Skip to main content

How Social Media is leveling the playing field between governments, militants, and ordinary people

Part 2

The 2014 war between Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip was perhaps the first war in which social media was successfully employed as a radical levelling force by the weaker party. In previous wars between Israel and the Palestinians, the Israeli government’s ability to manage access to the battlefield allowed it to help shape the narrative of the war, portraying it the way that it preferred — as a fight against terrorism. But with the proliferation of smartphones and social media accounts in Gaza over the past several years, this conflict wound up being viewed very differently by a variety of observers.

As bombs rained down on Gaza neighborhoods, following a pattern that included the killing and maiming of many ordinary people, Palestinians rushed to social media to share their own narrative of the war. Young men and women living in the Strip shared photos of apparent atrocities committed against civilians, alongside often emotional updates about their own experiences trying to survive the Israeli military onslaught. In previous conflicts most of these voices would never have been heard. Broadcast directly onto the global public spheres of Twitter and Facebook, however, accounts of Palestinian suffering and resistance became impossible for the world to ignore.

Writing in Middle East Eye on social media’s role in the conflict, Yousef al-Helou reflected:

           Even when the power was out, citizen journalists managed to post pictures of dead bodies, destroyed neighborhoods and injured people to the outside world. Photography has always been a powerful force, but the Gaza conflict was one of the first wars to be photographed mainly by amateurs and social media platforms, allowing those images to spread far and wide at the click of a button, helping the people of Gaza win hearts and minds, and subsequently causing unprecedented outrage against Israel. In demonstrations around the world, such photos were enlarged and carried by demonstrators, demanding that their respective governments take action to halt Israel’s onslaught.

As the public outcry over the war grew, even establishment media outlets in the U.S. were forced to take note of the Palestinian experience of the conflict. In response to the growing public relations disaster caused by images of dead Gazan civilians, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the Hamas government in the territory of using “telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause” — a statement that did little to quell rising international outrage over the civilian deaths.

In military terms, there was no real parity between the two sides. By the time the conflict ended, more than 2,100 Palestinians had been killed, compared with just 66 Israelis. The physical infrastructure of the besieged territory suffered devastating damage, with Israeli attacks crippling water and power sources to Gaza residents. Despite their advantage in brute strength, the lopsided death toll, and destruction of only one party’s territory, it’s not clear that the Israelis won the conflict. In the battle over the narrative of the war — vitally important in a conflict whose power dynamics are strongly impacted by outside actors — the Palestinians managed to win significant traction for their cause.

Instead of another case of the Israeli military attacking an amorphous group of Islamist terrorists, a counter-narrative of the conflict spread globally. In this version of events, Israel was not a democratic state waging a war of self-defense against terrorists, but a U.S.-backed military behemoth pummeling the people of an impoverished territory. The death toll seemingly proved to the world that disproportionate force was being inflicted on a weak and isolated territory.

During Protective Edge” — the name the Israeli military gave to the campaign — “the people who suffered most were Palestinians, under siege from Israel’s superior military force,” Patrikarikos writes in his book. “This is the democratization of the wartime narrative in action, and it benefitted only one side: the Palestinians.

During the war, no one was more emblematic of the changing power dynamics than Farah Baker, a 16-year-old Palestinian girl who came to international attention for her social media updates about life in Gaza. Baker was not tied to any political group and her perspective on the war was a personal one. Yet her social media presence catapulted her to global attention and told the Palestinian story to the world in a way that resonated emotionally. It also empowered Baker as a political actor, something that she had never expected and that could never have occurred in any previous conflict.

Normally, a young teenage girl living under aerial bombardment would have been considered a bystander, at best, or a victim, at worst. But thanks to her Twitter feed, where she shared both her fears as well as her attempts to maintain a normal life amid the war, Farah became an important part of the Palestinian effort to sway global opinion on the conflict.

