News Brief: Quantifying the Media’s Selective Humanity in Gaza

Citations Needed | January 17, 2024 | Transcript

Citations Needed
44 min readJan 17, 2024
The lede of CNN’s November 7, 2023 report, “These charts show the scale of loss in the Israel-Hamas war,” shows how different language is used for both Israeli and Palestinian violence and Israeli and Palestinian deaths.


Nima Shirazi: Welcome to a Citations Needed News Brief. I am Nima Shirazi.

Adam Johnson: I’m Adam Johnson.

Nima: Happy New Year, everyone. This is the first News Brief of 2024. We will be back with new full-length episodes of Citations Needed very shortly, so stay tuned for that. But in the meantime, you can follow the show on Twitter @citationspod, Facebook Citations Needed, and become a supporter of the show through All your support through Patreon is so incredibly appreciated, as we are 100% listener-funded. But, Adam, we thought we’d start the year off with a News Brief because you and a very impressive research collaborator of yours have recently put out a number of quantitative analyses of mainstream media — ‘lamestream media’ — coverage of Gaza and the ongoing Israeli genocide of Palestinians. One is on your Substack, The Column, the other just recently published on January 9, 2024, in The Intercept with the headline “Coverage of Gaza War in the New York Times and Other Major Newspapers Heavily Favored Israel, Analysis Shows.”

Later on this News Brief, we’ll also be joined by Otto Ali, Adam’s co-author on both recent pieces about documenting media bias against Palestinians, one on cable news for The Column, which they wrote together back in mid-November, and a new one, published in The Intercept on January 9, headlined “Coverage of Gaza War in the New York Times and Other Major Newspapers Heavily Favored Israel, Analysis Shows.”

Adam: Yeah, so this, there’s a, he’s a researcher. To put it frankly, he reached out to me and said, Hey, this is research I’ve been working on, doing media criticism is something I’m interested in. So I said, let’s work together. He’s an Oxford-trained data analyst. I am not obviously, clearly. So I thought we could do some useful stuff, as did he with his skill set. And so we worked on a piece back in November, looking at anti-Palestinian bias in media, from the first month of the war, from October 7 to November 7 in cable news, namely, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News. And then we did a piece doing somewhat similar measurements, but for print media for the LA Times, The New York Times and the Washington Post, we sort of wanted to pick a kind of three samples from, you know, the different coasts and the sort of three big publications. And we did that one for The Intercept, based on the feedback we got from the one we did from my Substack, which ended up I thought being pretty useful for a lot of people, a lot of researchers found it useful, because I think what we’re doing is what a lot of good data journalism can do, which is to sort of quantify things that people kind of know are true or feel are true, but for which there’s no actual evidence and to do with open source. So it’s unimpeachable. Anyone can come in and look at the data and say whether or not it’s, you know, correct or not.

And this, I think, is valuable, because you say, you know, there’s been a lot of activist protests outside the Washington Post in the New York Times, specifically in CNN, accusing these publications of pro-Israel bias, and it’s kind of taken as dogma on the left, and I think sort of accurately. So I think any kind of anecdotal viewing of a reading or viewing of these publications can say that they are biased for very anecdotal kind of qualitative reasons, obviously, looking at headlines framing who they decide to interview, anyone can kind of intuit that. Because Israel is an American ally. And they get billions of dollars a year in arms and funding and are in many ways a client state of the US that they will naturally because of, you know, racism, chauvinism, jingoism, national fidelity, anti-Muslim racism, we can talk about the reasons later that they generally favor Israel. I think that’s sort of a fair assumption, something that’s been quantified by other researchers for many, many years.

Nima: But it’s stark to see the disproportionate coverage and the use of, you know, whether it’s different terminology or even just references to the coverage of how many people have been killed.

Adam: Yeah.

Nima: It is really both stark, horrifying, and very impressive and very, I think helpful, useful, as you said, Adam, to actually see it in terms of the numbers.

Adam: Why don’t I jump into talking about some of the parameters we did? I’ll begin with The Intercept piece that was published this week.

Nima: Great.

Adam: This covered the New York Times, Washington Post and LA Times and, and our research basically had four findings. And we’ll start with number one, which is a disproportionate coverage of death. So as the Palestinian death toll began to rise, the coverage of Palestinian deaths actually went down, relative to the mention of Israelis and Israeli deaths, and also the Israeli hostages, which sort of provided a kind of evergreen reference point for the trauma of October 7. Not to say that the media shouldn’t cover the hostages that were in Gaza, the Israeli hostages in Gaza, but they were covered far more in both cable and print media than the actual deaths that were occurring at a far greater scale of Palestinians. This is from the first six weeks of the war right, before the so-called humanitarian pause that lasted six, seven days, that was the scope of the dataset that he used because it would become too big, too unwieldy otherwise. What we found was, quote, “For every two Palestinian deaths, Palestinians are mentioned once. For every Israeli death, Israelis are mentioned eight times — or a rate 16 times more per death that of Palestinians.” For each time a Palestinian died, they were mentioned .5 times and for each time an Israeli died, they are mentioned eight times. This disparity I’m sure has gotten worse since November 25, when we cut off our study. The second finding we found was that, and this is something that I think is to me, I think, the most kind of stark–

Nima: And something that actually we discuss a lot, but in terms of the actual words used, the actual kind of descriptions of death or the descriptions of violence.

Adam: Yeah.

Nima: This second finding, Adam, I think, is incredibly, incredibly important. The fact that terms like “slaughter,” or “massacre,” or describing death inflicted on others as “horrific,” really searching those kinds of terms, revealed stark, stark differences in the way that media reports on Israelis who are killed by Palestinians, and Palestinians who are killed by Israelis.

Adam: Right. And so this is actually a critique others have made before us. I think we had been working on it a few days prior, others had pointed this out and done similar studies. So I’ll start with those other studies first, which is, why do editors and producers of TV shows, why do they use words like “slaughter,” “massacre,” and “horrific” to describe the killing of Israelis, but not the killing of Palestinians who have now died at a rate 20 times greater than that of Israelis almost? And I think that’s a very good question. And it really speaks to kind of textbook media criticism, 101, which is asymmetry of language, where you use this kind of charged emotive moralistic language for the killing of Israelis. And the killing of Palestinians is almost always in passive voice. It’s always “have died,” “were killed.”

Nima: They don’t say by whom, or what.

