A common ad slogan a few years back for U.S. Army recruitment was: “the Army needs of few good men.” The IDF doesn’t care if you’re a man or you’re good, but they do want you if you’re capable of hacking for hasbara. This is one of those delightful stories that come along, oh, maybe once in a…week…making Israel advocacy look even lamer than it already is:
IDF Spokesman Avi Benayahu said Tuesday that the army is currently in the process of enlisting “new media fighters”.
Benayahu told a panel on the subject of “the digital medium as strategic weapon” that the army was searching for “little hackers who were born and raised online“.
“We screen them with special care and train them to serve the state,” the spokesman told the panel, which was part of the Herzliya Conference.
…”We cannot but be impressed at how Western technology harms regimes at the other end of the spectrum, such as Iran, or at how one cell phone camera can harm a regime more than any intelligence agency’s operations,” he said.
You’d be pardoned if you confused the sentence about training the “little hackers” with a description of how to train K-9 dogs to serve in the IDF. Perhaps there’s not much difference? Regarding online hasbara being a “strategic weapon,” you have to wonder if he’s confusing Israel’s nuclear arsenal with the hasbara hackers he hopes to recruit. Can such an individual really be worth a nuclear weapon in this age of Facebook-inspired political revolutions?
What little fat man (Haaretz characterizes him as having “distinctive girth”) Benayahu forgets is that social networking only works for your cause when you have right on your side as the youth of Tunisia and Egypt did and do. If all you’re selling is the same old recycled swill, nobody’d gonna buy it no matter how you disguise it.
In the final paragraph above, Benayahu seems to be forgetting that Western technology may harm not just Israel’s enemies like Iran, but also Israel itself. That Facebook and Twitter, once used to liberate Egypt from the yoke of tyranny might just do the same for the Palestinians.
Israel’s hasbara operation seems premised on the notion that there’s a way to trick, or lull, or persuade people into supporting Israel. But there isn’t. The argument doesn’t resonate when you’re arguing against facts and reality, at least as the majority of the rest of the world see it. Sure, you can persuade yourself and your narrow band of supporters. But that’s not why you go online to advocate for your cause. You attempt to broaden your support.
Another interesting element of this effort is that it is entirely defensive in nature. It will defend Israeli policy. It will explain why Israel behaves so badly so often. It will fend off a revolution, not advance one. It won’t advocate for new ideas, political reform, freedom or anything like what other social movements do online. This hasbara effort is couched in the negative and I don’t believe this can work on Facebook and Twitter. You have to represent a vision, something positive, constructive, that will capture peoples’ imaginations. Can hasbara do that?
Benayahu reveals that Bibi Netanyahu is going to pay $1.6 million to recruit and train 120 of the “little hackers.” If he paid that money as reparations to Turkey he’d regain a former ally and produce far better results than 1,000 hackers could.
The Ynet article closes with a priceless quote from one of the IDF’s “little hackers” herself, Aliza:
Aliza, a lone soldier from the US, explained about the new unit at the IDF Spokesperson’s Office. “We began to work with new media during Operation Cast Lead. Bloggers are very important and very influential,” she said.
She certainly wasn’t talking about this blogger.
If you have a really dark sense of humor as I sometimes do on this subject, you may get as good a laugh out of this as I did:
“This is about the democratization of information, and about the fact that you cannot stuff information down people’s throats but you can make it more palatable.”
Aliza said the office’s YouTube channel is currently its most successful venture. “Photos catch the eye and constitute visual proof that is better than words,” she said, adding that IDF footage from the flotilla raid became the most-watched videos online and affected “media reports in the world as well as online debates”.
The notion that IDF videos of the Mavi Marmara massacre constitute “visual proof” of anything is simply beyond belief and beyond words. Who does she think she persuaded? What does she think the world thinks of that disaster? That everyone’s now straightened out, understands and accepts Israel’s narrative?
Another delightful note to add to this, is that the very same IDF fat man, Benayahu told the media that he was recently forced to travel to Britain incognito to prevent nasty disturbances against him and presumably a war crimes warrant for his arrest. I can’t imagine how someone with as big and ugly a mug as he could think he could disguise himself. And he certainly won’t the next time he tries this.
What’s even funnier about this guy is that though he’s the IDF’s top spokesperson he’s never fired a shot in his life and his army rank of Brigadier General is entirely honorary. Frankly, I’ve never heard of someone employed by an army holding a rank he never earned. And can you someone this overweight ever have marched a step in his life? Frankly, I think part of his hasbara regime should be going on a diet. He’d make a more convincing spokesperson if he didn’t look like a shlub.