When someone lies, and you know they’re lying, are you complicit if you don’t speak up?
What if they’re presenting the truth in an intentionally deceptive way?
The second question is at the heart of complaints about journalistic bias, and it’s been on display, in force, with attacks against Representative Rashida Tlaib.
Tlaib, as presented by Tiff, has been attacked by President Trump and others for her comments about the Holocaust. Fox News has presented two stories on it over the past 24 hours: “It’s Sickening: Liz Cheney slams Democratic leaders for defense of Tlaib’s Holocaust remark” and “Ilhan Omar defends Rashida Tlaib, says criticism ‘designed’ to ‘silence’ Muslim voices“. They are far from alone in pressing the matter. Less prominent sites like the Washington Examiner have addressed the controversy with headlines like “Rashida Tlaib says thinking of the Holocaust provides her a ‘calming feeling,’ shockingly claims Palestinians created ‘safe haven’ for Jews“
Fox quotes Liz Cheney in one of the stories: “There is just no context in which it is okay to say that a calming feeling comes over you when you think about the Holocaust. It’s sickening.” That is the format in which all of these stories are presenting the remark, and it’s completely wrong.
An important note is that the context, provided in Tiff’s link above, is still offensive. Tlaib was NOT speaking about being relieved by the Holocaust, but rather that she was relieved that, after the Holocaust, so many Palestinians provided land to the Israelis so that they would have a safe place to flee. She then goes on to imply that these magnanimous people were subsequently abused by the Israelis who took advantage of the generosity.
“All of it was in the name of trying to create a safe haven for Jews, post-the Holocaust, post-the tragedy and the horrific persecution of Jews across the world at that time, and I love the fact that it was my ancestors that provided that, right, in many ways. But they did it in a way that took their human dignity away, right, and it was forced on them.”Rashida Tlaib, on the Skullduggery podcast
It was that implication which was perceived – I believe, absolutely correctly – as anti-Semitic. By misrepresenting her statement, the Republicans have intentionally ramped up the partisan vitriol; more importantly, they have fundamentally deceived their viewers, readers and listeners. This was done despite having a valid line of attack in Tlaib’s effort at revising history.
Tlaib’s Muslim faith should not be a factor in the attacks, but it is; some people use that as a way to present everything she says as reflexively anti-Semitic and others use it as a way to present her as an automatic victim who cannot possibly be faulted.
In truth, she can and has been reasonably accused of statements which have been anti-Semitic and hateful; this last comment was arguably bigoted. It was not, however, a statement in praise of the Holocaust, and people who frame it as such while knowing better – whether pundit, politician, or news organization – should be denounced as well.
The current efforts strongly suggest a punditry which has no regard for their followers, which purposefully presents quarter-truths while knowing that they will never be questioned.