Health journalism in the service of power: ‘moral complacency’ and the Hebrew media in the Gaza–Israel conflict

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Abstract

The power of health news as a vehicle in the production of meaning in the service of power is the core of this article. Tracking the media coverage of a medical service, it shows how a routine practice can be invoked at a time of armed conflict so as to enhance a benevolent state image. The case at hand is the medical treatment of Gaza children in Israeli hospitals. A series of Internet searches revealed a group of publications on the subject in the Hebrew media, during and shortly after Israel's assault on Gaza in the winter of 2008–2009. In the press articles the treatments were invariably constituted as the epitome of Israel's compassion towards the enemy's children. This image relied, however, on a simultaneous silencing of other aspects of these treatments, which would have challenged this image. The monolithic depictions give rise to the notion of reversed moral panic or ‘moral complacency’, wherein the media amplifies a little-known social phenomenon into an epitome of societal values and charges it with significance on a national scale. The article ends with considering some features that possibly render health news an especially convenient domain for state-supportive media presentations.

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