Shimon Peres: Warrior of Peace

Warrior of Peace or Politics?

By Erin Gordon

The Israeli- Palestinian conflict has never been simple and neither have representations of its’ major players. In September this year one of Israel’s founding fathers, Shimon Peres died at the age of 93. Like the conflict he so tried to end, Peres was a complicated man- a backroom dealer and a self-proclaimed hawk turned dove, who held nearly every major political office in the country from Prime Minister to President. He is most famous for winning a Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 as foreign minister with Israeli Prime Minister of the time Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for their role in the Oslo Peace Accords. In his move from military hawk to peacemaker, Peres was one man to his fellow Israelis and another to the rest of the world. Thus, in the wake of his death it is interesting to see how his legacy is evaluated in the media and the ways his representation is caught up within pre-conceived notions of the conflict.

Hard news reports such as CNN’s piece ‘Shimon Peres: Israel’s Warrior for Peace Dies’ by Oren Liebermann tend to focus on the peace efforts he was most known for when reporting his death. Whereas opinion pieces such as Al Jazeera’s Shimon Peres obituary: Peacemaker or War Criminal? by Jonathan Cook, tend to evaluate Peres’ entire history and to a greater extent focus on his previous hawkish background. The various focuses are impacted by what the medium of hard news/soft news requires and the type of media organisation it originates.

Hard news tends to characterise Peres as a man of peace by defining him by or focusing on his Nobel Peace Prize. Multiple publications refer to Peres as a former President, Prime Minister or Nobel Prize winner.  Liebermann’s lead describes Peres as ‘The Israeli elder statesman who shared a Nobel Prize for forging a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians’. The UK Telegraph’s headline does a similar thing ‘Shimon Peres dies: Barack Obama leads tributes to Israel’s former President and Nobel Prize winner. Many hard news stories refer to his Nobel Prize as not only is it Peres’ most well-known achievement but the connotations around the prize as exemplary provide context and evaluation with little additional description required.

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This is related to language used to describe Peres, which positively evaluates his achievements. Liebermann describes him as “well-respected”, “veteran”, “dove” and someone “who never stopped believing in peace”. This positions the reader to view and evaluate him ethically in light of his peace efforts rather than his hawkish background.  The audience is positioned not only by the obvious evaluative language but also the dulling of language and use of euphemisms when discussing potentially contentious issues in his history. Liebermann describes the nuclear program Peres allegedly founded as ‘shrouded in secrecy’ instead of undeclared. This is common amongst articles focusing on his peace efforts. The Telegraph describes Peres’ role in obtaining arms for the new Israeli army in 1948 as ‘circumventing arms embargoes’ rather than illegal importation. What this language suggests is the authors trying to muffle audience response and distract from ethical quandaries surrounding Peres’ role in the founding of Israel.

Hard news is not about convincing an audience but rather objectively reporting the facts to give the reader a chance to make up their own minds. As no one could deny Rupert Murdoch has a leaning, it is important to note that media organisations have an agenda and a purpose, thus, when less subjective terminology is used it is subtle choices that determine what the author is directing their audience to think. Liebermann’s article and many other hard news reports on Peres rely on appeals to authority to justify and legitimise their claims of Peres as a man of peace. It is the specific choice of quotes and authorities that demonstrate the leanings and intentions of the author. Articles referred to quotes from various international leaders, people who garner a lot of respect and celebrity.

Liebermann used emotive quotes from Barack Obama and Bill Clinton:

“There are few people who we share this world with who change the course of human history, not just through their role in human events, but because they expand our moral imagination and force us to expect more of ourselves.” –Barack Obama

“He was a genius with a big heart who used his gifts to imagine a future of reconciliation not conflict, economic and social empowerment not anger and frustration.”- Bill Clinton

The choice of emotive quotes, many of which make reference to personal relationships with Peres simultaneously humanize and canonize him. They reflect an assumption that the audience are followers of these international leaders and they believe western international leaders are valid sources of authority.