Adam: Yeah, you don’t want to be tabloidy or too shocking when it comes to the deaths of Palestinians. But when it comes to the deaths of Israelis, one cannot be too shocking, because there’s, it’s sort of a reverse humanization. The other side of the coin of humanization is the emotive language one uses when one talks about death, and so the findings, there was a study done. It was published to GitHub, it was of the BBC, it covered October 7 through December 2, and it was produced by Dana Najjar and Jan Lietava. I hope I pronounced those right. If I didn’t, I’m sorry, y’all. And it was an expansion on Holly Jackson’s work analyzing media bias in Israel in Palestine coverage. And what they found was that the use of “massacre” and “slaughter” was entirely asymmetrical. So in reference to Israelis killed, the BBC used the word “murdered” 101 times for Israelis, and only one time for Palestinians. “Massacred” was used 23 times for Israelis, only one time for Palestinians, and “slaughtered” was used 20 for Israelis and zero for Palestinians. Our data of the New York Times, LA Times, and Washington Post bore out similar totals. So the use of the word “slaughter” in relation to Israeli deaths was used 60 times, for Palestinians was used once. The word “horrific” was used 38 times for Israelis and four for Palestinians, and the word “massacre” was used 120 times for Israelis and four for Palestinians.

New York Times headline from Oct. 15, 2023.

A similar study was done by a left-wing publication in Canada called The Breach. And they actually asked the CBC to sort of justify why they only use the term “murderous,” “massacre,” and “brutal” and these other emotive terms, “vicious,” when it’s the killing of Israelis versus the– you got to keep mind 12,000 children have been killed, we’re talking about in less than three months. Every day 10 new children need to amputate either an arm or leg, we’re talking about a level of slaughter that is unprecedented in modern times, according to The Washington Post, in terms of the efficiency, the scale, the speed with which it’s been done. And the CBC because again, this is all open source, right, though you can’t really dispute the data. The facts are the facts. It’s undisputable, BBC CBC, a New York Times, LA Times, CNN, MSNBC, Washington Post, they all asymmetrically use this overwhelmingly, it’s indisputable. So really, what you have to do is to kind of have to negotiate the premise if you’re these outlets and the CBC got back, and their explanation was not very convincing. They wrote, quote:

Different words are used because although both result in death and injury, the events they describe are very different. The raid saw Hamas gunmen stream through the border fence and attack Israelis directly with firearms, knives and explosives. Gunmen chased down festival goers, assaulted kibbutzniks then shot them, fought hand to hand, and threw grenades. The attack was brutal, often vicious, and certainly murderous.

Bombs dropped from thousands of feet and artillery shells lofted into Gaza from kilometers away result in death and destruction on a massive scale, but it is carried out remotely. The deadly results are unseen by those who caused them and the source unseen by those [who] suffer and die.

It’s a different kind of event and is described differently as ‘intensive,’ ‘unrelenting,’ and ‘punishing.’


Nima: That, I would say, is an unconvincing response.

Adam: And so what they’re trying to do is, they’ve been caught in an obvious, I think fair to say racist double standard, which is to say they don’t really view Palestinian lives as mattering as much if at all compared to Israeli lives. And the idea that bombing is somehow the sanitized or sterile activity–

Nima: Only because it’s somehow the, you know, either cause or consequence, is unseen, by the other is incredibly contrived and arbitrary way to then say something is not brutal, like it is so tortured.

Adam: It’s fundamentally a tautology, which is to say, like, it’s different, because it’s different. But why is it different?

Nima: They’re like, because our reporting is racist.

Adam: Right. And to be clear, Israeli soldiers blowing people away, up close and personal in Gaza, and in the West Bank also happened, is also happening, is also not referred to as a massacre. So we know that’s not true by the CBC, the CBC has never referred to Israeli soldiers shooting Palestinians, as a massacre, or as horrific, or as horrible, or these other kinds of emotive language, right, or murdered even, right, so we know that’s not true.

Nima: Yeah, bulldozing buildings, and then having like tractor treads drive over the bodies, apparently not brutal.

Adam: And we’re talking about a death count that is now over 20 times greater. So the lack of emotive language for that 20,000-person death count is quite stark and sort of unimpeachable in terms of how one analyzes it. And one saw this as well. And I’ll jump over to the other piece from November, if you’ll indulge me for the first month, October 7 to November 7, this asymmetry in the word massacre, we also studied was overwhelmingly true. So “massacre” was used to explain the killing of Israelis on Fox News 770 times versus nine of Palestinians, 503 versus 53 on CNN, and on MSNBC “massacre” was used to describe Israelis 382 times and for Palestinians, that was 16 times and almost all the references to Palestinians were actually in quotes. So we didn’t do quotes for the print publication, because it’s kind of cheating. Right? If you have someone come on your show who’s Palestinian and says it’s a massacre.

Nima: It needs to be like the actual institutional voice, the reporting voice, because you also did not include editorials, opinion pieces or letters to the editor. So really, this is about the hard news reportage, quote-unquote.

Adam: Hard news, because if you’re using opinion, it’s cheating. Right? The starkest example, to me, was one quote by David Ignatius, who does a kind of reporting-opinion combo. This piece specifically was about the hostage exchange news that he was breaking on November 12. Ended up not happening, I think, until about 10 days later, 12 days later, but he wrote, quote, “This war has produced deeply horrifying images, Israeli children assaulted in barbaric ways by Hamas terrorists. Palestinian children left to die under Israeli bombardment. It’s a war in which we’ll all look into the abyss.” I mean, this right here is sort of media criticism 101. So Israeli children are assaulted in a barbaric way by Hamas terrorists. So it’s all very loaded, very racialized, very sort of, a very emotion. They’re sort of targeted, right, as they deliberately are killed. Palestinian children are, however, left to die, presumably by their Palestinian parents. And it’s all very sort of passive, by Israeli bombardment. Right. It’s sort of–

Nima: Under Israeli bombardment.

Adam: Right. And then what people may say to this is, they’d say, Well, Israelis don’t deliberately target civilians. But the thing is, this is a war in which we absolutely know that that’s not true. I mean, so we know, we know that’s not true.

Nima: That’s always been bullshit. And also now it is bullshit.

Adam: Right. And so let’s talk about that for a second here, which is to say, there are three points of evidence we know that Israel targets civilians, which is first and foremost, they are very explicit in their endorsement of collective punishment. They cut off food, fuel, water and electricity, which is insane, ‘We will turn it back on so long as you have the hostages or Hamas doesn’t surrender’ or whatever bullshit ultimatum they come up with, which is literally the textbook definition of collective punishment. Every observer who’s viewed this has said that that’s collective punishment, UN, Human Rights Watch. It’s not disputable they, that is targeting civilians. But more specifically, there was a report, CNN noted that nearly half of all Israeli munitions dropped in Gaza are quote-unquote “dumb bombs” from their analysis of 29,000 munitions that went up to mid-December. This is a form of bomb that the US themselves has not used in almost 20 years.

