Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Main Reason People Fight

For centuries, while some fight to gain more power, most fight simply to defend themselves against aggression. (See my note on the Peloponnesian wars.)

This basic fact escapes the writers of a recent Washington Post article filled with interesting speculations about the fighting tactics of Hizballah (some use the word Hezbollah).

The speculations gathered in this article draw mostly from Israeli prespectives and unknown and unnamed "Lebanese sources".

While the Washington Post article by Molly Moore and Edward Cody ("The Best Guerilla Force in the World") has a Beirut byline, according to the endnote "Moore reported from Jerusalem" while "[c]orrespondent Jonathan Finer....contributed to this report" from Gosherim.

So, is bylining the article from Beirut an editorial technique to make the sources and perspectives appear to be rooted in Lebanon? To be more honest, the editors should have probably bylined the article from Jerusalem or Gosherim.

And does the headline want to imply that the resistance is simply some rebel force in the tradition of Latin American guerillas and not in the tradition of the Vietcong army, which would give a resistance force greater credibility for its efforts? A more accurate headline would have probably been "Hizbollah's Military Discipline Frustrates IDF on Lebanese Soil."

Headlines and bylines--these are the simplest and yet most important choices made by editors, and in this case, they were made by Washington Post's Foreign Service editor. (I'm assuming there is such a person working at The Washington Post.)

These choices frame the mind of the reader because they are the first things the reader notices about an article. The editor needs to make unbiased choices. That's not too much to expect from The Washington Post which carries a great mission.

Finally, I should add that the issue of how mental frames can be used to gain an advantage has been discussed thoroughly by Stanford Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer in his Managing with Power: Politics and Influence in Organizations.

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