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|Wed Feb 28, 2007 2:30 pm Circumvent Old Media – and Reach Out to the Blogosphere
|With the growing importance of blogs in shaping public opinion, Israel has an opportunity to start getting its message across beyond the filter of the mainstream press. As I suggest in the column below from the Jerusalem Post, it is time for the Jewish state to begin reaching out to the blogosphere and utilizing this important resource in the battle against Arab propaganda.
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The Jerusalem Post, February 28, 2007
By Michael Freund
As archeologists continue to excavate the site of the Mughrabi Gate alongside the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, it remains anybody's guess what they might just find underneath the mounds of soil, rock and debris.
But one item already unearthed by this dig should have us all deeply concerned, and that is the mainstream media's disgraceful habit of parroting Arab propaganda.
It was just a few weeks ago that a shocking array of prominent media outlets, in their coverage of this non-event, went about spreading one irresponsible and malicious lie after another about the Mughrabi Gate dig, tarnishing Israel's image and inflaming public opinion against the Jewish state.
A headline in The Australian screamed "Palestinians unite to fight Temple Mount dig," as if the bulldozers were actually tearing up the mount itself. Across the globe, France 24, the international French news channel, declared: "Palestinians protest over Jerusalem mosque works," falsely implying that Israel was ripping apart a Muslim house of prayer. Similarly, China's official Xinhua news agency reported: "Arab League urges international response to Israel's dig at al-Aqsa Mosque," as though the earthmovers were displacing the mosque itself.
Perhaps the most egregious example was provided by Time magazine, whose editors could not resist taking a swipe at Israel by running the headline: "Raiders of the Temple Mount." It's hard to remember the last time so many falsehoods were spread so extensively in such a short period of time.
If there is a lesson to be learned from this sorry state of affairs, it is that Israel needs to begin utilizing alternative means to circumvent the mainstream media and spread its own message far and wide.
IN ORDER to better counter the Arab propaganda machine, the Jewish state should actively reach out to its many supporters in cyberspace, and especially in the blogosphere, for help in disseminating the truth.
Blogs, or weblogs, are basically on-line journals where individuals or groups can posture, pontificate or simply share their thoughts by posting them on the Internet. There are literally millions of blogs out there, covering just about every subject you can imagine. Their reach is enormous, and their influence is growing rapidly.
According to a July 2006 study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 39 percent of US Internet users, or about 57 million American adults, read blogs. This is nearly double the amount of just three years ago.
Over half of all bloggers are under the age of 30, underlining the importance of blogs to the next generation of decision-makers. Some of the most popular sites welcome hundreds of thousands or even millions of visitors.
In recent years, blogs have come to play a key role not only in shaping the news, but in making it as well.
In September 2004, just two months before the last US presidential election, a team of determined bloggers debunked the authenticity of documents presented by CBS News which claimed that George W. Bush had dodged the draft.
Blogs have now become such a vital component of US presidential politics that campaign teams hire people to do "blog outreach." Some have paid and volunteer staffers who monitor blogs and keep track of the pulse and current of public opinion.
Even shady Middle Eastern dictators have come to appreciate, and even fear, the power of blogs. Just last week, in Egypt, Hosni Mubarak's autocratic regime sentenced a blogger to four years in prison for "insulting the president."
THE FACT IS that blogs are a vibrant source of energetic and independent thinking, often providing readers with a fresh way of looking at things that is unencumbered by bureaucratic blinders or organizational self-interest.
As a blogger myself, I often find better and more timely analysis on the Web than in the mainstream media. Indeed, some of Israel's best friends and most articulate defenders can be found in the blogosphere, where sites such as Little Green Footballs, Powerline, Atlas Shrugs, Hugh Hewitt, Debbie Schlussel and Instapundit all provide a refreshing alternative to the moral relativism and politically correct anti-Israel blather of the media.
AT THE height of the Mughrabi Gate crisis earlier this month it was the blogosphere which played a critical role in getting out the truth, just as it did during last summer's Lebanon war.
Time and again, blogs have shown themselves to be a potent communications tool, and Israel needs to start tapping into their vast potential.
This can be accomplished by launching a concentrated and effective outreach effort aimed specifically at influential bloggers, who should be courted with the same resources and commitment as the mainstream press.
The government and Jewish groups should begin by organizing periodic fact-finding tours of Israel for key bloggers, giving them a chance to learn firsthand about the situation here in the region.
An annual conference of pro-Israel bloggers, attended by key Israeli statesmen and personalities, could help to galvanize what is already a burgeoning network of support for the Jewish state.
It is also crucial that Israeli spokesmen and leaders take the blogosphere into account when formulating their media strategies and messaging tactics, both by sending them relevant information and making sure to keep them in the loop.
SURE, mainstream entities such as CNN, the BBC and The New York Times will continue to dominate the news business for years to come. But the battle for public opinion is far from being a lost cause. Israel just needs to start thinking a little more creatively about how to wage the battle. By working with our allies in the blogosphere, Israel can begin to turn the tide in its favor and chip away at the falsehoods being spread by the press.
If we can't beat the media, let's circumvent it. Reaching out to bloggers seems like a good place to start.