Nima: Meaning like literal carpet bombing.

Adam: Just carpet bombing, right.

Nima: Not targeted missile strikes, which I mean, again, that’s even being incredibly generous in terms of the intent, but really just dropping bombs without really any targeting mechanism, because you are just flattening neighborhoods. So inherent in that is the fact that you are therefore not avoiding civilian casualties. You are deliberately targeting civilians, civilian infrastructure, homes, apartment buildings, hospitals, mosques, schools, ambulances, stores, everything, and therefore that is targeting civilians on purpose. We know this is happening.

Adam: Yeah, and there was an article in 972 magazine, an Israeli magazine, English language magazine, on November 30, 2023 that they’ve very clearly documented that the actual policy of the IETF is to target civilians and civilian infrastructure to have the people supposedly turn against Hamas. But that’s, I think, not really the objective. It’s kind of pretextual. But they have what’s called power targets, which is apartment high-rises, blocks, civilian infrastructure, public buildings. In addition to that, of course, the IDF especially northern Gaza has razed cemeteries, they’ve razed farmhouses, greenhouses, as we’ve discussed in the show, they are routinely attacking civilian infrastructure, they attack civilian, they make it uninhabitable, unlivable.

Nima: And this is all part of something that the IDF itself has defined as the Dahiya doctrine. I mean, this is, again, part of Israeli military and governmental policy, there’s a name for it. It’s about the deliberate destruction and targeting of civilian infrastructure as, like, a very specific strategy. This has been articulated for years and years and years. And we are seeing that again, in practice. And somehow still, there is this propagandistic narrative that the media holds fast to, largely corporate media, of course, holds fast to, which is that, look, Hamas are brutal terrorists, they kill hand to hand, they look you in the eye, and they murder you. Whereas Israel would never ever, ever target a civilian, and any civilian deaths are so tragic and incidental.

Adam: They still do that anyway. Right? That’s it, I mean, that they do that also. It’s not to sound like you know, I’m in an improv troupe here, but it’s yes. And I mean, they, they do that. And they also do the thing that Hamas did, or the other, you know, Hamas, and PIJ and PFLP and other groups, they do look you in the eye and they and they kill you all the time. They do it all the time in the West Bank, they do it all the time in Gaza.

Nima: They did it to their own fucking hostages when they were waving a white flag, right.

Adam: So obviously, that carve out doesn’t work even by their own reasoning, which is why no one really sort of has a justification for this asymmetry. It’s obviously just either conscious or subconscious or editorial. Really, what they need to do is they can, they can handwring about Israeli war crimes, all they want, but they need to maintain a moral tier system. And we’ve talked about this in the show all the time, there’s a need to make sure that they’re not, you know, doing the God forbid, morally equivocating the terrorists with the IDF, that IDF makes mistakes, they bumble, maybe there’s some right-wing cranks here and there within their organization, or they have troops who go rogue, but ultimately, they have to fundamentally be morally superior to the Palestinian fighters, whatever they are. And the thing is, that’s just obviously not true. And you can see it based purely on body count. I mean, it’s not even close, how many civilians is, you know, Israel has killed with reckless abandon again, 50% of bombs, dumb bombs. We know they target infrastructure, we know that cut off electricity, food, they stopped humanitarian aid from entering, which is just a fucking PR thing. Anyway, they wouldn’t even do that. And so the way you sort of get that across to the radar that there’s this huge moral distinction is you use these emotive terms, because that’s kind of really all you have, all you have is the rhetorical flourish, and you even see, people use words like terrorist, even though certain organizations like BBC and the New York Times have retired the term once these other publications use it quite often, because it’s how you sort of load up the deck, right? Get people all juiced up.

One of the other, I guess the final finding we’ll talk about tonight, is one that I thought was pretty egregious, which is almost the kind of wholesale ignoring of the war, quote-unquote, “war,” unprecedented toll on children and journalists. So we analyze over 1,100 news articles over a six-week period in the New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times. So me and my research partner anonymously, Otto, we analyzed over 1,100 news articles, and only two headlines mentioned the word children as it relates to Gazan children at all. And only nine of the 1,100-plus headlines mentioned journalists. Now at this point, 58 Palestinian reporters have been killed by Israel, the number’s now well over 100, and only four of the nine articles that contain the word journalist or reporter were about Arab reporters or Palestinian reporters. And this is again a conflict that has killed more children and more journalists than any modern conflict per capita and pro rata, right, per time ever, in modern history, the destruction alone, according to the Wall Street Journal, of Northern Gaza, 80% of buildings just severely damaged or destroyed is greater than Dresden. And yet, the humanization of Palestinians and the humanization, which again, typically reporters, and I don’t want to compare it to other conflicts, because I feel like that begins to kind of do this, you know, that can become a little bit undignified in certain ways. But there was no other conflict that would have had this if it was done by an American enemy, whether it be Russia or China or whatever, Iran, where they would have not framed it in these not only emotive terms, but used the framing of sympathetic groups as children and journalists are and so we got story after story after story after story after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine about Ukrainian journalists that have died.

Nima: And the war on Ukrainian children.

(Source: New York Times)

Adam: Right. And the war comparably was killing, I think at that point about six journalists, which is obviously six too many. It’s too much. But it’s not 48 and it’s not 100. And that you just don’t get. There are token articles here and there. But this sort of drumbeat, and the emotive nature of it, and the end. Don’t even get me started. And we were going to analyze this, I think for a subsequent piece. But ever since the October 17 crybully effort by pro-Israel groups about the bombing of a hospital that they claimed was a shell, a misfired rocket, even though it almost certainly was an Israeli shell, but whatever, CNN and AP and we know for a fact based on Intercept reporting, CNN does this, I’m pretty sure based on observation, New York Times and AP, they don’t ascribe Israeli responsibility or agency to bombings until Israel themselves confirms it, typically days later. So it’s striking Gaza, it’s blasting Gaza, blast in hospital. And so even there, we have this pathological refusal to sort of do what we would call something that seems tabloidy or seems emotive. It’s sort of, it elicits sympathy, everything when it comes to dead Palestinians is done completely clinically, it’s completely anodyne. And that necessarily informs the public’s urgency around stopping this carnage.

