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Thursday, May 10, 2018

New York Times Report Card: D-

Last night just after midnight, Iranian military forces in Syria launched a missile strike on Israel using between 18 and 20 Fajr-5 rockets. 

For reference, each of these unguided rockets is about 6.5 meters long (a bit over 21 ft), has a range of approximately 75Km (about 50 miles) and can carry a warhead weighing 175 kg (385 lbs) – consisting of either high explosives (HE), fragmentation, submunitions, incendiary, smoke, or chemical payloads.

Here's a glimpse (lest anyone confuse it for a home-made Kassam):

Fajr-5-960x400

Israel's Iron Dome system intercepted 4 of the incoming Iranian rockets, and the rest reportedly fell short/wide of military bases and civilian areas in the Israeli Golan Heights, causing no damage.

Naturally (and justifiably under international law), within an hour, Israel launched air and missile strikes on a number of military targets in Syria, destroying nearly all Iranian military and strategic facilities in the country.

Equally naturally, The New York Times reported the Israeli aggression... and soft-pedaled the Iranian attack.

Let's check the highlights:

Headline:

"Israel Strikes Iranian Targets in Syria as Tensions Escalate"

Hmmm, to anyone skimming the headlines it sounds like Israel is the aggressor here, no?

First paragraph:

"JERUSALEM — Israeli fighter jets struck dozens of Iranian targets in Syria overnight, Israeli officials said, following soon after what the Israeli military described as an unsuccessful Iranian rocket attack against its forces in the Golan Heights."

Again, the Times leads with "Israel struck...".  Always Israel attacking, never 'allegedly', 'reportedly', etc.... and always 'targets... never 'military targets', and always active verbs. 

Then as a follow up, whatever Iran may or may not have done is not confirmed, it is only what "...the Israel military described"... and even then it is important to point out it was a "failed Iranian rocket attack against forces in the Golan Heights". 

According to the Times, not only did the Iranian attack not hurt anyone or anything, but it was absolutely, certainly an attack on 'Israeli forces'; a good trick for a rocket that has no guidance package, a range of 50 miles, and which was fired at an area dotted with civilian communities!

The article then spends two paragraphs trying to connect the violence to Trump's withdrawing the US from the Iran Nuclear deal.  Then, and only then does the patient reader find out more clearly what happened.  and the Times doesn't disappoint:

Fourth Paragraph:

"Overnight, Iranian forces fired around 20 rockets into the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, targeting forward positions of the Israeli military, according to an Israeli military spokesman. The rockets were all either intercepted or fell short of their mark, the spokesman said, but were nevertheless a significant escalation in Iran’s maneuvers in the Middle East. Though Israel has hit Iranian forces in Syria with a number of deadly airstrikes, Tehran has been restrained in hitting back, until now."

Yes, Iran fired rockets.  But not approximately 20 rockets... but rather "around 20 rockets".  I hate to split hairs, but the former is the accepted word when the exact number is not known in a  professional setting or a military conflict.  'Around' is more commonly used when discussing how many rocks your son may have thrown at your neighbor's dog.

Again, the certainty on the part of the Times that the Iranian rockets were "targeting forward positions of the Israeli military" despite there being no way to actually aim them with an accuracy of less than a few kilometers (at best).  

And the paragraph ends with a real whopper, even by NYTimes standards, pointing out that even in the face of punishing Israeli airstrikes, "Tehran has been restrained in hitting back, until now".  No context.  No reporting of the constant Iranian threats to wipe Israel off the map.  No mention of Israel's clearly stated red line of moving Iranian advanced weaponry into Syria.  Just 'Iranian restraint'.

I won't continue to parse the article, even though it continues to reinforce Israel as the aggressor and Iran as the mature, patient, statesman-like victim.

Overall Grade for today:  D-

Why not a big red F?  

Well, whether by accident or design, The Times used 'Jerusalem' in the dateline instead of Tel Aviv.  Also, instead of using the usual formula of 'Israeli occupied Golan Heights', they called it "Israeli-controlled Golan Heights'.

Baby steps.  If they can include a couple of accuracies in each article - even accidentally - I'm willing to give them a barely passing grade.

 

Posted by David Bogner on May 10, 2018 | Permalink

Comments

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David, RE: Grading the NYT
You are more generous than I.

Why do you read that rag? Any connection it has with the truth is tangential and fleeting.

Posted by: antares | May 11, 2018 3:30:58 AM

I also read Al Jezera. It's about getting the broad picture.

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Posted by: David Bogner | May 11, 2018 7:06:33 AM

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