Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The War For Hearts And Minds

In the midst of Operation Cast Lead, Israel's aerial bombardment of Hamas targets in Gaza, I wanted to examine how the fighting is playing out on the internet. With Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Digg, and other site playing an increasingly important role in the PR war, who is creating these messages, and how are they being shaped

When Israel created an IDF (Israel Defense Forces) YouTube Channel to showcase its efforts to specifically target Hamas forces and infrastructure, it signaled an important shift in the thinking of the government towards the public relations war for sympathy and legitimacy.

Some of the videos were taken down by YouTube, purportedly because of pressure from those who oppose the content, but have been put up. As explained by the IDF Spokesperson's Unit:

We were saddened on Dec. 30, 2008 when YouTube took down some of our exclusive footage showing the IDF's operational success in operation Cast Lead against Hamas extremists in the Gaza Strip. Fortunately, due to blogger and viewer support, YouTube has returned the footage they removed.

Newest update: Instead of removing the footage youtube has restricted viewing ability. We are in the process of opening up a blog so that you will be able to view the videos without problem there.


Twitter also been...well, all atwitter about Israel and Gaza, with Israeli Consulates joining the fray to answer questions and provide information/propaganda.

On Facebook, people are sharing images and videos which range from images of Palestinian civilian casualties, to videos showing Hamas fighters loading rockets onto trucks, then being targeted Israel missile strikes, to Hamas gunmen grabbing children as human shields.

Digg.com, which provides a way to promote stories around the web, takes the front to the next level, in that people who support or oppose a particular view point can blow a story up or bury it depending on if it falls in line with their agenda.

While the internet provides unprecedented access to information, it also bring the question of veracity of information back to the forefront. Even as we see in rapid increase in the number of primary sources, who can quickly Tweet the latest events, uploading pictures, videos, and GPS coordinates, so do we see an increase in the use of this information to deceive, and mislead.

My advice is to consume as much information from a diverse pool of sources as possible. A spokesperson for the IDF has a certain agenda when they present information. While this agenda doesn't mean that the information is necessarily false, it may be an incomplete truth. The same can be said for a Palestinian news network or non-profit.

As the new Roman Calendar year approaches, we at the St. Lou Jew hope that the New Year brings level-heads to the table, a cessation of violence, and a renewed effort towards dialogue and negotiation.

1 comment:

Ariel said...

I must confess that I haven't read all the recent postings on this blog (yet!) but I wanted to let other readers know about a very relevant, interesting, and well written book:

How to cure a fanatic by Amos Oz

It is less than a 100 pages, but provides some level headed and even handed insights into the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Happy New Year.