The information that appears on many American news pages and news websites systematically stands up for one candidate and tarnishes the other. Same goes in Israel-
By Ari Shavit, Haaretz
Mitt Romney is no Abe Lincoln. True, he's very tall, but he is not a singular personality of historic proportions. But Romney is also no Sarah Palin. He is not an extreme right-wing Tea Partyist who wants to turn America into a religious, reactionary and unenlightened nation. Romney perpetuates the way of moderate, sane Republicans like Nelson Rockefeller, Gerald Ford and John McCain. He is an American from times past, whose achievements as governor of (liberal ) Massachusetts were quite impressive, and whose positions on America and the world are quite reasonable.
But people who receive their information from mainstream American media cannot know this. People who get their information from the establishment American media read reports over and over again, and see pictures over and over, which make Romney look ridiculous. So the boxing match now underway between Romney and Obama is taking place on a slanted floor. Very slanted. People who still believe in a fair and professional media should feel uncomfortable about this slant.
Let's be precise: There is no problem with columnists in the New York Times and the Washington Post making mincemeat out of Romney. One of our jobs as columnists is to make mincemeat out of politicians whom we view as dangerous. Neither is there a problem with major media outlets embracing and supporting President Barack Obama. The media has the right to an agenda and to promote the agenda in which it believes.
There is no doubt about it: America's leading media organs and journalists are the most impressive in the world. But information is information is information. The flow of that information must be free and fair. And so it is difficult to watch how, in the critical period of an election campaign, the information that appears on many American news pages and news websites systematically stands up for one candidate and tarnishes the other. It is difficult to watch the moderator of a fateful televised debate clearly tip the scale against one of the candidates. It is difficult to watch the president of the Federal Reserve Bank allow himself to interfere in the election campaign by implementing a dubious monetary expansion. It is difficult to watch the way decency is repeatedly sacrificed in the name of enlightenment.
One can understand the liberals feeling that a war is being waged over their homeland. I share that sentiment. One can justify the deep sense of anxiety over the return of Republican conservatism. I share that anxiety. But it hurts to see how the polarization, which has torn American society asunder, is now impairing the quality of American public discourse. It hurts to see how such discourse in America has donned a visceral and aggressive face, which resembles political discourse in Israel.
This state of affairs recalls forgotten memories in Israel. In 1996, the mainstream Israeli media completely discounted Benjamin Netanyahu and negated the possibility that he would win the elections. In 1999, the mainstream Israeli media feted Ehud Barak and almost completely ignored the aggressive bands that worked on his behalf throughout the country. In 2006 and 2009, most of the media in Israel supported Kadima and therefore did not ask tough questions of its leaders.
In all of these campaigns, the continual slants stemmed from high-minded motives: the desire to reach peace, to protect progress and to make Israel a place worth living in. But do these motives outrank the good old value of fairness? Do they justify a lack of professionalism? In the name of enlightenment, should information be filtered and slanted, and can the basic rules of democracy be eroded?
The 2013 election campaign is an opportunity for the Israeli media to learn from the American failure of 2012, and the Israeli failures of 1996, 1999,, 2006 and 2009. The time has come to show that of all places, this is the place where political boxers face off on a level floor.
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