Saturday, March 15, 2014

Apropos mood: one question, several answers

My friend Tomas sent me the link to a video clip on youtube that leaves me sad and disturbed.

The clip contrasts voices from  Mahaneh Yehudah and Old City, the Jewish and Arab markets. The invisible interviewer asks one question: "What is a just and free world?" Some of the Jewish subjects give a general philosophical answer that elides the political "situation" (hamatzav, a common Hebrew term referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict), while all of the Arab subjects immediately and inevitably answer the question by commenting on their situation as Palestinians living under Israeli rule, which for them is characterized by injustice, lack of freedom, and humiliation. The contrast is saddening. The fact that there's no follow-up question (poignantly raised by one of the Arab women: "That's it?") makes the exercise painful. The situation seems hopeless.

I am wondering about the ethics of the exercise. In social science, there are protocols and forms procedures to follow that aim to protect the subjects of interviews from harm. Who is helped by this exercise? Who is harmed? Is it responsible to ask a leading question and then bid one's subjects farewell? Is the product of final editing fair and balanced, or is it incendiary? Are the subjects abused by this presentation? Does the presentation serve the interest of the subjects (of all the subjects) or does it serve the interests of the presenter? What is the role of media, including youtube postings such as this?

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