Nima: Because this carnage can be stopped if the United States administration actually wants it to stop, which it clearly does not. Biden has no interest in ending the slaughter of Palestinians. Clearly, there’s no handwringing going on, and any that you may hear about, I think it’s complete bullshit. But like, as the number one Israel patron, arms dealer, and defender in international groups like the UN and elsewhere, the United States does have the power to end this instantly, but instead is just rearming Israel, defending Israel, protecting Israel, justifying the ongoing genocide of Palestinians. And they’re not getting any pushback, right, as the administration, like the mainstream outlets that would potentially pose some sort of opposition to this policy, Adam and Otto’s work has completely obliterated any sense that that is actually going to happen or that that has been happening, that when there are articles that are not terribly framed, they are absolutely the exception that proves the rule. So even pointing to, you know, certain articles in the New York Times or The Washington Post, here and there where they are very sympathetic, let’s say, to Palestinian life, where they where they actually tell real stories of real people where they avoid these double standards of linguistic gymnastics. Those are such rare exceptions, whereas the constant imbalance in the way that Israeli deaths and Palestinian deaths are reported on. And again, not just mentioned, but reported on, right. So this isn’t about opinion pieces. But the just like straight, allegedly straight reporting of these outlets, is just really telling, you know, Adam, something you wrote in your piece in The Intercept is this, quote, “By way of comparison, more Palestinian children died in the first week of the Gaza bombing than during the first year of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, yet the New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times ran multiple personal, sympathetic stories highlighting the plight of children during the first six weeks of the Ukraine war.” End quote. So you can even just see, I mean, the death tolls are so drastically different. And the reporting is disproportionately different, but in exactly the opposite way.

Adam: Yeah. Because those, again, these were war crimes committed by our enemies versus us. And obviously, there’s a racial component too I think we’d be disingenuous to not say there’s a huge racial component, but also it is because, again, as I’m sure Citations Needed listeners are aware of by this point, the crimes of our enemies are necessarily going to be inflated relative to the crimes of the US and our allies. And so, especially when it’s done in this bipartisan way, you know, this war is bipartisan, supported almost entirely by both parties, with rare exception. And so when you’re on the business end of a bipartisan war consensus, that’s a really bad place to be, because you have very few friends, and there’s no PR flack, there’s no pushback, right? There’s no sort of Palestinian, you know, occasionally you get human rights groups here and there, or Muslim American groups here and there, but they’re not going to intimidate–

Nima: They don’t have the pull.

Adam: Yeah, they don’t have the pull. And so it’s just, you know, that’s what you’re gonna get, you’re gonna get a very particular narrative that emphasizes the humanity and the horror of death of one side. And, you know, to the extent to which they mentioned the humanity and horror on the other side, it’s far far, far less, and more toned down more, more anodyne, more kind of clinical. And so I think that this shows kind of what I think anti-war, sort of ceasefire activists are up against, they’re up against a media that pathologically and institutionally just doesn’t see Palestinians as humans, and I don’t know how else to say it.

Nima: Well, before we go though, Adam, I want to mention one more thing, which you note at the end of your most recent article, the one in The Intercept. And it has to do with public opinion, and what shapes public opinion. And part of the utility and the efficacy, I guess, of analyzing what we’re seeing in top cable news shows and leading print publications. Obviously, these are outlets, these are platforms that not everyone watches, right, or reads, but who does is important. And you see the result of this, you see the implications on support for the ongoing Israeli slaughter or support for stopping the slaughter or actually matters of accountability, matters of justice. So, Adam, I’d love for you to maybe even just talk about a little bit of what you found in terms of this pushback on alternative outlets of information, stuff like TikTok, which now we’re seeing people who watch TikTok are, based on a number of analyses, are more likely to support Palestine. Whereas if you read the New York Times, you’re more likely to be older and therefore, support Israel. We’re seeing some of that happen, which I think is just really important to note as we discuss why certain outlets are getting this kind of analytical scrutiny.

Adam: Well, I mean, look, there’s been a whole meltdown over TikTok, especially in the context of this conflict, right. Marco Rubio, John Fetterman has complained about it. Washington Post has run a new number of columns and editorials, the editorial board even I think, that TikTok is you know, it’s some sinister thing from the Orient infecting our Zoomer brains to be pro-Palestinian. Now, there’s some pushback on this around the margins. But this is a narrative of course, it’s very convenient because it’s not being filtered through the kind of human shields ideological filter one sees on a Jake Tapper or a New York Times editorial board or opinion page where it’s, there’s been an ideological framework built up over decades, a sort of racist, myth-based, you know, Hamas hides in hospitals bullshit, where you numb people to this kind of mass killing, because of this human shields narrative, which again, I know we’re going to dedicate an episode to soon. And this allows people to look at the images of toddlers being pulled out of rubble and say, Well, you know, that sucks for them. But that’s someone else’s fault, right? It’s sort of creates the ideological framework, along with chauvinism and racism to allow otherwise moral people, quote-unquote, “otherwise moral people” to kind of block it out of their minds. And you just don’t have that for people who didn’t grow up with that and didn’t watch that, didn’t get that reinforced all the time. You know, look at again, look at all the lies they said about Al-Shifa hospital that the Washington Post themselves debunked all the lies building up, on CNN about how they were using the hospital as a, you know, Hamas commander control center underground bunkers, and they get there and there’s nothing, there’s nothing, nothing to support that at all. People who are kind of ingesting this issue for the first time through social media through Twitter, through TikTok, Instagram, they are getting it more unfiltered. Now that isn’t to say that those social media outlets cannot have their own forms of propaganda and manipulative actors, right? I’m sure the US government is, manipulates it to the extent they can, right. And as do other governments. But ultimately, I think you’re getting a less filtered framework, because you’re getting raw images, you’re getting raw videos for the most part. And there’s really only so many dead bodies of children being pulled out of rubble on a daily basis, sort of nonstop that comes across one’s timeline, where they’re not going to get angered by it. And when you, when you’re not getting because again, they don’t show that stuff on cable news, really, they don’t. They blur it out, or they don’t show it at all.

Nima: But if that’s coming across your feed, say 20 times more than information about Israeli deaths or, you know, pro-Israel messaging, well, then that’s a more accurate depiction of the difference in death toll.

