A ‘Genius’ approach for fixing New York Times pro-Israel bias

US Politics
on 14 Comments

“Awful + NYT forgoes context,” lamented Jewish Voice for Peace on Twitter this morning, linking to Isabel Kershner’s dreadful wallow into Israel’s “polarized” psyche, following Cpl. Elor Azarya’s videotaped Mar. 24 street murder of wounded Palestinian Abed al-Fatah al-Sharif.

Like much Times coverage of Israel and Palestine, Kershner’s story entirely erases Palestinian history and views. The report treats as commonplace the growing incitement by Israel’s top politicians to kill suspects on site. It describes a “surge” in Palestinian violence with not a word about the 68 years of repression and 49 years of occupation that led to it. It reports the divided views of a Jewish society said to be torn about punishing its own war criminals, with no mention of how the Palestinian population feels about the incident–or the decades of ethnic tyranny that preceded it.

Kershner’s piece is exactly the kind of Israel-centric bias that media activists like James North and sites such as TimesWarp and The Intercept do a heroic job of deconstructing. More than once these critics have managed to get the Times itself (or at least its public editor) to acknowledge deep flaws in the paper of record’s Middle East reporting.

But what if everyone could fix these awful Times mistakes and omissions, reaching readers right on its page? Newly expanded Genius.com (which began in 2009 as Rap Genius, a site for marking up hip-hop lyrics) now “lets you add line-by-line annotations to any page on the Internet.” It’s controversial; not every publisher likes having its site marked up by potentially hostile readers–like me, in this case. I decided to give it a try.

Peter Feld annotates the Times.

Peter Feld annotates the Times.

Kershner’s second paragraph describes “the predicament facing the army as it contends with a surge in Palestinian violence.” No context? No problem! I just highlight the text and add a note:

seemingly for no reason whatsoever, if all you knew were this story

Kershner then invokes the dilemma of the Israeli army chief, who “faces a hardened public mood fanned by some politicians who say Palestinian assailants must not be left alive.” As if that’s a perfectly logical reason to let a murderer off the hook. Me:

totally normal for a democracy, right? Leading politicians demanding street executions for a particular nationality. But let’s move on.

Addicted now, I work my way through the context-starved hasbara. When Kershner quotes, uncritically, the Army chief’s reference to IDF’s “operational and moral standards,” I highlight the phrase and link to a Washington Post report describing soldiers who testified to “reducing Gaza neighborhoods to sand, firing artillery at random houses to avenge fallen comrades, shooting at innocent civilians because they were bored…” in 2014’s Operation Protective Edge.

Where Kershner’s context stops at “After six months of Palestinian stabbing, shooting and vehicular attacks against Israelis,” I add: “…and 68 years of violent repression of the Palestinian population.” When she notes that the shooting was captured on videotape, I highlight and add that the human rights volunteer who filmed the atrocity has been threatened with death by settlers.

When Kershner (one more Times reporter so immersed in the Zionist project that her son serves in the IDF) notes Israeli outrage over Azarya’s treatment and later cites a poll of Jewish Israeli opinion, I insert that Palestinians’ views are “as irrelevant to the Times as they are in Israel.”

Anyone can do what I did. Everyone should! No Genius account is needed to read comments. You can link to any Genius-enhanced page simply by putting “genius.it/” ahead of the regular link, thus:

genius.it/www.nytimes.com/2016/03/31/world/middleeast/israeli-dispute-over-solder-who-shot-palestinian.html

to read my comments to Kershner’s opus. Since the Times doesn’t (“yet”) welcome these annotations, you won’t get the full view at that link, only the highlighted portions and my comments. (And any others that may be added after this goes to press.) To see it properly, you can get a Chrome browser extension (which will place a Genius icon to the right of the address bar in your upper right browser frame) or a bookmarklet that works with other browsers. Click on that icon for a view similar to my screenshots here. To leave your own comments, you can sign up for a Genius account.

The Genius community is likely to grow, and offers a great tool to allow those of us desperate to correct the Times’s slanted reporting on Israel right where readers see it. For another example, see Mondoweiss’s fantastic markup of Netanyahu’s infamous address to Congress last year.

About Peter Feld

Peter Feld is a writer, editorial consultant, market researcher and former political strategist at Democratic polling firms. He is @peterfeld on Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram.

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14 Responses

  1. Boomer
    March 31, 2016, 7:17 pm

    Thanks. I doubt that anything short of new ownership will fix the Times, but this is an interesting effort.

