Everyone seems to be divided over Gaza — One Direction has all but lost its identity over the issue. And the media is no exception.
In a segment on The Colbert Report devoted to the conflict, Stephen Colbert lamented the current state of affairs.
“This conflict in Israel has been going on for — What is today? July 31?” He paused. “3,000 years.”
Colbert then went on to outline the accusations of a pro-Israel slant in the media, showing clips of interviewees criticizing the prevalence of Benjamin Netanyahu on American television screens.
“I never see one Palestinian being interviewed,” said Rula Jebreal, MSNBC contributor, in one clip.
Colbert dead-panned that he hasn’t noticed any pro-Israel bias in the media — and mocked CNN’s Wolf Blitzer for reporting from the “Situation Kibbutz,” rather than the “Situation Room.”
On the other hand, all images of dead bodies and destroyed buildings abound — the real anti-Israel bias, according to Colbert. After all, “We all know whoever has the most dead bodies wins.”
Colbert then tried to report on the conflict without any bias, and predictably couldn’t get any words past the censor.
Well, except the comment: “The entire situation is f***|ing BS.”
“Good for you honey!” teased Jane Fonda — her arm around my shoulder, with Sally Field listening in — during our chat as I commented on a common sexist workplace put-down, which I addressed in a  Working Woman article “Please don’t Call Me Honey.”
Academy Award-winner and Women’s Media Center co-founder Fonda (whose father Henry Fonda starred in “Young Mr. Lincoln”) and Academy Award-winner Field who starred as Mary Todd Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” were amidst the crush at the October 8 Women’s Media Awards at 583 Park Avenue as photographers were angling for shots of Gloria Steinem, Christiane Amanpour, Lily Tomlin, Gayle King, Kathleen Turner and more…
“Bless you! Bless you!” host Tomlin — veteran TV comedienne, actress and producer, remembered fondly from groundbreaking TV comedy series “Laugh-In”— greeted the 400 plus media women movers and shakers. “How many of you feel that your parents never understood you?” asked Tomlin. “My mother told me — it turned out not to be true — that ‘only tramps get their ears pierced’…’whatever makes you happy makes me happy’ [and] that ‘people in Washington wouldn’t be there if they didn’t know what they were doing.” There were hoots and hollers.
“I worry about Washington, I worry about the world…[and] I know there are bloggers here tonight and imagine you are tweeting when I am speaking. I want you to hold your applause bloggers, because I don’t want anything to interfere with your thumbs. If it were not for the Feminist movement, you female bloggers would be called blogerettes.” Tomlin interjected soberly: “It’s hard to realize that women are 51% of the population yet hold only 3% of the high powered media jobs. And I ask you, how much of that 3% is Oprah! And I wonder too if more of us are watching reality shows instead of doing reality checks.”
Pat Mitchell, president and CEO of the Paley Center for Media, presented the Women’s Media Center Pat Mitchell Lifetime Achievement Award to Teheran-born Christiane Amanpour. “Pat Mitchell was my boss [and] did a wonderful documentary about the reform movement that got me banned for five years. But, hey! That’s what it’s all about.” She proclaimed: “No matter the success individuals have, it is so important to put back as an investment into the next generations.”
Julie Burton president of the Women’s Media Center, announced that President Obama will give Gloria Steinem “who struggled for political and social equality and justice for six decades” the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The thing about “VICE” — the new HBO show by the magazine-cum-media empire of the same name — is that it’s strangely un-VICE-like. The first episode, which aired April 5, features reports on political violence in the Philippines and suicide bombing in Afghanistan. It’s shallow in a “dude this sh*t is crazy” kind of way, but it’s also very earnest. In the introductory voiceover we hear that “the world is changing… But we’ll be there uncovering the news, culture and politics.” In the words of CEO and on-screen personality Shane Smith to NPR, “We’re going to turn our cameras on something that we think is important… Because we’re part of the Fourth Estate and that’s our job.” Well, ok, but isn’t this supposed to be VICE? What about the hookers and blow?
I assume we’ll get some of that as the season continues. But it seems like VICE — which brought us productions like “The VICE Guide to Shagging Muslims” and “I Gave a Handy at Jew Camp” — is trying to signal a newfound moral seriousness. The show overflows with sympathy for people whose families have been killed in political assassinations and terrorist attacks, and it condemns leaders who use children as soldiers and suicide bombers. So far VICE’s ethics seem to be that war is bad, violence is bad, and the use of children as suicide bombers is especially bad. Agreed, obviously, but a habit of wanton offensiveness doesn’t easily accommodate the gravitas of warzone reporting. VICE wants to have it both ways, and it doesn’t work.
In a recent piece by Lizzie Widdicombe in The New Yorker, VICE founder Gavin McInnes (who is no longer with the company) described the magazine’s formula like this: “My big thing was I want you to do stupid in a smart way and smart in a stupid way. So if you’re going to Palestine, try to find a good burger joint…. Conversely, if you’re gonna do a thing on farts or poo… Be super-scientific and get all the data.” A 2010 article in The New York Times attributed the same philosophy to another VICE founder, Suroosh Alvi, and I once heard it from a friend who did a stint as a VICE intern. It’s a brilliant, cynical recipe for creating a compelling and consistent voice at the expense of any subject. And pursuing it undermines any moral pretense VICE might have.
Next time you reach for those Life & Style and In Touch magazines while in the supermarket checkout line, you might want to keep in mind the dark side to those gossip rags — and it goes beyond Tom Cruise’s defamation suit against them for claims that he abandoned his daughter Suri.
An investigation by entertainment and media news website The Wrap reveals that the publisher of these magazines, Bauer Media Group, deals in Nazi-themed material and pornography (sometimes combining the two). Among Bauer’s publications is Der Landser, a German military adventure magazine with World War II stories told through the eyes of Hitler’s armies. Not surprisingly, it is popular with skinheads and neo-Nazis. German magazine Der Spiegel has called Der Landser “a specialist journal for whitewashing the Wehrmacht.”
Bauer is a huge privately held international media empire with 600 print publications, 300 websites, 50 TV and radio stations, and billions of dollars in annual revenue. It claims to have the highest retail sales of magazines in the United States.
Standard halacha, or Jewish law, demands that Jews take their disputes to a court of Jewish law — a beit, or beth, din. It’s a hard sell in countries where Jewish courts have no power of enforcement and the secular courts seem fair. To get Jews to follow the policy in real life, rabbis have to convince them that their courts provide just and prompt resolutions to disputes. The recently produced first issue of The Journal of the Beth Din of America, published in collaboration with the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University, seems a sophisticated effort to do just that.
The journal features an article by Rabbi Yaacov Feit that gives a straightforward history of this policy. For Jews to take their disputes to any court other than a beit din is an insult to the Torah, according to the Talmud and later classical sources. Yet Feit does not ask whether it insults the Torah to study other legal systems, or to earn a living from them. Should a Jew attend law school in America, or serve as a lawyer or judge? Working as a lawyer also seems an insult to the Torah, but Feit does not consider this case. In practice, many observant Jews do earn their livelihoods in American law.
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