Friday, August 04, 2006

meta-existentialist piecework

“so i just got a phone call from this friend of mine in disney.”

it’s a long-distance phone call from a european friend. for the uninitiated, ‘disney’ is a euphemism for a place otherwise referred to as ‘israel’ [by the rushed or unimaginative], ‘the zionist entity’ [by ardent arabists], and ‘american-occupied palestine’ [by the sardonic].

“she told me the government is paying people to monitor all the blogs coming out of lebanon and to write pro-israeli remarks.”

“go figure.”

the first thing that occurs to you is the remarkable sum of money the state of american-occupied palestine has to expend on this so-called “existential conflict” with the shia of lebanon.

oh sure, the state of american-occupied palestine may have undertaken this bloody invasion of lebanon in order to secure the release of a couple of soldiers - whose job [like that of soldiers in most countries] is to die for their country.

but if you’re running such a state, you want at all costs to avoid a repeat of the embarrassment of 1982, when israeli civil society rose up to demonstrate against that invasion of lebanon. after the sabra-shatilla massacre that year, israeli holocaust survivors wept that they had not survived auschwitz and treblinka see jews perpetrate such crimes against humanity.

no, if you’re running such a state and you want to ensure that your population backs your remarkable expenditure of american tax dollars, israeli and lebanese lives, it really helps to reduce matters to the existential. “it’s us or them.” “you’re with us or against us.” “we’re good. you’re bad.”

both sides indulge in this nonsense, of course. what’s so irritating is american-occupied palestine’s posture of moral superiority.

that’s what’s so splendid about this news of israel’s assault on lebanon’s blogosphere. taking the moral high ground in an “existential conflict” is all well and good. but it never hurts to slide a few dollars into the pockets of some bored university grads, just to make sure. a few greenbacks go a long way to supplement the moronic leaflets, jammed lebanese media transmissions and mobile telephone calls from "idarat israel”.

during times of existential conflict, you can always count on the cynically self-interested to be in your corner – especially if you have the financial backing of a hyerpower.

the second thing that went through your head when you heard about the assault on lebanon’s blogosphere was, “i wonder how they get paid?”

i mean, is it an hourly wage? is it contract work? is it piecework, with payment delivered on the number of zionist comments dispensed? do they work at home, multi-tasking, sweaty, in their y-fronts, or has ‘idarat israel’ organised their minions into air-conditioned call centres?

today, you got an answer of sorts.

at the workstation across from you is a tasteful, civilised young lebanese reporter who maintains a blog attached to a german newspaper. today he expressed soft-spoken outrage that a gentleman, improbably named “Michael Ahrweiler”, had gone to the trouble of posting the following remarks:

“‘If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence.
“‘If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel’.

“maqouleh y‘ani?”

“‘christmas comes but once a year!’” intones someone from across the room.

“‘a rolling stone gathers no moss!’” chirps another.

what does it tell you about a war effort when the co-opted “intellectual elite” resorts to such crass aphorisms to try to convince lebanese that they’re the bad guys?

“‘neither a loaner nor a lender be!’”

a little later in the day you surveyed this blog, as you do at the end of most days, and find that a certain ‘rachel’ has posted this remark:


“I think you people would get a lot further by stating truthful comments. Hizbollah started this war by attacking Israel’s civilians. Hizbollah fires rockets at Israeli citizens while hiding behind Lebanese citizens, using them as shields. Hizbollah is responsible for all the deaths on both sides. Israel has every right to defend itself like any other country. Israel has over 1 million people forced from their homes (refuges [sic] as you call them). You should be saving the world from Hizbollah.

“No matter how you feel about it, the truth is:
* If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence.
* If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel.”


the comment – whose obvious untruths are pitched so magnificently in the face of the rhetorical stance of “truthfulness” - isn’t posted in response to any entry in particular. it’s been posted in answer to several entries. every comment is more or less identical to the one before.

it’s the lazy man’s propaganda. it’s mind-control meets the mass mail email. it’s a dead giveaway that these clods, drawing on the same stock of aphorisms, are obviously being paid by the hit.

best not ponder those y-fronts.

