Blair and the Rhetoric of False Equivalence
The techniques of propaganda were on full display during the joint news conference of George W. Bush and British PM Tony Blair on Friday. Blair began by saying,
‘ What is happening in the Middle East at the moment is a complete tragedy for Lebanon, for Israel and for the wider region. ‘
Note how by calling it a “tragedy,” Blair takes the onus off Israel for launching a total war on the Lebanese infrastructure and population. A hurricane is a tragedy, Mr. Prime Minister. This is a war. It is a war launched by specific persons, including especially Ehud Olmert and Gen. Halutz. It isn’t something that can be put into the passive voice.
Moreover, Blair further obscures reality by making the “tragedy” cover ‘Lebanon, Israel, and the wider region.’ 50 Israelis have died, 33 of them military. On the order of 600 Lebanese civilians have been killed, with over 400 bodies recovered. Hizbullah’s rockets have damaged some buildings, but the scale of destruction in Lebanon by far dwarfs that in Israel. The Israelis have targeted residential apartment buildings, bridges, roads, telecom towers, internet servers. They have made 750,000 Lebanese homeless, out of 3.8 million residents of Lebanon.
It isn’t a “tragedy” and its effects haven’t been the same everywhere.
Here is more of Blair:
‘ And the scale of destruction is very clear. There are innocent lives that have been lost, both Lebanese and Israeli. There are hundreds of thousands of people that have been displaced from their homes, again, both in Lebanon and in Israel. And it’s been a tremendous and terrible setback for Lebanon’s democracy. ‘
His rhetoric attempts to lump together Israel and Lebanon with regard to the “scale of destruction.” And, even if it were true that “hundreds of thousands” of Israelis have been displaced, which I doubt, the fact is that very few of them have lost a home or suffered serious wounds, compared to the thousands and thousands of Lebanese who have. There is not any equivalence, of the sort Blair pretends exists, between the suffering of the Lebanese and the suffering of the Israelis. There certainly are Israelis suffering. But their number is tiny in comparison to the Lebanese who have.
I could go on, but it is pretty clear, I think. Even the British cabinet is unhappy with Blair over his performance.