'Part anarchy, part mob rule." That's a good description of Wikipedia (http://tinyurl.com/yvngwo). And the mob doesn't like having its plans upset.
In this case, the "mob" is the vast anti-Israel lobby that haters of our country have managed to pull together. Lots of people have lots of reasons to hate Israel, it seems - for personal, not factual reasons - and they especially hate it when groups like Camera, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting ruins their party by messing up their anti-Israel propaganda with (gasp!) facts, such as in this article by Camera (http://tinyurl.com/gt2fm) debunking the anti-Israel writings of Harvard professor Stephen Walt and University of Chicago professor John Mearsheimer.
What's gotten the "electronic intifada" crowd in a tizzy this week was a supposedly "secret plot" by Camera to edit pages in Wikipedia that contain rabid anti-Israel misstatements and lies. The relevant websites make it sound as if there is a "vast international Jewish (oops, Zionist) conspiracy" to pull a fast one over on the unsuspecting Gentiles (I mean "Palestinian liberationists"). Unfortunately, even the contention that something secret and nefarious is going on is given in the lie by this page from the Camera website (http://tinyurl.com/55v9l9), titled "How and Why to Edit Wikipedia." The page is one of the top links on the Camera home page, so it's not like the organization was trying to hide something.
Nobody ever tried to quash these groups' right to speak - or to lie. The idea was to correct the misinformation. Unfortunately, we haven't been doing as good a job as possible, because misperceptions and errors regarding Israel's story abound. Of course, it's easier to make up stories than to do fact checking, and lies are somehow more fun to believe - the bigger the better - for many people.
But we still have a responsibility to tell the truth. Israelis are funny that way, I guess. One way to tell the truth is to pinpoint lies, such as those on Wikipedia, and correct them. Several years ago, a pro-Israel group called Giyus (Give Israel Your United Support, http://giyus.org/) put together an application called a "megaphone program," where you could receive alerts on stories that appeared on websites with talkbacks and forums that were likely to draw posters from the other side. The megaphone tool brings alerts to your desktop and a link where you can post to, with specific information on why corrective information is needed. It's sort of like a fancy RSS reader, and the updates don't come as often as you would expect, given the extent of anti-Israel diatribe over the Internet (maybe pro-Israel commenters have switched to using RSS feeds).
Editing Wikipedia and getting desktop alerts for anti-Israel propaganda are a good idea, but they're strictly a defensive move. Lots of pro-Israel blogs do that as well, waiting for someone to throw out a lie or a challenge before responding. Part of the reason why the other side seems to have so many propaganda victories, it seems to me, is because they take the initiative and either make up stories, or twist the truth like they would a pretzel, leaving us to try and pick up the pieces.
What's needed is a method for taking the offensive - for getting our message out and putting "them" on the defensive. As a follower of the talkback circuit, I have noticed that the so-called "anti-Zionists" quickly lose their composure when you put them on the defensive. The real hate and vitriol come out then, with the comments about how the Germans should have finished the job, etc.
You might say that blogs are the ideal way to do this, and some of them do a yeoman's job (see for example http://muqata.blogspot.com/), but there are so many of them nowadays that it's too easy to get lost in the crowd. A pro-Israel blog just doesn't do it anymore for the non-committed we're trying to reach.
So, in honor of Yom Ha'atzmaut, I decided to list a few methods I think might help beat back the tide. These methods allow us to take the offensive, to set the agenda and free ourselves from anti-Israel screed - a noble and desirable activity for Independence Day, don't you think?
1)Conduiy Toolbars: Conduit (http://www.conduit.com/) is an Israeli startup that makes toolbars, those helpful headers on your browser that bring you news, sports, entertainment, etc. There are lots of them out there, such as this one from Major League Baseball (http://toolbars.mlb.com/teams/MLB). Chances are that most of the instant install toolbars you come across on the Net are made by Conduit.
I haven't yet come across a toolbar by Camera, the Foreign Ministry, or any of the pro-Israel news and comment sources on the Internet. Why not? It takes about five minutes to put one together, it's free, it helps direct traffic to your website, and you can even make money with Conduit's ad revenue-sharing program. Most important, your pro-Israel "brand" is reinforced with users.
2)BlogTalkRadio: If your blog is good enough to read, it's good enough to listen to and it might get a wider audience if people can listen to it in the background instead of having to take time to read it. With BlogTalkRadio (http://www.blogtalkradio.com/) you can put together your own radio program (weekly, one-time, etc.), that works like a podcast (except you can post a link to the show for listening on-line as well). A search for "Israel" on the site yielded many results, almost all of them with hosts uncomplimentary to Israel, or Christian sites using the term "Israel" in a context other than the one I meant.
3)Toonlet: A picture says 1,000 words, but a cartoon, drawn to make a political point, is worth millions; the opinion of an issue transmitted by a cartoon is very hard to undo with simple text. One has to be very convinced of one's ideas to be immune to the insidious effects of a cartoon. There's one rabid anti-Semite running around the Web who has made a career of bringing to cartoon life all the nasty canards against Israel, reviving the blood libel, Israelis are a bunch of Nazis, etc. You and I would never fall for it, I know, but I'm not sure about impressionable college students. Why leave the field open to him? Why not create a pro-Israel cartoon using the free and easy tools at Toonlet (http://toonlet.com/). In about 15 minutes you'll have first class comic that you can distribute all over the Web and save yourself typing millions of words! With tools like these, we'll be well on our way to taking the offensive and taking back the Internet from the people who would like to roll history back some 60 or so years.