NY Times Shifts Blame to Victims

This was what the original New York Times report of the Israeli military bombing to death four children while they were playing soccer on an otherwise generally empty beach.

They have since made the URL for this article redirect to a different one, that looks like this:

This is also the version NYT went with for its print edition. You can track the changes at newsdiffs.org. Notice how they replaced the direct, plain-English headline “Four Young Boys Killed Playing on Gaza Beach” with the anodyne “Boys Drawn to Gaza Beach, and Into Center of Mideast Strife.” Language about individual children being “killed,” which implies killers and victims, is replaced by vague language which eliminates any conveyance of culpability, and characterizes the affair as just an unfortunate tragedy resulting from general regional “strife.”

As Justin Raimondo remarked on Twitter, “Somewhere, George Orwell is smiling, albeit a bit sadly…”

And the lead sentence shifts from characterizing the boys’ presence on the beach as understandable to borderline-scolding them for it. The original lead notes that the area “had been considered relatively safe from the intense Israeli bombing campaign of the past nine days,” while the new one virtually wags its finger at the dead children for having “defied” their parents, who “had ordered them to stay indoors – and especially away from the beach.”

Another interesting difference is that the co-authorship byline of New York Times photographer Tyler Hicks was removed. Hicks was on the scene when the strikes occurred. He recently wrote:

I had returned to my small seaside hotel around 4 p.m. to file photos to New York when I heard a loud explosion. My driver and I rushed to the window to see what had happened. A small shack atop a sea wall at the fishing port had been struck by an Israeli bomb or missile and was burning. A young boy emerged from the smoke, running toward the adjacent beach.

I grabbed my cameras and was putting on body armor and a helmet when, about 30 seconds after the first blast, there was another. The boy I had seen running was now dead, lying motionless in the sand, along with three other boys who had been playing there. (…)

Children, maybe four feet tall, dressed in summer clothes, running from an explosion, don’t fit the description of Hamas fighters, either.

What is potentially revealing is the fact that the one NYT staffer who saw the atrocity himself, and was evidently moved by it, was the one whose name was removed. Was the removed language that was more sympathetic to the boys his contribution? Or was he given the byline solely for his photography and the first-hand information he relayed to the writer? And did he withdraw his name in disgusted protest after the whitewash changes were made? It’s hard to know, since neither he nor Margaret Sullivan, the NYT public editor, have responded to inquiries on Twitter.

What is now even more clearly known, however, is that, with state-privileged media, the first casualty of war is truth, which is often replaced, if not by lies, by the “truthiness” of murder-absolving language.

UPDATE: Of a piece with NYT’s behavior is a recent decision by a top NBC executive to order the immediate departure from Gaza of another journalist, Ayman Mohyeldin, who was also on the scene of the beach bombing (in fact, he had been playing soccer with the victims just minutes before their deaths), and who also both evinced and evoked sympathy toward the victims. Glenn Greenwald has the incredible details, including this one:

Despite this powerful first-hand reporting – or perhaps because of it – Mohyeldin was nowhere to be seen on last night’s NBC Nightly News broadcast with Brian Williams. Instead, as Media Bistro’s Jordan Chariton noted, NBC curiously had Richard Engel – who was in Tel Aviv, and had just arrived there an hour or so earlier – “report” on the attack.