    Regarding her son, I wonder if he is an Israeli citizen. If he is, then that would be normal. On the other hand, perhaps he is like Goldberg, Emanuel, et al.: Americans who want to help the IDF in some capacity instead of the U.S. military. Back during the war in Vietnam, when we had the draft, the list of those able-bodied young men who managed to avoid it (Dick Cheney, Bill Clinton) said something about their character and priorities. Now that military service is voluntary, the choice of which nation to serve says something as well.

    • echinococcus
      March 31, 2016, 9:01 pm

      Regarding her son, I wonder if he is an Israeli citizen. If he is, then that would be normal

      There’s nothing “normal” in being an armed, murderous invader from America whose Mama plays an impartial/objective journalist like a female Schleicher.

  2. Kay24
    March 31, 2016, 10:15 pm

    If this woman was a journalist of some integrity, she would in a very thorough professional way, be more honest and write from a more neutral stance, and mention the reasons why some Palestinians must keep violently protesting being under siege, and question the fact that perhaps being under occupation and stealing lands from those occupied warrants a furious backlash and ensuing protest? Do we ever see the question “why are Palestinians reacting this way” raised by credible journalists? With this totally biased zionist media, it is ALL one sided.
    The fault always lies with those occupied. As if helpless occupied people must enjoy their plight, have their lands stolen, children killed, water stolen, have no right to resist, protest, or show their anger towards their oppressor. How unreal are these people, and why do the rest of the world keep buying this nonsense?

  3. Rafi
    April 1, 2016, 12:38 am

    when they will genius.it mondoweiss, it will be like bdsing bds, oh the indignation.

    i think the nyt focus, like zionism, stems from a dreamcastle judaism and a dreamcastle nyt, which never was, and never will be. the j doesnt stand for justice, its for judea, a tribe turned religiion returned to basics. and as for the paper, its just a neolib on econ and neocon on fp and ns, a bush/clinton/obama rag, still better than you here, eppes.

    if you let the west bankers a license to kill jews, israel will not abide, this isnt europe, but they need to stop these terrorists legally.

  4. RobertHenryEller
    April 1, 2016, 8:10 am

    Apparently, the offices of the New York Times are also Occupied Territory.

  5. RobertHenryEller
    April 1, 2016, 8:32 am

    If one posts a Genius annotated web article to Facebook, can one’s FB friends see the annotations as well, or do they have to get the Chrome extension or bookmarklet in order to see the annotations?

    Also, is there any indication, if one goes to some random article, that a previous reader of that article has annotated it with Genius?

    • Peter Feld
      April 1, 2016, 9:36 am

      The incomplete Genius display you see at my link is specific to NYT articles. News Genius says it is delaying displaying a full markup on NYT for the time being. For any (most?) other sites, prefixing genius.it/ before the link should fully work, even for people who don’t have the bookmarklet/Chrome extension – on Facebook too, I believe. See here for more:
      http://www.vox.com/2016/3/31/11336852/genius-annotation-controversy

      I don’t think you can tell if an article has been annotated unless you see it at a Genius link or by clicking the browser icon if you have it installed.

  6. Marlene P. Newesri
    April 1, 2016, 8:52 am

    What I find absolutely “genius” on the part of the New York Times is that they just recently sent an email to all its readers stating how “delighted” they were to offer its readers two months of digital access to Haaretz totally free! They further stated that this would “entitle NY Times readers to all the breaking news and QUALITY COMMENTARY (emphasis added) that make Haaretz the premier source for news and views on Israel and the Middle East”!

    Although I very rarely read the NY Times, I did send an email to them stating that I have been reading Haaretz for many, many years and already have a subscription. What I recommended is that the editors of the NY Times start reading Haaretz also which may give them the incentive to start writing facts as to what really goes on there. I also informed them how amazing it was that they have never had guest writers such as Gideon Levy or Amira Hass to write for their paper which perhaps is because their paper does not find their insight “fit to print” even though they have claimed Haaretz has “quality commentary.” It is true that Amira Hass wrote an opinion piece published in the NY Times in 2001, 15 years ago, entitled “Separate and Unequal on the West Bank.” The question to be asked is why such a quality commentator has never written again since that time? Obviously, because her insight is not “fit to print” and many readers would just unsubscribe to the NY Times.