Another choice of authority is leaders or politicians from the Arab world or from a different perspective to Shimon Peres. The Jerusalem Post uses a quote from Bahrain’s Foreign Minister and Liebermann uses a quote from Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary-General Saeb Erakat:

“When I met him 25 years ago, I was a young professor… I was angry about something and he looked at me and said, ‘Saeb, negotiation in pain and frustration for five years is cheaper than exchanging bullets for five minutes.”

By providing quotes from different international perspectives it provides the article’s claims with a sense of legitimacy and the media organisation a sense of neutrality.

The authorities used in a news report from Al Jazeera vary greatly. The article ‘Shimon Peres, former Israeli President, dies at 93’ refers to quotes from world leaders but focuses on quotes from current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and authorities such as Diana Buttu, a former Palestinian peace negotiator and Middle East analyst Yehia Ghanem that describe Peres as a “war criminal”.

In this case they are taking the same facts and re-wording them with different authorities to lead audiences towards their view that Peres was not a man of peace but rather another hawk, without any explicitly subjective verb choices. The adjective choice, however, provides more explicit ethical evaluations that contrasts Liebermann’s through negative terms such as ‘massacre’, ‘ethnic cleansing’, ‘occupied’ and ‘undeclared nuclear program’.

The tributes from International leaders such as Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are just a distraction to the author’s implicit main claims, used to create a sense of neutrality. The comparatively lower amount of references to western leaders over Middle Eastern sources reflects the author’s intended audience of Al Jazeera which according to a study by Allied Media Corp is 96% Muslim of which 40 million viewers are from the Arab world.

Hard news reports tend to focus on once facet of Peres, whether good or bad. However, opinion pieces tend to delve more into an evaluation of the complexity of Peres’ legacy. We can see this firstly through headlines from all sides of the media spectrum from Jonathan Cook’s article for Al Jazeera ‘Shimon Peres obituary: Peacemaker or War Criminal?’ to a New York Time’s op-ed entitled ‘Not Just a Man of Peace’.

Cook characterises Peres as a political pundit through the use of appeals to precedent, ethics and consequences to both evaluate the ethics of Peres’ legacy and position his audience to question the ethics and respectability of Peres.

Cook creates that characterisation through descriptions of Peres that include: “Disciple of David Ben-Gurion”, “inculcated in the values of Labour Zionism espoused by Israel’s East European elite” and a “Beloved figure in western capitals, where he was feted as Israel’s peacemaker-in-chief”.

The language creates an imagery of Peres as a puppet to both the western world and the Zionist movement and acts as an appeal to ethics in itself, questioning the validity of Peres legacy. The author uses this language as he considers it as accepted or a given that his audience has some level of antagonism towards the Israeli government and a level of dislike or distrust to the west. The accepted position works in conjunction with Cook’s appeals to consequences.

“The testing of the first warhead in the late 1960s was probably at least as responsible for ensuring rock-solid US patronage in subsequent decades as Israel’s rapid victory against neighbouring Arab states in the Six-Day War.”

 Cook is using that assumption to claim that Israel’s relationship to the US is a consequence of Israel’s nuclear program ergo a consequence of Peres. This is an informal fallacy and post-hoc argument as there are many reasons for the US- Israeli relationship and it can’t be solely attributed to Peres.

Cook refers to some of Peres’ more positive achievements in an attempt to appear less bias and to use them in counter-argument to discredit them. While Liebermann’s article uses Peres’ Nobel Peace Prize as justification of his central claim that Peres was a champion for peace, Cook refers to the prize as more of a backhanded compliment.

“His pivotal role in realising the Oslo Accords through a back channel in the early 1990s earned him- after frantic lobbying on his own behalf– the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, alongside Israel’s prime minister of the time, Yitzhak Rabin, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.”  

