All forms of media-television, radio, and newspapers-have been monopolized by corporations. When it comes to reporting, these commercial media outlets have no trouble feeding propaganda to the masses. And this is exactly what happens when Gaza is the given subject. Propaganda. In fact more often than not Gaza doesn’t seem to be worth that. Besides its regular power cuts, Gaza experiences a constant media blackout, the popular censorship of Gaza’s suffering, imposed by the ‘only democracy in the middle east’, Israel.
Now there’s obvious reasons as to why Gaza is an overlooked problem, but which one do we begin to address? The fear of appearing anti-Semitic? The genuine belief that Gaza is a prison camp harbouring terrorists that want to murder all Jews? Or the belief that Palestinians are the ones occupying innocent Israel? Or the impartiality news agencies such as BBC insist on? Whatever the excuse, it will always stand insufficient.
As someone who is always cynical of the legitimacy of what the media ‘reports’ or rather interprets and portrays on daily world news and politics, the media blackout on Gaza fails to surprise me. Even for Afghanistan and Iraq. British or American deaths in these countries are reported on heavily whereas leaked pictures of soldiers from the same countries posing with half naked corpses, killing them for sport and mutilating body parts for trophies is lingered on shortly. It’s important to note that language of media is also extremely crucial. There are always specific words these corporate machines subtly replace with another of their choice, which completely changes the given altitude of meaning to whichever story. The Language of Media Propaganda.
When most people think of propaganda, the posters and songs created by a government during wartime springs to mind, yet the truth of the matter is that propaganda has a much broader application. It refers not only to the efforts a government goes to make people adopt certain beliefs or attitudes, though it does not stop there, for the purpose of politics it does. We can label “propaganda” any organised effort to persuade large numbers of people about the truth of an idea, the value of a product, or the appropriateness of an attitude. When the government uses the media in an organised and deliberate way to get people to believe that a war is necessary for their safety, such as Iraq, that’s propaganda. When a corporation uses the media in an organised and deliberate way to get people to think that Gillette 3 layered razor is better than the other brand, that’s propaganda. If a private group uses the media in an organised and deliberate way to get people to adopt a negative attitude towards immigrants as the Daily Mail loves to do, this is also propaganda.
So what is the language of media propaganda? Language can be extremely powerful, especially when you know how to steer it, and politicians of course are experts when it comes to this craft. For instance when Tony Blair on Iraq said “The bombing is unfortunate, but it’s necessary”, most people usually fill in the gap by projecting their own understanding of what “necessary” means. We don’t stop to wonder, on whose criteria is it necessary, or by what standard is it necessary? When Barack Obama in his 2011 AIPAC speech said, “America’s commitment to Israel’s security flows from a deeper place, and that’s the values we share.” He values emotions over objective information again giving the audience their own understanding of what the shared values are. This is the most subtle skill in propaganda. The media is just as good at this skill. New terminologies are in fact invented.
‘Islamists’, ‘Jihadists’ all given without definition, allowing the audience to interpret it as the words what the media is really pointing unashamedly to; terrorists and terrorism. Another example Robert Fisk clearly noted “The US and British – and Israeli and Palestinian – leaderships have used the words ‘peace process’ to define the hopeless, inadequate, dishonourable agreement that allowed the US and Israel to dominate whatever slivers of land would be given to an occupied people”.
The apartheid wall isn’t an apartheid wall but a ‘separation wall’, ‘fence’ or ‘security barrier’ in Israeli hasbara (propaganda) terms. The occupation becomes ‘conflict’, the illegal Israeli colonies on annexed Palestinian land become ‘settlements’ or ‘Jewish communities’.
In the case of the recent Eliat attacks, Israel as usual is given the spotlight in the media. ‘Gaza militants’ was the most common expression present within the news. Hamas was not the perpetrator of the attack, but the very term initiated the thought, as the west introduced Hamas as the ‘terrorists in Gaza’. A week after the Eliat attack, Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz eventually admitted ‘doubts’ that it was Palestinians members of Popular Resisitance Commitee’s organised the Eliat’s bus attack, but actually Egyptian’s as it was revealed. But this new piece of information fails to surface upon the western news agencies, instead, “Gaza fires rockets into Israel” headlines are seen, Popular Resistance Committee’s handmade mortars of retaliation to the American supplied Israeli missiles. Casual attempts to make the oppressed seem as the oppressors.
Anyone following the Gaza siege would have already known that 3 days before the Eliat attacks, a heavy presence of F-16s and drones was lingering in Gaza’s skies, explosions without casualties occurring, and within moments of Eliat, it was the perfect excuse to begin a ruthless assault on a besieged population of 1.6 million – not that Israel ever needs an excuse. Ehud Barak was quick to state that the “attacks originate in Gaza and we will act against them with full force and resolve”, fuelling disinformation which to the audience may even seem justified, since this ‘Gaza’ has killed Israeli citizens first and have been firing rockets. For the reality of what goes on in Gaza, small alternative news websites are relied on, including Palestinians tweeting from Gaza, reporting real-time as air strikes bury their martyrs and injure civilians.
On Thursday, Gaza entered its 7th day of Israeli imposed military assault, as 10 Palestinians have been killed in 24 hours alone, pushing the total death toll of the week to over 40 – despite Hamas and other factions pledging a ceasefire. The trend to censor Gaza’s siege and suffering seems to be full on force. It is impossible to forget BBC’s refusal to air an appeal for Gaza during the 2008/2009 massacre. In fury I had attended the demonstration outside BBC building, outraged that their reasoning was ‘impartiality’. When the Mavi Marmara Aid Flotilla rampage took place when 9 Turkish activists where murdered, it was portrayed with a tremendous distortion of the facts on BBC Panorama. Soon after ‘Free Palestine’ was censored on BBC Radio. The atrocity of these embargo’s seem to have no end. It is evident that it is up to the volume of our voices, to be the echo of humanity, and to scream to the world in defiance of injustice. The minority who rule society and control our lives with iron curtains are afraid of our voice and love our silence. We must make them tremble at all times. This not only applies to the people of Palestine, but wherever injustice has chosen as a home.
For more of Selin’s writing, visit her blog
Views expressed in articles are the author’s and do not represent Comment Middle East
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