At only sixteen, Farah understood, even if only instinctively, the importance of social media in wartime, especially to a perpetual underdog like the Palestinians,” Patrikarikos wrote. “She understood the power that it gave to a single individual and to networks of individuals, power that previously would have been impossible.

In Gaza, like in Syria and Ukraine, there have been instances of alleged faked suffering and atrocity spread for propaganda purposes. Here, too, social media has changed the way the conflict is perceived. Through social media’s ability to give accounts from multiple separate sources on the ground, to verify information, and to share evidence, outside observers can better evaluate the credibility of reports from the ground.

During the Gaza conflict, the Israeli Defense Forces attempted to rebut the onslaught of Palestinian citizen journalism with their own information war, disseminating infographics and videos intended to show the Israeli side of the story. Ultimately, the Israelis were at a disadvantage. The personal authenticity of Gaza’s tech-savvy young people resonated more naturally with observing audiences than the official statements and flashy messaging released by Israeli military officials, messages that were indelibly stamped with the alienating face of a bureaucracy.

The impact of this disparity was notable. In a column in Foreign Policy following the war, entitled “On Israel’s Defeat in Gaza,” international relations scholar David Rothkopf reflected on the global impact of the scenes of mayhem that had ensued in Gaza, including images of young children being killed on a beach by Israeli military forces. “There is no Iron Dome” — a sophisticated and expensive Israeli missile defense system — “that can undo the images of suffering and destruction burned into our memories or justify away the damage to Israel’s legitimacy that comes from such wanton slaughter,” Rothkopf wrote.

While Barack Obama’s presidential administration stood by Israel during the conflict, calling for restraint from both sides, two years later, as he prepared to leave office, the U.S. took the significant step of distancing itself from Israel at the United Nations by allowing an anti-settlement resolution to pass — a rare instance of the U.S. acceding to public censure of Israeli actions. While far from a sea-change in America’s stance on the conflict, the move reflected growing dissatisfaction with Israeli actions in the United States, which, though not shared by the Trump administration, continue to be echoed by high-ranking former officials.

In her own small way, with her tweets and updates during the war, Farah Baker had played a role in shifting the narrative and forcing the world to grapple with the Palestinian narrative of the conflict.

I don’t have the ability to carry a weapon and I would never kill anyone, so my only weapon was to broadcast the truth and to let people know what was happening here,” Baker told Patrikarakos in an interview at her Gaza home. “I was more effective than I ever imagined, because of the amount of followers I got and because so many people told me I had changed their minds [about the war] and opened their eyes.

Source, links:


[1] [3] [4]

Read also:

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

CIA had an agent at a newspaper in every world capital at least since 1977

Joel Whitney is a co-founder of the magazine Guernica, a magazine of global arts and politics, and has written for many publications, including the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. His book Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World's Best Writers describes how the CIA contributed funds to numerous respected magazines during the Cold War, including the Paris Review, to subtly promote anti-communist views. In their conversation, Whitney tells Robert Scheer about the ties the CIA’s Congress for Cultural Freedom had with literary magazines. He talks about the CIA's attempt during the Cold War to have at least one agent in every major news organization in order to get stories killed if they were too critical or get them to run if they were favorable to the agency. And they discuss the overstatement of the immediate risks and dangers of communist regimes during the Cold War, which, initially, led many people to support the Vietnam War.
globinfo freexchange
James Jesus Angleton wa…

Former Pentagon official confirms: Trump prepares for war with Iran

globinfo freexchange
Right after Trump's sudden announcement that he will withdraw the US forces from Syria, we had some mixed reactions. Some liberals reacted angrily, but most of the reactions from the liberal machine were rather moderate, or at least not as intensive as someone would normally expect.
On the other hand, Trump's supporters and all those who had enough of the pro-war neoliberal establishment, felt a kind of vindication, as it appeared that Trump would eventually keep its promise for an 'anti-interventionist' policy.
But the blog wrote immediately a 'not so fast' article to explain that most of the Americans and all those who are tired of the US endless wars, should not rush to celebrate. We estimated that Trump's move is probably a sign that he is going to re-organize troops and go after the big target called Iran.
Indeed, shortly after the move, Trump, suddenly again, announced that he will also pullout troops from Afghanistan.
And then, about…