Cook is making excuses for the reason Peres received the award and using an informal fallacy in the form of an ad-hominem argument to say that because Peres lobbied for the award himself he did not deserve it. He is attempting to reduce the value of the award and rid the audience of potential connotations surrounding the prize. Thus, discrediting his oppositions arguments that a Nobel Peace Prize is a valued justification for their claims.

Articles that seek to question Peres’ legacy, including Cook’s tend to focus on Peres’ past rather than his beliefs and dreams as Liebermann’s article did. Cook uses appeal to precedent by carefully framing and placing ‘facts’ of historical precedent to ensure his article seems more legitimate and grounded compared to the opposing view.

“Peres plotted with these two fading colonial powers an attack on Egypt in 1956 that triggered the Suez Crisis.”  Cook uses language such as ‘plot’ and ‘colonial’ to frame this precedent as evidence of Peres bad judgment. It also acts as an appeal to consequence stating Israel/Peres as the cause of a major international incident.

Cook uses historical incidents/issues that have significant controversy attached to them and incite strong opinions and emotions from readers. Specifically, his choice to declare Peres as a champion of settlements in the West Bank, a particularly contentious issue at the moment.

“Following the 1967 war, he championed the cause of the settlers, and used his role as defence minister in the 1970s to establish the first settlements in the northern West Bank. His slogan was ‘Settlements everywhere’.”

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Cook is using settlements to appeal to his assumed audience and convince people who might support his peace efforts but have strong opinions on settlements to question the ethics of Peres. This precedent of Peres’ old policies is framed to avoid any further context on his stance of this issue post the 1970s.

The use of historical precedent is used in many opinion pieces in place of quotes and authorities. Opinion pieces from the National, The New York Times and CNN all fail to appeal to any authorities. Cook’s article refers to selective authorities; like Liebermann he is using authorities from a different side of the argument to increase the validity of his points. In this case he is using fairly damning quotes from Roni Ben Efrat, an Israeli political analyst and editor of the website Challenge.

“His real obsession was with his own celebrity and prestige… What he lacked was political principle. There was an air about him of plotting behind everyone’s backs. He was certainly no Nelson Mandela.”

By choosing an Israeli source, particularly one that leans more to the left of the spectrum Cook is saying to his readership that this must be a legitimate argument, if even people from his own party/country are saying it. The quote is evaluating the ethics and credibility of Peres by explicitly evaluating his principles and characterising him as a political pundit and opportunist. This point encapsulates the challenge Peres faced in his political life in which he struggled to garner the same popularity at home as he had overseas. Using an Israeli source as an authority against the typical characterisation of Peres demonstrates the complexity of his legacy and representation in the media.

When Efrat states “He was certainly no Nelson Mandela” she is referring to Obama’s eulogy, in which he compared Peres and his humanitarian effort to that of Nelson Mandela’s. This is Cook using one authority to discredit another authority used by most of his opposition. The appeal to comparison, in the sense that Efrat believes there is no real comparison between Peres and Mandela, is an evaluation of Peres and his ethics. It is bringing to light the questionable nature of Peres’ history against the indisputable righteousness of Mandela’s legacy. Mandela is considered less of a politician and more of a human rights activist whereas this comparison characterises Peres as less of a champion of human rights and more of a backroom political dealer.

Both Cook and Liebermann’s articles provide very different perspectives on Peres and his legacy but use a few similar techniques in the argumentation in an effort to prevent an explicit view of bias. Both arguments whilst utilising precedent and authority are ultimately trying to convince and appeal to people’s ethics as is the case when talking about issues relating to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Very rarely does it come solely down to facts, it is about hawks and doves, war and peace. Peres as a founding father of the State of Israel and a leader for peace in the Middle East is destined to have his representation and his legacy’s bound by inherent notions of the conflict. He was a complex man and his characterisation is no different.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump or Dump?