    • DaBakr
      April 2, 2016, 4:21 pm

      @mpn

      a…… it is equally as common for many more conservative zionists, jewish or christian to hold the view that the nyt is extremely biased against israel and pro-palestinian as the left claims the times is nothing but hasbara.

      b…this topic of who is pro-israel/pro zionism vs. who is anti-zionist, anti-israel and pro palestinian has been going on for decades-especially at the nyt. that the author here gets a big kick out of adding his own 2cents in highlights is not surprising as the enthusiasm for nit-picking and scrutinizing ever single article having the slightest reference to the i/p conflict is notorious conduct among the most emphatic and zealous supporters of both zionism and anti-zionism. the website camera meticulously deconstructs sentences into their anti-israel components as well as exposing and forcing media outlets to retract things proven to be lies and/or errors. in other words: its a fantasy game played by hysterical israel-haters and super-zionists alike.

      d. ” …that make Haaretz the premier source for news and views on Israel and the Middle East”! “:

      “premier” ? you do realize that haaretz is one of the least popular newspapers in israel? and gideon levy and amira has are not so much hated by most israelis but felt sorry for and thought of as misanthropic eccentrics who have a need to neurotically vent their guilt riddled, self righteously outraged opinions.

      i am certain that what ever country you live in there are a few journalist/pundits who rage against the established government and the distribution of power in general. wether they are considered “premier” sources or just diligent cranks is a matter of opinion as well.

      1) ha’artz has been considered , for many years, far to the left of the nyt which is itself considered far to the left of the mainstream conservative paper , wsj. so, not sure that nyt -even in this age of dying dailies- would see any benefit to having a middle east bureau that shifts its slant more left then it already is commonly perceived. [that this subject needs to be discussed at all—the ‘slant’ newspapers, supposed to be neutral, report the facts -NOT a fully annotated explanation of the past 60yrs of background context– and keep the slant/opinion pieces to the op-ed page. but israel-haters and zionists alike persist in over-feeding this beast.

      e. while normally i do not like the times and tired of witnessing its slow slide down to mediocrity it would seem that it is detested by both zionists and anti-zionists alike for opposite ‘slants’ is a fairly good marker of neutrality.

      • just
        April 2, 2016, 7:00 pm

        Gideon Levy and Amira Hass speak the truth that most Zionists, their supporters, and Israelis don’t want to hear:

        “Israel Is Reborn Into a Monster – and No One Is Going Stop It …

        Israel is forming a new national identity. The old one was problematic too, but the new one is incorrigible. It’s not a passing fancy, it’s the zeitgeist and the ortgeist, the spirit of the place, and it is patently irreversible. Some of the cultural decline is in a failure to recognize the gravity of the situation, even by those who don’t approve of a soldier executing a helpless Palestinian. Some of the blindness lies in the paralysis that gripped those who did not scream outside the Castina military court.

        The new situation, of which the the soldier in Hebron is just one symptom, is irreversible, because there’s no one to change it. One might think it could be fixed in the future, that the mood will change when the government does. But the situation is irreparable because there’s no one to repair it, not now or in the foreseeable future. Any attempt to write an alternative, hopeful, scenario, which gives some hope, is nipped in the bud. Try it and see. There is no such script, and one cannot even be imagined.

        Who will stop the decline taking place before our unsurprised eyes? With horrific speed, it is changing the ortgeist and with it, the nation and its values. These changes will be nearly impossible to reverse. See who protested in Beit Shemesh, who the thugs were in Ma’aleh Adumim, Ramle and Castina and who wrote on Facebook that killing Arabs reflects values. This is the next generation of Israelis, the face of its future. It’s doubtful that a nation so corrupt can be brought back to the straight and narrow. A people that has lost its moral compass, even its shame, will never find them again. How would it, and why? No one even seems to be trying.

        It’s not that all Israelis have become monsters. The worst of them, those who see the executioner soldier, as a national hero are not yet a majority. Those who think “death to Arabs,” who are convinced that non-Jews shouldn’t be allowed to live here; those who know they are the Chosen People and those who are sure that sovereignty is guaranteed by divine promise; those who think the Palestinians have no rights and those who are sure the Israel Defense Forces is the most moral army in the world — are growing stronger and more numerous at a frightening rate. And no one stands up to them.

        After the orgy of 1967 came the turning point of Operation Protective Edge: In the summer of 2014, tolerance died, replaced by violence. The Zionist-religious demon genie escaped, and there’s no one to recapture it. All the social agents meant to protect society weakened or collapsed, nothing remained.The center-left politicians are paralyzed with fear at the pouncing tiger, while those on the right ride its back and kow-tow to reap momentary gains. It will throw them off too, in the end.

