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Instant propaganda

Today’s wars are also being fought through social media content
Propaganda has come a long way in 100 years. Almost a century ago, as the world was heading inexorably towards the Great War (aka ‘the war to end all wars’ and World War I), graphic artists were putting their skills to use by creating inspiring posters that would convince the masses that the cause was not only worthy, but winnable.

By World War II, propaganda was seen as an essential component of the war effort on both sides. Songs were written to maintain morale, more posters were produced and films were made to convince everyone to do their bit…

Fast-forward another 70 years and we see that conflict and war remain far from ended and propaganda remains an integral part of it. The difference, though, is that while propaganda in decades past was carefully planned and took many weeks to produce, these days it is created instantly as social media content.
The current situation in Gaza is a case in point. A historically tense situation moved closer to the brink of another all-out war as a result of tit-for-tat missile and air strikes. One of them, from the Israelis, took place last Thursday and killed Hamas military leader Ahmed Said Khalil al-Jabari. And, in an escalation of the propaganda war, the Israel Defence Forces live-blogged and tweeted video of the attack, alongside a movie-style poster of al-Jabari with the word ‘eliminated’.
Two hours later, the Israelis retweeted the video of its fatal strike ‘in case you missed it’. It was also posted on YouTube, where it was watched by over 640,000 people before being taken down for violating the site’s terms of service.
Additionally, the Israelis used Facebook and Flickr to promote Operation Pillar of Defence (‘like’ the Facebook material to win an army badge), while Hamas, which has used social media to post videos of its rocket attacks on Israel, tweeted in response to al-Jabari’s death: ‘You opened hell gates on yourselves’.
‘We’re entering a new dimension of warfare,’ defence expert Professor Clive Williams of Macquarie University told the Sydney Morning Herald. ‘I think in the future other countries will do the same thing because they have so many different options these days of putting out the message. All countries want to control the media. It’s the whole point of embedding journalists in Iraq and Afghanistan. But it is a lot more effective if you can put a message out to people directly and not be reliant on the media.’
 
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Israel and Iran: Facebook friends

Can online and social media content bring peace in the Middle East?
While the title may seem a little trivial, the sentiment behind what is happening online between these two historical enemies is anything but. We posted last week about the anti-Islam film The Innocence of Muslims and how the way it has been spread through social media is, in effect, a new form of cyber warfare. Well, today we’re bringing you news about a cyber peace-project…
With tensions growing between the governments of Israel and Iran, and talk of war becoming more serious each day, their people – as ever – are the ones who are faced with the greatest threat. So ordinary Iranians and Israelis are attempting to combat the sense of powerlessness they feel with a social media campaign for peace.
‘Israel Loves Iran’ is an online initiative whereby residents of both countries can express their friendship and goodwill towards each other and create ‘a bridge in the Middle East between the people’.
Started by Israeli man Ronny Edri, the initiative began back in March when he posted a photo of himself and his daughter holding an Israeli flag on Facebook, along with an open letter to the people of Iran expressing peace and love.

The image – and the message behind it – was picked up and shared all over the world, promting Edri to start a Facebook page and fundraising initiative to take the messages to the streets in the form of billboards and posters. While the fundraising effort has so far fallen well short of its $150,000 target, it has highlighted the plight of the millions of innocent people in both countries who will not only be forced to fight, but also die, should a war eventuate. This powerful message was featured across a banner on the Facebook page recently:
‘We are millions of people who will be hurt. Will be drafted, will have to fight, lose our lives, our relatives. We, parents from Tel Aviv and Teheran, will have to run with our children to the shelters and pray the missiles will miss us. But they will fall somewhere, on someone.”
Here’s hoping they don’t fall at all.
 
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