Cheap Journalism in Jerusalem

White college kids calling Obama a “nigger”. That’s the highlight of a controversial video buzzing around the blogosphere.

The cont311713724v4_350x350_front1roversy isn’t over what the kids said, but where they said it. The video wasn’t shot in West Virginia, but in Jerusalem, where journalist Max Blumenthal interviewed American Jewish kids partying on the eve of Obama’s speech in Cairo.

Make no mistake. The video is embarassing. Two kids call Obama a “nigger”. One girl says she’s a poli sci major – but she doesn’t know that “Benjamin Yahoo” is the prime minister of Israel.

But watch the video, and you’ll notice a few oddities. It’s filmed in Israel, but Blumenthal interviews no Israelis. The kids are profane and belligerent, but it’s the trash talk that you find in a schoolyard basketball game. The students say they hate Obama – but one of them says he worked for the Obama campaign (77 percent of American Jews voted for him).

No, the video doesn’t say much. It’s nothing more than a bunch of drunken frat boys mugging for the camera. What’s interesting is what the video says about people like Blumenthal, for whom Israel is the root of all evil. Blumenthal writes that the video “contains some of the most shocking footage I have ever filmed,” I have to wonder what moral universe he lives in. Starving children in Darfur are shocking. Palestinians dressing up their infants in baby suicide vests are shocking. Drunken college boys using the “N” word ranks low on my horror scale.

Kids shouting racial epithets! Oh, the inhumanity! I live in the liberal part of Oregon – hardly a cauldron of racial animosity – yet hatred towards Mexicans and gays are a regular feature of the local Craigslist forum. I can’t go for a drive without being bombarded by white kids listening to rap music spewing racism, violence and misogyny. And if Max’s ears reddened from the horrible racist things those Jerusalem kids said, he should have grown up like I did in 1970s New Jersey. His ears would have melted.

In a subsequent post, Blumenthal says the video was only supposed to illustrate how affluent American Jews harden Israeli policy. Too bad he doesn’t show any evidence that the students are particularly affluent (but of course all Jews are), nor does he explain how kids lounging around bars influence anything.

What Blumenthal did is not much different than some racist Republican politician filming a political ad in the poorest, most crime-ridden black neighborhood and going “aha, you see what happens if the liberals win.'” For Blumenthal and the other Israel-haters, the Jerusalem video is their Willie Horton.

Blumenthal’s video was apparently removed from the Huffington Post. Blumenthal calls it censorship, but maybe HuffPost was smart enough to ask what any decent small-town newspaper editor should:  “Why are we running this?”

Any real journalist knows that it’s easy to find someone eager to spout something stupid. There’s no trick to that. The hard part – and what separates good journalism from tabloid sensationalism – is explaining why stupidity isn’t just humorous, but symptomatic of a more serious problem. Politicians uttering racial epithets are serious because they wield power. Men with guns uttering threats are serious because they have the means to kill. Drunken college kids threatening to kick Obama’s ass is cheap alcohol-fueled talk.

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4 Responses to Cheap Journalism in Jerusalem

  1. Brian In NYC says:

    Good post Michael, thanks.

  2. Michael Hastings says:

    Michael, your observation about Blumenthal’s shocked-ness hits on this habit the media seems to have of feigned indignation. It’s an entire pillar of journalism, the media-indignation-complex. Usually it centers around things that really aren’t that surprising at all, and certainly the alleged transgression is never as bad as the true evils, the things we should be shocked about–the daily Darfurs and Palestines that get overlooked. So we are shocked that Rush takes pills(shocking!)or a powerful guy like Spitzer uses a hooker(oh my!) or Don Imus isn’t politically correct(who would have known???)

    But are all of us savvy media folks so naive about human beings that we are truly shocked by it, or is it just a schtick?

    Anyway, enjoyed the post.

  3. thorgolucky says:

    Hear hear, Michael.

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