Erin Gordon, z5015861 H13A, Media Analysis Assessment 3

Donald Trump’s political rise has been unprecedented. From a candidate people thought was a joke, to overcoming 16 other competitors to clinch the Republican nomination and now giving Hillary Clinton a fair challenge for the most powerful position in the world; Trump has been a great source of confusion and contention for the media. The rise of Trump has left the media asking a lot of questions about what this means for the state of democracy in the US and for both of the major political parties. The following opinion pieces provide very interesting and different takes on the Trump phenomenon, that try to convince a similar audience of two very different opinions. David Brooks’ piece in the New York Times entitled ‘No, Not Trump, Not Ever’ provides a contrasting opinion to Michael J Bond’s piece ‘Why Trump would be a good president’ published in the Seattle Times. These pieces reveal an assumption that the readers come from a more liberal way of thinking and need to be convinced of either the real danger of Trump’s influence or the benefits of it.

The New York Times as the pinnacle of liberal media allows its author to assume its reader is completely shocked and adverse to a Trump presidency and already has some form of negative feeling around him. Based on its publication in the Seattle Times, Bond assumes his audience is liberal but has the task of trying to convince them to support Trump. However, despite this knowledge Bond’s lack of factual justification towards his glowing evaluative comments of Trump suggest he is also looking for the support of popular opinion and the conservatives hidden amongst the general readership. What makes these pieces interesting for comparison is the element that both articles despite such different opinions are generally targeting the same audience and actually are expressing a very similar point: that there is a causal relationship between the failing of the American political system and the rise of Trump. The difference is how these pieces evaluate the consequences.

Brooks’ primary claim that people should not ever support Trump is set out very clearly and explicitly in the title and his final words.

“Trump himself? No, not Trump, not ever.”

Even without the explicit claim, Brooks use of evaluative language to describe Trump make it clear what his feelings are. Describing Trump as having “vast narcissism” and being “epically unprepared” are harsh terms and emulate connotations of what Brooks’ believes are the colossal consequences of a Trump presidency. Brooks’ strategy is to factually and morally justify his arguments to convince readers from both an emotional and intellectual perspective of his opinions.

These negative evaluations are part of the causal style to Brooks’ argument. Brooks’ is not claiming that it is entirely Trump’s fault that the US is in the position it is but rather democracy’s. In this regard Brooks’ shows respect to the other side’s argument through the effective pattern of statement- counterargument- concession-refutation.

“Well, some respect is in order. Trump voters are a coalition of the dispossessed. They have suffered lost jobs, lost wages, lost dreams. The American system is not working for them, so naturally they are looking for something else.”

“Moreover, many in the media, especially me, did not understand how they would express their alienation. We expected Trump to fizzle because we were not socially intermingled with his supporters and did not listen carefully enough. For me, it’s a lesson that I have to change the way I do my job if I’m going to report accurately on this country.”

The statement provides context to both arguments and allows him to effectively bring in the counterargument that is actually at the core of what both author’s are arguing. In the end referring to the opposition enhances his own argument’s legitimacy by providing what appears to be a fair, well balanced piece that also happens to manipulate the oppositions argument to prove his own point. Brooks’ concedes a point to his opponent which only makes his refutation that Trump is “perhaps the most dishonest person to run for high office in our lifetime” much more of a contrast,  and thus, harsher and more effective.

He justifies this claim in two ways: factually and morally- a representation of who the author is trying to convince and the readers’ basic assumptions. Referring to statistics released by Politico that found “more than a dozen untrue statements, or one every five minutes”, Brooks’ is appealing to authority. This reflects his assumption that his audience as liberal, educated people in comparison to the “rarely wise” Trump voters will respond and be convinced by an authority.

However, Brooks’ is writing this piece not for an international audience, but for the purpose of convincing the US reader to actively not vote for Trump. Thus, his authorities don’t come purely from statistics.

“History is a long record of men like him temporarily rising, stretching back to biblical times. Psalm 73 describes them: “Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. … They scoff, and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression. Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance.”

