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author biography
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is an internationally renowned environmental expert and business consultant and has extensive background in Jewish public affairs.
In the past thirty-five years he has been an international consultant specializing in business strategy. He has worked in twenty countries and his clients have included the boards of several of the world’s largest multinational companies as well as governments. Dr Gerstenfeld was a Board Member of the Israel Corporation, one of Israel’s largest investment companies, and several other Israeli public companies.
He is chairman of the Steering Committee of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA), is Co-Publisher of the Jerusalem Letter/Viewpoints and Co-Publisher of Jewish Environmental Perspectives. Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is a leading expert on Judaism and the environment. He lectures and publishes extensively on the subject, internationally and in Israel.

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Exposing Media Distortion about Israel: The Bad News Project
Filed under Social activism, Jewish diaspora, Opinion Editorials, Anti-Israel publications, Media objectivity, Jewish organisations worldwide, Anti-Israel activists, Anti-semitism alerts, Internet and blogging – on Friday, March 14, 2008 – By: Gerstenfeld, Dr. Manfred

Before reading this article you are invited to make a small experiment.
Take a piece of paper and write down everything you know about the Netherlands. Then go to the internet to the blog “Bad News from the Netherlands”
and scroll down the items on the screen. When you have done that, you can analyze how your perception of this country has changed within just a few minutes.
For years a large number of foreign media – though far from all– have been greatly distorting the news about Israel. They have many methods of doing so. One of the more obvious ways is to detail Israel’s actions in a negative way and minimize Palestinian terrorism. Hamas calls for murder in their platform; there is incitement to murder in the Palestinian Authority. But one sees little of this in the press. Another example is to blame Israel if Palestinians kill each other atrociously.
To fight such media distortion in classic ways is almost impossible. There are very competent pro-Israel media watch organizations—mainly in the United States — but they are up against formidable hurdles. It takes a journalist far less time to write a distorted article about Israel than it requires for a media watcher to check it and write a correction. And, even if someone does that, one still has to convince the media in question to publish the reaction. With so many distorted articles and TV programs, what media watchers can achieve remains limited, however praiseworthy their work is.
The Jewish people and Israel are small and up against a large number of enemies. Fighting on all fronts is thus a losing proposition. One has to concentrate attacks on specific targets, thereby hoping to discourage others from attacking Jews. Another tactic is based on non-conventional methods.
The Bad News project is such an approach. Its underlying concept is very simple: by selecting exclusively bad news about a specific country one can quickly illustrate how media distortion works, despite the fact that all the information provided is true. For those who have not done the experiment proposed at the beginning of this article, the method will be explained here briefly.
One scans the major newspapers of a country, selects only negative items and puts these on a “Bad News” website. To avoid misleading readers the website says explicitly that it contains only bad news about the country. Despite this disclosure the cumulative impact of the negative items is quite powerful, as one can see for oneself.
The first time this was stressed was when a Dutch police official attended one of my presentations on the project. Afterwards he observed “I knew about these items, but seeing them all together gives a totally different perspective. I’ll never listen to the news again in the same way as before.”
When one reads the blog “Bad News from the Netherlands” one learns that Dutch soldiers in the NATO forces have killed many tens of Afghan civilians, including women and children, but that the Dutch public opinion doesn’t care much about it; that some policemen are afraid to testify in court due to threats on their lives; and that the royal family had to sue a website of pedophiles in order to have pictures of the royal children removed from it. Furthermore, police experts recommend allowing sex in public parks and the country is a leader in pornographic movies on sex with animals. There are now over 400 such negative items on the blog.
The “Bad News from the Netherlands” blog was established in October 2007. Two days later it was followed by a similar one: “Bad News from Finland”, authored by a person I have never met. There are now 11 such blogs on England, Sweden, Norway, France, Belgium, etc. Many major media and blogs in various countries and languages have written about the Bad News “movement.” Millions of people have thus heard about it. And, even though the blog on some days gets a thousand hits, its main impact comes from the media attention it receives.
There are many other aspects to the blog. Experts from disciplines such as communication studies, psychology, political science and sociology comment on it. This for instance enables one to better understand the public diplomacy (hasbara) aspects involved. One psychologist said that after reading a number of the items about the Netherlands, he wondered how the country could function at all. He added how surprising it was that tourists did not notice that the government, justice, the police and many other institutions there do not function properly. His observations cause one to better understand what years of distorted media reports have done to Israel’s image.
One major impact of the project is that it raises great doubt about the journalism profession and its ethics. Furthermore, the curiosity it has caused has led to requests for articles and has enabled us to get interviews with media which otherwise would be closed, or accessible only with difficulty, to a pro-Israeli opinion. The following example will illustrate this:
One Dutch radio station approached me for an interview. I pointed out that during the many years I had written well documented essays on bias against Israel, they had not even once proposed an interview. Their approach now was proof of how effective the Bad News project is.
The interviewer said that the Dutch have, for many years, been uncritical of Israel. It was therefore in order now to emphasize what the Palestinian side has to say. However, they do so in a selective way. With the microphone open I said that they do not report that Palestinian society is permeated with lust and education for murder and gave several examples.
Without an interest raising item such as Bad News, the interview would not have taken place.
If one gets numerous requests for interviews, one can also experiment:
I was called by a journalist from the NRC Handelsblad, probably the most anti-Israeli so-called quality daily in the Netherlands. He said that he had heard a radio interview with me and wanted to write about the blog. Knowing the political inclination of his paper, I assumed that it would never  be published.
I thus told him that if I wanted to get an article into his paper it would probably take me two days to write it. Then, whatever its quality, the chances of it being published were close to nil. I then explained to him how effective the Bad News project is. He was calling me at his paper’s expense from the Netherlands, and the conversation did not take more than half an hour of my time, during which I could tell him in detail how his colleagues manipulated the news.
I also said that if he wrote a positive article about the blog that would be fine with me. Even if he wrote a negative article that would still create publicity and additional visitors for the blog. He got the message and, to the best of my knowledge, hasn’t published anything about our interview.
What I didn’t tell him was that there is a third possibility. If he wouldn’t publish anything about our conversation, I had one more case to demonstrate how selective his paper is. I have just shown a further example of how the NRC Handelsblad’s bias works and I intend to mention it on future occasions as well.
What is most fascinating though is that Bad News is the project of an individual, not of an institution, and it requires no budget. Despite that, it has drawn tremendous attention. It seems highly likely that many more people all over the world will become aware of the project in the coming months as the Bad News movement marches on and gains even more attention and websites dealing with additional countries.  
The opinions and views articulated by the author do not necessarily reflect those of Israel e News. | Digg | Newsvine | NowPublic | reddit | Tailrank | Technorati |

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