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

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“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.

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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.:… Read more »

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… Read more »

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… Read more »

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

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… Read more »