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Mister, we could use a man like Jayson Blair again

Normally, I try to avoid the New York Times. But this story just prompted so many questions in me, I had to share.

3 Palestinians Who Spied for Israel Are Killed in Gaza
First thing I notice: the headline used the passive voice. "Are killed." The passive voice is the voice of weakness. The active voice ("Palestinians officials/militants [they're pretty much interchangeable, especially in this case] kill three prisoners") is generally preferred in journalism, especially in headlines, where you need to grab the reader's attention.
Three Palestinians convicted of collaborating with Israel were killed Monday by fellow Palestinians in attacks that began in their prison cell and concluded in a hospital's intensive care ward, Palestinian officials said.
They were convicted of collaborating with Israel? What is the precise charge? When were they convicted? What were the details of their trial - did they have an attorney to defend them? Had they been sentenced yet? What was the possible range of the sentence?
The first one died after a Palestinian policeman threw a pair of grenades into a Gaza City prison cell filled with Palestinians imprisoned for spying for Israel.
One was killed by a police officer while in custody? Was the officer arrested? What was the officer's name? His rank or position? And since when are police officers armed with hand grenades? A hand grenade is a purely military weapon - it indiscriminately kills over a wide area. The only type of grenades most police use are tear gas, stun, or 'flash-bang' grenades - all generally considered non-lethal. Where did the officer get the grenade?
Two other prisoners wounded in that attack were later killed by masked gunmen who stormed into the hospital where they had been taken for treatment.
The prisoners in the hospital weren't under police guard to keep them from escaping? The hospital has no security of it's own? How did the gunmen know so quickly just who the prisoners were and where to find them?
During the past four years of violence, Palestinian militants have killed dozens of fellow Palestinians suspected of working as Israeli informants. But the attacks on Monday were particularly brazen and reflected the growing lawlessness in Palestinian areas.
"Palestinian militants" have killed dozens? I thought you said it was a Palestinian police officer who did the first killing? Or are "militant" and "police officer" synonymous in Palestine?
A little later, several masked gunmen entered the hospital and shot another wounded prisoner, Mahmoud al-Sharif, in his bed. Mr. Sharif had been convicted by a Palestinian court of assisting Israel in the killing in 1995 of his cousin, Mahmoud al-Khawaja, a leading figure in the Islamic Jihad faction.
Again, I'd very much like to know the details of this trial, conviction, and sentencing.
Hours later in the same hospital, a second wounded prisoner, Walid Hamdiya, was shot to death in the intensive care ward, according to hospital officials.
So, hours after one prisoner who was nearly killed by a police officer is shot and killed while lying in his hospital bed, gunmen come in and shoot a second? After the first shooting, why weren't the other wounded prisoners either moved or given protection?
Elsewhere in Gaza, Israeli troops shot and killed three Palestinians who were armed with rifles and explosives and were approaching the Jewish settlement of Alei Sinai on the northern edge of the territory. One of the men belonged to Islamic Jihad, and the two others were part of Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades, according to an Islamic Jihad statement.
And this is relevant how? And why are Palestinians "armed with rifles and explosives" who were "approaching (a) Jewish settlement" who belonged to Islamic Jihad and Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades NOT called "militants" or "terrorists"? Perhaps they were vacationing hunters who thought they might do a little dynamite-fishing as well.
In a separate development, Israel's Defense Ministry said plans had been approved to build 600 homes in the largest Jewish settlement, Maale Adumim, which is in the West Bank, just east of Jerusalem.

The stalled Middle East peace plan, known as the road map, calls on Israel to freeze settlement activity. In Washington, a State Department spokesman, Adam Ereli, said that Israel "has made a commitment'' to adhere to the plan and that the United States expected the Israeli government to live up to that commitment, including "not expanding settlements.'' But the Israeli government says it interprets the provision to mean that it can continue building in existing settlements.

As I recall, another key element of the Road Map was a firm commitment by the Palestinian Authority to take steps to curtail the "militants" from committing further acts of terrorism. Why not mention that fact, along with the fact that the Palestinian Authority has publicly stated that it won't be doing that, "out of fear of triggering a civil war"?

You know, I seem to recall there are certain groups that normally have a huge interest in how governments (even quasi-governments like the Palestinian Authority) treat their prisoners. Why didn't someone get a quote from Amnesty International? Or any other international human rights organizations? Did someone misplace their Rolodex?

Like Charles Johnson frequently says over on his excellent web site ? "Let's give them a state."

And as far as the Times goes - they should bring back Jayson Blair. At least then there's no pretense of accuracy or fairness.


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Comments (5)

i can't believe I just disc... (Below threshold)

i can't believe I just discovered this site! Where the hell have I been? Argh...

Well, I can't speak for Kev... (Below threshold)
Boyd:

Well, I can't speak for Kevin, our gracious host, but for my own part, welcome aboard! Kevin was responsible for my blogging (both reading and writing) addiction, so watch out!

No, passive voice is the co... (Below threshold)

No, passive voice is the conscious choice when you don't want to assign blame for an action. It's not weak writing, it's conscious moral abdication.

(Argh) Actually, Brian, I m... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

(Argh) Actually, Brian, I meant to toss that in there, too. But it also serves to weaken the whole piece and reduce the chances that anyone will read more of the article. "But we did report it, right here!"

When an idiot took over my college newspaper (where I had been an editor for over 2 years before he drove me out), he started running all critical letters to the editor under the headline "comments." It was the same idea -- he felt he had to publish them, but also at the same time he tried to minimize them as best he could.

J.

But, you know, Jay Tea, doe... (Below threshold)
-S-:

But, you know, Jay Tea, doesn't that use of the "passive voice" by the NYT underscore just who their readers are? Particularly about that issue (being reported). The Liberal media seems to be compelled to continue these little word dances inorder to satiate the expectations of who their readers are: nothing "too" assertive, nothing "too" confrontational, nothing "too" active, strive for the obfuscation of information and significant others...




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