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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

waging the info war « Previous | |Next »
January 10, 2009

Richard Silverstein of the Guardian reports on Israel's foreign ministry attempts to turn the tide of public opinion, which hasn't been going its way recently.

Now, we know that the Israeli foreign ministry itself is orchestrating propaganda efforts designed to flood news websites with pro-Israel arguments and information.

A reader of my blog has received the following email which documents both the efforts and the agency that originated them. The solicitation to become a pro-Israel "media volunteer" also includes a list of media links which the ministry would like addressed by pro-Israel comments:

Damn those pesky blog readers and their wicked email-sharing ways.

Over at LP commenter Marks says:

When both sides in this conflict tell such blatant falsehoods so often, they lose credibility....I put it that the situation is now one that there are two sides so deep into propaganda and with almost no credible independent commentary, that the rest of us have no choice but to give it up as a bad job.

True enough, but it's not as though the two sides and their friends in the media are the only sources any more.

Medecins sans frontieres and the ICRC are more likely to be trustworthy sources than politically motivated organisations of any description.

The Israeli propaganda attempt is interesting on a few levels.

It's another (dodgy?) attempt by a government body to make use of web 2.0 - Propaganda 2.0, as MB calls it, that fails to understand how these things work or anticipate unwanted consequences like a blog reader passing an email on to a widely read publication.

It obviously seeks to influence public opinion by creating the impression that it has more public support than it does.

World governments are still patient with Israel's justified operation in Gaza. The [sic] public opinion, on the other hand, is impatient, to say the least. This gap will soon close – it always does.

It is our goal to shift the public opinion, as conveyed in the internet; avoiding, or at least minimising, sanctions by world leaders. We need to buy the IDF enough time to achieve its goals.

The suggestion here is that internet comment reading members of the public will be influenced by the opinions of other commenters, rather than media which is not cooperating. "We hold the [sic] military supremacy, yet fail the battle over the international media."

If they're under the impression that commenters on this issue can be swayed by commenters on the other side, they haven't been paying attention. And as commenter OneTooMany on the Silverstein piece points out, "The dead speak louder than spam."

The campaign offers participants a series of dot point talking points, which another commenter, AverageJosph, at Silverstein's points out is also a mistake.

I remember this tactic backfiring on a CIF thread during the Israel/Lebanon War. The first two comments on the thread by two different pro-Israel posters were completely identical, the lazy buggers had just cut'n'pasted the talking points without bothering to individualise them.

Oops.

We're in interesting times when the old communications channels have so obviously broken and the various powers that be are having trouble figuring out how the new ones work. It's just so much harder to maintain the illusion that people are sheep when they have the opportunity to speak.

| Posted by Lyn at 11:55 AM | | Comments (13)
Comments

Comments

I will never forget the problems zionist flying squad trolls attacking Margo Kingston's Web Diary caused, trying to scotch debate on issues like the Intifada, Iraq and the visit to Australia of Palestinian Dr.Hanan Ashrawi, for the awarding of a Peace prize a few years ago.
Its an odd thing tho'. The crude and outrageous antics of the pro Zionist lobby often prove counter productive, because Mittel-European Jewish culture is steeped in the intellectual tradition typified by Walter Benjamin, Adorno, Sontag and so many others. The most robust and well-informed debating opponent for the trolls turned out to be Antony Loewenstein, who ended up writing the book "My Israel Question", that questioned so much of the spin and revisionist "history" offered up by the Saluszinsky clones.

Fuzzy distinctions between Jew, Jewish, Israel and Israeli can complicate discussion of such things, but it does look as though the most productive Jewish thinking (acknowledging that's a fairly stupid notion) on questions of Israel the state (as opposed to the Israeli people) happens outside of Israel. Why is that?

Lyn, I still reckon its a phenomenon that has its roots in a "cultural" thing.
You can be closed-minded religious, secular neolib/con reactionary, or have come from a background that encourages empathy and consciousness ( sounds like Australia, doesn't it?).
There has always been a small but strong resistance from a free thinking community within Israel itself- one that remembered its origins in the pogroms and European anti semitism and had empathy for the underdog.
Think of Uri Avnery and the like.
Curiously, since the eclipse of Israeli Labour and the dominance of the Likud-based conservative formations, the progressives have become the same people who are expected to pay taxes and do military national service, whilst being regarded as traitors by the "Hansonist" Israelis( if you like), while the ultra religious are given a long break on these issues.
Israel has arguably changed from being a more secular, social democrat oriented society to one captured by conservative pro US hucksters, financier opportunists and breed-at- all cost Eretz Israel religious interests.
It has become more inwards looking, denialist and hard line towards the Palestinians. Little wonder this coincides with the era of the Lebanese incursions, Sabra and Shatila, accelarated settlement construction and violent incursions into the occupied territories, most recently Gaza ( again!! ).
The land that could have lubricated a two-state solution and restored a notion of justice hastily dispensed with over the last thirty years, has been gobbled up as Israel's population soars out of control due to increased migration from Russia and "breed 'till you bleed", particularly from the religious.
To me, there is no doubt that the US influence has had much to answer for in the down fall of the old Israel.
It is connected umbilically to its modern sponsor the USA, who wants it as an armed citadel in the Middle East and is chock-a-bloc full of US "hymies" inculcated with both religious fervor and US capitalist/ selfish individualist (after Eagleton)/and jingoist bellicosity.

