Paul Mason at Channel 4 News sees “evidence of a massive change in the balance of power between social media and the old, hierarchical media channels we used to rely on to understand wars.”
Specifically social media has the power to do three things: first, to show people reality – or a version of it – independent of what TV networks show. Second, and I think just as important, journalists on the ground are using social media to report, necessarily short-circuiting the normal editorial processes that used to filter what they said. Third, to get into your real life consciousness much more powerfully than the old media.
Let’s work through each of these new powers and understand their impact. In a society where the media is supposed to observe balance and impartiality, getting real-time access to corroborated facts independently of TV stations is not so revolutionary.
But modern-day America is not one of those countries. Its media is traditionally heavily skewed towards the pro-Israeli view. My colleague, Matt Frei, tweeted that CNN’s Wolf Blitzer interview with Netanyahu was less a grilling more “a warm bath and a back rub”. Others used more profane metaphors.
But now, for the first time in a major Arab-Israeli conflict, the American public has other sources of reality. All research says that young people everywhere regard Twitter as essentially a news service, and via your social network you can easily get served up words and pictures more impactful than anything on TV. By the time many Americans woke up on Sunday, these pictures were of dead Palestinian children.
Netanyahu complained the Hamas strategy was to provide “telegenically dead” people: but where Israel is losing the hearts and minds of the world is not via “tele” anything: it is in the JPEGs that stream into millions of people’s mobile phones every time they glance at the object in the palm of their hand.