Jim Quilty
Beirut

18 Comments:

Anonymous Outraged! said...

Why does that not surprise me? Maybe because it is so obvious, I don't think it surprises anyone!

About 3 hrs ago, I wrote this comment on one of the blogs:

"Israeli "PR" people should leave these blogs and take their propaganda with them. Unless you are ready to speak intelligently, better stay quiet. "

Hey, maybe us Lebanese can start our own PR :-) Anyone wants to use my quote or paraphrase it, feel free to do it! No royalties requested. Just one request, well two:
1) Be intelligent in your comments
2) do not spew hate remarks - let's not scoop down to "their" level.

Thank you.

11:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now, if this wasn't written by you Jim, I would probably put it onto the dump pile of conspiracy theories. Absolutely hilarious these disneys, if it wasn't so sad! I am a great fan of your blogs. Keep up the spirit!

Hannah from Berlin

12:31 AM  
Anonymous saveaworld said...

the Rachel comment was very intelligent - too bad you can't give an intelligent response

12:49 AM  
Blogger a h m a d said...

Now I know why no matter how hard I try, it is very difficult to address all pro-Israel comments!

1:35 AM  
Blogger Carmel said...

hi Jim. at first i didn't really understand what you said in the comment you left for me in ramzi's blog but than i saw your comments on other Lebanese blogs i follow and i understood what you meant. there are too many Israelis who follow and write regardless any official requests (who told you they pay people? it's a voluntary call) and many of them are too sympathetic to Lebanese people and doubtful about Israel's actions, if you had noticed.

i actually started writing from that point of view but the more i visit Lebanese blogs i feel the urge to present the other side in the same breath. i guess you can't wipe out years of ziniost breeding... I've never seen anyone changing someone's opinion with words and public opinion on Israel sucks as it is so i wouldn't waste my time on that. I'm here for a different reason. although we would never agree i think we must communicate.

if you don't mind, i shall add your blog to our links and keep following you and you're welcomed to visit our Israeli women blog. i follow Lebanese bloggers lately out of frustration from local and global media, i believe the only truths are in our personal narratives and it keeps me sane and feeling that sometime when all of this is over and we're all ready to forgive, there'll be people to speak to.

I'm both horrified and fascinated by the fact that a war plane that hummms over my head right now (and i mean right now) is on its way to you, and yet, my words will travel faster than this plane and so finally, maybe words will prevail.

take care.

2:01 AM  
Blogger apokraphyte said...

Hey y'all,

Marlin just directed me here and I think I know some of you guys ... Great blog ... keep up the good work ... dave

6:00 AM  
Anonymous Jeff Younger said...

I tend to favor the Israeli attack on Hezbollah. Why am I wrong?

8:08 AM  
Blogger apokraphyte said...

Jim,

Hey, it's david sheehan, if your memory goes back that far ... I was wondering along these lines if you had any information about blogs related to the Independence05 phenomena -- I have a few in particular in mind -- and their financial backing ... I think US contractors with DOS and DOD call this "grassroots democracy campaigns" now, but wondered if you had any sense of the who/why/how of some of these independent journalists blogging away in Beirut as part of a larger PR campaign ... Either way, your laconic style is always treat ... Thanks and be safe ... dave

9:34 AM  
Blogger Sarmad said...

Before this conflict started I had only a partial understanding of what a blog is. But since this all started I have been reading 10's of different blogs daily, and I'm staggered by the uneveness and bias towards the Israeli "cause".

I received an email recently directing me to Beirut Live blog. The moderator (or is it contributer) was complaining exactly about this problem. It would not surprise me at all if "bored uni. grads" are being paid to write hundreds of comments in various blogs.

I also know some people who have received phone calls from "Disney". This brag about "the long arm of Israel" is an old tactic that has been used by Israel even in "peace" times. All I can say is for people to resort to all these tactics, they must be on the losing side.

11:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm Israeli and I'm a Zionist. I can tell you that I and my fellow citizens are all here anxious for this war to be over. I'm certain that my government spend its time and resources focusing on these aims rather than threatening your blog.
I don't know what will happen if the Arab will put down their weapons. But I agree with the second part of this sentence.
Peace from Jerusalem

12:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Israel has a right to defend itself hezbollah started this there will be a full investigation of the qana tragedy where hezbollah launched rockets from behind civilans because the arabs want to drive the jews into the sea while ignoring the un resolution that says they should disarm barak offered you everyting and peace but the palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity and iran is behind every action of hezbollah syria too just like thomas friedman said

11:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I don't care much for conspiracy theories... When the info comes from the people themselves, who could argue?

FROM TIMES ONLINE
(The Times and The Sunday Times UK)

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-2289232,00.html


July 28, 2006


Israel backed by army of cyber-soldiers
From Yonit Farago in Jerusalem



WHILE Israel fights Hezbollah with tanks and aircraft, its supporters are campaigning on the internet.
Israel’s Government has thrown its weight behind efforts by supporters to counter what it believes to be negative bias and a tide of pro-Arab propaganda. The Foreign Ministry has ordered trainee diplomats to track websites and chatrooms so that networks of US and European groups with hundreds of thousands of Jewish activists can place supportive messages.



In the past week nearly 5,000 members of the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) have downloaded special “megaphone” software that alerts them to anti-Israeli chatrooms or internet polls to enable them to post contrary viewpoints. A student team in Jerusalem combs the web in a host of different languages to flag the sites so that those who have signed up can influence an opinion survey or the course of a debate.

Jonny Cline, of the international student group, said that Jewish students and youth groups with their understanding of the web environment were ideally placed to present another side to the debate.

“We’re saying to these people that if Israel is being bashed, don’t ignore it, change it,” Mr Cline said. “A poll like CNN’s takes just a few seconds to vote in, but if thousands take part the outcome will be changed. What’s vital is that the international face of the conflict is balanced.”

Doron Barkat, 29, in Jerusalem, spends long nights trawling the web to try to swing the debate Israel’s way. “When I see internet polls for or against Israel I send out a mailing list to vote for Israel,” he said. “It can be that after 15 minutes there will be 400 votes for Israel.

“It’s very satisfying. There are also forums where Lebanese and Israelis talk.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry must avoid direct involvement with the campaign but is in contact with international Jewish and evangelical Christian groups, distributing internet information packs.

Amir Gissin, the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s public relations director, said: “The internet’s become a leading tool for news, shaping the world view of millions. Our problem is the foreign media shows Lebanese suffering, but not Israeli. We’re bypassing that filter by distributing pictures showing how northern Israelis suffer from Katyusha rocket attacks.”

8:31 PM  
Blogger lens said...

The Israelis portray the same strategic idiocy in their PR wars as they do in their real (maim'n'murder) ones.
The assumption that a bunch of brain-dead cyber-drones (most of whom can't even spell), will convince the people that "Khisbulla" is the real enemy by repeating drivel about the moral righteousness of Israel's war and the paranoid right of zionists to defend themslves by responding to a slap with a beheading is almost, and i say ALOMST, as ludicrous as thinking that bombing the hell out of Lebanon and massacring half the south will lead to the Lebanese falling on their knees and thanking their Israeli saviours for their generosity with American-made weaponry.
But I have never read so much public debate and discussion about the Zionist state's racist policies and their systematic use of aggression in order to subjugate and occupy. And while this will not raise the dead and while it may not last, stifled by the ubiquitous protests of anti-semitism, it certainly marks a new turn for public discourse regarding Israel.
Type on cyber-drones. The end of your racist ideologies is nigh (I hope).

10:31 PM  
Blogger Carmel said...

lens - that was painful but true. however, talking about a country/ an ideology is different than dealing with people. not every Israeli online is trying to improve his country's image, some really want to stay connected with things outside their bubble, want to share and communicate and bridge some human bond beyond ideologies that shoot each other from both sides and all of us get hurt. you're invited to our Israeli women blog to more authentic voices and inner struggles.

10:43 PM  
Anonymous Simon A said...

Hey Dave ... hope you are well. Long time form the days at the Star.

7:30 PM  
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