Fair and Balanced

By Molly Dischner
Sun Star Editor-in-Chief

Thanks to Fox News, the phrase “fair and balanced” is trite. But on a basic level, the concept has merit. News should show more than just one side. Stories should contain depth.

In an attempt to be fair and balanced, UAF is hosting a lecture by an academic from outside who is pro-Israel. According to an e-mail from one of the organizers, Jonathan Adelman’s presentation is supposed to balance out Alison Weir’s one-sided lecture last semester.

Weir, an advocate against a Jewish state in Israel, presented one side of the debate. Much of her information was skewed (or just false), although she claimed to have arrived at her conclusions with an outsider’s perspective on the situation. Objectivity is debatable. Even if it exists, it’s hard to believe she possesses it.

Adelman’s lecture is called “The Rise of Israel: A History of a Revolutionary State.” His talk is supposed to represent a more Israel-centric view of the situation. His credentials online include endorsement by the Jewish National Fund, American-Israeli Cooperative and other organizations. (He’s also a professor at the University of Denver.)

But the balance provided by two radicals isn’t even close to sharing the whole story. There is more to Israel than two people can share, particularly people who believe strongly in just one interpretation of the facts.

Before becoming a politician, Rep. Mike Doogan, D-Anchorage, was a columnist at the Anchorage Daily News. He once wrote that “… history is not just black and white. History is life written down, and life is too full of contradictions and detours and false turns to be captured in straight, narrow lines…”

How can two people share all of history’s contradictions involved?

UAF certainly has the best of intentions in attempting to be fair, but presenting two opposing views does little to clue students in to the realities of life in the Middle East or the conflicts between Israel and Palestine.

And it might just make for a less educated community. Selective perception is a common problem. Students (and the rest of the world) seek out information that matches their worldview. Holding a lecture to show each “side” makes it easy for Fairbanksans to continue that pattern. People can choose one person to be right, one to be wrong and ignore the contradictions and twisted lines that make up reality.

Unlike Weir, Adelman doesn’t purport to approach the situation from an objective position. His lecture will probably be informative. It should be billed as such. Marketing the lecture as an attempt at fairness plays into Fox News’ definition and does little to actually shed light on a complicated issue.

What would shed light on it? Bring the two together for a panel – and toss someone else in the mix, with a third perspective. It might be impossible to include every angle, but there could be, at least, more than one line represented at a time. Pairing Weir and Adelman’s stories would help provide students with a view of the contradictions and detours and false turns involved in learning about the region.

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2 Responses

  1. Alison Weir says:

    Thank you for writing about this important subject, even though you incorrectly characterize my information as skewed (despite the fact that I specifically point out I will only have time to provide the information NOT being reported by the media, yet do tell about suicide bombers and give statistics on BOTH populations) and you suggest it is false (where?? I make considerable effort to ensure that everything I present is accurate).

    Also, just for the record, I am not a “radical.” I am a journalist, a grandmother, an American who grew up in a proud military family, and an individual trying to live an honest, moral life.

    Still, I truly appreciate your column. it is extremely valuable that you have made an effort to learn about this issue, and that you have chosen to discuss it publicly – these are major steps forward. (Sadly, I didn’t begin to do this until I was far older than you.) Most important, you have proposed a excellent idea. I would be happy to join the kind of panel you recommend.

    I suggest that in there be four panelists altogether: that I choose another person to join me and that Mr. Adelman do the same.

    Naturally, it is essential that this be set up as a completely fair debate, with a firm, fair moderator; exactly equal times for each speaker; and the prevention of the kind of audience applause or booing characteristic of fans at a football game but not appropriate for an exploration of life-and-death issues in which, hopefully, all members of the audience are dedicated to learning the truth and creating national policies of fairness, practicality, and morality – policies that represent the values and interests of our nation and that work to create peace in the Middle East.

    I would love to return to Alaska and I would be pleased to speak on this important issue again. Even if Mr. Adelman will not agree to such a panel, I would be glad to participate in a format in which audience members raise as many questions for me as they wish, with ample time for extended discussion. You can reach me at 202.631.4060. In the meantime, I hope that you and others will explore the information on our website: http://IfAmericansKnew.org . Again, thank you for your attention to Israel-Palestine; an issue that involves all Americans, since our $7 million per day funds Israeli actions and, sadly, perpetuates the tragic violence.

  2. Shelby Surdyk says:

    Although “The Rise of Israel: A History of a Revolutionary State” was promoted as “the other side” of the Israeli-Palestinian coin, the lectures by Adelman and Weir had virtually no overlap. To compare their accuracy is pointless: they were aiming at different targets.

    Weir, who clarified that she was neither pro-, nor anti-, Israel, but simply pro-human, discussed primarily human rights abuses in the region. Some of which she personally witnessed and documented.

    Adelman discussed primarily the benefits of democracy, export-based capitalism, globalization, and liberalism. He focused his lecture on the argument that Israel was the only democratic state in the Middle East.

    While related in some ways, these are truly two different topics.

    I think that the real flaw here is to approach contemporary or historical conflicts as “Coins”; they cannot be pocketed and spent; they do not bear sides. A three person panel may be a more interesting approach to exposing the student population to information, but often panels become framed as debates, not discussions. We need real dialogues, not rhetorical monologues.

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