        The media have all but relinquished their genuine purpose. Israel doesn’t need a Ministry of Propaganda: The media perform that function, and civil society is being dragged down by the government, with the help of the media. The justice system is right on their tail. B’Tselem? Traitors. Lehava and La Familia? They’re principled. Need we say more?

        Who will stop this? Isaac Herzog? Yair Lapid? Gabi Ashkenazi? Gideon Sa’ar? Don’t make me laugh. The Supreme Court? The IDF chief of staff? The military justice system? The conference against the international boycott, divestment and sanctions movement that was sponsored by the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper? The Channel 2 television news and “Fact,” after they return from carrying out investigations commissioned by Ad Kan? Who exactly will stop it?

        There are toxic seeds which, once planted, cannot be stopped from sprouting. There are plagues that cannot be stopped from spreading. We are there. When the execution of a wounded Palestinian becomes a value, all other values and hopes disappear. A new people has been created, between the ultranationalist and religious right on one side and the apathetic majority on the other. The People of Israel lives, and will continue to do so, its country is strong and steadfast and it will apparently survive forever. But this place will become impossible and intolerable for anyone who thinks differently. No one will stop this on their behalf.”

        read more: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.712319?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

        He’s come to the US and the West over and over again and entreated Americans and the US gov’t to stop their support for this loathesome state’s practices.

        (Most folks like DaBakr marginalize and or ignore and sometimes denigrate his and Amira’s voices. ‘The World’ is listening and watching, though… Israel is NO democracy.)

  7. ritzl
    April 1, 2016, 10:43 am

    Well done, Peter Feld. I tweeted your link and it came across with annotations in list form instead of embedded (as you clearly said that Genius is not fully implemented on the NYT).

    Do you have any suggestions for tweeting Genius-annotated articles in general for people like who are in need of some hand-holding to adopt new tech?

    Looks like a great useful capability.

    • Peter Feld
      April 1, 2016, 12:40 pm

      Thank you! I’m new at it myself but I think the best way to introduce this to non-tech people is to try it for other sites than the NYT where prefixing “genius.it/” yields a full display. See the Vox link in my earlier comment. I think it’d be great for activitists to become more familiar with these tools.

      • ritzl
        April 1, 2016, 1:50 pm

        OK. Will do.

        If discussion of the veracity of an article moves to within the article, I wonder if that advantages the factual corrections over the hair-on-fire, “Glurg…Splink…You’re an anti-semite!” support of the standard narrative to folks for whom the article is likely to be their only context.

        I think it would, but not without a/the usual fight. I suspect the immediacy (and reasonableness, common sensibility, etc.) of the factual contrast would make the screamers look like exactly that. IMHO.

        Again, thanks.

  8. pabelmont
    April 1, 2016, 11:45 am

    MW: Do you demand context about the horrible situation of the Palestinian people in NYT reporting? Well, then, give some yourself.

    Context: NYT, like most of USA’s MSM, operates within “occupied territory”, occupied by a state of mind which privileges views sympathetic to the Establishment/Oligarchs/Plutocrats over and suppressing any view (or news) which takes a contrary position.

    It is not only Palestine (where the oligarch is Big-Zion a/k/a AIPAC et al.)

    Consider global warming/climate change (GWCC).

    Nowhere in USA’s MSM do you find declarations of ’emergency’ or ‘urgency’ of ‘the need for an immediate war against the causes of GWCC’. The causes being wrapped up in rampant capitalism. For them (the media) it’s just la-di-da let international (neoliberal) capitalism do its oppressive thing, though the heavens fall (or the waters rise) — indeed, though the earth perish in fire and water and drought and storm and all the other perils not merely promised to arise due to GWCC but (in small ways so far) already happening. And make no mistake: capitalism is already arranging to get rich off the steps to replace fossil-fueled electric generation with “green” electric generation.

    So, which MSM are supporting that upstart Jew, Bernie Sanders, against AIPAC and the Big-Banks and all the other “BIGs”? Are there any? No. They live within occupied territory.

    Remember “Occupy wall Street” ? Well, the reality is that politics (and NYT) are “occupied by Wall Street” (and other BIGs such as NRA and Kochs and AIPAC).

    The NYT substitutes for “the highest ideals of journalism” the sordid business of getting along to go along. with the BIGs. The Palestinians are not the only people suffering.

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