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The Meaning of "Calm"

Relativity, LA Times Style

by ALISON WEIR


Well, I just got hung up on again. This time by an editor on the Los Angeles Times foreign desk. He didn’t give me his name.

I had called and attempted, as politely as possible, to give him a correction for the story on the Times, website tonight. This will probably be their front-page lead news story tomorrow morning.

The trouble is, their headline and lead paragraph are just plain wrong. And now, of course, they’ll stay wrong in the paper tomorrow.

The headline proclaims: "Palestinian Suicide bomber Shatters Calm of late." The lead sentence then goes on to state that this bomber "shattered a months-long period of relative calm"

The fact is, however, that the truce and this "calm" were shattered long before this. The last suicide bombing against Israeli civilians was Nov. 1, 2004 It took three Israeli lives. Since that time, while Israelis have basked in "relative calm," 170 Palestinian men, women, and children have been killed.

During this LA Times, "relative calm," another 379 Palestinian men, women, and children were injured and maimed. Anyone who has been to the West Bank or Gaza knows what this means: leg bones splintered, intestines torn open, teeth shattered.

Also, of course, during this "calm" over 8,000 Palestinians have been sitting in Israeli prison cells, routinely abused and grotesquely humiliated; over 300 of them children.

None of this mattered to the editor I talked to. He explained that the story said relative calm. When I tried to question this adjective, he hung up the phone. So I guess I’ll just have to explain this word for myself.

Maybe he means that relative to 7 Israeli deaths, 170 Palestinian deaths are insignificant. Maybe he means that relative to Israeli grief, Palestinian grief is basically unmentionable. Maybe he means that relative to the weeping of Israeli mothers and fathers, the weeping of Palestinian mothers and fathers multitudes more of them is negligible.

Maybe he means that relative to his power, my attempt to set the record straight is laughably feeble.

Over all, I guess what he means is relatively obvious:

That he can run what he wants, distort what he desires, lead with his lies. I guess he means that facts don’t matter, truth is irrelevant, and deceit the order of the day.

I guess he means that Americans are pawns, readers are sheep, and people will just keep swallowing whatever the media choose to dish out.

I hope you’ll tell him he’s wrong: 213-237-5000 / readers.rep@latimes.com

ALISON WEIR is Executive Director of If Americans Knew.