Adam: I think it is, I think social media, again, for all its faults, and we’ve I’ve criticized it before, but I think things like TikTok and Twitter are giving you a more correct impression of the world than cable news, which is just pure ideological filtering, and spin. And, again, I think that’s partly why you see these generational splits where it’s, which is really just a proxy for where people get their news. And this scares the shit out of people. This is why you, again, you see more of a concerted effort to ban TikTok and to sort of bring all the CEOs up in front of a congressional subcommittee so they can, you know, bully them into, and they have and, you know, there’s been a ton of reports of Palestinian activists being censored on on Meta and Instagram and Facebook and, and those efforts again, that regime of censorship exists for precisely this reason.

Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley has written a bill to ban TikTok. (Kent Nishimura / New York Times)

Nima: As long as the information is curated the right way, then it’s okay if it’s curated the wrong way, then it’s deemed often to be disinformation, and it must be stopped. And I think we’re seeing that, and I think the quantitative research that you, Adam, and Otto have done is just a great service to this and actually speaks to how data journalism can actually work in a really good way and actually provide the evidence to back up what I think as you said at the top of this News Brief, people kind of feel is true, viscerally, you feel that there’s disproportionate, disingenuous, and propagandistic coverage.

Adam: Well, to be clear, people feeling something’s true is not sufficient because people are oftentimes wrong, but in this case, they’re right.

Nima: Right. And therefore when you actually are equipped with the evidence, even though you kind of know this is happening, you can see it happen when you have those full datasets, you can really analyze it this way and you see those stark numbers, I think it’s just really telling about how our media operates. So, to go even a bit deeper, we’re now going to be joined by Otto Ali, a Palestinian American data analyst with advanced degrees in political science and data analysis. His research focuses on quantitative approaches to identifying mass media bias, disinformation, censorship, and the effect of media coverage on public sentiment. Otto will join us in just a moment. Stay with us.


We are joined now by Otto Ali. Otto, thank you so much for joining us today on Citations Needed. It is a pleasure to have you, Adam’s co-author, on this News Brief with us.

Otto Ali: Of course, thank you both for having me.

Adam Johnson: Yeah. So let’s begin by discussing the approach here for this piece in particular, and the other piece we did for your and my Substack. So I want to sort of start off by talking about the ways in which one approach is asymmetrical coverage of a conflict, specifically one where there has been such a wide discrepancy of people who are dead and dying, not to mention amputated, injured, etc., starving, disease, lack of access to insulin, you name it. It’s a pretty stark platform, I think, to sort of show double standards. I want to sort of talk about those double standards to begin with, and why they’re kind of important to highlight because I think media criticism is an entry point to kind of broader ideological critiques. Because I really think it’s where the kind of seams show in ideology. Like, if you’re looking for the cracks, and like a fake film set, you can kind of look closely. I think media criticism is one way of doing that, because there really isn’t any explanation other than again, ideology, racism, chauvinism, all that stuff. So I want to talk about how you approach in your research, like the concept of double standards, just in terms of creating a baseline reference point of one group’s humanity versus another group’s humanity.

Otto Ali: Yeah, well, I want to start with saying that what we did was not particularly difficult to replicate or expand on. Media accountability in the age of the internet, and especially thanks to the Internet Archive, which we relied on heavily for both pieces, is very much doable by really anyone with a computer. I say this, because I think the more people that do this type of work, the more likely we are to see outlets respond to it. And we’ll talk about more later on why this is the case. But to go back to your question about how one would approach or identify these double standards, there are a number of mostly academic papers that demonstrate bias or censorship, or really any type of double standard in quantitative ways. Some of them count the number of times certain terms are said or how many times deaths are mentioned. Others have looked at coverage of a topic over time, and how quickly it disappears from view, often relative to the death and destruction that is causing. So a good example of this is the Russian invasion of Ukraine versus the current invasion of Gaza. I’ve even seen research done on the distance of certain words from the top of an article, or of an article from the top of a news website. And that last type of analysis is my personal favorite. And I’ve done a little bit of it because news websites know exactly where the majority of eyeballs fall on their front page, and how far they’re going to scroll before they get bored and leave. So in a weird way, they know where to put an article for minimal, not maximal, viewership. I’ve also seen papers where researchers count the number of times that editorials are written by Palestinians about Palestinians versus about Palestinians by non, and there are ones that are incredibly complex where they do natural language pro also seeking to identify the most likely words that appear next to the word Palestinian versus Israeli. So there’s many, many, many ways that I missing that one could do qualitative and quantitative analysis that I did not just mention.

But in general, what I found is that because news outlets have to continuously push stories at unprecedented rates, to keep up with social media and the internet, in general, there’s always an abundance of content to look at and interrogate. And the bias, at least, that I’ve seen, and the double standards that are maintained by these outlets seems to be quite similar across a specific time period. I’ve not really seen many outlets, be biased one day and not the next, or censor a certain issue for a month and then begin to fully and fairly report on it the next month. There’s a surprising amount of consistency in double standards, which sort of makes sense because it’s intentional, the bias is quite intentional. And in terms of representing the quantitative findings, there’s really no limit to how one could do this, you and I did something that was a little qualitative and a little quantitative. And the simple bar charts and graphs that we had in our Intercept article worked pretty well. But I’ve seen people create these beautiful artistic graphs like Mona Chalabi on Instagram, that reach millions and millions of people and tell an entire story of media bias and one square picture. Ultimately, it definitely helps that the comparison data, which is what most people use, and which is what we use, Palestinians versus Israelis, is so massively skewed, because when you have a bar graph that shows that the word “massacre” is mentioned 120 times about Israeli deaths, and only four times about Palestinians, that’s a very jarring graph that’s likely to make you think for a little while, that’s not something that we’re used to seeing, or when you see a graph that shows the coverage of Palestinian deaths doesn’t increase with the incredible rise in deaths of Palestinians, but rather decreases over time, I think you’re likely to do sort of a Looney Tunes double take when you see that type of thing.

Nima Shirazi: You know, I’d love, Otto, to hear you talk about why you’ve really wanted to bring these skills that you have as a data analyst, as really an entry point into media criticism, right? So I think in cases like this, where many of us have been watching in horror at what’s been going on in Palestine over the last three months, I mean, let alone the past three to seven decades. But one kind of feels helpless, right? I mean, there’s a sort of observer’s guilt to it. That said, there’s obviously so much that people are doing, even if they’re just kind of consuming media, but also, you know, being out in the street or talking to people or really being active in this movement. But still, there’s this sort of helplessness to being on the other side of the world while this is happening, you know, and if you’re here, largely, in your name, with, you know, your own government’s willing approval and endorsement. But so with all that happening, what compelled you to want to capture this institutional bias that you’ve seen in the media, and that we talked about a lot on this show, in a more systematic way, right, as a way of pushing back on what you saw as a systemic dehumanization of Palestinians in the media?