In using Psalms and the bible as an authoritative justification Brooks’ is providing an argument and authoritative source that perhaps a Trump supporter, to which a fair proportion have evangelical and Christian roots might respond to more effectively. But the psalm is also referencing the connection the general American population has to faith by using the authority to help appeal to ethics and morals.

“The psalmist reminds us that the proper thing to do in the face of demagogy is to go the other way” 

Herein lies one of Brooks’ main claims and recommendation that the only ethical or good Christian thing to do is to vote against Trump.

“There are certain codes that if you betray them, you suffer something much worse than a political defeat.”

A representation of the underlying assumption that regardless of our political leanings Americans and people should be ethical and moral human beings.

One of Brooks’ strongest arguments to convince readers not to vote for Trump is his lack of experience and unpreparedness to take office. This serves as another appeal to ethics and morality as who as a moral person, patriot or lover of the founding fathers could put someone so negligently unqualified in the highest office of the land.

“He insults the office Abraham Lincoln once occupied by running for it with less preparation than most of us would undertake to buy a sofa.”

The appeal to analogy provides evidence that Brooks is trying to appeal to the emotion and ethics of his readers as the trivial nature of buying a sofa in comparison to running the country is almost an affront to the patriotism assumed to be possessed by his readers. The appeal to history and the founding fathers as both authorities and ethical figures returns again “as the founders would have understood” to act as a moral compass to guide the reader towards his conclusion.

As Trump’s candidacy has become serious Brooks’ continued use of authorities and the emotional pull towards fundamental freedoms and beliefs of the American system are almost providing a constitutional plea to convince his readers that he assumes are fellow liberal minded, democracy loving Americans.

Michael J Bond’s piece ‘Why Trump would make a good president’, despite the title is actually less about the positives of Trump and more about the problems with the opposition. However, similarly to Brooks’ article both rest upon the assumption that the current political system is failing. Bond’s article tends to be more opinion than argument based upon his choices of argumentative techniques, which lend more towards analogy or precedent than any factual or authoritative justification. Bond’s choice of the dramatic and grand sweeping statements may be effective in emotionally persuading a reader of his primary claim by appealing in a different way to the same feelings of patriotism targeted by Brooks and assumed to be held by both readership. However, it is leaves the argument plagued with informal fallacies.

Bond’s first attempt to persuade readers with a different perspective to his own comes from an analogy that tries to make Trump appear the lesser of two evils against Hitler and then against Hillary Clinton. This article is a written response to another piece posted in the Seattle Times by Mike McKay entitled ‘Republicans cannot vote for Trump as ‘lesser of the evils’. Bond begins by attacking McKay’s authority to make such statements as to compare the situation of Germany in 1933 with America today.

“Hitler was what is known in the law as sui generis, a monster who occupies his own category. McKay’s deployment of Hitler for petty political gain is a grotesquely misguided insult to the memories of the 6 million Jews, Poles, gypsies, disabled, gay and all the other humans lost in the Shoah.”

By capitalizing on the emotionally charged connotations of World War II and the Holocaust, he is discrediting McKay’s argument by making it seem outrageous and offensive. It also highlights who Bond assumes his readership is. Bond assumes his readership is the liberal media and the ‘politically correct’, thus, he is capitalizing on the fact that it is assumed this group of people will be offended by the Hitler comparison, leading to his opponent’s argument being discredited.

The positioning of the Hitler comparison allows Bond to position Donald Trump as the obvious ‘good’ guy or lesser of the two evils comparatively. This comparison is actually irrelevant when discussing the policies and qualities that would make Donald Trump a good president and is used as a distraction against his other policies  that Bond knows his readership would not approve of. Thus, he also uses euphemisms such as ‘defend themselves from thugs’ rather than gun violence or temporary halt to the entry of Muslims from terror-prone regions’ rather than a ban on all Muslims to enhance the distraction and minimize any comparison.

