Jonathan Cook: Remember the appalling New York Times headline of July 10 over a story about a family of nine Palestinians killed by an Israeli strike as they watched the World Cup on the beach: “Missile at beachside Gaza cafe finds patrons poised for World Cup.” Could you imagine a more obfuscatory and misleading headline? Like the missile made the decision about where to strike on its own. I thought that was about as low as the NYT would sink.
But I was wrong. They have come up with an even more dissembling headline, one clearly crafted to avoid highlighting the embarrassing fact that Israel slaughtered four boys yesterday who were playing football in clear view on the beach.
The first subeditor does a reasonable job: “Four young boys killed playing on a Gaza beach”. It’s not exactly clear who did the killing, but at least it gives an idea of the story.
But then, it seems, the senior editors stepped in and demanded the headline be rewritten. Not to make the headline better or clearer, mind you. Simply to strip it of any relevance to the story; in fact, to strip it of any obvious meaning at all. Here it is: “Boys Drawn to Gaza Beach, and Into Center of Mideast Strife.”
No missile strike, no blast, no deaths and injuries, no Israeli responsibility to be found in the headline. All of it whitewashed by that weasel word “strife”.
And look at the enormous burden being placed on the verb “drawn”. It leaves the reader wondering not why Israel targeted four children but why they were “drawn” to the beach in the first place. And further, why they were drawn – rather than thrust by Israel – into the “center of strife”. The clear implication is that they were pawns, lured to the beach and exploited for some nefarious end. Who could have done such luring and to what purpose?
The NYT editors are world-class wordsmiths. They understand the power of words and they are experts at using them to achieve the desired effect. There is nothing accidental about this headline. It is as precisely targeted as the Israeli missile that ended those four young boys’ lives.