Otto Ali: Yeah, it’s a long-winded answer, so bear with me. But my opinion is that there are two versions of this conflict. And I’m not the only person, obviously, that has said this. But there’s the first version of the conflict, which is the one that you and I and probably all of the Citations Needed listeners are aware of. It’s the one that you know, has an overwhelmingly powerful side that has is committing this devastating attack on Palestinian civilians. And then there’s a second version of this reality that is a fictional sort of war between two very different but somehow equally powerful groups. One that’s very loosely defined, fighting for terroristic bloodthirsty aims, and the other fighting for a very tactical and defensive war to preserve Western values and democracy. And if you’re on any form of social media, you probably see more of the first and in my opinion, the actual reality, if you’re not on social media, or if you’re in some sort of, you know, Michael Rapaport social media bubble, and you’re reading the polls during the times are you watching CNN or MSNBC or Fox, and you see the second version of reality, in which this is a defensive war that started on October 7, you kind of live in two very different worlds. And I wanted to focus on that second group of newspaper-reading, MSNBC-watching people and see what they think is happening in Gaza, because clearly, it’s not what you and I are seeing. And that group is also statistically more likely to be older, more affluent, and more likely to vote. And so ahead of the election, I think those people really matter. That’s the first reason I want to do this quantitatively.

The second reason is that living as I do, and I’m sure as you do, as well, on Twitter, we become so aware of examples of bias in reporting, but all of these discrete examples, as mad as they make us and as crazy as they make us, they’re picked up by people, and they’re really easy to refute by editors and outlets, not that the outlets need to do that or that they even do do that, but they are quite easy for the artists to sort of turn around and say, we use this specific word in a specific sentence on a specific day because of X, Y, and Z, even if they aren’t refuted, which again, they almost always aren’t, they leave you with some doubt that this was a one-off reporting anomaly or mishap. So the examples that I keep seeing on social media are very much anecdotal. And they don’t actually prove anything. And because they can’t prove anything, they can’t really be used to pressure any of these outlets to sort of start doing the right thing. But the examples didn’t help quite a lot, though, with the fact that they shed light on certain patterns. And data or quantitative approaches, in general, in my experience, are very good at proving that these patterns exist. So ultimately, it might be easy for an editor at the time to defend, you know, a wonky headline here or there, it’s impossible for them to defend the fact that the word “horrific” was used to describe the deaths of Israelis 10 times more than Palestinians.

Adam: Yeah, so let’s talk about the asymmetry of emotive words, which we discussed quite a bit at the top of the show, because I do think it’s, it’s very stark and kind of telling, obviously, other researchers, as we talked about, BBC, have criticized the BBC and CBC in Canada for doing the same thing. I’m sure if we even went beyond the New York Times, LA Times and Washington Post and MSNBC, CNN and Fox News and went to other outlets, I’m sure, I would surmise, we would probably find the same disproportionality. And I think that’s the thing that I think people find the most difficult to refute in the Canadian progressive website The Breach actually reached out to CBC and asked them to explain their why they only use these emotive words, you know, murderous, barbaric, slaughter, for the killing of Israelis versus killing Palestinians. And their answer, as we discussed at the top of the show was, it was a tautology. It was like they’re different. And they’re like, why? Because they’re different. Well, why are they different? They just are. Shut up. It also, of course, we’re gonna want to, I don’t wanna repeat what we went over earlier. But basically, there really is no explanation for it other than, they need to create what we talked about before, this kind of moral tier system, that the IDF, you can criticize it, you know, it makes mistakes, that it bumbles and stumbles, but it’s fundamentally morally superior to any kind of Palestinian militants, whatever, whether they be Hamas, PFLP, PIJ, whatever, that they always have to be a sort of one or two tiers above that, if not five tiers above that. And that’s sort of where you kind of load the deck a little bit by using those emotive terms, because it puts it in sort of violence for violence’s sake, that there’s kind of this sadistic glee, whereas the violence leveled upon Palestinians, is done with a heavy heart, reluctantly. And because they sort of, they have no choice. And I want you to talk about those discrepancies. Some excuses. Maybe you’ve heard, I haven’t really seen anyone try to bother defending even people who normally don’t like me, I have not seen anyone even really tried to defend that. But I want to know if you have seen someone try to defend it other than the CBC and what you sort of think it shows about these kinds of chauvinistic blinders.

Otto Ali: So, more than anything else, I think the discrepancy serves to humanize one group and dehumanize the other group, obviously. And when you humanize or rather dehumanize an entire population to your readers by not letting them be killed, the massacres are horrific slaughters, but rather abstractly, big numbers on a daily basis without stories, by an airstrike that isn’t clearly controlled by any one particular group of people. They become statistics and statistics don’t often feel very real. Even when the statistic is 1% of the population of Gaza has died, has been killed, that it doesn’t sit the same way as when you say, ‘the massacre on October 7 of Israeli civilians.’ But I think it goes a little bit beyond that as well. I mean, the news that’s given by these outlets is often stripped of context and of a 76-year history of occupation, ethnic cleansing and violence. And once this history is redacted, sort of from the stories, you have a baseline belief that this all started on October 7, and it’s a lot easier to start justifying or softening the things that Palestinian civilians have endured over the last, you know, nearly 100 days.

And you and I have talked about this before, Adam, if you read just the headlines of any major liberal outlet, from the BBC, or CNN or Washington Post, or New York Times, and we know statistically, most people only read headlines, you immediately see the bias. In the same headline that many of these places run, they’ll refer to Israeli children and Palestinian minors or Israeli children and people under 18 years old. And so even the fact that the Post and The Times and CNN and others are calling this invasion and destruction of Gaza, the Israel-Gaza war, or Israel at war, or any other combination of those words, sets the stage for, in my opinion, large-scale shifts in reality and reporting. So when it comes to words, like the ones we considered for at least our piece, slaughter, horrific, massacre, and other words that we were looking at, that we didn’t end up putting in the in the article, like “brutal,” for instance, they were only present in the reporting, because this really is were killed since October 7. I don’t think I have not done this research, so, you know, don’t quote me on this, but I would like to do this research, and I think others should do it too, that if we look at the last, let’s say, you know, 10, 20, 30 years of reporting from these outlets, I would bet a lot of money that these words, these emotive words would not come out and many of the reporting on Palestine. I think the only reason that this emotive language has appeared is because some of the people that were killed were not Palestinian.

