17 November 2023

Horror movie right there on my TV: Why I switch off the news from Gaza

| Ian Bushnell
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Israeli and Palestinian flags

The bloodshed in Israel and Gaza is pouring out of our TV screens every night. Photo: Yuliia Bukovska.

I can’t watch the nightly gorefest that the TV coverage of Gaza has become.

The sight of bloodied children every night and the roll call of testimonials about the loss of entire families doesn’t make me more informed or understanding of the conflict.

I know war is hell, dehumanising and the enemy of truth.

I know if it bleeds it leads, particularly in pictures-driven television news.

I know we shouldn’t hide ourselves away from what is happening in the world, especially as journalists.

But the parade of horrors on my screen has just become voyeuristic voyages across the smoking ruins of people’s lives with little information or facts to leaven the experience, just a warning that these images may distress.

The interviews with mothers and fathers wild with grief, their dead children beside them, may well be “real human stories” but at what point do we acknowledge that this immersive journalism is unhealthy, that sitting comfortably in the armchair of a living room in Canberra watching the unspeakable night after night does nobody any good.

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I’m not the only one. Veteran UK newsman and Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins came to the same conclusion, slamming television news for descending into exploitative emotional manipulation.

“This is tabloid television, offering a ghoulish gloss on what news should be about, which is facts and their informed interpretation. Yet it is assumed that we cannot handle this, and instead are given endless vox pops with people on the ground. We need something to stir the emotions,” he wrote recently.

He admits he is feeling better for not watching the news, and I can concur.

It doesn’t mean we don’t care, or aren’t interested, but will we be better informed at the end of the bulletin?

Probably not, and I just don’t need to watch torturous close-ups of suffering to understand their pain.

There was a time when newsrooms had serious debates about showing such images, particularly for TV at that time of the day, but now it seems anything goes.

But this is not simulated Netflix violence but war in all its unforgiving brutality.

The awful thing about this conflict is that it is but the latest chapter in the interminable violence in the Holy Land, and a solution seems as far off as ever.

The nature of Hamas’s murderous and barbaric attack on Israel does set this round apart but it has only harvested an even deadlier response, and we are being asked to decide the impossible – which lives are more valuable.

Is it anti-Semitic to question the civilian death toll in Gaza?

Is it anti-Palestine to support Israel’s right to defend itself and to condemn an organisation that would expose its own people to such agony and openly want Israel’s destruction?

One of the more interesting and little-reported facts about Hamas is that one of its biggest supporters was Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, who helped keep it strong to pursue a divide-and-rule policy against the Palestinians and undermine any hope of a two-state solution.

There are those on both sides who can’t abide by any notion of peaceful coexistence.

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The danger is that while Hamas may be defeated, out of the fire will be forged a new enemy, its ranks filled by another generation of angry young men with nothing to lose.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers but I do know that I won’t find them looking at relentless pictures of death.

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Those who really want to understand what’s going on don’t watch the gory pictures, but instead just get the updates. They also research the history of the area, using varied sources to prevent one-sided bias.

Capital Retro8:10 am 14 Nov 23

Ian, are you aware that the bulk of middle-east migrants in Australia only get their news via the 50 plus free satellite services from the Muslim world they left to come to a better place?

Years ago ACMA used to monitor the content and issue warnings to some of the operators of these services due to the hate and misinformation content contained. Some of the video scenes were pretty gruesome too. This monitoring no longer happens.

Perhaps this explains why the demonstrations we are seeing are largely one sided.

Capital Retro8:03 am 14 Nov 23

“Religiously” is the operative word.

People have to realize that the bulk of migrants from the middle east get all their news from over 50 free to air satellite services in Australia. ACMA used to monitor the content and issued warnings to some of the “presenters” because of hate speech and disinformation. That no longer happens.

It now may be easier to see now why so many are on the streets demonstrating.

HiddenDragon9:14 pm 13 Nov 23

“There was a time when newsrooms had serious debates about showing such images, particularly for TV at that time of the day, but now it seems anything goes.”

It wasn’t in colour, and the extent of the footage was limited by the relatively primitive technology of the time, but nightly news reporting from Vietnam (which was still going on when the relevant Skyhooks song was released), included horrors such as these –




There are no halcyon days of yore when it comes to the reporting of war – but yes, more context about how we got here, and where it realistically might be heading, would give some broader meaning to the nightly horror show from Gaza.

The minds of leftie journalists, who see the world in simple black and white, good and evil terms, can’t deal with the complexities of Middle East history and politics. Hamas good. Genocidal war mongering Zionists bad. Oh, but wait… Hamas is a terrorist organisation. But Hamas was elected by the people of Gaza. Hamas is in conflict with the Palestinian Authority. Hamas attacked, shot, beheaded, raped, murdered and kidnapped young and old Israeli civilians, this act celebrated as a great victory. Is it still? Rockets fire off from behind the safety of a population used as human shields, while Hamas supporters call for genocide with ‘Kill the Jews’ chanting. Let’s try and blame it all on Netanyahu.

No, far easier to turn off the news and get back to sticking it up those local ACT right-wing, conservative, religious, nimby, Trojan horse, Liberal nutters and all the party baggage weighing them down. At least the morally superior ACT Greens are above reproach. Oh, but wait….
It’s hard being a leftie journalist.

Acton, I said something similar, but mine wasn’t published. Maybe it was my reference to Hamas TV, syndicated to all mainstream media. That’s the vision Ian Bushnell is referring to, but he didn’t make clear where the footage comes from (Hamas), or what the purpose is (change tide if public opinion against Israel). I too said it was gullible and emotive woke elites who seem unable to see how they’re being played.

“Gullible and emotive woke elites”. So articulate! Now I understand

You do realise that there’s control of news and propaganda from all sides, also that Netanyahu is currently on trial for corruption and was opposed by many Israelis for destroying their democracy and their security even before October 7. None of this is as simple as it is being presented by the media no matter what their biases.

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