PJ Media

Israel Shakes Up the Information War

December 29, 2008, might go down in history as one of the days the mainstream media truly started to lose their grip. It was an historic day online for both social media and citizen journalists. You won’t hear about it from the mainstream media, of course, because they are probably rather peeved at the run around them directly to bloggers and social media commentators.

What was this earth-shattering occurrence you probably didn’t hear of, unless you are interested in the subject involved? Well, in fact it was two events that were part of a campaign to sidestep the mainstream media. The Israeli government and military, mindful that they are not getting a fair shake in the press virtually anywhere in the world, set up a couple of things to get to the bloggers and other online types.

First of all, Monday afternoon saw the Israeli consulate in New York hold a press conference on Twitter on their own “hashtag” stream for anyone to read and listen to. It’s called simply AskIsrael. What was more impressive is that they were taking questions for those “listening in.” In fact, your author managed to get a question answered on the subject of the current situation in Gaza. Alas, they didn’t get my name right in response, but it’s early days of the technology for all.

To their credit they took all comers, no matter how irate and obviously viscerally biased against them. The discussion, as you might imagine, was heated.

It was a fascinating piece of online news gathering for me and the thousands of others who followed its process. The unfiltered nature of the event might have changed a few minds or caused a few people to consider their positions and consider how those positions were arrived at.

At the same time the Israeli Defense Forces launched its own channel on YouTube to display their view of events on the ground. Aping the Americans and British in Iraq and Afghanistan, we had missile and gun views of the targets they were going after. Several sites, when they discovered this, went off the handle and declared it too “disgusting,” amongst other things.

YouTube, to their shame, has limited the viewing of the site. You have to confirm your age to view the site and the videos thereon. This is most interesting, as I have never had to enter my age to watch a jihad video of coalition troops being killed or some imam spewing hate against Jews. But we expect this sort of double standard from many of the giants of the computer age.

I suspect Twitter got loads of complaints from the usual suspects about the Twittercast by the Israelis yesterday. Thankfully they stuck to their aim of free and open discourse. Whether this remains if the Israelis try to do it again is open to question.

On the basis of the success of the engagement with Twitter users, Israel has added all their various embassies and consulates in the U.S. to Twitter.

This is quite an interesting development for a country that does not get its fair shake in the media anywhere in the world. Now Israel can go directly to bloggers and other social media users to make their case without the biased filtering that takes place in all but a few outlets in the mainstream media.

It is clear that this will be the future for many organizations tired of being misrepresented in the press and of prejudiced members of the media always doing them down.

Not the final death blow of the mainstream media, for sure, but it would quite likely send a shiver down a few spines of journalists already worried for their future in this economic situation if they were smart enough to notice.