It’s the US imperialism that has been defeated in Syria, but it’s now gathering forces to go after Iran

globinfo freexchange
And all of a sudden, the US president Donald Trump decided to withdraw the US troops from Syria, declaring victory over ISIS.
No one, of course, understood why the ISIS was suddenly defeated now. So this must be a typical excuse by the American leadership to withdraw forces from a battlefield that it is no longer 'profitable' and affordable.
Comparing with other, relatively recent cases, in which even the liberal establishment was calling Trump to bomb Syria, the reactions from the US political status were rather moderate. We would expect the media pundits and the corporate puppets of the US political scene to fire back against Trump with much more anger. It didn't happen.
We will have to wait of course because the unpredictable Donnie may change his mind in the blink of an eye. And then, we will have to make a completely different discussion. Yet, if it's true, and the US troops will, indeed, leave Syria, it would be one of these very rare cases that …

How neoliberalism manufactured consent to secure its unlimited power

From David Harvey's A Brief History of Neoliberalism
Part 10 – How Margaret Thatcher systematically destroyed the British industry along with the trade unions
While there were many elements out of which consent for a neoliberal turn could be constructed, the Thatcher phenomenon would surely not have arisen, let alone succeeded, if it had not been for the serious crisis of capital accumulation during the 1970s. Stagflation was hurting everyone. In 1975 inflation surged to 26 per cent and unemployment topped one million. The nationalized industries were draining resources from the Treasury.
This set up a confrontation between the state and the unions. In 1972, and then again in 1974, the British miners (a nationalized industry) went on strike for the first time since 1926.
The miners had always been in the forefront of British labour struggles. Their wages were not keeping pace with accelerating inflation, and the public sympathized. The Conservative government, in the midst of power …

The desperate efforts of the Western neoliberal establishment to build a new propaganda machine

globinfo freexchange
The UK government and other Western governments and the US in recent years have had increasing difficulties persuading enough of their populations as to the legitimacy of the foreign policies that they have been pursuing.
And at the same time, Western countries have been going through a period of political crisis and economic crisis.
Piers Robinson, Chair in Politics, Society and Political Journalism at the University of Sheffield, further explains:
I think a lot of this drive is as much about trying to shore up shaky official narratives and trying to shore up political systems in a situation of political crisis, as it is actually about countering Russian propaganda.
I would suspect that that's a little bit of an excuse here to really what's going on of problems much closer to home.
This is not just to do to UK, this is Europe-wide. And there are also indications from the documents that they are intending to start to have some kind of impact within the United…

Confirmed: Germany builds its own imperialist empire

globinfo freexchange
Almost two years ago we identified Germany's efforts to develop its military in the context of its ambition to build its own sphere of influence.
As we wrote, Brexit will give the chance to Germany to increase influence due to the change of power balance, especially now that France appears weak - crawling behind Berlin's austerity, sado-monetarism and neoliberal destruction. These conditions (created in the Greek experiment), are necessary to Germany in order to retain a model in favor of its surpluses. These could become the solid ground upon which Germany could build a strong, modern military machine.
Therefore, Merkel knows that the economic domination is not adequate for a country to become a major power. It is also important to have a strong military presence in its “sphere of influence”, or, its financial/debt colonies, if you prefer. The German military presence in Lithuania is a first step towards this direction as the Baltic countries have already be…

Τι το'θελες ρε Κούλη;

globinfo freexchange
Άλλη μια άθλια παράσταση (μάλλον τη χειρότερη ως τώρα) έδωσε από το βήμα της βουλής ο αρχηγός της αξιωματικής αντιπολίτευσης, Κυριάκος Μητσοτάκης.
Δεν ξέρουμε αν ήταν δικής του έμπνευσης, ή αν το άθλιο θέαμα που παρακολουθήσαμε ήταν έμπνευση των επικοινωνιολόγων του. Αν ισχύει το δεύτερο, μάλλον πρέπει να τους απολύσει. Αν ισχύει το πρώτο, τότε το μόνο που κατάφερε ο Κυριάκος ήταν να φανερώσει οριστικά και αμετάκλητα τον μεγάλο εκνευρισμό του και ίσως και πανικό του.