Adam: Right, which It’s important to note, just so we’re clear here is that in the last 20, 25 years, that has not been the case. So for example, the 2014, Operation Protective Edge, the civilian death count, according to the United Nations, was 1,481 to six, so six Israelis died in that conflict. And I think two of them were heart attacks, if I’m not mistaken. And that is not the case here for obvious reasons. And so I think, to your point, I mean, you know, back in the ’80s, when they were bombing, Sbarros and shit, that was one thing, but ever since they kind of turned Gaza into a prison in 2006, 2007, there really hasn’t been any kind of comparable violence until October 7. So just to be clear, that is why you feel like that previously had not existed.

Otto Ali: Exactly. And I think the discrepancy that we’re seeing right now in the usage of these words is because for the first time, we’re seeing the reporting, sort of break halfway through an article, not having two articles that are quite different about Palestinians, and articles that are different about Israelis, but rather, the same article will break in half and report on two different deaths very differently. And sometimes, as we showed in our, in our reporting, but also, many others have done it in theirs, they’ll break throughout a sentence, and they’ll call one group of people “dying,” and the other group “brutally being murdered” by brutal terrorists or by horrifically being massacred. And then the other is having deaths caused by an airstrike. And the last thing I’ll say here is that, in my opinion, this goes back many, many centuries. And I’m sure you two know more about this than I do. But the framing of indigenous people as people who are capable of committing, or rather only committing, massacres and horrific things, such as this, such as what happened on October 7, in my opinion, the framing of indigenous people as savages and brutes, who are capable of this sort of justifies their subsequent marginalization and destruction. And if I have to answer the question plainly, what’s exposed here, in my opinion, is intention. They are intentionally biased, and I don’t think that you can refute that when in the same sentence, you are able to show that bias so clearly.

Nima: Yeah, I mean, it has everything to do with humanization. dehumanization, and then also this kind of battle over civilization. I mean, as you said, Otto, this idea that indigenous people are the ones who commit atrocities.

Adam: Right, like, I don’t think most people would even mind referring to the attacks on October 7 as brutal or, or horrific, for obvious reasons, if they just weren’t also used for the 25,000 fucking people killed, you know, it’s the second that the Palestinians start dying, then everybody’s fucking sober. You know, you’re writing a medical journal, you’re writing a VCR manual, right? It’s, everything’s so technical.

Nima: Israelis have children and babies, but Palestinians only have, like populations of people with demographics of those having only lived up to 18 years.

Adam: Yeah, it’s just the geopolitical equivalent of cops speak. It’s, you know, “Juvenile struck in torso,” it’s everybody, everybody becomes when a cop shoots a black kid, right? Everybody becomes a technical writer when it comes to subhuman populations. But when it’s people that remind us of us and our friends, quote-unquote, Western world who, you know that everything, you know, again, normal reportage, we did not do editorials or opinion pieces, we’re talking about normal reporting, it does take on a very different flavor.

Otto Ali: Right, and what I was expecting when we started doing this, you know, after you and I did the television coverage analysis, I was expecting to see these words appear, but only as quotes from other people who have said the word massacre, or horrific or brutal or slaughter, etc. And if they were to appear, I would have expected them to appear a little bit more equally. I think the strange thing, the thing that was so jarring was the fact that they were almost never mentioned about Palestinians, and the times that they were mentioned, and you know, the data is open source, so anyone can go and see this. The times that they were mentioned about Palestinians often weren’t even about the current massacres, or slaughters, or horrific deaths of Palestinians. They were about previous ones. But I do agree entirely that both killings are horrific massacres. It’s just that one is mentioned as that and the other one isn’t.

Nima: Yeah. Well, before we let you go, I do also want to talk about the proceedings at the ICJ, the International Court of Justice, this past week. Now, many people that I’ve spoken to about this kind of have the take that, you know, while they know that no one is ultimately going to get arrested or, you know, actually prosecuted in prison, certainly not that, you know, there’s a limit to what the accountability structure will be, you know, which is to say, not a whole hell of a lot. But still, a lot of people feel like just having this kind of official forum document in detail the genocidal intentions of Israel against Palestinians since October 7, specifically, it kind of makes them feel like a little less crazy, right? Like, at least you’re not alone in seeing that this is happening, that actually there is some kind of legal recourse even if justice ultimately will not be served. So what do you think that these proceedings at the ICJ will do, if anything at all, to perhaps mainstream the idea that what Israel is doing currently is certainly not some kind of ‘hunt for Hamas’ in the media narrative of this, or even just violent vengeance in any meaningful sense, but actually, just maybe the next inevitable step in the century-long history of abuses of colonial Zionism?

Otto Ali: Yeah. It’s a great question. In general, I think it does a few things. it legitimizes what many human rights organizations have already said. It legitimizes what Palestinians have said. It sort of gives legitimacy to what we’ve all seen, because this is such a well-documented war. And it counts the 23,000 mostly civilian deaths as part of a larger program of genocide, and not just unfortunate collateral damage of a defensive war that’s very tactical, but unfortunate every once in a while. I think it also counts the destruction of Gaza as a premeditated step in making the strip uninhabitable for the population that is living there now. So in that sense, it does a lot in terms of what the proceedings will do to change mainstream reporting on the issue, I don’t think much will happen. I will say I’m not particularly qualified to speak on why these channels and outlets and newspapers have such a preference for the Israeli narrative. I could speculate, but instead of me speculating, I’m sure another guest would be able to speak with more clarity and authority on this. But whatever the reasons are, I don’t believe these channels report with such bias because they’ve been tricked by Israel into thinking that this is a just war. I mean, I listened to Citations Needed every day–

Adam: That’s right.

