Television has a tremendous strength. No medium brings emotion into people’s living rooms so effortlessly. Television has a terrible weakness. It is difficult to support these emotions with real information. Emotionality devours rationality. This is particularly bitter when the world – Israel, Palestine, Ukraine – broadcasts shocking images in abundance on television.
And this always becomes particularly dangerous when terror exploits this power of devastating images for its always the same goal: terror means terror. The antidote with which television wants to protect itself and its viewers is called expertise. But the extent to which some experts have failed since the Hamas attack on Israel cannot be overlooked in these weeks.
Too often television fights television
When little is known but there is a lot of talk, it produces toxic, colorful flowers on television – even on the renowned “Tagesschau”. Example Al-Ahli Hospital. ARD presenter Judith Rakers speaks at 8 p.m. of at least 300 people who are said to have been killed. The link to the Tel Aviv correspondent quickly gives the impression that it was an Israeli rocket that caused this devastation in Gaza City.
The outcry comes not least from ZDF colleague Andrea Kiewel, who is known for her loudness: “Those responsible for ARD’s main news programs were deaf to everyone’s ears!” The “ Fernsehengarten” woman, in her own words, “a fervent advocate of the need for public -legal television,” becomes really toxic: “I can’t use the word ‘colleagues’ in that context!”
Television against television, ZDF against ARD – and it’s almost lost on the fact that the 58-year-old doesn’t care about objectivity in this case either. Kiewel lives in Tel Aviv. Her partner wears a uniform and went to fight against Hamas.
Anyone who knows everything better about every topic is a know-it-all, not an expert
The truth has a difficult time between the fronts. Objectivity is sometimes difficult when it comes to Israel. The news channel “Welt TV” produces in the new Axel-Springer-SE building. The 18,000 employees of the media and technology group are committed to five principles, including point 2: “We support the Jewish people and the right to exist of the State of Israel.” And Axel Springer states very unequivocally: “The company’s bodies are bound to the strict “We are bound to observe and adhere to these principles.”
“You can recognize a good journalist by the fact that he doesn’t mean anything, even a good thing”: This is how the television journalist legend Hanns Joachim Friedrichs is often quoted. What he meant was an appeal not to sink into public consternation and “to stay cool when dealing with disasters without being cold.”
How do you recognize a good expert? The reversal is easy. The thesis machine Richard David Precht has just raved in a ZDF podcast with Markus Lanz about Orthodox Jews who are forbidden by their religion to work – “with the exception of a few things like diamond trading and a few financial transactions.” Anyone who knows everything better about every topic is a know-it-all, not an expert.
Experts must navigate public minefields
Real specialist knowledge and objective sobriety should be the hallmarks of a good expert. But that doesn’t protect you from getting excited. Christoph Heusgen, the head of the Munich Security Conference, defended UN Secretary-General António Guterres in a ZDF interview with Dunja Hayali and his statement that it was important “to recognize that the Hamas attacks did not take place in a vacuum.” Heusgen had to publicly apologize for his expertise.
The “Bild” newspaper was upset about a “crass ZDF interview” under the headline “Ex-Merkel advisor shocks with Israel statements.” But “Bild”, publishing principles point 2, has clearly committed its journalists to: “We support the Jewish people.”
An expert moves through all these public minefields with conspicuous confidence. His name is Carlo Masala. He is a professor of international politics at the University of the Federal Armed Forces in Munich. He manages the trick of dealing with all the often justified emotionalities with objectivity and rationality. The strength of the political scientist? He consistently refuses to wishful thinking. As a result, he also says sentences like this, most recently on the ZDF talk show “maybrit illner”: “If it is important militarily – as cynical as it sounds – then the death of civilians must also be accepted.”
Such sobriety is good. And this is especially true in turbulent times, when too many moralists on television show too little attitude. Otherwise, the same applies to television: If there is nothing new to say, silence is no harm.