Mondoweiss / May 20, 2022
In the book Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell invented the “memory hole.” That’s where the U.S. mainstream media is sending further coverage of the killing of Palestinian reporter Shireen Abu Akleh.
In Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell invented “the memory hole.” Along the corridors in the Ministry of Truth were chutes leading down to enormous basement furnaces. You got rid of unpleasant documents and reports by dropping them in those chutes and promptly forgetting they ever existed.
The U.S. mainstream media is dumping news about the killing of the prominent Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh down the memory hole. Just 6 days ago, there were global headlines when Israeli police attacked mourners at her funeral after she was shot in the head while reporting in occupied Palestine.
Since then, though, The New York Times has not said a word. Nor has The Washington Post. National Public Radio has not carried an on-air report since its original biased contribution (although its website did run an intriguing Associated Press story).
Nor have the mainstream media opinion sections spoken out — about what was, after all, the killing of one of their colleagues while she was doing her job. No editorials in The New York Times. No Op-Ed pieces. Similar total silence in The Washington Post.
(The Post‘s silence is a telling contrast with its vigorous reaction after the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed ordered the murder of its columnist, Jamal Khashoggi, back in October 2018.)
The mainstream blackout is not due to a lack of “news.” The Israeli daily Haaretz reported yesterday that the Israeli military will not investigate whether its soldiers shot Shireen Abu Akleh — even though eyewitnesses and human rights groups say they did. Amos Harel’s report was mildly disappointing and he slanted it pro-military, but he at least got to part of the truth by paragraph 6:
. . . one of the reasons [to not probe] was the belief that such an investigation. . . would provoke opposition within the [Israeli military] and in Israeli society in general.”
The Associated Press article (half-hidden on the NPR website) had another potential follow-up reporting angle. Bellingcat, the Dutch-based consortium of researchers, did an extensive probe that said “its initial findings lent support to Palestinian witnesses who said she [Abu Akleh] was killed by Israeli fire.” The sophisticated Bellingcat investigation makes fascinating reading; the AP report explained that “the material came from both Palestinian and Israeli military sources, and the analysis looked at such factors as time stamps, the location of the videos, shadows and a forensic audio analysis of gunshots.”
From the mainstream American media: crickets. The cement has already hardened around their first reports, which gave equal or more room to Israel’s contention that “Palestinian gunmen” had killed Abu Akleh.
Journalists are supposed to be like firefighters — if one of you is killed in action the rest of you show up in solidarity and you don’t shut up. Apparently, though, there’s an exception — when the Israeli army (almost certainly) kills your colleague.
James North is a Mondoweiss Editor-at-Large