Joris Luyendijk – People Like Us: Misrepresenting the Middle East (2006)
Middle East correspondent Luyendijk returns home to the Netherlands to explain that it was all for nothing: It is impossible to do real journalism from dictatorships and war zones, and those who try end up delivering a product that is close to worthless. The most important story you can tell from a dictatorship or a war zone is the one that is hardest to explain and least interesting to editors and the audience: The nature of dictatorship and war itself. You’re left dependent on fixers who dig up the same old donor darlings with well-practiced soundbites, and on military PR departments who deliver partisan perspectives pre-packaged in a news-friendly story.
Recommended: Strongly. Although Luyendijk assures us in the afterword that his message isn’t that journalism is useless, that really is his message, whether he likes it or not: That in many parts of the world, journalism is so difficult that the end result is practically worthless. You’re better off skipping the daily news from these regions entirely, and stick to background articles and books, such as this one. Its only fault is Luyendijk’s strange belief that Israel is winning the PR war in the West. Really, where? Luyendijk’s own views seem to be closer to the norm among correspondents. I respect his skepticism of Israeli war propaganda, but I don’t respect that he presents as a profound discovery of his own what is really just the other of two common and superficial media stories about the conflict.