Then comes a streak of dramatic claims that attempt to disrepute Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party in order to make Donald Trump’s candidacy seem like a positive.

“Unlike President Obama, Clinton favors war. She voted to take us to war in Iraq and to overthrow Libya’s Gaddafi.”

“The world is rapidly approaching chaos the liberal Democratic policies of Obama, U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid and their ilk created this mess, and we must reverse course right now.”

By referring to precedent with language such as “war” and “chaos” Bond is agitating an already fragile view of the political system he believes the readers hold and directing them to his primary claim that “a vote for anybody other than Trump is a vote for Clinton.” This is providing readers with an ultimatum that in reality doesn’t exist. By providing such a dramatic choice as justification for his arguments that people should vote for Trump, it is providing an excuse for the liberal or undefined reader that doesn’t like Hillary Clinton or shares the author’s assumption of the corruptness of the system to vote for Trump.

The final few paragraphs abandon any attempt at factual or authoritative justification and focus purely on appealing to popular opinion.

“Yes, Trump’s language is intemperate, often insulting, and not particularly noble. To that I say, so what? At least he is not straitjacketed by the politically correct chains that prevent our leaders from speaking the truth.”

Bond’s admittance that Trump lacks the ‘eloquence’ of other politicians is him trying to concede to a counterargument in order to present a more balanced article. However, unlike Brooks’ whose refutation to a counterargument of America’s disenfranchised consisted of facts and authoritative elements, Bond’s is just an appeal to popular opinion and the things Bond believes people think but are too afraid to say.

In reality what is more effective for Bond than his attempts to appear balanced is his ability to illuminate and create a class division amongst himself/his supporters and his opposition. When describing Trump’s opponents they are the ‘political class’, ‘self-interested’, ‘insiders’ or ‘social engineers’, all descriptions that underlie the author’s conservative values and beliefs in the failings of the American political system. Thus, the belief leads his portrayal of Trump as the ‘bold’, anti-establishment candidate. Brooks’ article also shows a sense of class distinction an ‘us against them’ mentality in the example of the political elite ‘who thinks we are the village idiot’ against the general population.  However, Bond and Brooks’ positioning of these divisions are very different.

By blaming the voter for Trump, Brooks’ is almost creating a gap between what he considers the ‘intelligent’ V the uneducated Trump supporters.

“Voters are rarely wise but are usually sensible. They understand their own problems…Many in the media, especially me, did not understand how they would express their alienation. We expected Trump to fizzle because we were not socially intermingled with his supporters and did not listen carefully enough.”

Brooks’ is positioning himself and the media through language such as ‘not socially intermingled’ as outsiders to the general population and as insiders or the ‘Ivy League, Washington DC insider’ that Bond describes. This is a reflection of the privileged values and the worldview that Brooks’ is coming from when writing his article.  This division created by Brooks’ is the exact point that Bond is making about the failings of the political system and what he is using to discredit the argument of his opposition. Bond’s statement that all politicians are self interested and elite is an over-generalization that in reality does not apply to every politician. Bond is relying on the same assumption of his readership that Brooks’ had, in which the readers are patriotic Americans and in this case rather than it be their ethical duty to save democracy by not voting for Trump, instead it is their ethical duty to vote for Trump in order to defeat the corruption of American democracy.

In writing this piece, Bond is creating an image of ultimatums and slippery slopes for America unless Trump is elected, rather than presenting Trump as the logical, better candidate based on fact or policy. He relies on distractions and using language to position his relationship with the reader in a certain manner to influence their susceptibility to his claims that the system is broken and Trump is our best way of fixing it.

Overall when comparing these two pieces that are both targeting the same or similar audience we can see that the argumentative techniques used are very much influenced upon the underlying world view or values that the author is coming from and that despite having very different end results the same underlying value that the American political system is broken can be present in both.

Links to articles:

http://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/why-trump-would-be-a-good-president/

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/18/opinion/no-not-trump-not-ever.html