Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Lobby

I was going to write this post earlier today but after making a start on it, I decided to take a break and try again later. There's been a development since then so this is a slightly updated version.

The starting point is this article.
Israel backed by army of cyber-soldiers

WHILE Israel fights Hezbollah with tanks and aircraft, its supporters are campaigning on the internet.

Israel’s Government has thrown its weight behind efforts by supporters to counter what it believes to be negative bias and a tide of pro-Arab propaganda. The Foreign Ministry has ordered trainee diplomats to track websites and chatrooms so that networks of US and European groups with hundreds of thousands of Jewish activists can place supportive messages.
It's an interesting read.

After reading it, I also found a website called GIYUS. It seems to be exactly the sort of thing that article was referring too; it's a coordinated attempt to direct and encourage supporters of Israel to contribute to relevant forums, chatrooms and the like. It also highlights articles which might be useful to the cause. They've got a flashy tool you can download which runs on your desktop and automatically alerts subscribers to relevant material. It's called "Megaphone", an apt name for a tool designed to amplify a particular point of view.

Now there's nothing wrong with a group of like minded people getting together in a coordinated campaign to influence public opinion. (I have a feeling that many of the subscribers to GIYUS wouldn't see it that way if a Muslim group was doing something similar but never mind that now.)

But this seems to me to be a bit more than that. I was going to link to their blog to prove the point but, curiously, the post in question has now been deleted. As I started writing this earlier, I do have the URL for the post so you can see what the title was if you click on the link. "Ceasefire survey"? So what was that all about then?

Well, being the cynical soul that I am, I also happened to take a screenshot of the post just in case it disappeared. Here we go:

Click and click again for a bigger more readable version.

Unless I'm very much mistaken, this wasn't so much an attempt to influence public opinion as it was an attempt to distort the results of an online opinion poll hosted by Yahoo (UK and Ireland). The initial result, which seems to tie in roughly with other polls on the subject, showed that 69% of respondents believed the UK government should support an immediate ceasefire with 28% against. Twelve hours after GIYUS issued their call to their keyboard warriors, the poll showed that 48% supported the immediate ceasefire and 50% were against. And they were so happy about this that they couldn't help having a little boast about it (although they have now apparently had a change of heart about the wisdom of the boasting).

So next time you read someone suggesting that the Israeli government encourages coordinated efforts to amplify pro-Israel voices on the interwebs, perhaps you shouldn't dismiss the idea as the ranting of an unhinged conspiraloon. The tin-foil hatter just might have a point.

By the way, the Yahoo poll is in the right sidebar of this page (at the moment anyway) if you want to vote. It's up to you how you vote, of course.

(Both GIYUS and the Times article originally via the comments to this post from Sadiq Khan on CiF. Call for him to resign please Mr Khan. If you don't, you'll just end up looking like an insincere windbag.)

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BenMerc said...

I would tend to agree with you, if Muslim groups tried to alter polls or infiltrate the blogspere, it would make MSM broadcast (cable news) in my country (us) and they would be very indignant while reporting it. But it is the same with the weapons, we and our allies are allowed to possesses, they are not (excluding the times we subtly arm them for a mutual convenience). The old do as I say, not as I do. And people over here still do not get why so many of these populations despise us in how we maneuver in our politics. It is a complex mess in the Middle East, but we in the west are so very culpable from the start in this past one hundred years of dysfunction, it may take yet generations to disentangle.

By the way, I like your writing… concise, straight to the point. It is not over done or over the top…sometimes a rare example out here.

Jherad said...

Ugh - it's 'Free Republic' Freeping in disguise...

Anonymous said...

Israel calls up media 'reserves'
By Gil Hoffman
Updated Jul. 17, 2006 5:36

[Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's media adviser Assaf] Shariv said that Israelis have been interviewed by the foreign press four times as much as spokespeople for the Palestinians and Lebanese. As proof of Israel's success, he also cited a poll of Sky News viewers that found that 80 percent believe that Israel's attacks on Lebanon were justified.

"We have never had it so good," Meir said. "The hasbara [propaganda] effort is a well-oiled machine."

Israeli censor wields great power over coverage
Updated: 6:59 p.m. ET July 19, 2006

“I can, for example, publish an order that no material can be published. I can close a newspaper or shut down a station. I can do almost anything,” Col. Sima Vaknin [Israel’s chief military censor] said Wednesday.

BenMerc said...

“I can, for example, publish an order that no material can be published. I can close a newspaper or shut down a station. I can do almost anything,” Col. Sima Vaknin [Israel’s chief military censor] said Wednesday.

Not unlike the imbedding of the U.S. media in Iraq...they don't even get a chance to view something that the military does not want us (the public) to know about. There are more and more free lance and a few mainstream reporters venturing out, but the free-lance never see the light of day in msm, and it has become ever more dangerous as the instability ramps up in that war zone. With out the net we would be nearly in the dark as to what is going on out there.

Parlicoot said...

Err... what's to stop pro-Muslim groups getting hold of the same tool and countering every move made by GIYUS?

Israel is well known for its censoring of the media. Hence the need to prevent unstable elements from entering Ramallah with the threat of immediate arrest.