Nov 252012
 

from this week i begin blogging on Tehelkablog ….

the first of these is on the social media war between the Hamas and the Israel Defense Force (IDF)

The Middle East crisis is as old as history. Different people, different kingdoms, different issues and different cultures have been at it for millennia. The latest edition of the conflict dates back to 1947 – the year Palestine was divided into Jewish and Arab Areas. The following year Israel was born – giving the Jewish people a home where they can be secure and live without persecution after two thousand years.  The Arab states attacked the fledgling Jewish state almost immediately, and the war for the tiny strip of land has been on since then. There have been skirmishes, battles, and wars ever since. But, in addition to the physical war, there has always been a war to impact perception.At the core have been two sets of rights – the right of Israel and Israelis to exist and the right of the Palestinian people for a homeland. Both the State of Israel and the PLO spent time, energy and effort to build up their case, to down play the violence and to exaggerate the victimhood. Usually this was done by talking to Governments, friendly journalists and the like. But, now in an era of ubiquitous social media – they can talk to not just to all of them but also all of us.

do check out this excellent video by Nina Paley on the Israel/Palestine conflict

The blog 

If last year was the year when the ‘revolution’ was tweeted live, this year it is the turn of the war. The battle is not just for strips of land or even the need to stop violence or to live in peace — rather it is for the hearts and minds of millions on social media — who through their own spontaneous response to words and images will create a wave of buzz that swings public opinion. Or so, goes the theory.

In the last few weeks, the relationship between Israel and Hamas has been hotting up. Formal hostilities began on 14 November but prior to that, Israel has been bombing Gaza, in retaliation for the Hamas bombing Israel, which in turn was because of Israel blockading Gaza, which in turn was for Hamas… As they say on Facebook — it is complicated.

There is one level at which the war is going on where the cost is measured in lives; and there is another one going on where it is measured in terms of social media advantage. Both the Israel Defence Force and the Alqassam Brigades have been slugging it out in cyberspace. Both twitter handles have been giving a ball by ball bomb by bomb account of the war. Each is trying to tell its story to the world without the benefit of intermediaries. From independent to embedded journalists covering a war, to Armies giving you a rings side view of the hostilities directly — reporting of wars has changed.

Also present is a certain level of macho posturing. There is nothing like war to elevate the testosterone level all around.

The entire exchange between Israel Defence Force and the Alqassam Brigades is available on every platform, every media, and on every screen. Social media warriors armed with smartphones, datacards, and tablets are trying to dominate the narrative and tell their side of the story. It is not about the truth, rather their version of the truth.

Both sides are going for the jugular vis-à-vis their tweets, blogs and their call to their supporters. But this is not just aimed at the converted, but also the neutral observer. The communication has a certain excitement at the number of missiles being fired from one place to the other, a breathless awe at a missile being stopped. There are powerful words and powerful hashtags – #gazaunderattack, #warcrimes  (AlQassam Brigades) #Israelunderfire, #pillarofdefence (IDF), that are allowing us to follow the war. On the face of it the AlqassamBrigades has been luckier in its choice of tags – those are being used far more, and are getting more people to read the Hamas perspective.

 

 

With the kind of messages one gets to see, it is more and  more difficult to discern who the good guys are and who are not. When we had the filter of the Main Stream Media –be it private or state run –you went with their biases. Now suddenly, you are handling well-honed propaganda, about a region you know little about – except the basics – and the information overload is phenomenal. Do you outrage at Israelis killed by Hamas missiles, or Palestinians killed by Israeli missiles? In death they look rather similar.

The idea on both sides is to convert the passive supporter into an active one – and allowing their narrative to dominate – but there is a danger to this. The social media animal is a fickle one. S/he is rather like a adrenalin junkie that surfs from wave (outrage)to wave (outrage) – finding the next big wave so as to speak. Apart from a few committed people who will stick to the cause, the larger public will move to the next breaking story soon. Also, how do you top live death or live bombings, in terms of excitement? Presenting their case directly to the people – sans filters – is a great idea, but how do you prevent acute boredom? One bomb is pretty much like another bomb – especially when it is not falling on you.

 

Apr 042012
 

Not the best of waking up in the morning. the jaw hitting the floor in slow motion. The article read, before drinking the first cup of Kaapi only to realise that the alarm was raised over next to nothing.

Is this good reporting – i don’t know. The only thing i know is that two army units had a practise session on the day when the COAS went to court.Do they normally play ‘soldier soldier’ – I hope so. Are they suppose to ? – well, we have rehearsals before a shoot, so i presume that any large unit attempting something complex would have rehearsals. Are they supposed to inform others, presumably yes -so that people and units don’t trip over each other …. does all this  warrant front page with a headline that scares the sleep out of your eyes – I don’t know.

Maybe the good editor of IE would like to check out the story of the boy who cried wolf … or maybe their calendars have all been hacked and their internal system clock tells them it is April 1st. Maybe it is curiosity that has gone awry ….and maybe they thought that scoop is spelt as s’coup. or maybe the way they thought they will get some visiblity in the social and main stream media is to become the story themselves.

And finally, 

Surprisingly, First Post that is known to play fast and loose with stories – went to the defence of IE. It had an inexplicable space filler called Moral of Army ‘coup’ outrage: Twitter is for twits , little understanding two things

  • a lot of its own popularity is also due to  twitter and tweeple linking to stories published on first post. if firstpost doesn’t want people to do that then they should just say so.
  • it wasn’t tweeple who put out a panicky 3 line head line & full front page story it is the esteemed media that did.

While i appreciate that there is honour amongst all sorts of professional groupings, including thieves, there is no point shooting citizens who are rightfully appalled by the break down of institutions, the corrosion of morals and the subverting of the 4th estate. Put your houses in order, before raising fingers against us – after all we are the people :D

And yes, on an average day I trust a politician more than I trust the media.