War has always sought to use the most advanced and sophisticated tools to advance its cause. From the hot-air balloon to the atomic bomb, wars have been responsible for many inventions in the history of mankind. While the Internet itself can largely be accredited to the US military, it seems that the current Israeli/Hamas war in Gaza is the coming of age (and conscription) of social media technologies.
With the Israeli authorities, in spite of an Israeli Supreme Court ruling, preventing foreign journalists from entering Gaza the shortage of information coming from within the war-zone is apparent. Broadcast media are turning to locals who are creating home-made videos and uploading them onto the Internet. Blogs, photo and video diaries from local journalists and individuals are the only regular sources of information from within Gaza. Palestinian ex-pats are sharing news from family and friends who still live in Gaza. Israeli individuals are also blogging about their experiences and their views on what is happening. There are clearly stories to be told on both sides.
Perhaps the most fascinating piece in all of this is the State of Israel’s approach to media. Preventing foreign journalists from reporting from within Gaza has effectively bypassed the perceived bias of the foreign media. Control of information in a time of war has always been critical. The Israeli war-machine has mastered the control of information, making the best use of the new technologies that are available to it. There are a number of official Israeli blogs. On one official blog today you will find a post about how “family pets are suffering from Hamas’s rocket fire.” Israel has an official Twitter channel, a YouTube channel, a Facebook profile and a MySpace profile.
Print and broadcast media has always positioned itself up as the independent verifiers of facts in wartime situations. By and large it is hard to concur that all media reporting of recent wars has been truly independent. Israel it seems would agree and is not just ignoring traditional media, but is creating its own content and information and disseminating it in spite of traditional media. And they are distributing their message worldwide, instantly and continuously. Furthermore, they are conversing with audiences, answering their questions and getting their own point across without any editorial reviews.
Truth is often said to be the first victim of war. Truth is surely getting harder to discern in a world where the “traditional” sources of truth are left speechless. Finding truth is perhaps more difficult to find today but then truth was never meant to be easy.