Palestine, Joe Sacco mainly incorporates new journalism techniques and rejects objective reporting to ensure his work is more credible and flawless. My introductory thesis is whether the use of new journalism tendencies as opposed to objective reporting compromises the credibility of Sacco's book on the Israeli-Palestine war.
Sacco's use of New Journalism
New Journalism is literary reporting style used by most comic and mainstream journalists. It encompasses three major sub-braches; intensive reportage, dramatic literary techniques as well as reportage of acceptable subjectivity. These sub-branches of new journalism are integrated by Sacco in his comic and dramatic literature Palestine. New journalism writing technique encourages a journalist's or reporter's opinions, ideas as well as involvement to sneak into the story though the characters take a greater share in the story (Flippen).
This journalistic system requires mainstream reporters as well as journalists to carry out in-depth reportage while paying attention to the most minute facts and details of any particular occurrence the journalist is writing on. In writing their work after reporting, the journalist is entitled to use scenes ad pictures rather than narrative as much as possible, conversational speech as opposed to quotations and statements by showing every particular occurrence through the eyes of a particular character. Sacco encompasses these requirements in his book by giving detailed views from the characters points-of-views. He engages in conversations with his characters to give a detailed step-by-step analysis of the daily occurrences during and after the Israeli-Palestinian violence.
Palestine is a book that highlights the plight of the Palestinians on an individual scale; a factor the Western media often ignores in order to narrate the "bigger picture" to the public. The people Sacco meets are individuals who the world has forgotten about, the stories they have to tell are unresolved but, they have optimism that the future will be bright and the war will soon end. Sacco embarks on his voyage to Palestine in 1992 after he is frustrated by the limits of the Western mass media, by their narrow perspective of journalistic writing as well as their claim of objectivity; which according to Sacco is biased and ill-meaning. The western media shows a colored narration on the war; the Palestine story is ignored at the expense of the Israeli. So Sacco went to Palestine to write what he believed to be the other side of the story; the story of the Palestinians that was not being conveyed by the media. This makes him a writer using new journalism writing techniques; requiring for detailed analysis of the event and flawless as possible without diluting the content of that particular event.
Palestine is a work of comic journalism that represents the Israeli-Palestinian conflict "through the eyes of Muslims," the individuals whose plights and sufferings are always ignored and underrepresented by mainstream American press. In Palestine, Sacco ensures his readers get whatever they are denied in mass media foreign reporting: the immediacy and material reality of the Muslims experience during the 1991-1992 war. He presents the violence via horrifying pictures showing mass killings, and civilian mistrust; a tendency previously unheard of in publications of other mainstream journalists. He lets the pictures relay the circumstances present during the war period by avoiding the inclination to lean on journalistic record or to speak on behalf of others and instead, turns to the victims or perpetrators themselves and records their voices, talking about their experiences.
In Palestine, Sacco interviews a man who gives him a true account of the violence. The media runs headlines on whatever the man says but in a rather controversial and biased way. The man Sacco meets in Hebron witnessed a violent interaction between Palestinians and Jewish settlers and tells Sacco that,
"[The Jewish settlers] attacked homes and caused damage….The people wounded [the Arabs] were passing by, not the ones throwing the stones" (Sacco, p. 132). On the contrary to the man's visualized account, a newspaper clipping headline claims, "A group of Jewish families, members of the Kach-affiliated Committee for Safety on the Roads, were passing through the dangerous Harat a-Sheikh district of Hebron when they were attacked by several hundred Arabs. They said they were pelted with rocks and bottles from rooftops and alleys" (Sacco, p. 132,).
This shows the tendency of the media to lean towards a particular side and ignore the truth involved in some situations. Sacco deviates from this by giving a clear and first-hand account of the violence; a major component of new journalism Sacco uses effectively to keep his audience informed and entertained. He shows the story how it occurred without any chances of dilution of the story. He goes slightly ahead of the mainstream media by showing the violence, the particular scenes as the characters narrate however disgusting, nerve wrenching and antagonistic to expectations of the mainstream media.
In addition, Sacco makes the readers see beyond the wounds and to see the people instead, to see the families and communities affected by war (Sacco, p. 84). In a different setting, Sacco visits a hospital where injured and wounded patients model the keffiyeh. This is a representation of their Palestinian pride as well as evidence of their individual resistance and commitment to the collective revolution. Readers are shown the brevity and loyalty of the Palestine citizens who despite being wounded and critically injured during the war remain true to their cause. In the hospital, a patient in deep pain refuses his wounds to be pictured by Sacco, this Sacco describes as "a private wound" (Sacco, p. 32). This moment pushes readers back from the fascination of "wound culture" to remind them of the individual toll such violence takes, an individual choice and a request for privacy and respect (Sacco, p. 84).
In creating the humorous side of the story, Sacco includes the daily activities that are carried out despite the impact of the violence on the lives of Palestinians. Sacco gives his readers a glimpse into the ordinary cultural rituals of the Palestinians, slaughtering of bulls for eating, congregating in mosques for prayers and other illicit behaviors among men and women. Sacco's work is riddled with similar asides that remind the reader that the story they read is being framed and filtered through Sacco's eyes and those of his translator, a nod to subjectivity and a challenge to the journalistic ideal of objectivity (Hollowell).
Sacco's Rejection of Objective Reporting
Objective reporting is untruthful and is difficult and impossible to apply in practice. According to Mindich, objectivity is lukewarm and biased making individuals' passive recipients of news (Mindich). Currently, the media provides partial analysis of facts, the truth is either hard to find, or deemed farfetched. In most mass media circulations, there are facts distortions especially in reportage of elections and war. Moreover, most left wing politicians and news editors use mass media with the purpose of getting their respective messages out to as many people as possible, by manipulating how information is presented in mass media in order to promote specific agendas.
Sacco highlights the details of the Israeli-Palestine war in an honest way without bias or giving plight to one side to make his story a hit. He gives the reader a clear picture of the conflict as opposed to journalistic biasness of other writers. This makes his writing credible as opposed to journalists who either inflate or lessen reportages to make them accepted by their editors as well as make their stories sought-after.
Sacco notes the natural hatred existing between the two warring factions as the causative factor of the war. Sacco brings to light personal stories through novelistic, comic-book story-telling technique. He outlines what it means by living in oppression and brutality on a daily basis. In addition, the remains subjective as he writes on what it entails to get on with a normal life in the face of all this, bringing up a family, dreaming about a better future for self, family as well as the society. By showing these minute details most reporters are keen on ignoring, Sacco turns what could easily be a rant into the living, breathing reality the utter nightmare of everyday life in Palestine.
To make his novel more enticing and captivating to readers, Sacco describes how, beneath the surface there are "traffic, couples in love, falafel-to-go, tourists in jogging suits licking stamps for postcards" and behind closed doors, other things are happening for "reasons of national security," "people strapped to chairs, sleep deprivation, the smell of piss" (Sacco, p. 134). He takes the readers systematically from the bustle of everyday life to the brutal torture of a middle-class family man who is acquitted a month later due to lack of evidence against him, then segues beautifully and disturbingly back into the bustle of 'normal' life outside.
By combining the best of reportage, historical writing and literature in one format, Sacco gives a moving, infuriating, humane, witty, self-deprecating, and objective publication while remaining politically engaged. Sacco captures well what the situation in Palestine is really like and the implications…