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CNN Fails Again, This Time With Yemen Reporting

Last Thursday the online version of the New York Times, reporting on the fighting in Yemen, noted that “Most of the more than 1,000 people who have died since the bombing began have been noncombatants.” (It might seem shocking that the Times would acknowledge that casualties in a war zone outside of Gaza are mostly civilians, but, not to worry, the editors got to the story and removed that line from the final version.) With so many casualties, again, mostly civilians, over the past five weeks in Yemen, someone who remembers last summer’s near constant montages from Gaza might think that that turning on CNN would yield some pretty grim images right now. Anyone who thought so, however, would be wrong.

Erin Burnett Ron Dermer
CNN’s Erin Burnett interviewing Ambassador Ron Dermer last summer

Since I saw that report in the Times, I have not seen one single photo illustrating the civilian casualties from Yemen televised on CNN in the US. As I’ve said before, I’m not a professional media watchdog, and I can’t watch CNN 24/7. I’m just one person who watches television news as often as any reasonably informed person does. So it’s possible, of course, that I missed one or two. Even if that’s true though, last summer, it was impossible to miss the images from Gaza. They were televised on CNN constantly, for weeks. Here’s a clip from last summer, in which Erin Burnett self-righteously proclaims that “the reason we are showing these pictures, because these are dead children.” I think it’s pretty indisputable that there are a number — probably a large number — of dead children right now in Yemen. CNN’s US television viewers, however, wouldn’t know it.

It’s true, of course, that the nation’s attention is rightly focused on Baltimore now. Last summer, however, CNN somehow managed to cover the Ferguson protests, which began with the August 9 shooting of Michael Brown, and Gaza at the same time. While CNN’s website did report on Friday that “Saudi airstrikes hit a hospital and medical camp in southwestern Yemen . . . killing at least 58 civilians and injuring at least 67,” the television coverage, if there was any, did not compare at all to Gaza. It’s not as though they don’t have pictures; online readers can see them here. They just don’t seem to feel that these are important enough to show on television.

Of course, it wasn’t as though CNN wasn’t able to cut away from Baltimore at all. So what did CNN cut away from Baltimore for? CNN cut away from Baltimore, not to cover civilian casualties of war in Yemen, but to cover Sunday’s protests in Tel Aviv. Because Israel, as we know, is The Most Important Story On Earth. (CNN coverage of the Tel Aviv protest, of course, neglected to mention that, unlike in Baltimore, the police officer whose actions spurred the protests was immediately suspended and is to be removed from the police force.) CNN also managed to spare a few minutes Monday morning for Peter Beinart to blame the victims of the attack on a free speech event in Texas on Sunday.

Civilians dying in Yemen, like civilians dying in Iraq or civilians dying in Syria, just don’t merit the same level of attention from CNN as civilians dying in Gaza. By featuring such images with such relentless prominence when Israel is involved, and by omitting them totally or nearly totally in other cases, CNN is adding to the misperception that Israel acts with disproportionate force, and the misperception that only Israeli wars produce widespread civilian casualties. Rather than informing its viewers, CNN is just adding to the misinformation.

About the author

Picture of Mirabelle

Mirabelle

A Zionist in exile, Mirabelle has, in past lives, been a lawyer, a skier, and a chef. Outside of Israel, her favorite place in the world is Sun Valley, Idaho.
Picture of Mirabelle

Mirabelle

A Zionist in exile, Mirabelle has, in past lives, been a lawyer, a skier, and a chef. Outside of Israel, her favorite place in the world is Sun Valley, Idaho.
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