A Game Changer: Palestinian Sympathy Charges into American Mainstream Media

July 22, 2014

By Said Hamideh via Medium

The Palestinian Health Ministry reports that more than 469 residents in the Gaza Strip and 5 Israelis have been killed since the Israeli Military incursion, oddly dubbed “Protective Edge”, began on July 8th, 2014.

If that seems like an odd or one-sided manner of starting a lead paragraph, then just look at my very Arab-sounding name in the byline. I am of Palestinian heritage, and my voice does not belong to the traditional news establishment where collective punishment in Gaza gets mistaken for collective punishment in Israel, or where the stories behind the killing of my people get entirely omitted, or if not, implicitly explained away as something noble and/or necessary for the existence of a nation. Yet here I am on Medium and now you are listening to me.

Since 2001, I have been counting the number of lines of news coverage allotted to Palestinian children when they get killed by Israelis in uniform vs. situations where Israeli children are killed by Palestinian militants. Rest assured that the American media does not cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the same dispassion that foreign dailies such as Le Monde or The Guardian do. And by that I mean that Israeli children get much higher quality and in-depth reporting in the New York Times.

Such festering inequality at the level of knowledge in the US bodes even more poorly for those Americans whose hearts are now with #GazaUnderAttack. Yet there still remains a huge consolation prize for me and my cohorts in the business of hacking unjust knowledge.

All indications point to the fact that Palestinian sympathy is becoming more widespread and better circulated inside the American media landscape with every new missile that gets dropped on a crowded tenement building by an Israeli F-16— this despite the fact that the current military incursion into Gaza pales in comparison to the 2009 version which took the lives of approximately 1,400 Gazans.

Sure, some of you may remember that the American internet has in many instances previously supported Palestine. In 2009, Jon Stewart provided us with the “Strip Maul” segment which lambasted that much larger Israeli incursion and it was shared many times.

But today’s smaller “Operation Protective Edge” has an even more globally relevant Jon Stewart to answer to, and his most recent video gets to be amplified by viral websites such as Buzzfeed and Gawker. It’s a new, uncomfortable luxury that Dick Cheney & friends will have to learn how to deal with.

What’s more, stars from across every aspect of American pop culture seem to be successfully leveraging the tools of new media —using massively powerful Twitter accounts, for instance—to support Gaza and Palestine in some way.

Some efforts have been half-assed or partially reversed, as Rihanna’s was when she suddenly deleted her tweet.

However we know now that if there is one important difference between the five years that have passed since 2009 and today, it’s that Wolf Blitzer can’t reach 36 million youth the way Rihanna can.

Granted, a #FreePalestine hashtag has a limit to what it can communicate or what it will spawn after being received by fickle youth. But the same support for Gaza in July 2014 has also been assumed by the likes of Madonna, Eddie Vedder, Dwight Howard, Whoopi Goldberg, Wacka Flocka Flame, Anthony Bourdain, and even The Onion. Put all this influence together and we’re talking incalculable damage to the social engineers of fear and warmongering.

With some reservations, I am excited about this gift of cultural validation which a group of A-listers has offered to those shedding light on what’s not being reported to our standards. That validation only goes so far, but I’m also just bean counting for small wins, and with all these little wins accruing together so quickly, it’s enough to sound some bells.

Hopefully this new cool factor lends a “protective edge” to the pro-Palestinian knowledge factory the way Gillette aftershave products are able to protect my skin.

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera and Russia Today loom larger than ever before with sexy, little media watchdog reports packaged into video clips that only further feed into the abovementioned influencer campaigns.

Cable company blackouts in the United States are a force continually challenging these contrarian outlets, but Americans now stream more news directly from the source, and social media’s relentless popularity will continue to surface the very best of alternative media. To what degree media filters will be reinstated with the Facebook algorithms that control what you read on your newsfeed is a question for the 2018 version of this essay.

Until that happens, and despite it’s troubled future, the internet today functions as a capable syringe, injecting controversial perspectives against the filters that have taken elites hundreds of years to erect. It can do it by transforming the motley crue of influencers into a larger superorganism —lifting their individual punch to the same scale and frequency that the mainstream broadcasters work with.

In this digital battlefield, only time will tell how quickly the Israeli government’s offensive PR machine can adapt to these sudden changes; given their military actions, you can bet on responses that will be of equal measure or 10 times greater. It has already begun paying its college students $2,000 dollars a pop to make noise and beautify these massacres using social media.

Surely we’ll all be witness to clever, much more evolved social media strategies in the near future so long as there remains extremely gullible Americans to sweet talk.

Might we suggest to them an IDF SnapChat campaign?

Photo: Adnrey