Biased Cable News Gaza War Coverage Skews American Public Opinion

Interview with Ryan Grim, The Intercept’s D.C. bureau chief, conducted by Scott Harris

With hope fading that a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas can be salvaged to release hostages and deliver desperately needed humanitarian aid into Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government launched his long-promised offensive in the city of Rafah on May 7. Gaza’s southernmost city is crowded with over 1 million desperate Palestinian refugees who fled there, seeking safety from indiscriminate Israeli bomb and missile attacks.

As Israeli tanks seized control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing, aid agency officials in the territory said the flow of humanitarian assistance through the Rafah crossing had been entirely halted. There are 2.3 million Gaza residents who face starvation, with severe shortages of potable water, basic sanitation and little or no access to healthcare. The United Nations World Food Program says northern Gaza has now entered a stage of “full-blown famine.”

Depending on their news sources, U.S. news consumers may or may not fully grasp the desperate reality of Palestinians who must fight every day to survive Israel’s 7-monthlong war that has thus far killed more than 34,000, mostly women and children. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Ryan Grim, The Intercept’s D.C. bureau chief, who examines a recent survey which reveals how biased cable news coverage of Israel’s Gaza war skews American public opinion.

RYAN GRIM: You don’t often see divergences that stark, but if somebody said that they primarily got their news from cable, they were the least likely group to say that Israel was committing a genocide in Gaza. In fact, they were the only group, the only subset of Americans that did not believe by at least a plurality that Israel is committing a genocide in Gaza. Now, even, about a third of them did believe that that was the case, that Israel was committing a genocide and Gaza. But everyone else, whether you got your news through print media, social media or YouTube, believed that Israel was committing a genocide. And there was also some kind of interesting divergence where even on say cable, you had a significant number of people who said that, Yes, Israel is committing genocide in Gaza, were still sympathizing with the Israeli side of it, which is a pretty kind of disturbing set of answers if you unpack those.

SCOTT HARRIS: Ryan, anecdotally, what kinds of things are you seeing on cable that would have people coming to those conclusions? And the opposite of what people who are using social media, for example, to get their unfiltered news about what’s going on in Gaza and what Israel is doing to prosecute this war. What are some of the things that you see that may be distorting the images of how people perceive the war in Gaza?

RYAN GRIM: A part of it, it’s a state, maybe the obvious is a bit of a chicken and egg problem. It is a fact that, you know, young people are more likely to get their news from Instagram and TikTok. Older people are more likely to get their news from cable and independent really, where they get their news, old people are more likely to be conservative in this generation, and, and young people are more likely to be, uh, progressive. So, you know, that’s gonna tilt the scales a little bit, but nowhere near, uh, the extent that we saw. And to answer your question, uh, it really is what, what Anthony Blinken talked about openly. Over the weekend, people who get their news from social media, particularly Instagram, Twitter and TikTok, are seeing videos of the destruction. They are seeing what is being done to people in Gaza.

They are developing connections to those people. They’re building the same kinds of parasocial relationships, that people form with any Instagram or TikTok influencer. But with people that they’re regularly checking in on in Gaza, and then they’re worrying about those people. And in some cases, they’re seeing those people getting ripped apart. And that, as Anthony Blinken said over the weekend in this really honest interview, shockingly honest interview with MIT Romney on a stage at a conference. He said that was was causing a major problem for Israel’s narrative of the war, that people were able to get this direct look and that Romney responded by saying yes. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why, you know, we in Congress moved forward with this effort to ban TikTok.

Then you would think that, you might even say after you’ve said that the carnage is the problem, but to believe, you know, that it’s people’s ability to see the carnage that is the actual problem, was yeah, extraordinarily revealing. Mike Lawler is a moderate Republican in upstate New York and the lead co-sponsor of the legislation, also said on a call with the organization, No Labels. I assume you’ve covered them before this kind of quasi-centrist, but really just pro-corporate organization that tried to get Joe Manchin to run for president and some other shenanigans.

He was at a No Labels private event, but we got audio of it. And he said in that event, too, the exact same thing — that the kids are being manipulated which was how he, how he put it by these algorithms. And that’s why Congress had to move ahead and block them. On cable, you’re not gonna see that and you’re gonna see a dramatically mediated understanding of the situation there. In fact, on cable, you are often gonna see a rehashing of Oct. 7th atrocities. And you’re gonna see the regular interviews, constant interviews with Israeli or IDF spokespeople.

And so if you’re if you’re not watching cable, then you’re not getting as much of that. It was probably even more pronounced would we conduct this before the kind of crackdowns on the campus protests, but I bet the results would be much more even more pronounced with the coverage of those ’cause the coverage of if you are only watching cable, you think, that there are antisemitic mobs, ala Charlottesville rampaging all over every campus and around the world.

If you’re watching TikTok and Instagram and Twitter and you’re seeing the actual demonstrators and hearing directly from them, then you’re seeing that these are peace activists who are camping out to try to get their universities to divest from the war effort in Israel.

Listen to Scott Harris’ in-depth interview with Ryan Grim (22:05). More articles and opinion pieces are found in the Related Links section of this page.

For the best listening experience and to never miss an episode, subscribe to Between The Lines on your favorite podcast app or platform: Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle PodcastsAmazon MusicCastroiHeartRadioPocket CastsTunein+ AlexaCastboxOvercastPodfriendRSS Feed.

Or subscribe to our Between The Lines and Counterpoint Weekly Summary. 

Subscribe to our Weekly Summary