Saturday, July 22, 2006

Confused and Amateurish Documentary with a few Interesting Snippets

When war fever strikes CNN I suppose it is probably too much to expect a documentary of top quality, but his one falls short in several ways.

First of all, there is little sense of context in terms of the origins of Hizballah (they prefer "Hezbollah"). As Ehud Barak noted in Newsweek last week, Israel "created" Hizballah. In other words, Hizballah did not exist before the occupation that began with Israel's 1982 invasion. Barak's comment implies that it might be apt for the viewer to learn more about that occupation. Was it brutal, gentle, sweet, violent? Isn't that important?


Second, the narrator adopts the rhetoric of Israeli and U.S. government spokesmen, basically referring to every act of violence by Hizballah as "terrorism". Serious Israeli analysts would be the first to concede that Hizballah and the IDF lived according to rules of the game in southern Lebanon. See Zeev Schiff for instance. Indeed, the blunder of Hizballah was to conduct the July 12 attack way outside the established rules.


Third, the video is confused about the subject. The last 20 minutes elides to Hamas and suicide bombing. It would have been interesting to ask one of the interviewed "experts" whether Hizballah's suicide attacks in the 1980s were directed at civilians? Hamas suicide attacks typically are against civilians, whereas in Hizballah's case they were not. Even the official Long Commission that investigated the bombing of the USMC barracks in 1983 referred to that attack as an "act of war" not "terrorism".


Fourth, there is no moral self-consciousness in the film. Narrator's reference to "targeted killings" is tacitly endorsed, and there is no mention at all of the innocents people who are killed in these attacks, nor the possibility that some of the intended victims perhaps did not deserve to die.

"CNN Presents" simply failed to rise above CNN's established standard of banality. I suspect the producers simply did not know any better, which is a commentary for what passes for informed discourse on "exotic" topics like Hizballah.

Full disclosure: I was invited and urged by the producers to participate in this documentary but I passed on the opportunity.


CNN.com - CNN Presents: "'CNN Presents' takes an extensive look at Hezbollah and its part in the current crisis in the Middle East. 'Inside Hezbollah' will also trace the group's history, and take an in-depth look at its methods of terror and key members of the group. "

2 comments:

Billmon said...

Sounds like the boys from Time Warner achieved what they set out to do. This idea of having purportedly "independent" third party media outlets do your propaganda for you really is brilliant.

Dr. Goebbels: Why didn't I think of that?

Montag said...

This is a problem with all documentaries. When ABC News did a Prime Time documentary on U.S. treatment of "War On Terror" prisoners they used footage from the documentary, "Afghan Massacre: Convoy of Death," about the ghastly murders of 3,000 prisoners by the Northern Alliance after the U.S. 2001 invasion. But ABC simply had a source notation in one corner of the film they borrowed--WITHOUT mentioning the actual massacre. Only if you were familiar with the subject of the original AM:COD documentary did this egregious case of sleight-of-hand "reporting" become apparent. They were willing to use the film, but not the facts that the film was meant to convey to the viewer.