My friend Avi Bieler deserves a warm welcome to the blogosphere (applause…). Even though he doesn’t like to read blogs, he sure knows how to write an entertaining and informative post.
Hello all! I’d like to thank Ayal for this glorious opportunity despite the fact that I don’t read his blog. Actually, I don’t read anyone’s blog. I think blogs are unnecessary and narcissistic. Don’t fret though; I’m not in danger of being a hypocrite because I’m a narcissist. I’ll be damned if I read this post though, so forgive any typos.
Shamolov Berkovich said, “It’s too bad that there are more photographers than protesters here, but I’m glad that the media are helping people notice this social issue. It’s a start.”
Look at that quote. The comparative “than” is used here. In this case, the honored MK is comparing the number of protestors to photographers without any awareness of the clear irony. There are more photographers than protesters. “Too bad” she says. This quote is a microcosm of what has been going on in the Israeli media recently. We have been told that the peasants are rising up in Tel Aviv. No doubt, this is the Jewish Spring! A follow up to the glorious cottage cheese intifada! William Wallace has taken the field! Only the thing is that he brought about 50 Scotsmen with him.
When is a protest a significant protest? There are over 403,000 people living in TA. Because the media has been reporting “hundreds” of martyrs coming to these protests let us assume for their sake that there are 999 people in the tent city. That means that a whole .25 percent of the population has come! To put this in context this would be similar to 20,000 people coming to Tahrir Square at the height of the Egyptian revolution…and playing guitar. (Please check my math, I’m terrible. When I see numbers I become like Sarah Conner in T2. The number is based on Cairo’s population. This parenthetical comment was brought to you by Bill Simmons)
So why Israeli media, why? Don’t worry, this isn’t a bias rant. Rather, the accusation is lazy journalism. Recently, I have become obsessed with media outlets using Facebook as a source. It seems that those who control the pen don’t understand that people will join a Facebook group without really caring (or even knowing) what it’s about. In addition, people from around the world can join making the numbers even less meaningful in terms of predicting trends within a country. Yediot Achronot is the biggest perpetrator of this sin in my opinion, although I have seen it committed by everyone.
Based on the fact that I don’t remember seeing this before the winter, I’m going to make a completely unsubstantiated claim (hmmmm, I could get used to blogs). Following the various revolutions that took place in the Arab world, the internet has gained great acclaim as a useful tool for dissidents. Ignoring the fact that revolutions were frequent in the Arab world before Al Gore knew how to type and the governments (particularly in Egypt) had to extinguish many flames over the last few years, Twitter and Facebook received a lot of credit for helping to organize the demonstrations. This has given the interweb good news source status. When any group gets more than a thousand followers it means that something significant is happening.
Obviously, this is ridiculous. Even if you want to make the claim that any group that has a hundred thousand members is significant, you run into problems. What happened to the Third Intifada? I’m sure that many people who joined that group suffer the occupation from many thousand miles away. Here’s the thing though. It’s easy to look at Facebook, certainly easier than conducting interviews and doing real research. This is compounded by media’s endless search for interesting stories that drive internet traffic. The slightest excuse for a flashy headline is enough.
This relates to our grand protest. In reality, there are simply not so many people involved in this protest. However, it’s a good story that recalls the wonders of 1960s America and the croissants of the French Revolution. So the media took the “small Facebook group” (at least it actually exists in this case) and blew it up well beyond what it actually is. This is not to say that the economic system of Israel doesn’t need inspecting, it just wouldn’t have been as sexy to report Bibi’s ideas of land reform that have existed for some time now.
When reading newspapers please keep this in mind; many of the things we are told are important, are only important for the business of newspapers. Beware of using them to predict trends or to gain information on trends within the Israeli population. But don’t take it from me, I hate blogs.