Yonit Levi looks worried. With a piercing look she has updated the viewers of Channel Two News that “in the last few hours, pictures of the prime minister are being distributed on the Internet sites of the extreme right, dressed in a Red Army uniform reminiscent of Stalin.” As she spoke, the heinous poster filled the screen. Later on in the evening, the Internet also carried the picture of the attorney-general wearing a keffiyah. News sites reported that the pictures had been distributed throughout the country, and that right-wing extremist Baruch Marzel was behind the action. His reasons [for taking this action] were also quoted extensively. The next day the newspapers reported that thousands of copies of the picture had been printed and distributed throughout the major cities. Marzel and his cronies were certainly grinning broadly: they had again succeeded, with barely any effort, in making the media jump and dance to the tunes of their pipe. And this was no waltz or slow dance, but trance.
What really occurred? The two pictures were publicized on the forum of one independent Internet site; one of them, the picture of Sharon in Stalin’s uniform, was taken off a short time afterwards. The pictures were not posted or distributed anywhere in the country—the police searched and didn’t find any—and no investigation was opened. In fact, the main distribution of these posters, if not the only one, was on the main media channels.
Even the offensive graffiti sprayed from time to time on the walls in city centers manage to shock the media each time all over again. The more offensive the graffiti, the glummer the faces of the reporters and broadcasters. In most cases, the news editors of Kol Yisrael don’t quote the entire slogan, so as not to spread it even more, and make do with the rubric, “derogatory slogans.” Other media are less cautious and quote every word. The anonymous people who spray the graffiti have learned how easy it is to get on the news, and each time they try to make the curses even more outrageous.
Maybe this is old hat, but Yigal Amir didn’t spray-paint, didn’t threaten and didn’t print posters. The people who spray the graffiti aren’t the members of an underground movement plotting in dark rooms to murder the prime minister. In all the cases where the police have caught suspects, it has turned out that they are bored youths who were enthralled by an extreme ideology and were overjoyed at all the media attention they received.
The amount of media attention given to the threatening graffiti has been blown out of all proportion; it doesn’t match the extent of the activity by the extreme right, and moreover, many times it even serves their purpose: to sow provocation and grab headlines. Even the extreme-right activists admit, though not for the record: the media love to exaggerate.
This doesn’t mean to say that we should ignore it; on the contrary. We should definitely report about abusive graffiti, threats and inciting posters, but we don’t have to quote them obsessively and what those who are responsible for them say, especially when “their wide-spread distribution” consists of the mere fact of quoting them.
The most prominent speakers for the extreme right, headed by Itamar Ben-Gvir and Baruch Marzel, know the media well. They know exactly how to shock it, and then how to get air time afterwards. How terrible. The media, for its part, love to be shocked all over again, time and time again.
This article was first published on issue 55 of The Seventh Eye. Read it in Hebrew here