When balanced is also not fair

When balanced is also not fair

The deadly bombing this week near Iran’s embassy in Beirut saw an all-too-common knee-jerk reaction: Israel did it. The evidence, of course, suggests that the bombing was in retaliation for Iran’s support of the Bashir al-Assad regime in Syria, but that mattered little to some.

Two weeks ago, a report by Swiss forensic experts suggested the possibility that Yasir Arafat, the late Palestinian Authority chairman, was assassinated. The same knee-jerk reaction was seen then: Israel did it. The evidence (in this case, the particular poison found in Arafat’s cells) suggests that Russia might have been involved, but that mattered little to some.

Israel is the Middle East fall guy, come what may.

Some of the accusations are so ludicrous as to be laughable, except for one thing: In the interconnected world of the Internet, even the most absurd comments take on lives of their own.

There is no way to stifle free speech, and if there was, we would want no part of it. We do believe, however, that journalism needs to confront a painful question: Should it report charges when they are made, or should it wait to see whether those charges actually have substance?

Whatever is reported today will live in the ether for many years to come, and may have consequences in the future we cannot even imagine today. If it ever was a laughing matter, it is so no longer.