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Another day on the Internet, another anti-Israel blog. So what? It's just words, right?
It's tempting to think of the blatherings of Web anti-Semites as just that. But somehow, those words are getting translated into action. Since the dawn of the "social Web" - free-for-all blogging, Myspace/Facebook and now Twitter - there has been a clear uptick in the number of people ready to go out to the town square and march against Israel. While it's difficult to pinpoint specific causes and effects where you could quantify how more social Web organizing resulted in larger protests, it's clear that "they" are using social Web tools - to good effect.
Just ask Israeli tennis player Andy Ram, who in March was forced to play in a near empty arena in Malmo, Sweden. Seven thousand people staged a sometimes violent protest that led the authorities to ban nearly all spectators from the hall. That protest was heavily promoted on Swedish blogs, as well as in the media; from the point of view of organizers, it was a smashing success.
Clearly there are plenty of dedicated anti-Israel bloggers out there who are using the social media to great effect. Some of them apparently spend whole days posting articles and links designed to incite their readers against Israel (and Jews, for that matter). Don't these people have to work? Apparently not. But whether they're independently wealthy or are getting paid by international "peace" organizations is academic; they're getting the job done for their side, pushing people to show up at events that really matter, like the protest that resulted in Ram's shabby treatment.
And what about our side? We, too, have our bloggers and tweeters. Most of them comment on Internet news, articles and other blogs. And some, such as the Jewish Internet Defense Force (tinyurl.com/d7n4ex), have even organized successful on-line protests at Facebook and other sites.
In that situation, thousands of JIDF Twitter followers helped organize a campaign to get a notorious anti-Israel Facebook group removed from the site. That's a good example of harnessing social media to accomplish something constructive. But unfortunately, there's not enough of it going on.
More on-line protests are needed, and not just when a large anti-Israel group rears its ugly head. We should be targeting blogs, newspaper articles, etc., that spew out anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hate and lies.
And when I say "targeting," I mean just that - sending out "action alerts" to readers to get them to take action, beyond reading (and presumably agreeing) with the criticism our bloggers have posted on a specific instance of anti-Israel negativity.
The "other side" does plenty of this kind of targeting; their organizers aren't afraid to tell them to go out and give their nasty opinions in on-line forums, etc. All you have to do is look at the talk-back forums on Israeli news sites; you see the same people giving their "Israel is always wrong" opinion at every opportunity, no matter how farfetched. Clearly these people see doing this as their "job" - whether or not they're getting paid for it.
While an Israeli news site like Jpost or Haaretz is not going to stop posting news stories, even if dozens of people react with negative comments, it unquestionably puts publications on the defensive, as writers anticipate the wave of negativity they're about to experience in the talk-backs.
Well, why should our side be the ones who have to deal with this "wall of hate?" How about returning the favor, by "targeting" the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sites with comments that show them up for who and what they are - posted not just by one or two stalwarts, but by hundreds or even thousands of people?
Let's face it, when it comes to Israel and Jews, the Internet "information stream" has been largely hijacked by a specific group that doesn't operate by Robert's Rules of Order or respect freedom of thought. There's just one point of view as far as they're concerned: the one that says we're wrong - and no logic in the world is going to change their minds.
And while our natural tendency would be to keep the debate civil and respectful, it's almost impossible to act with such chivalry today. By fighting fire with fire, we'd be restoring the balance - reopening the door to honest discussion, as serious people on both sides drop the rhetoric and engage in honest, spam-free discussion.
In order to accomplish something like this, you would need two elements: organizers and targets. Bloggers who have popular sites might be good candidates for such a job; a Facebook group would be just as effective.
Then you would begin searching for posts to comment on. There are a number of search engines that will crawl through the blogosphere, looking for the term(s) you submit.
Google's got one, of course (blogsearch.google.com), with advanced search using the same operators as regular search (google.com). Technorati (technorati.com) is popular as well. Also notable is Twingly (twingly.com), a Swedish site that is hoping to develop "the world's best spam-free blog search engine," Blogpulse (blogpulse.com) from Nielsen, the TV-ratings people, Feedmill (feedmil.com), "a 'long tail' feed search engine," and BackType (acktype.com), which "connects millions of conversations from blogs, social networks and other social media."
There are also several tools for searching Twitter (there seems to be much less political content in Twitter; most "tweeters" are interested in business and technology, it appears). Twitter itself has an advanced search tool (search.twitter.com). This page (tinyurl.com/6xoll3) has some tips on advanced Twitter searching.
A site called Twearch (tinyurl.com/dlygyv) will search Twitter, Wikipedia and Digg, as well as Tweepz (tweepz.com), a service that checks what tweeters are tweeting about at any given moment. And the tools at tweetprobe.tumblr.com and trendrr.com are worth checking out as well. With a little effort, all of us can get onto the front lines, defending Israel - where it counts.