I thought about that last night after watching Wolf Blitzer interview Osama Hamdan. Blitzer, to his credit, pressed Hamdan on the blood libel he uttered recently in Arab media and supporters of Israel, to their credit, made sure that the clip was widely available on social media. (I featured Hamdan’s quote myself in last night’s QOTD.) Still, the frisson of shock on Twitter didn’t sit right with me. Why does it feel “newsy” that this guy would be drooling anti-semitic smears on camera? What did people expect? He works for farking Hamas. If you asked him “Who did 9/11?” or “Did the Holocaust happen?”, I’ve got a good idea of how he’d answer and we’d all be “shocked” by those answers too. But why? Who do we think we’re dealing with here?
Some people treating it as “newsy” are doing so for the benefit of others, of course. You know this is S.O.P. for Hamas and I know this is S.O.P. for Hamas but there are lots of ignorant, casual news consumers floating out there on the Internet. (If there weren’t, Vox wouldn’t exist.) Their opinions of Israel and Hamas may not be fully formed. By treating Hamdan’s blood libel as shocking, you’re nudging those people that they should find it shocking. Everyone with a strong opinion on either side is a conscript in the media war — and, per Gallup, Israel is winning, even on social media:
Keep talking, Hamdan. The other reason there’s shock value to the comments, though, has less to do with Hamas than with the conventions of American cable news. When you turn on “The Situation Room,” you expect to see James Carville and Newt Gingrich bickering over tax rates or whatever; you don’t expect to see this guy, dressed in proper western business attire and seeming for all the world like any other talking head, babbling about whether Jews put Christian blood in their matzohs or not. It’s a bizarre simulacrum of a standard cable-news interview: The guest runs through his talking points, the host tries to score a point or two with a tough question, and, oh, by the way, do you believe that Jews eat babies? All I could think of while watching it was that old Onion cable-news spoof featuring a debate between a 9/11 Truther and a member of Al Qaeda. Blitzer’s not trying to mainstream this guy — I think — but by treating him, in the interest of “equal time,” as a spokesman/spin doctor like any other, that’s the effect. That’s why the blood libel feels extra shocking; mainstream commentators don’t believe such wretched things. And like it or not, this turd is mainstream now. Does that mean blood libels are too?