Manfred Gerstenfeld: Anatomy of a Media Manipulation

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In autumn 2008 my book Behind the Humanitarian Mask: The Nordic Countries, Israel and the Jews appeared in English. It has since been mentioned many times in Norwegian media. Critics so far have been unable to find mistakes in it. Much publicity is however given to a variety of statements falsely attributed to me. One is that “All Norwegians are barbarian and unintelligent.”[1] Morten Strøksnes in Bergens Tidende is one of those who wrongly believe that I said this.[2]

What is the anatomy of the media manipulation behind this? A reporter from TV2 interviewed me in Jerusalem in February. On 1 March the television broadcast a two-minute summary of the interview, in which I answered in English to a few questions. In addition the interviewer falsely inserted himself the following text in Norwegian “Gerstenfeld lashes out against what he calls ‘barbarian and unintellectual people.’” This gives the impression that I consider all Norwegians to be barbarian and unintellectual.[3] The video of this interview can still be seen on the TV2 website. ( .)

What did the interviewer do? He combined two words from an earlier conversation concerning different matters and attributed them to yet another issue. We spoke about the mention in the book that Jewish ritual slaughter of animals is forbidden in Norway since 1929, when the country preceded Nazi Germany. Yet it allows hunting of whales which are killed in a way I called barbarian. In another part of the conversation I mentioned the low level of most of the Norwegian debate on my book and that it was generally unintellectual.

These two words “barbarian” and “unintellectual” said at different moments and on unrelated issues, were combined by the interviewer to create the impression that this is what I think about all Norwegians. To make matters worse, in the background of the interview pictures were being shown about major riots in Norway which had also nothing to do with either whaling or the level of the debate.

TV2 also put this text on its website together with other fallacies attributed to me. One was that Norway is the most anti-Semitic country in Europe, another statement I never made. NTB[4] issued a press release on the interview without verifying with me what I had said to TV2. Thus the “barbaric” and “unintellectual” appeared in many Norwegian as well as Swedish newspapers. One consequence was that I received a number of hatemails from Norwegians.

Authors’ names usually become known because of what they say. In Norway I am however becoming increasingly known because of quotations in the media of what I did not say.

I have asked TV2 a number of times to correct this matter and grant me additional live broadcasting time, to avoid further manipulation. They were very slow to answer and finally refused. I have now submitted a complaint to Pressens Faglige Utvalg[5] (PFU) asking them to condemn TV2 for their behavior.

[1] Morten Strøksnes, “Tilfellet David Weiss,” Bergens Tidende, 11 April 2009. [Norwegian]

[2] (“kalte alle nordmenn for ‘barbariske og uintelligent’”).

[3] “et barbarisk og uintellektuelt folkeferd,”

[4] The Norwegian Press Agency

[5] Press Association’s ethical committee

SPME Faculty Forum Editor’s note: Manfred Gerstenfeld’s book “Behind the Humanitarian Mask: The Nordic Countries, Israel and the Jews” can be downloaded for free here

Manfred Gerstenfeld: Anatomy of a Media Manipulation

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