Γιατί, όμως, πανικοβάλεται ο Κυριάκος;
Πρώτον, γιατί βλέπει ότι, έστω και σε αυτές τις άκρως αμφιλεγόμενες δημοσκοπήσεις, η ψαλίδα ΝΔ-ΣΥΡΙΖΑ, κλείνει.
Δεύτερον, γιατί αντιλαμβάνεται ότι δεν είναι χρήσιμος πλέον σε κανέναν από τους έξω. Γιατί ο Τσίπρας έγινε το καλό και υπάκουο παιδί των Ευρωπαίων, αλλά και ο πιο πιστός υποτελής των Αμερικανών.
Τρίτον και ίσως το κυριότερο, γιατί η πολιτική ένδεια της παράταξής του δεν έχει προηγούμενο. Πράγματι, η γαλάζια παράταξη δεν έχει απολύτως τίποτα να προσφέρει στη…

The difference between Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn and what the US elections won't allow you to decide

globinfo freexchange
A country that has been completely taken over by the banking mafia and the corporate power will never allow people to decide on the most important issue: the abolition of the dominant system that works against them.
Professor Richard Wolff explains:
Because of Bernie Sanders, particularly, we now have the word Socialism floating around, but typically it's about, more or less, really among Democrats. Like Mr. Sanders is ambiguously an independent but he's also a Democrat.
So, the ‘Socialists’ seemed to be the Democrats who want to do more for people. Social welfare, social supports, state supports, versus those who don't want to do quite so much - the centrist Democrats, like Clinton and Obama.
But the real question is a program of change. Socialism is a change of system it goes away from capitalism to do something else. It would be interesting if we could have an election ‘do we want that?’, ‘would we like a different system?’.
There are countries doing t…

The IMF is dismantling Argentina all over again

Part 1
In September, Argentine president Mauricio Macri accepted the 2018 Atlantic Council’s Global Citizen Award. In attendance were many of world’s neoliberal power players and policy makers, among them International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde.
Facing the crowd, Macri gleefully admitted that “with Christine, I have to confess we started a great relationship some months ago,” referring to a series of loan agreements with the IMF amounting to $57.1 billion dollars. “I expect that this is going to work very well, and we will end up with the whole country crushing on Christine,” he continued.
This dynamic of chasing an improved image with the world’s big banks and the dominant economies in the West is emblematic of Macri’s priority to secure a relationship with the IMF and improve the country’s image with global financial institutions. But it comes at a devastating cost for the majority of the population who will suffer from neoliberal policy prescriptions of…

WikiLeaks disturbing and hopeful findings on Tulsi Gabbard's path to progressiveness

The definite detachment from the Clintonian machine
globinfo freexchange
Searching the Podesta emails inside WikiLeaks we found a rather disturbing fact about Tulsi Gabbard who recently announced that she will run for the 2020 US presidency. Iraq War Veteran, Jon Soltz, chairman at VoteVets at the time, sent an email on Aug. 2012 to Hillary Clinton top lobbyist, John Podesta, in order to thank him for his contribution to Gabbard's campaign in Hawaii.
Soltz wrote (emphasis added):
This morning, we are one step closer to making history. In Hawaii, VoteVets PAC-endorsed Iraq veteran Tulsi Gabbard has won her primary, in a stunning come-from-behind victory. If she wins in November, she along with Tammy Duckworth (who we also feel very good about), would be the first female combat veteran ever elected to Congress in United States history! This is happening because of you. Your tens of thousands of dollars in donations for Tulsi's campaign, through VoteVets PAC, allowed her to run a fir…