Every now and then it helps to read headlines in news sources around the world and then attempt to connect some dots.
Take, for example, that headline the other day in Haaretz ("the land" in Hebrew), which is a small, liberal, but very influential publication that reaches a global audience.
The headline in question said: "U.S. Indicts Israeli-American Teen Hacker for Bomb Threats Against Jewish Centers." Here is the overture of this Reuters story:
A teenager has been indicted for hate crimes connected to threats against Jewish community centers, as well as threatening the Israeli embassy and cyberstalking, the U.S. Justice Department said. ...
The teen is awaiting trial in Israel, where he was arrested last year. U.S. and Israeli authorities have previously charged him with making thousands of threats, including to airports, schools and Jewish centers, in the United States in 2016 and early 2017.
Later in the story, there is this statement about these activities by this young man -- who holds dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship:
The hoax threats to the Jewish community centers forced widespread evacuations and raised fears of a resurgence in anti-Semitism.
U.S. authorities have said in court documents that the teen advertised his services on AlphaBay, a now-closed online black market, and offered to threaten any school for $30.
Now, here is my journalism question, focusing on a wave of recent headlines about anti-Semitism trends in newspapers across America (and in television coverage): Is the information contained in this ongoing story in Israel relevant to the recent wave of reports about a sharp rise in anti-Semitic activity in America during 2017?
Here is a typical headline, at NPR: "Anti-Defamation League Report Shows Anti-Semitic Incidents Rose From 2016 To 2017."
The Los Angeles Times offered this: "Anti-Semitism in U.S. surged in 2017, a new report finds."
The New York Times headline proclaimed: "Anti-Semitic Incidents Surged 57 Percent in 2017, Report Finds." The top of that report noted:
The number of reported anti-Semitic incidents in the United States surged 57 percent in 2017, according to an annual report by the Anti-Defamation League.
The organization’s Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents ... found 1,986 such incidents in 2017, compared with 1,267 in 2016. That increase was the largest in a single year since the A.D.L. began tracking in 1979.
Only once since 1979 has the Anti-Defamation League recorded more incidents: 2,066 in 1994. Since then, the numbers had mostly declined. There were small increases in 2014 and 2015. Then, in 2016, the count began to shoot up.
What happened? For the most part, media reports focused on the increasingly divisive state of American politics (the Donald Trump era, in other words), the emboldening of "extremists" and the always relevant rise of bitter trends in social media.
Let me stress that I am not saying that those trends are insignificant or not worthy of news coverage -- especially the increasingly bold activities of the alt-right in the past year.
My question, once again, is whether the activities of that U.S.-Israeli teen (and maybe a few other isolated people) were relevant to this ADL story when it hit elite publications and network television. In other words, why not mention that stunning case discussed in the Reuters report that was picked up by Haaretz?
What would that kind of coverage look like? Well, dig down into the basic Associated Press story about the ADL document -- Report: Anti-Semitic incidents soar by 57 percent in 2017" -- and you will find this (hat-tip to GetReligion colleague Ira Rifkin):
The harassment incidents included 169 bomb threats against Jewish institutions, nearly all of them by two men. The ADL report said more than 150 bomb threats against Jewish community centers and day schools last year were allegedly made by an 18-year-old Israeli-American Jewish hacker, who was arrested in Israel last March. Separately, a former journalist from St. Louis pleaded guilty to making a string of fake bomb threats to Jewish organizations last year in the name of his ex-girlfriend in an effort to disrupt her life.
That's good to know, in a story about the ADL report. However, the Reuters report noted that U.S. and Israeli officials had accused this one teen-ager of making "thousands" of threats to various kinds of institutions, including Jewish institutions.
Thousands? That would rather skew the 2017 numbers. That might have been worth mentioning in the stories that ran under those blunt headlines in elite media.