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WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?
Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

If you like, you can send Magpie an email!



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Monday, August 14, 2006

The PR war in the Mideast.

Over at CJR Daily, Alia Malek has a very interesting piece on how the very effective efforts by Lebanese bloggers to tell what it's like to be living through Israel's attack on their country have prompted the Israeli government to wage its own propaganda war in the blogosphere.

An appeal in the form of an emailed letter, signed by Amir Gissin, the Director for Public Affairs at the Israeli Ministry, identified the Internet as "the new battleground for Israel's image." He must have in part been referring to the almost overnight proliferation of blogs from Lebanon, which seem to be spontaneous and unsupported by any Lebanese ministry. The outpouring of first-person accounts coming out of Lebanon via newly constructed blogs and mass emails has managed to give a human and sometimes charismatic face to a country oft beleaguered by war but unable until now to disseminate with speed and savvy Lebanese narratives of what is happening in that country.

The blogs and emails have been so effective that stories have run on them in outlets such as the Wall Street Journal (subscription required), MSNBC.com, and the Associated Press. The keepers of these blogs have also been interviewed on Nightline, BBC, and CSPAN, not to mention a host of European media.

Simultaneously, the Internet has allowed Lebanese and other Arab voices to be accessible to English-language consumers, especially those not satiated by the MSM's coverage of the conflict. With these new ways of communicating — blogs, forums, mass emails — being heard is no longer dependent on wealth and power or even on volume, membership in political parties, or in armed militias. The convergence of these dynamics has meant readers are hearing the unfiltered voices of regular yet diverse folk — voices that have often been eloquent, artistic, reflective, even academic, a notable difference from the hysterical, wailing, or angry masses the MSM tends to capture on the "Arab Street."

Now, to counter these voices, the Israeli FM is urging supporters of Israel to go to the Web site, Give Israel Your United Support, and download the "Megaphone" software, developed by an Israeli company to alert subscribers to internet polls, "problematic" articles, and online debates which the Ministry would like Israel supporters to "talk back" to. GIYUS.org puts activists just a click away from the forums in which they are asked to participate or the media outlets to which they are asked to complain.

As Malek points out, the publicizing of the Megaphone software has had a predictable result: Arab bloggers have published the URL for the software, suggesting that Israel's opponents use it to track the same debates that Israel's supporters are interested in. The fireworks are ongoing.

I've always suspected that something like the Megaphone software existed. Over the past year, I've noticed that any unfavorable mention of Israel in Magpie gets an almost immediate reaction from a pro-Israel commenter — usualy one who shows no evidence of having read Magpie before. These commenters always have the same list of pro-Israel bullet points, which they normally make without sticking around for any discussion. Given the Magpie has a really low profile in the blogosphere, I've always wondered how these pro-Israel trolls find this blog so quickly. Now I know.

| | Posted by Magpie at 9:24 AM | Get permalink




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