News about the news

Opinion. Fusion of news, commentary, and social media have warped public dialogue, led to outrageous statements by journalists, politicians.

Sivan Rahav Meir ,

Sivan Rahav meir
Sivan Rahav meir
צילום: עצמי

1. It's already much more than one specific headline or a particular news item. It's a general feeling that the public discourse has gone absolutely crazy. When the media and the new media become one, we are exposed to a non-stop barrage of information. And any connection between the information and the facts or details is merely coincidental. Do you need proof of what I mean? Here are a few examples:

* Last week, all the top commentators spent hours pontificating about when political commentator Amnon Abramovich realized that he was talking not to Ehud Barak, but to Barak's impersonator, Yossi Wider. This week's discussions focused on whether socialite Nicole Raidman went upstairs to the Prime Minister's private kitchen during her visit to his official residence, or maybe she was satisfied with just seeing the kitchen on the ground floor. No doubt, these questions are critically important for the future of our country. Where do these vitally important discussions come from? The web, flying around in cyberspace. However, they then migrate towards the traditional media who get hold of these items, try to put them within a framework and discuss the nonsense flying around out there in a serious manner.

* MK Micky Rosenthal called Yair Netanyahu 'Netanyahu Jugend', a reference to the Nazi youth movement, and then erased his tweet. Ron Kofman, the journalist called the group of dear Americans who made Aliya this week 'substandard merchandise' and then also erased his post after it had already been posted. Back to Nicole Raidman, who said that: "Terrorists have better living conditions than Netanyahu."

Where do all these statements come from? Why does every expression in our daily conversation automatically refer to Nazis or terrorists? There is clearly something about social media that pushes us to extremes, that causes us post our comments, without thinking through the possible ramifications, to ignore nuances and complexities of the issue at hand. Did Rosenthal, Kofman, or Raidman even take the time to reread their comments before posting them for the world to read?

* Another fascinating development since the advent of social media: Journalists have become politicians, and politicians – journalists. A large number of politicians have begun posting edited video clips on their Facebook pages. The segments are just like television reports, complete with subtitles and music. These politicians no longer need to beg journalists to report on their activities, they report on themselves. However, the changes go even further.

Think about MK Erel Margalit who does his own investigative reporting about the submarine deal with Germany and then publishes his findings. Then what about Eldad Yaniv, a politician from the Labor party who jointly conducts a journalistic investigation with Raviv Drucker. These changes have also affected us journalists. We have all become less formal, our masks have been removed. The suit and tie formal dress on screen has been exchanged for forthrightness on Twitter and Facebook. For some time now, journalists no longer report on the facts alone. On social media they now present their own commentary, agenda and personal views.

* And without us even realizing, the media has become the most important news item in the media. Examples come to mind easily: The Netanya-Mozes talks; the attacks on journalist Gilad Shalmor in Jaffa; Channel 20 which is more than a TV station, it is a non-stop news item in itself; and the debates about whether there is incitement against Guy Peleg and Or Heller.

The cream of right-wing journalists argue among themselves about how to report on Netanyahu, and the leading gossip columnists wonder about the best way to cover the injuries Shlomit Malka suffered when she fell off her electric bike. The news coverage has become the subject of the coverage itself. And we haven't even mentioned Trump and fake news and his relations with the media.

* In 2007, when Tony Blair resigned as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom he gave a farewell speech to the media and said some wonderful words that ring even more true today: "The result is a media that increasingly and to a dangerous degree is driven by 'impact'. Impact is what matters. It is all that can distinguish, can rise above the clamor, can get noticed. Impact gives competitive edge. Of course, the accuracy of a story counts. But it is secondary to impact.

It is this necessary devotion to impact that is unravelling standards, driving them down … things, people, issues, stories, are all black and white. Life's usual grey is almost entirely absent….'some good, some bad'; 'some things going right, some going wrong'. These are concepts alien to today's reporting. It's a triumph or a disaster. A problem is "a crisis". A setback is a policy "in tatters". A criticism, "a savage attack" …I do believe this relationship between public life and media is now damaged in a manner that requires repair. The damage saps the country's confidence and self-belief; it undermines its assessment of itself, its institutions; and above all, it reduces our capacity to take the right decisions, in the right spirit for our future."

2. This coming Wednesday, Rosh Chodesh Elul heralds the month in which we try to correct our ways and begin blowing the Shofar. Last week, the singer Evyatar Banai got into the spirit of the month a few days earlier. During a concert, he taught the audience a big lesson in how to be a decent person with a good moral character. On stage, Banai began his song "Thief", a song about the desire to be in the limelight, at the center of attention and at the peak of popularity.

"I always need to be the most important person in the class / all this humility is only to bring me more honor." Banai was singing about the thief, the hero of the song when he faltered, the words stopped flowing freely, he mumbled, tried to continue, but it didn't work. Then he turned to his musicians and signaled to them to stop playing. A hush descended upon the stage. Banai thought for a moment and then faced the surprised audience: "Yes, it's me and I don't remember the words!" He smiled sheepishly, scratched his beard, raised his arms upwards to the heavens and admitted to the crowd: "Yes, it is me!"

What a seemingly insignificant yet hugely significant moment! Banai was admitting: "I am a superstar, I am standing on stage with a group of musicians. You bought tickets for my show with your hard-earned money. But I am only human, and I honestly cannot remember the words. Now, let's all experience this failure, we're not going to move on, we're going to live the moment."

He then faced the audience and asked: "Can anyone help me?" Again, a seemingly insignificant yet hugely significant question. It is so difficult to ask for help, to admit that we cannot manage on our own, that we are not as great and successful as we make ourselves out to be, and that we need help. And the audience obliged, in a huge way. They sang along with him, word for word from the beginning of the song until Banai's memory returned and he was able to continue on his own. The words were so appropriate for the occasion: "When I grow up, I will be the greatest / I will prove it to you, to them, to everyone / I will climb through all the windows, the walls / until I will have a presence, the greatest presence in the world."

Both the lyrics and this exceptional performance reminded us how futile it is to steal false honor.