Lyn said: "Jewish thinking (acknowledging that's a fairly stupid notion) on questions of Israel the state (as opposed to the Israeli people) happens outside of Israel. Why is that?"

Some countries are exceptionalist, but some are more exceptionalist than others.

The long and admirable Jewish tradition of scholarship cannot be denied (and many of the early Internationalist/Communist movement WERE Jewish intellectuals), but choosing to move to an "exceptionalist" state, versus integration with the cosmopolis, separates the sheep from the goats.

That's why.

I ama amazed at the oh so righteous pomposity displayed here. Its simple. For 8 years Hamas has attached Southern Israel which includes 1 million people, numerous universities and colleges, cities, plants etc. Not bases, not the IDF, just civilians. Now Hamas uses children and women as human shields, hides missiles and bombs in mosques and schools, and flaunts daily humanitarian ceasefires. And Israel has to apologize?
Perhaps I missed something - ah yes, Israelis are Jews who should lie down and be good little sheep while being slaughtered.
The world needs to wake up, it will not happen again. Jews - and please spare the old saw about Zionists not Jews - will defend themselves, their families and their home. Just like Brits, Americans and Russians.

Dave,

That makes sense. Otherwise you'd be expecting some of the most cosmopolitan people in the world to adopt parochialism. I can't imagine Hannah Arendt choosing to live in the political environment of Israel.

Ra'anana,

There are differences between the people of Israel and the actions of the Jewish state. Nobody in their right mind expects any people of anywhere to lie down and be slaughtered, regardless of their religious beliefs.

Why does such a discussion only arise when questioning the liability of pro Israeli bloggers. Maybe the the free world has finally begun to understand that a country can defend itself when a militant group fires for the past 8 years 15,000 killing rockets towards UN declared borders...

Laura
less Israeli people have died from the rockets than from the Israeli attacks on Gaza. Hamas has said they will stop the rockets if Israel lifts the siege of Gaza. This war is about the destruction of Hamas

Ra'anana
It's not argued that Israel needs to apologize --stop playing victim. Hamas was democratically elected by the Gazans and Israel needs to accept that rather than go for regime change through a siege and warfare.

How about diplomacy rather than war?

Laura
If the war about the defence of Israel, then why is Israel using using white phosphorus in its military campaign in the built up civilian areas in Gaza?

Paul,
I agree with your comment that Israel has arguably changed from being a more secular, social democrat oriented society to a Jewish state. Zionist nationalism marginalizes Arab-Israeli citizens because they are not Jewish.

"Why does such a discussion only arise when questioning the liability of pro Israeli bloggers." There's a vast difference between your day to day pro Israeli bloggers, thinking for themselves, and a flood of recruits saturating public space with propaganda provided by the IDF.

On the timing, there are plenty of reasons Israel's 'self defence' gets so much attention. Sudden bursts of extreme violence always get attention. Like the difference between the normal murder rate and a mass murder.

A tinpot, poverty stricken place like Gaza lobbing the occasional rocket is background noise in the larger scheme of things, a nuclear armed, US backed, relatively wealthy nation with a modern defence force invading such a place is bound to be news.

Ra'anana and Laura's comments astonish and appall me!
The atrocites visited by Isreali terrorists on children inGaza have no relation whatsover to military objectivity.
Had you been kicked out of your home in your families village and forced to flee to rot for the rest of your life in a refugee camp with nothing more than poverty and air raids to look forward to, for your family and yourself by (basically) European armed hucksters, you would not feel incline to resist?
Why do you think suicide bombing is operative?
If you have nothing to look forward to, how much easier to slip on a bomb pack and at least go down fighting-take some of the bastards who have terrorised you and your family and at least exit this life with your head held high.
By your logic, the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto in WW2 who rose up against SS Gruppenfuhrer Jurgen Stroop were nothing more than "terrorists"?