The nation’s news media has been loaded with coverage of the Israel-Hamas Conflict and President Joe Biden’s response to it. Our analysts took a closer look at some of this coverage in our newest Topic of the Week, and they found an interesting phenomenon not often seen in political news coverage: the far left attacking the more moderate left.
Each week, Ad Fontes Media chooses a widely covered trending news topic to share insight into how our analysts rank news coverage for the Media Bias Chart®. To do this, we select six articles reporting on the same story from different outlets to show how each treated the subject. Once we choose a set of articles, pods of analysts with diverse political perspectives (one right leaning, one center, and one left leaning) read each article and use Ad Fontes Media’s content analysis methodology to determine its bias and reliability. These ratings inform the articles’ placement on that week’s special Media Bias Chart.
This week the article set focused on the continuing conflict between Israel and the militant group Hamas, with the Palestinian citizens living in Gaza caught in the crossfire. On Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas launched approximately 2,200 rockets in a surprise and coordinated attack into Israel. It killed over 1,400 Israelis. Israel immediately attacked Gaza, targeting Hamas but leaving Palestinian civilians in a swiftly deteriorating city that quickly ran short of food, water, fuel, and medical supplies.
The United States has strong diplomatic ties to Israel, and the U.S. government has pledged to provide assistance to Israel in combating Hamas, supplying aid and providing military counsel. However, the Palestinian civilians caught between the two groups are desperately in need of aid, and a cease fire had been flatly denied by Israeli leadership (*as of Nov. 9, the AP reported that Israel has agreed to four-hour humanitarian pauses). Since the U.S. is wading into its presidential election season, any perceived missteps from President Biden are pounced upon and dissected in the media.
The articles rated by our analysts this week were “US bid to cement global leadership stumbles in Gaza” from the Christian Science Monitor, “Biden’s Israel Stance Could Cost Him Key Swing States in 2024” from TNR, “The problem(s) with the GOP blaming Biden for the crisis in Israel” from MSNBC, “Will a Backlash to Biden Over Israel Risk His Reelection?” from the Intelligencer, “Biden Says 74 US Dual Nationals Have Left Gaza Strip as He Dispatches Blinken to Mideast” from MIlitary.com, and “Biden’s Nakba” from The American Prospect. The bias and reliability scores for each of these articles can be found on our Topic of the Week page.
In this week’s blog, we’re going to examine The American Prospect’s article in order to call out a phenomenon not often seen: It’s an example of the far left attacking the more moderate left, or in this case, calling out President Biden for not asking Israel to make room for humanitarian aid. This article scored a -22 for bias, placing it in the hyper-partisan left category, and an 8 for reliability, meaning that it contains inaccurate or fabricated content.
This publication usually scores quite a bit differently, with its Ad Fontes Media source page calculating its average ratings at a -16 for bias, placing it in the strong left category, and 30 for reliability, meaning that its overall source score normally settles it as opinion or wide variation in reliability. Founded in 1990 and based in Washington, D.C., The American Prospect’s mission is to promote “informed discussion on public policy from a progressive perspective.”
First, a brief history lesson. The headline contains the word “nabka,” meaning “catastrophe” in Arabic. The U.N. states that this commonly “refers to the mass displacement and dispossession of Palestinians during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.” The 1948 conflict cost between 15,000-20,000 lives and resulted in more than 700,000 Palestinians fleeing or being expelled from their homes when the Partition Plan for Palestine took effect, dividing Israel and Palestine into its former two states.
The term “nabka,” however, is a strong characterization and conclusory statement for any headline to make. This by itself is not a bad thing, but now the author has to bring the goods and supporting evidence to back it up.
The article starts out by stating that Biden faces a similar catastrophe that is resulting in thousands of Palestinians being forced from their homes, and if there is any doubt, the article places the blame for this firmly on Biden in the subtitle, “The catastrophic effects of the president’s indulgence of Netanyahu.” Netanyahu refers, of course, to the Israeli leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
This piece leans into the thesis it postulated in its title, “…the posture of the Biden administration as Israel continues the destruction of civilian Gaza [shifts] Israel in much of the world’s eyes from a victim nation to a nation willing to commit atrocities… The only reason Gaza is short of food, water, fuel, shelter, and other necessities of life is that Biden is allowing Israel to systematically destroy Gaza.”
From there, the article takes a historical meandering of its own, closing with a strong sentiment in the final paragraph: “Netanyahu’s notion that first Hamas can be destroyed at acceptable cost, and then someone else can be found to govern Gaza, and then some kind of regional settlement can be achieved is lunacy. This has become Biden’s war. Now it has to be Biden’s peace, starting with much tougher constraints on Israel.”
This is a strongly opinionated statement. The bias is a critique of Biden’s full throated support of Israel and laying all of the responsibility at his feet. Our analysts identified this as hyper-partisan left.
But what about that low reliability score? Rarely do we get one in the single digits. Our analysts identified several of the same examples as those quoted above but were singularly perplexed with this: “All of this not only puts Biden’s re-election at dire risk. It is also a gift for the world’s antisemites. American Jews have enjoyed a respite from antisemitism ever since the Holocaust. But while antisemitism may go into periods of slumber, it never goes away. All it takes is the right spark.” These are statements that are easily verifiable as false, and there are organizations that are dedicated to the tracking of antisemitic hate crimes.
This article was a doozy! When you see an article that attacks President Biden, it’s easy to assume it’s biased to the right. However, when that same article also makes claims espoused by the far-left (e.g. Biden is at fault for supporting Israel), it becomes clearer that the critique is coming from the more extreme left faction (but humanitarian aid!) as an attack on the more moderate left faction. So interesting.
If you want a look at the larger media landscape or are curious to see how our analysts have rated your favorite sources, head on over to our website and check out the resources we have available. And don’t forget to come back next week for another examination of the Topic of the Week.
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Sara Webb is a cybersecurity consultant and former high school librarian from Philadelphia, PA. She holds an M.S. in Informatics and an M. Ed in School Library and Information Technology, and has been a media literacy educator for over a decade. Sara started with Ad Fontes Media in July 2020 as a Media Analyst, and she currently continues in that role and as in-house Media Literacy Specialist. When not engrossed in media literacy projects, Sara can be found at the barn with her ex-racehorse Homer, or training her corgis for dog agility competitions.