Robert Fisk’s Long Career of Lies Comes to an End

December 1, 2020 | Oz Katerji
About the author:

For decades, the journalist Robert Fisk, who died on October 30 at the age of seventy-four, was Britain’s most celebrated and admired war correspondent, known especially for his writings about the Middle East. Those well informed about Israel who paid attention to such things have long been aware that his passionate hatred for the Jewish state was matched only by his shamelessness in distorting the facts about it. But when Oz Katerji met Fisk in 2010, he was a young journalist, awed by this lion of his profession. Katerji’s opinion changed in the following years, as he read the older man’s mendacious attempts to cover up the crimes of Bashar al-Assad:

The veneration of Fisk, in his obituaries and throughout his career, serve as an indictment of a British foreign press that continued to indulge a man who they knew was violating not just ethical boundaries, but also moral ones. In a way, the glowing obituaries, free from the constraints of the normal journalistic practice of fact-checking and evidence, were a fitting tribute to Fisk. Like him, they preferred to tell a story that was not true, because stories are often far more comforting than the reality.

Fisk did not speak fluent Arabic, not even after living in the Middle East for more than 40 years. Leaving aside the testimony of Arabic speakers who worked alongside him, his lack of basic knowledge of the language is contained multiple times within his own work.

Fisk’s reputation among scholars and journalists in the Middle East was destroyed by years of distortions of the truth in his work on Syria. But even before he started embracing pro-Assad conspiracy theories, Fisk’s relationship with the truth was widely scrutinized. . . . Fisk got away with it because he always got away with it. The falsehoods he published were often tolerated, excused, or dismissed because people agreed with the stories he was telling.

The fact that fabrications can so easily be found in Fisk’s work destroys the legacy of decades-worth of award-winning reporting. . . . Fisk’s latter-day atrocity revisionism was the logical end of a career unburdened by the responsibility of telling the truth at all costs.

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