A recent article in +972 Magazine described how the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) used a picture of a Bahraini protestor to illustrate Palestinian terror. While this may have been an error, what the IDF typed at the bottom of the photo wasn’t: “Share this, because the mainstream media will not.”
Why is a first-world army attacking the “mainstream media”?
Observing American politics, attacking the media is usually a sign of weakness and desperation. More importantly, it’s also a change in strategy—and not necessarily an effective one. It's a pander that can make for a nice right-wing dog-whistle, but doesn’t win elections.
Which brings me back to the IDF’s photo. The picture and its commentary wasn’t a hasbara operation. It was an attempt to pander to those who believe there is a mass media conspiracy to paint Israel as a tyrannical, oppressive occupying power. Translated: The "mainstream media" is anti-Semitic.
What was really disturbing was the use of the word “mainstream.” The opinions of Israeli officials, frequently offered by Israeli officials, appear frequently in mainstream op-ed pages and on cable news and network channels. For every "60 Minutes" piece critical of Israeli policy, there are a dozen mainstream media segments reporting the Israeli government's position unchallanged. (Notably, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected an opportunity to respond to a New York Times op-ed this year by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.) After all, why would leading Israeli officials appear on CNN if they believed they were legitimizing anti-Israel propaganda?
The IDF seems to have made the calculation that the right is their most reliable base of support in the diaspora. That the IDF strategy dovetails with the American right-wing should come as no surprise: in 2010, David Frum noted that the IDF took the advice of right-wing commentator Noah Pollak on using social media.
This is a tragic mistake. Blaming the media didn’t work for Richard Nixon or Newt Gingrich. It won’t work for the IDF either—and could further alienate American liberals, polarizing support for Israel.
Matthew Kalman broke the story of physicist Stephen Hawking’s boycott of Israel. Then Cambridge University tried to falsely deny it.