Minutes before I started writing this post, the military wing of Hamas, the Gaza Strip’s ruling political party, flaunted a video of a captured Israeli drone on Twitter. This was part of an ongoing propaganda campaign that seems unique in this brave new digital world: military and paramilitary groups were tweeting PR about (what is surely at this point) a war in real time.
There’s a lot to unpack about this, not least of all the exchange between the Twitter spokesman for the Israeli Defense Force and Hamas’s Al-Qassam Brigades:
@idfspokesperson Our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are (You Opened Hell Gates on Yourselves)
— Alqassam Brigades (@AlqassamBrigade) November 14, 2012
Those jabs from across the world’s most contentious wall drew lots of commentary, much of it on the pit-bull aggressive posts by @IDFSpokesperson. This is a new wrinkle on military propaganda because its reach is limitless—what an illustration of globalized war—and it’s a chilling addition to the on-the-ground war reports that Twitter’s been heralded for. These accounts aren’t the inconsequential mutterings of out-of-the-way armies, either; as Buzzfeed’s John Herrman says, “at least in the information war, tens of thousands of nearly instantaneous enlistments is significant.” That Zionist you know won’t refrain from hitting the retweet button; your friend who compares Palestine to apartheid can now bombard you with newfound and disturbing (and possibly faked) videos of a one-sided war’s gruesome collateral.
All this strikes me as worthy of study, or at least a gloss. What follows is roughly in line with what a TA for a college course called “The Ethics and Practice of Social Media” might receive in a weekly response paper, and if the name Habermas automatically triggers some kind of stress reaction, there’s no need to continue reading.