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Friday, July 21, 2006

Disproportionate Response

Keeping to my theme from the previous post, how does the media define “Disproportionate Response”? How do they define “Proportionate Response”? They should let us know because a lot of the questions I see bandied about regarding Lebanon and Israeli actions keep asking about “Excessive Force” or “Disproportionate Response”. If they are going to ask someone this question, shouldn’t they have some idea of what those terms mean to them? If not, could not an Israeli representative or Tony Snow simply just respond “No”?

“General, do you think that the Israeli response, while certainly initially provoked, has been disproportionate?”


“Why not?”

“Because its not. What do you think qualifies as disproportionate?”

“…Well, its not me saying its disproportionate. So and so says so.”

“Okay, what do they say they think is disproportionate?”


You get the idea. The problem I am highlighting is the media's tendencyto set up a meme, or to proceed from a certain “conclusion”, and to base their coverage and questions on it. The one they seem to working from now is, "Well, Israel is really going too far here, now, aren't they? I mean, even though we know they were attacked..."

They are certainly not the only one, mind you. Various other factions, like say Hezbollah, do it for specific tactical reasons. But the press is supposed to be clarifying things, no? Getting to the truth behind the spin?

So, what IS a disproportionate response to unprovoked attacks, kidnapping and the deliberate targeting of civilians by terrorists?

I am not saying that there are no responses which are disproportionate or excessive. I am merely saying that those asking the question should first have some idea of what they think that means before asking the question.


jgr said...

Well said, Weary. Except for recently, I had abandoned TV news coverage. It's much of what you outline. I do remember sometime ago a CSPAN? interview with the then newly appointed WAPO White House reporter.

Said person whose name I never kept(a male with those dead, dead eyes of a mackerel or a killer shark) told all of us his 'Plan." He and a fellow criminal had devised a scheme to 'corner' the President whilst travelling on AF1. Given the right opportunity, they had a list of questions drawn up designed to open as much damage as they could. "They would have him," the fellow proclaimed.

DIDN'T happen because the opportunity didn't occur.

BUT, hey, that's the WAPO gameplan every day, isn't it?

Your commenting is to the point. Perhaps you have/or will consider whether the MSM has rightfully seized its power as 'gatekeeper' to American life.
The blogosphere stands as a stubborn rejection of that appropriation, I think.

Weary G said...


I think the media for a long time enjoyed the role of gatekeeper and filter for a number of years. It gave them a tremendous amoung of power, and they quite frankly got drunk on it.

They used and abused it for years, and only within recent years has it caught up with them. Now they are pissed and resentful that a) their power base has been considerably eroded and, b) they are shown everyday to be incompetent and not up to the task. They are not the bright wunderkin they led us to believe. Even of those who are bright, many tend to report on things on which they are not only not expert, but often times are shown to be clueless.

Used to be easy to be a reporter or editor, because no one could fact check you easily. Reporters got used to talking out their ass. Now it has become easy for everyday people and experts in various fields to check their work as it happens, and more importantly to broadcast it to a broader audience.

Thanks for the comments!

Daniel in Brookline said...

Good thoughts, Weary G!

You got me thinking about what, in fact, a 'proportionate response' is. (Let me point out that, sometimes, a disproportionate response is exactly what you want. But you can't really have that discussion without first understanding what a proportionate response is, as you said.)

I suppose I'd start here -- a proportionate response is one that maintains the status quo of civility, or lack thereof, and does not escalate. (I don't consider intentions here. A response can be disproportionate without intending to be. And I don't have any patience for someone launching a disproportionate response, getting the disproportionate results, and then whining "but I didn't mean it". That's small consolation to the inadvertently wounded... or dead.)

This begs an interesting question. A disproportionate response is assumed to be too big; for example, you stick your tongue out at me, I escalate by pulling out a knife. But what about too small a response? You threaten my family with bodily harm, let's say, and I stick out my tongue and say "you're such a MEANIE!". Or my country breaks several important treaties by invading another country, and your country responds by making me promise not to do it again, in an agreement on a white sheet of paper, suitable for waving around.

This sounds like a discussion worth having, no? A response that's too small, against someone uninterested in playing fair, can be at least as bad as one that's too large.

So now I have to wonder: was Israel's response to the kidnapping of her soldiers, in Gaza and Lebanon, disproportionate? And if so, was it too large... or too small?

Daniel in Brookline

Daniel in Brookline said...

I've commented on this subject a bit more on my blog as well. Sorry, I couldn't find a trackback URL for you, or I'd have linked to you that way.

Daniel in Brookline