Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: The price of disinformation

We begin today with Nicole Narea of Vox writing about the Israeli assault on the free press as its war with Hamas continues.

Since the October 7 attack by Hamas, a Palestinian militant group designated as a terrorist organization by many countries, Israel has said that it cannot guarantee journalists’ safety in Gaza and has denied them access to the region, even during the recent temporary ceasefire. The exception is those working for organizations allowed to embed with the Israel Defense Forces under certain requirements, including prior review of anything they publish. Despite Israel’s claims that it tries to avoid civilian casualties, including that of journalists, its bombardment of Gaza has proved indiscriminate…

Hamas, for its part, has also long restricted political expression and the free press, using intimidation, physical violence, and torture to do so, according to human rights organizations. Even before the war, that also had a chilling effect on journalists operating out of Gaza.

Over the fold, I continue Ms. Narea’s reporting which updates what happened to a Palestinian journalist targeted by “baseless” reporting last month. (Severely pushing fair use.)

Rhetoric from Israeli leaders has sought to justify…intentional targeting of journalists, particularly following a baseless November report from HonestReporting, a nonprofit organization that claims to combat anti-Israel bias in the media.

The organization suggested in a since heavily altered post that freelancers for the AP, CNN, New York Times, and Reuters knew about the October 7 attack and failed to give advance warning to prevent it. The news organizations vehemently denied those insinuations, and HonestReporting later admitted that it had no evidence to support its accusations. […]

Within days of HonestReporting’s publishing its post, eight family members of one of the journalists it named — photojournalist Yasser Qudih — were killed by four missiles that hit their house in southern Gaza, an area Israel encouraged people to evacuate to in order to avoid being bombed. Qudih survived the attack, telling Reuters, “Israel attacked my home.”

I’ve linked to +972 Magazine’s account debunking the false reporting in a previous Abbreviated Pundit Roundup.

Israeli officials are on record as saying that Mr. Qudih and the other journalists were “accomplices in crimes against humanity” and that those journalists would be hunted down “like terrorists” due to claims which have now proved to be unsupported.

Nor does Israel explicitly deny the intentional targeting of the house of Mr. Qudih and his family, according to Reuters.

Angie Drobnic-Holan of Poynter sums up many of the known methods of disinformation being utilized in the Israeli-Hamas war.

Claims that Palestinians are faking injuries and deaths is just one of several misinformation trends to emerge from the war… Other patterns detected by fact-checkers in the first months of the war include atrocities that lacked evidence; AI-generated images; out-of-context photos and video; video game footage passed off as real; and a wide variety of foreign policy claims about countries like Ukraine, Russia, the United States and Iran.

But worldwide claims that  Palestinians are staging corpses or injuries are among the most fact-checked in part because they have been so provably false. Agence France-Presse of France, for example, published fact checks of misformation found in French, Spanish, Arabic, Thai, Dutch, Greek, Swedish, Slovak and German.

Though not as frequent, claims of fraudulence have been made against Israeli victims as well. PolitiFact of the United States examined a claim on TikTok that said Israeli children had faked the death of their parents. PolitiFact rated it False.

And I am still reading on social media the repeated denials and demands of evidence that on Oct. 7, Hamas raped and mutilated women in addition to their massacre of 1100 people.

Polling conducted by a research team at Pew Research Center shows that at least most Americans can make the distinction between the Hamas terrorist group and the Palestinians, with two-thirds of Americans saying that Hamas bears a lot of responsibility for the current conflict.

As the war between Hamas and Israel continues with no end in sight, far more Americans (65%) say Hamas bears a lot of responsibility for the current conflict than say that about the Israeli government (35%).

Much smaller shares of Americans say the Palestinian people (20%) and the Israeli people (13%) have a lot of responsibility for the war.

A new Pew Research Center survey, conducted Nov. 27-Dec. 3 among 5,203 adults, finds sizable partisan and age differences on these questions, as well as about many other aspects of the two-month-old war:

  • Majorities of both Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (73%) and Democrats and Democratic leaners (62%) say Hamas has a lot of responsibility for the conflict. But Democrats (50%) are more than twice as likely as Republicans (21%) to say the Israeli government bears a lot of responsibility.
  • About half of adults ages 18 to 29 (46%) say Hamas has a lot of responsibility for the war. That compares with majorities of 60% or more among older age groups. 

Stephanie Saul, Alan Blinder, Anemona Hartocollis, and Maureen Farrell of The New York Times report on the resignation of University of Pennsylvania president Elizabeth Magill, ultimately, due to furor over comments that she made at a congressional hearing on antisemitism last week.

Support for Ms. Magill, already shaken in recent months over her approach to a Palestinian literary conference and the university’s initial response to the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7, unraveled after her testimony. Influential graduates questioned her leadership, wealthy contributors moved to withdraw donations, and public officials besieged the university to oust its president.

By Saturday evening, a day before Penn’s board of trustees was expected to meet, Ms. Magill said that she would quit. Scott L. Bok, the board’s chairman, said in an email to the Penn community that Ms. Magill had “voluntarily tendered her resignation.”

Less than an hour later, Mr. Bok announced that he, too, had resigned, deepening the turmoil at one of the nation’s most prestigious universities. […]

Ms. Magill’s critics, who broadly welcomed her resignation, gave her no such respite. They also sought to use Ms. Magill’s resignation to pressure Harvard and M.I.T. to act, after Dr. Gay and Dr. Kornbluth offered similar testimony.

