Gonzalo Higuaín is a striker on Argentina’s national soccer team that is headed for the World Cup in Russia next week. After Argentina canceled a scheduled warm up “friendly” match against Israel set for June 9, reporters approached Higuaín for comment. “They’ve finally done the right thing” he said, and the Guardian report put his comment in the second paragraph.
The BBC did exactly the same. Higuaín’s quote is also paragraph 2. “They’ve finally done the right thing.”
The New York Times faced a dilemma. How to downplay this stinging defeat for Israel in world opinion? The Times has a correspondent in Buenos Aires, Daniel Politi, and here’s what he did in today’s sports pages; he did not quote Higuaín or any other player for Argentina. Instead, he spent 22 paragraphs partly peddling an alternate conspiracy theory: that Argentina canceled not for political reasons, but because the team feared “violence” from Palestinians. (Some pro-Palestinian activists had been waving bloody shirts at a peaceful demonstration in Barcelona, where the Argentine team is fine-tuning before Russia.) .
The article at least pointed out that Israel’s sports minister, the notorious Miri Regev, had moved the scheduled match from Haifa to Jerusalem, a propaganda ploy meant to imply a stronger endorsement of Israel.
There was one tantalizing hint in the New York Times about the Argentine players themselves. An Argentine government official told the Times that “(Argentine president Mauricio) Macri apologized to (Benjamin) Netanyahu but said if the players don’t want to go there was nothing he could do.”
At this point, an honest reporter would have raced to interview as many of the players as possible to find out why they “don’t want to go.” Instead, the Times just took dictation from Israel’s Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who accused the team of giving in to “the pressure of the Israeli-hating inciters, whose only goal was to harm our basic right to self-defense and bring about the destruction of Israel.”
H/T Scott Roth