Thursday, June 18, 2015

The New York Times and Their Ingenious Layout Editor

The June 18 issue of The Times featured on page A-12 an interesting layout scheme that maps out the dominant logic of how the Gray Lady operates.
Above the fold was a five column story about the fiftieth anniversary of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.  One line that caught my eye particularly was the following: 
The anniversary exhibits at the museum only hint at the conflict...  It shows Gaza as a distant, hazy mirage in a series of panoramic photographs taken from the Israeli side of the border shortly after the war in Gaza last summer.
Below the fold is a story about Holocaust education in Germany and teaching Muslim youth about the history.  Apparently they are now mulling over carting eighth graders over to Auschwitz, something that I have to admit that I find a little problematic.  Auschwitz is a tomb, a holy place that deserves respect.  When I was in eighth grade, one of the stops on the the itinerary of our field trip to Washington DC was the National Holocaust Museum.  While wandering through the exhibition, a girl walked up to me and asked me to the eighth grade social.  That's what I am bothered by, kids in that age range aren't focused on history, they are preoccupied by their bubbling adolescent hormones.  There's an age and place for learning about this issue, but I don't think that is it.  Also notable is a quote from Dr. Mouhanad Khorchide, a Palestinian professor of Islamic studies in Munster, who says the following:
If there was no Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it would be different...You notice among the students that they say 'We stand for taking about Jewish history, and the crimes that were committed, but why don't we talk about the Palestinians?  Where is the justice?'...  Anti-Semitism is the automatic label if you speak up...  We must discuss the history of Germany, but it is as important to discuss the Mideast conflict.
Also notable is the headline, TEACHING THE HOLOCAUST TO MUSLIM GERMANS, OR NOT. This is very interesting because it goes out of the way to indicate they are Muslims before Germans.  You never see anything like 'CATHOLIC GERMANS' or 'JEW SPANIARDS', it is always nationality before religion or ethnicity.  Pointing out religion before nationality is an act of intentional Other-ing, implying that somehow Muslims in Germany are disloyal or hold loyalty to Islam as a socio-political construct before the German state.
Finally, on the sidebar is the story of the arrest of Zuhair Mohammed Hassan Khalid al-Abbasi, the ringleader of the Abu Nidal Organization.  The group splintered off from the PLO in 1974 after Arafat became too cozy with Israel.  They were a militant socialist group that refused anything but direct combat.  To that extent, they took up arms and launched a campaign of violence against civilians.  Mr. Abassi is being charged in connection with the 1982 bombing of a cafe in the historically Jewish community of Marais.  Personally, it is impossible to not condemn such acts as wicked, only a fool could say otherwise, because such actions are counter-productive and useful for those that utilize such violence as Orientalist propaganda.
This sort of newspaper page is exemplary of the way that ideology functions.  The selection of stories and how they are placed on the page creates an overall message and context for the delivery of a set of ideas that represent how the power structure wants you to think.  In this case, we are dealing with a situation where the Gaza pogrom is intentionally obscured while the Holocaust is being emphasized in a fashion that fails to provide true lessons about that history.  Under the Polish Communist government, the camp was used in a fashion to promote anti-American ideology, showing photos of the Warsaw ghetto as compared to images of ghettoes in the US.  That is just a little heavy-handed and uses a grave as a gimmick in a propaganda war.  But there is something to be said of the fact that, until the 1967 war, the Nazi slaughter was used as an element emphasizing the universality of struggle against oppression.  Martin Luther King, Jr., for example, said in his great LETTER FROM A BIRMINGHAM JAIL:
We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal"...  It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers.
One would hope we one day can return to such educational efforts.

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