Laden. Only after a chorus of native Arab speakers in countries that could hardly be portrayed as “friends” of the United States pointed out that Spiegel’s “translators” were sucking canal water, did the editors finally give over, muttering dark comments about the “exegesis of videotapes.”
In a word, then, as far as ideologues are concerned, be they on the left or the right of the political spectrum, the “real world” is what fits the narrative. When it comes to dishing out blame, let him beware whom the ideological shoe fits.
UPDATE: It’s odd that Spiegel didn’t pick up on this. Looks like prime material for another “Spielchen mit den Beweisen” to me.