People Like Us: Misrepresenting the Middle East

Overview

"In People Like Us, Joris Luyendijk tells the story of his five years as a reporter in the Middle East. Extremely young for a correspondent but fluent in Arabic, he spoke with stone throwers and terrorists, taxi drivers and professors, victims and aggressors, students and families. He chronicled first-hand experiences of dictatorship, occupation, terror, and war. His stories cast light on a number of major crises, from the Iraq War to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, along with less-reported issues such as orphans collecting trash on the streets ...

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People Like Us: Misrepresenting the Middle East

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Overview

"In People Like Us, Joris Luyendijk tells the story of his five years as a reporter in the Middle East. Extremely young for a correspondent but fluent in Arabic, he spoke with stone throwers and terrorists, taxi drivers and professors, victims and aggressors, students and families. He chronicled first-hand experiences of dictatorship, occupation, terror, and war. His stories cast light on a number of major crises, from the Iraq War to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, along with less-reported issues such as orphans collecting trash on the streets of Cairo." "Yet the more he witnessed, the less he understood, and he explains here how he became increasingly aware of the yawning gap between what he saw on the ground and what was later reported in the media. As a correspondent, he was privy to a multitude of narratives with conflicting implications, and he saw over and over again that the media favors the stories that are sure to confirm the popularly held, oversimplified beliefs of westerners." People Like Us - which has become a bestseller in its native Holland - deploys powerful examples, leavened with humor, to demonstrate the ways in which the media gives us a filtered, altered, and manipulated image of reality in the Middle East.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

In his commanding debut, Dutch journalist Luyendijk describes the curious five years he spent as a correspondent in the Middle East, stationed out of Cairo. Sent traipsing around the Middle East, Luyendijk struggles to find newsworthy (and trustworthy) stories, usually involving bribery and less-than-honest people. Luyendijk also delivers example after example of oppression and brainwashing techniques used by dictatorships on their citizens, which comes through clearly in his conversations with ordinary people like cab drivers, as well as with high-profile public figures. Sent to the Middle East not for his journalism skills but for his ability to speak Arabic, Luyendijk had to learn on the job, an all-too-literal trial by fire. He takes advantage of his outsider position to break down the myths of war journalism and the very real limitations reporters face outside the Western bubble of free speech. The author also weighs in on 9/11 and Saddam Hussein's regime, making this an eye-opening account with special relevance for American readers.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Reviews
A Dutch journalist's reflective take on the difficulties inherent in covering the news from the Middle East, where he was a reporter from 1998 to 2003. When Luyendijk was hired by the newspaper Volkskrant and Dutch Radio 1 News to be their Middle East correspondent, the novice journalist gradually came to the conclusion that good journalism in a dictatorship is a contradiction in terms because of four factors: fear, the absence of verifiable facts and figures, the vulnerability of sources and, finally, the most important element, the dictatorship itself. The author takes readers behind the scenes of so-called on-the-spot reporting, where the journalist has no more access to facts than his editor in an office half way across the globe. The wire services-Associated Press, Reuters, etc.-are the principal sources of news, and Luyendijk compares the production of news to that of bread in a factory: "The correspondents stand at the end of the conveyor belt, pretending we've baked the white loaf ourselves, while in fact all we've done is put it in its wrapping." What the public wants to hear, he asserts, is often what the media reports, providing people with views that jibe with their preconceived notions. Luyendijk divides his report into three parts: his early years learning the ropes, his time covering the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the lead-up to the war in Iraq. In the author's view the Israelis are masters of public relations, much better than the Palestinians at fighting the media war, with the result that terrorism receives more coverage than the occupation. As for the American government's public-relations effort preceding the invasion of Iraq, Luyendijk writes that"the creators of Disney World were at work." Personal anecdotes and jokes lighten the author's serious message about the flaws in the system that produces what passes for news from the Arab world. Originally published in the Netherlands in 2006, the book includes an Afterword in which Luyendijk summarizes the problems and offers suggestions for change. Opinionated, self-deprecating and humorous-and for supporters of Israel, an unwelcome interpretation of the situation there.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781593762568
  • Publisher: Soft Skull Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/29/2009
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

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