Anyone who remembers the halcyon dreams of the 1990s, of civil
society spreading the world over, heralding a new peaceful, global
millennium, must marvel at the path the young 21st century
has taken. Even those who paid attention to global Jihad before the
millennium could not imagine how vulnerable the West would prove in the
coming, wildly asymmetrical war. Those who, over the course of the last
13 years, have awakened to the ever-growing danger of Islamism and to
the astonishing inability of decent people – Muslims and non-Muslims –
to effectively oppose its aggressions, owe themselves a brief lesson in
cognitive warfare, and a second look at the nuclear bomb of that
warfare, the Muhammad al Durah affair.
All asymmetrical wars take place primarily in the cognitive arena, with the major theater of war the enemy’s public sphere. The goal is to convince your far more powerful enemy not to fight. In defensive cases, from the Maccabees to the Vietnamese, this has meant getting imperial powers to “go home.” But Islamists who want to spread Dar al Islam conduct an offensive campaign: how to get your targets to surrender on their own home ground? In this seemingly absurd venture, they have had remarkable success.
The mainstream news media – their journalists, editors, producers –
constitute a central front of this cognitive war: the “weak” but
aggressive side cannot have success without the witting or unwitting
cooperation of the enemy’s journalists. The success of global Jihad in
eliciting our media’s cooperation with their goals
Palestinians, like most belligerent armies, propagate stories about
how vicious and hateful the enemy. The primary audience for this
propaganda is the home front, which it incites to vengeance of the most
ruthless kind, even justifying killing children in cold blood.
But since 2000, and for reasons that beg for serious investigation, the Western media has almost systematically presented these “lethal narratives” as news
even though some/many of them are patently false. The dominance of such
“lethal journalism,” undermines the very fabric of the civil society
upon which, ironically, Western journalists depend for their freedom.
The nuclear bomb of current Jihadi cognitive warfare, is the Al Durah
Affair. The story first hit the airwaves on September 30, 2000, and
marks the takeover of “lethal journalism” among Western Middle-East
correspondents. According to France2’s correspondent from Jerusalem,
Charles Enderlein, Israeli troops targeted and killed a defenceless
12-year-old boy and badly wounded his father. The story spread like
wildfire, an icon of hatred. Not only did global Jihadis use it to
recruit for Jihad, but Europeans seized upon it for a substitution
theology that freed them of Holocaust guilt: the Israelis were the new
Nazis and the Palestinians the new Jews
“Human Rights” NGOs made Israel the global villain, and at Durban,
with Muhammad al Durah as the patron saint of the hatefest, this
“conference against racism” laid out a plan for the systematic
delegitimization and eventual destruction of Israel – a battle plan that
suited both “progressive forces” in the West (like Judith Butler) and
the global Jihadis whom the “Left” embraced in the war against
imperialism (like Hamas and Hizbullah).
In the saturnalia of scapegoating that followed, the press played a
critical role: it delivered Palestinian lethal narratives about Israeli
evil into the information circulation of the West as news.
Starting the with orgy of stories about the “Jenin Massacre”, Western
mainstream news inverted the reality (at Jenin the Israelis acted with
more concern for enemy civilians than any army in the history of
warfare), in favor of the invented Palestinian accusations. And with
each cycle of violence, the news media electrified both the forces of
Jihad and a global audience among whom this narrative carried immense
emotional resonance. This lethal journalism has poisoned the West, given wings to global Jihad, and literally allowed an aggressive Muslim Street to take root in Europe and other Western democracies.
A year ago, the shooting spree of French-born Jihadi Muhammad Merah
included small children at a Jewish school, to get revenge for “the Jews [who] kill our brothers and sisters in Palestine“.
This man grew up in a world that constantly reported to him the Israel
is a child-killer, both on Arabic channels and mainstream French
channels like France2. His media-inspired rampage, rather than inspiring
horror, made him a hero in his own community, and the media, a year
later, reports the affair as a psychotic breakdown with no mention of
media and religious incitement. This bodes very poorly for a nation (and
a continent) that is, now over a decade late, beginning to awaken to the threat to its civic fabric.
On April 3, 2013, the French court will decide for the fifth time in a
defamation case brought by Charles Enderlin and (state-owned) Franc2
against a private citizen, Philippe Karsenty who, in 2004, called for
the station’s director and Enderlin to resign for “having been duped and
duping the public.” In terms of legal issues it’s something of a
no-brainer: citizens in a democracy have a right to publicly criticise
public figures; journalists have a responsibility to the public with
whom they have a privileged relationship of access. The idea that a
state-owned news agency should use the courts to throttle legitimate
criticism is, democratically speaking, scandalous.
In terms of both intellectual integrity and civic sanity, there’s no question. In the last round, on January 16, Karsenty once again demolished Enderlin and France2’s news reporting before the court, and France2’s only answer was to replay the news reports that used the staged footage Karsenty had just shown to the court.
Even the judges seemed puzzled at the lack of substance (and his
technical incompetence – unlike earlier times, no one from the company
was there alongside Enderlin who couldn’t even run the videos he wanted
There are two possibilities, and if the past is any guide, they will
play out as follows. 1) The court has the integrity to find against
Enderlin’s effort to silence criticism, and the mainstream news media
will either fall silent or complain about restrictions on freedom of the
press; or 2) a politicised court will find against Karsenty, and the
press will trumpet the victory as proof that the Israelis killed
Muhammad al Durah. Decades in the future, acute observers may look back
at this moment as a turning point – for good or ill – in the battle for
democracy in the West.
Yesterday, the court, without explanation, delayed its decision until May 22.
For those arguing a politicised court which would naturally side with
state-owned and politically correct France2, this needs explanation. A
kangaroo court does not hesitate. If it hesitates, it’s because the
evidence is so “badly” in Karsenty’s favor that the judges hesitate to
defy it. Whether for fear of contradiction, or some (significant but not
decisive) remaining elements of intellectual integrity, this is good
The fact that they remain uncommitted, rather than deciding for
Karsenty’s obvious right to criticise a journalist, however, means the
weight of public honour (Enderlin’s, France2′s, the Palestinians’)
remains inappropriately significant in their calculations.
While the court’s failure to defend the values of civil society would
just add one more to a long list of such failures on the part of
Western elites to defend a legacy of freedom and human dignity it took
many centuries of great suffering and struggle to achieve, a defense of
those principles could inspire the forces needed to turn around this
great ship, now being led by its allegedly progressive elite into