There’s something about the video produced by Jon Ronson – Esc and Ctrl: Jon Ronson’s stories about people trying to control the internet’ – which is hauntingly familiar.
When you consider the question of “who’s controlling the internet?”, what would normally come to mind, it would seem, are totalitarian nations like North Korea, China, Iran, and Syria – states who routinely block web sites critical of their regime.
Yet, while the protagonists in this video introduction into media control and manipulation are decidedly illiberal groups like Electronic Intifada and the Free Gaza Movement, the villain is – yes – Israel.
The video opens with selected clips from a 3-minute YouTube video showing a man calling himself Marc Pax claiming he was denied permission by the organisers to join the Free Gaza flotilla because the participation of a gay activist would not “serve the interests” of the flotilla movement.
Pax is then seen criticizing the groups participating in the flotilla for having close ties to Hamas, a group which denies basic human rights to Gaza residents.
Though the clip was indeed widely distributed via links on a number of Israeli government websites, it was later revealed that the clip was staged and Marc Pax was soon identified as Omer Gershon, an Israeli actor involved in marketing.
An intern working in the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem had posted the clip on Twitter, and government websites put up links to the clip.
While the links were removed after the hoax was revealed, with apologies from Israeli officials, is there really any doubt that the premise of the video – that Hamas, and many activists supporting the Islamist regime in Gaza, are indeed shamefully homophobic – is accurate?
But, Ronson wasn’t content with merely exposing that particular hoax .
The video aspires to a much more expansive expose of Israeli “control”, and subsequently “reveals” that other pro-Israel videos have been posted on YouTube, such as two by Latma, (We Con the World, and Guns, Guns, Guns).
Both clips – which justifiably mock Hamas terrorists and their supporters – are characterized as something insensitive and manipulative.
Ronson darkly warns that, “there’s a whole sub-culture of young Israelis making YouTube videos about the Gaza Flotilla…Omer Gershon is one of many.”
The subtext of Ronson’s video is almost comical.
Israelis – as opposed to, one presumes, citizens of every other nation in the world – are uniquely engaged in an attempt to use social media to get their message out.
The videos Ronson focuses on are three out of hundreds of millions of selections available on YouTube – many distributed and promoted through other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter (produced by governments, NGOs, political organizations, and, mostly, private citizens) – which allows for the dissemination of ideas on a scale which would have impossible before the internet.
Such social networking represents the democratization of the media which would, seemingly, be viewed as empowering and progressive.
That Ronson’s Guardian series on “control of the internet” opens with a focus on Israel is curious to say the least.
The word “control” is hyperbolic to be sure, and a highly suggestive way of characterizing the routine use of social media to disseminate ideas as something malevolent.
For every one pro-Israel video, there are, to be sure, countless others which demonize and vilify the Jewish state. Yet, Ronson, for some reason, chose to shine his “expose” the former.
The suggestion that Israelis are trying to “control” the internet is beyond mere hyperbole.
Such a narrative feeds into the most unhinged conspiratorial narratives of Israeli/Zionist/Jewish manipulation of the media.
The word “hasbara” – which merely means “public diplomacy” – is a word routinely used in the pejorative by Israel’s fierce critics to characterize efforts by Zionists to win hearts and minds as something sinister.
To such haters, for instance, Israel’s relief efforts in Haiti in 2010 – where IDF medical teams set up the most effective field hospitals to assist the thousands of victims of the catastrophic earthquakes – was characterized by some as nothing but cynical hasbara.
Yes, Zionists try, as best they can, through the social media and other means, to combat the assault on Israel’s legitimacy.
But, so what?
Haven’t corrosive narratives of Jewish control of the media wrought enough damage?
Why would genuine liberal voices allow themselves to perpetuate such historically lethal tropes about Jewish power?
It’s not enough that Israelis have to contend with forces intent on their state’s destruction – the relentless cross examinations suggesting that the Jewish state’s very existence is problematic?
But, we evidently also have to defend ourselves from the “charge” that we dare to fearlessly defend ourselves from such malicious assaults.
- Guardian quotes flotilla activist: Palestinians have been resisting occupation for “60 years” (cifwatch.com)
- Guardian publishes letter by Tony Greenstein suggesting comparison between anti-Israel protests & those against Nazis (cifwatch.com)
- Harriet Sherwood finds her favorite kind of Israeli – the anti-Zionist variety (cifwatch.com)
- When anti-Zionists attack! (cifwatch.com)
- Geary Theory: A Goy contemplates “As-A-Jews” (cifwatch.com)
- Is it possible to “understand” Ben White’s antisemitism? CiF again sanctions opposition to peace with Israel (cifwatch.com)
- Haneen Zoabi defends anti-Semitic Islamist preacher: Accuses UK Zionist lobby of controlling British politics (cifwatch.com)
- Will radical anti-Zionist Richard Silverstein be charged with espionage? (cifwatch.com)
- The Guardian finds fresh new talent to whitewash terror connections of flotilla movement, and demonize Israel (cifwatch.com)
- Report documents Guardian’s consistent promotion of commentators who reject Israel’s right to exist (cifwatch.com)