Otto Ali: So I’m not that, not that silly. But I think the ICJ’s ruling is not going to convince the outlets to sort of change course, just like, you know, Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, calling the conditions that Palestinians live in, or live under, apartheid, that didn’t convince these outlets to start claiming that what was going on was apartheid. So I think we have some precedents that they really won’t change much. I do think that what will continue to happen is that more people will start to lose trust, and potentially stop reading the news that these outlets are publishing. There’s two polls that I want to mention, there’s one Gallup poll from 2023, I think, October of 2023. And there’s one poll from 2022, both from Gallup, that shows that, one of them shows basically, that around 50% of young people in the US, those under 35, don’t trust the news a great degree or a fair amount. And the other poll shows that something around 30% of Americans have a great amount of trust in mass media. And so when we take those two numbers, and I imagine the percentage of young people that have very little trust in media has decreased since then, I don’t think that these numbers are because young people are dumb or ill informed. I think it’s because they’re seeing the reality on the ground for Palestinians every day, whether they like it or not on TikTok, and Instagram, and if they’re weird, on Twitter, and I think these young people are less likely to trust the legitimacy and truthfulness of these outlets, and subsequently, maybe less likely to subscribe to these papers or watch these channels, which potentially could make them rethink their bias. I don’t think anything on the ground or anything that the ICJ or other groups will do will actually change the way that this war is being reported, or that the Palestinian struggle in general is going to be reported on.

Adam: Yeah, a bunch of guys in powdered wigs, you know, saying something in a forum like that, I think is helpful, because I don’t wanna sound like a cringe lib reformist, but I do think mainstreaming some of these concepts is useful because people have genuinely felt like they were losing their minds, because you would see things and you would, Israeli officials and say, like, we’re doing genocide today. And you know, we’re going to kick them out of there. We’re not going to distinguish between civilian and combatant. And there is no such thing as a civilian. All this sort of genocidal rhetoric, which the ICJ laid out in pretty explicit terms for several hours. And then you say, Well, man, that’s weird. And then you go to the front page of The New York Times, and it’s, you know,

Nima: The personal history of Israeli soldiers.

Adam: Well, the most Jokerfying was, anytime they would attack a hospital, they would make it seem like there was fire coming from the hospital and that Hamas militants were using it as a base. But then you look at the fine print, and there was no evidence of that. And then they’d say, The New York Times, for example, “Hospital caught in crossfire, as you know, IDF circles,” Hamas militant and you’re like, what? They’re just attacking a hospital. Right? There’s no militants in the hospital. And of course, the New York Times couldn’t independently confirm that gunfire was coming from the hospital was like, Well, isn’t that really important? And shouldn’t your headline reflect the fact that there’s no evidence that, you know, there’s this juxtaposition between the leader saying, like, we know, We’re doing an ethnic cleansing, we do not distinguish between civilians and combatants. We have an evacuation order of all of North Gaza. We are doing forcible population transfers. And we are asking countries in Africa and the Arab world and Europe to take Palestinians. And then you turn on the news, and it’s like, ‘the hunt for Hamas heats up,’ and you’re like, What the fuck is this? This is a different universe from what’s actually going on. And I do think having, again, having some people in powdered wigs say that does make it seem a little bit more like you’re not losing your mind because I think for so long there, like you said, there’s such a gap between how this is reflected in social media versus when it gets kind of laundered through CNN, New York Times and you know, there was a bit of a break in the verisimilitude sometimes, like I actually think that guys like Evan Hill at the Washington Post have been pretty decent on this. The ones who debunked the Shifa Hospital. And just the other day, he’s like, you know, all this post war, quote unquote, post-war, Gaza conversation is entirely divorced from reality. You know, people talking about mystery Arabs, they don’t even tell you which one’s coming in and ruling. It’s like, it’s just a total different fairytale land. It’s not based on what’s actually going on in reality. But that’s the exception. You know, for the most part, again, it’s a total bizarro, alternate, liberal Zionist world where there’s a targeted war on terror. And there’s some fringe right-wing guys, but they don’t really count. I mean, for the longest time, it was like, Oh, that rhetoric is just locker room talk. Ignore that. And finally, it’s like, again, watching the prosecutor stand up and the live stream, and say, Here are 25 different examples of actual genocidal rhetoric from high ranking officials up to and including the Prime Minister, and the Defense Minister and the Agriculture Minister and the Intelligence Minister. Again, I think it does, usually okay, if now that we sort of square the circle a little bit now it feels like something is, in reality is checking with what I’ve been observing.

Otto Ali: Yeah, I think the potential for it to change the way that reporting is happening right now is there. if the response to it the global response to whatever the ICJ finds is big. I think that my only concern is that going on the Washington Post website tonight, right before this call, actually, and the New York Times website, it showed me that the reporting on the ICJ was about two scrolls down. So it wasn’t really, it was on the front page, but it was–

Adam: Oh, yeah, it was like the fourth or fifth story. But yeah, yeah.

Otto Ali: Right. So I mean, if that’s happening on the first date of the hearing, I think that’s a problematic thing

Nima: Because there’s the ideological bias, and then like the algorithmic bias on top of that.

Otto Ali: Yeah, exactly. So there’s how much they report on it, where they report on it, where they put it in the page and how they report on it. More importantly, I think, is if people are, whatever they find is not going to determine what happens. I think it’s how people respond to what they’re going to find that will change how these media outlets report on it. That’s my opinion, of course.

Nima: Well, Otto, let me just say it has been a pleasure having you on the show. I feel like the articles that you and Adam have been writing together, it’s like, you know, like a media criticism power couple. So it’s a pleasure to be on with both of you, Adam, obviously, my co-host in the show for a while. But, Otto, someone I’m just speaking to for the first time tonight. So it’s been such a pleasure. Thank you for joining us. We’ve been speaking with Otto Ali, a Palestinian American researcher and data analyst with advanced degrees in political science and data analysis. His research focuses on quantitative approaches to identifying mass media bias, disinformation, censorship and the effect of media coverage on public sentiment. Otto, thank you again for joining us today on Citations Needed.

Otto Ali: Of course, thank you both so much.

Nima: That will do it for this Citations Needed News Brief. Of course, you can follow the show on Twitter @citationspod, Facebook Citations Needed, and become a supporter of the show if you are not already a supporter of the show, and if you are, thank you so much, but if you’re not and you can become one, we would certainly appreciate it. We are 100% listener funded. You can do that through We will be back very soon with new full-length episodes of Citations Needed for the year 2024. Can’t thank you all enough for joining us. But until then, thanks again for listening. I am Nima Shirazi.

Adam: I’m Adam Johnson.

Nima: Citations Needed’s senior producer is Florence Barrau-Adams. Producer is Julianne Tveten. Production assistant is Trendel Lightburn. Newsletter by Marco Cartolano. Transcriptions are by Mahnoor Imran. The music is by Grandaddy. Thanks again for listening, everyone. We’ll catch you next time.


This Citations Needed News Brief was released on Wednesday, January 17, 2024.



Citations Needed

A podcast on media, power, PR, and the history of bullshit. Hosted by @WideAsleepNima and @adamjohnsonnyc.