Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Middle East Media Sampler 6/12/2012: Media Helps Do PR For Murderers

From DG:
Extreme makeover, Assad edition 

Bill Carter and Amy Chozick of the New York Times explore the way the Assads sought to remake their image in Syria’s Assads Turned to West for Glossy P.R.:
The campaign to make the ruling family the face of a more Westernized and open Syria began in 2006, when Mrs. Assad approached the public relations firm Bell Pottinger in London.
Tim Bell, a co-founder of the firm and a former media adviser to Margaret Thatcher, said Mrs. Assad contacted the firm after several first ladies, including Laura Bush, began to hold annual meetings and conferences. 
“She wanted to be a part of that club,” he said in a phone interview.
Bell Pottinger is also the PR firm that was hired last year by the cash strapped Palestinian Authority.

As Robert Avrech wrote:
Yesterday, the New York Times ran a lengthy article about the favorable PR enjoyed in the west by the Assads. The story focuses on Barbara Walters, Joan Juliet Buck and Anna Wintour and their enabling of this murderous regime.
The article is fine by itself but it demonstrates a lack of institutional self awareness. Back in 2007, the New York Times published an op-ed by Ahmed Yousef a spokesman for Hamas. The public editor at the time, Clark Hoyt, responded to criticisms of that decision in a column, the Danger of the one sided debate.
David Shipley, one of Rosenthal’s deputies and the man in charge of the op-ed page, said: “The news of the Hamas takeover of Gaza was one of the most important stories of the week. ... This was our opportunity to hear what Hamas had to say.” 
I agree that Yousef’s piece should have run, even though his version of reality is at odds with the one I understand from news coverage. He wrote blandly, for example, about creating “an atmosphere of calm in which we resolve our differences” with Israel without mentioning that Hamas is officially dedicated to raising “the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine,” which would mean no more Israel. 
Op-ed pages should be open especially to controversial ideas, because that’s the way a free society decides what’s right and what’s wrong for itself. Good ideas prosper in the sunshine of healthy debate, and the bad ones wither. Left hidden out of sight and unchallenged, the bad ones can grow like poisonous mushrooms. 
This is nonsense. If it's important to get the views of Hamas, interview a spokesman in a news story and point out why his claims are false. Giving him op-ed space is allowing him to conduct his own PR campaign. It was as wrong of the New York Times to give Yousef the column as it was for Barbara Walters to intercede on behalf of Assad's spokeswoman.

Yousef isn't the only Arab despot or despot's representative to avail himself of the New York Times's generosity. Qaddafi of Libya was extended a number of opportunities to present his regime in the best possible light.

Max BootCAMERA and Israel Matzav have more. Further links are at memeorandum.
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