Adam Harris of The Atlantic writes about the latest revisions to the College Board’s Advanced Placement African American Studies curriculum.

On Wednesday, the College Board released a new structure that attempts to rectify that misstep and significantly overhauls the version released in February. “We heard that the second version of this framework rendered too much of the core content from the field as optional,” Brandi Waters, who runs the African American Studies program for the College Board, told me.

In raw terms, this means that crucial ideas in the field such as intersectionality; topics such as Black resistance and athletics; and words such as systemic, as a descriptor for the ways that racism is embedded in institutions, have been returned to the curriculum, while other topics, such as Black Lives Matter and the reparations debate, remain optional. Still, the update is a necessary corrective, providing a solid foundation for students in nearly 700 schools across 40 states who will be offered the program.

When developing this version and considering what should be required versus optional, the College Board surveyed syllabi for entry-level college courses. “There are a couple of texts that emerge as common to an experience,” Waters told me, such as The Souls of Black Folk, by W. E. B. Du Bois, and the works of Frederick Douglass. But the College Board wanted to make sure that it balanced documents students were likely to read in other classes, such as Douglass’s Fourth of July speech, with those that are more exclusive to the field. They added foundational documents in Black feminism, such as the Combahee River Collective statement, which argued that the white feminist and civil-rights movements neglected to address the concerns of Black women, and Black lesbians in particular. They also now recommend that teachers spend two days, not one, covering white-supremacist violence such as the Tulsa Massacre.

Jon Brodkin of Ars Technica reports that Tesla CEO Elon Musk is appealing a 2018 settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Elon Musk…appealed to the Supreme Court in a last-ditch effort to terminate his settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Musk has claimed he was coerced into the deal with the SEC and that it violates his free speech rights, but the settlement has been upheld by every court that’s reviewed it so far.

In his petition asking the Supreme Court to hear the case, Musk said the SEC settlement forced him to “waive his First Amendment rights to speak on matters ranging far beyond the charged violations.”

The SEC case began after Musk’s August 2018 tweets stating, “Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured” and “Investor support is confirmed. Only reason why this is not certain is that it’s contingent on a shareholder vote.” The SEC sued Musk and Tesla, saying the tweets were false and “led to significant market disruption.”

The settlement required Musk and Tesla to each pay $20 million in penalties, forced Musk to step down from his board chairman post, and required Musk to get Tesla’s pre-approval for tweets or other social media posts that may contain information material to the company or its shareholders.

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo has an…interesting update on the Florida GOP Ziegler couple. (Warning: explicit sexual content)

We have a new development in the case of the Zieglers, the power couple from the Superfreak faction of the Florida GOP. Initial reports noted that Christian Ziegler claimed he had videotaped the sexual encounter which his unnamed accuser later alleged was rape. He said he taped it; deleted it; then finally uploaded it to Google Drive. A kind of odd chain of events. But that was his story. The first reports said police hadn’t been able to find it.

Now they’ve found it.

The gist is that the tape may make it impossible to convict Ziegler of a crime. If that’s true, it probably means they will never bring charges, which would take the whole story and the Florida GOP effort to send Ziegler packing much more protracted. I want to be very precise about what the latest report from The Trident says and what it doesn’t say. And bear in mind we’re talking about how “two sources with direct knowledge of the investigation” describe the tape. We have to leave open the possibility that there are subjective or subtle aspects of what’s captured on the tape that isn’t coming through in these indirect accounts.

Abel Alvarado of CNN reports on a proposed high-stakes summit between Venezuela and Guyana over the Essequibo region.

Following a nationwide referendum last week, the Venezuelan government has threatened to move forward with plans to annex the densely-forested Essequibo region, which is roughly the size of Floria and makes up about two-thirds of Guyana’s territory. Venezuela has long insisted that it has a historical claim to the region, which Guyana rejects. Current borders were set in a 1899 ruling by international arbitrators.

The proposed meeting would take place on December 14 in St. Vincent and Grenadines, according to a letter shared with CNN en Español that was sent to both presidents by Gonsalves. The letter describes an “urgent need to de-escalate the conflict and institute an appropriate dialogue, face-to-face.”

St. Vincent and the Grenadines also said that Brazil’s Lula would be invited to attend the meeting. Brazil shares extensive borders with both countries and with the disputed territory.

Both Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro and Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali have agreed in principle to a meeting, but not yet confirmed the date.

Finally today, Sarah Rainsford of BBC News reports that the livestreams of Poland’s parliament, the Sejm, have become so popular as to be popcorn-worthy and will be shown at select Warsaw cinemas!

The daily livestream from Poland’s parliament, the Sejm, has become an online hit, drawing hundreds of thousands of viewers for each session. Some top a million.

Soon the latest must-watch series will make the leap to the big screen. Demand to follow key proceedings next week is so high that one of Warsaw’s main cinemas, Kinoteka, is showing the whole thing, offering politics with popcorn.

Monday is the deadline for Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to present his cabinet for a vote of confidence by deputies.

If he fails to get enough support, as expected, parliament will move to approve a coalition government led by Donald Tusk which holds a majority of seats in the Sejm. […]

Democracy is in vogue here, with women and young people particularly engaged.

Try to have the best possible day everyone!

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