Tag Archive | opinion

Move over, old media

POLICE OFFICER RIDE IN AN EMPTY STREET IN DOWNTOWN BOSTON WHILE BOSTON WAS IN THE LOCKDOWN THAT WAS ANNOUNCED DURING MANHUNT FOR THE SUSPECT IN THE BOMBING OF THE 117TH BOSTON MARATHON ON APRIL 15, 2013. MUCH OF THE BOSTON AREA WAS CLOSED OR IN LOCKDOWN DURING THE INVESTIGATION AND RESIDENTS HAVE BEEN ASKED TO STAY INSIDE. PUBLIC TRANSPORT WAS SUSPENDED IN THE GREATER BOSTON. PHOTO: TESS SCHEFLAN/ACTIVESTILLS.ORG

POLICE OFFICER RIDE IN AN EMPTY STREET IN DOWNTOWN BOSTON WHILE BOSTON WAS IN THE LOCKDOWN THAT WAS ANNOUNCED DURING MANHUNT FOR THE SUSPECT IN THE BOMBING OF THE 117TH BOSTON MARATHON ON APRIL 15, 2013. MUCH OF THE BOSTON AREA WAS CLOSED OR IN LOCKDOWN DURING THE INVESTIGATION AND RESIDENTS HAVE BEEN ASKED TO STAY INSIDE. PUBLIC TRANSPORT WAS SUSPENDED IN THE GREATER BOSTON. PHOTO: TESS SCHEFLAN/ACTIVESTILLS.ORG

Move over, old media

The terror attack on the Boston Marathon last week once again demonstrated the impact of both the Internet and social networks on our lives. Social networks, in which users exchange information in real time, is quickly becoming the official alternative to television, and in the not-too-distant future new media will replace old media as a primary information source.

Anyone who wanted to connect quickly to what was going down in Boston was able to receive photographs, video clips and updates directly from the scene. Even the terrorist himself used Twitter to update his followers. True, we’re still in a transition period in which old media, like television, also use the Internet to keep their viewers updated. But one day all television viewers will have Twitter and other social media accounts, and there will no longer be a need for that. A quick Twitter search, and you’ll be able to get live updates from key sources at the scene.

In addition to status updates and YouTube clips uploaded by ordinary citizens, there were CCTV cameras stationed throughout Boston that helped the primary mission of tracking down suspects (Boston police requested and received help from citizens who had snapped photographs). Videos from those cameras were even uploaded to the Internet and delivered instantaneous images of the attack to viewers around the world. Nothing like that had ever happened before. It’s important to mention that the use of cameras throughout Boston once again raised the issue of citizens’ privacy versus security needs during times of terror threats.

The chase after the terrorists at MIT and the curfew imposed on millions of Bostonians later also fueled the massive use of social networks, helping paint a picture of what was happening on the ground moment by moment.

That is how I, here in Israel, was able to obtain a “live report” from a friend by following his status updates as well as the photos he had uploaded on Instagram.

Residents under curfew were not the only source of information. Those who were interested could even get Twitter updates from the terrorist himself. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, who was arrested after the Boston police put the city under siege, used the handle “Jahar” on Twitter.

“Ain’t no love in the heart of the city, stay safe people,” he wrote following the bombing.

It’s not by accident that he mixed elements of African American and popular culture into his status updates, as if he were the Joker, that psychopathic clown from Batman.

Dzhokhar’s last tweet is a retweet of religious commentary by Mufti Ismail Menk of Zimbabwe: “Attitude can take away your beauty, no matter how good looking you are, or it could enhance your beauty, making you adorable.”

As the operation to capture the terrorists wound to a close, it was memorialized by citizens’ personal cameras. Very quickly, bloggers took these photos and pieced together a timeline of what had transpired.

The Internet’s great achievement is to create a flow of information that is bottom up, instead of the top-down hierarchy of old media that broadcast to a passive audience. In the new media climate, citizens are part of the fabric of information. And the social networks are the means of production of news.

This article was first published on Israel Hayom Newspaper

Facebook: Winners and losers

lapid_2013

 

Internet-based social networks played a significant role in shaping the identities of the winners and losers in these elections. Yair Lapid leaned heavily on his Facebook page, proving the social media website to be very effective in helping him and his Yesh Atid party succeed big time. On the other hand, Eretz Chadasha (“New Country”) used innovative tools on its site, but did not gain entry to the Knesset.

Eretz Chadasha, headed by Rani Blair and Eldad Yaniv, pioneered the method of broadcasting campaign ads on YouTube, way before the campaign ad cycle even officially started. The volume of activity on the Internet was large, but it failed to realize its subversive potential. The network devoted itself to buzz, and all the party “chatter” developed a support base. Supporters asked Yaniv to drop out of the race shortly before the election if it became clear the party would not be able to garner enough votes to pass the threshold. Yaniv did not heed their call.

Eretz Chadasha crafted a new form of campaigning. The party stood up to the wealthy class, uncovered its secrets, and yet failed to act transparently from within its own movement. It depended on a massive advertising campaign on the popular Mako website and belated support, which arrived all too late from the media. Eretz Chadasha claimed that the buzz on social media would help grab some seats.

Still, many have criticized the idea that political discussion on online social networks can translate into more seats. Up to the very last minute, Eretz Chadasha proceeded with its head stuck in the social media universe and did not even take a look at the reality outside. Despite the buzz, subversion and YouTube views, it failed to succeed in the most basic aspect of elections — bringing voters to the polls. This requires more work. Parties need real power bases, with activists on the ground, venturing out to the peripheral areas of the country to campaign. Parties have to work in the field and not just pound their keyboards. The big question is whether Eretz Chadasha is ready to work in the field for the next four years, or whether the party’s efforts were just a flicker in Israeli politics.

Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid party were the big surprise in this election, transforming the election into a fascinating event. Many critics mocked Lapid’s Facebook efforts. Lapid used Facebook as a platform for free and open dialogue, though not always addressing the most difficult questions. Quite a few voters understood that they could find Lapid on Facebook; they sat on his tail and definitely tried to rattle him. Lapid, like many other leaders, realized the power of the network, so that is where he based his campaign. He managed to earn for himself an image of some Left, a lot of Center and even a drop of Right in his politics, always using the power of focusing on the middle class.

Tens of thousands supported Lapid on Facebook, viewing him as a candidate to rival even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the amount of private support he received. But commentators did not take Lapid’s Internet success seriously; it seemed virtual and impossible. Some gambled on other political stars. Lapid, however, realized that he could make use of the symbolic capital he has earned over the years in countless media appearances on his own and as the son of Tommy Lapid, the leader of the once-upon-a-time Shinui party, a secular Zionist party that was founded in 1974 and split into factions in 2006.

Eretz Chadasha tried to use only new media to be elected, and fell short. Lapid, a former broadcaster on Channel 2 and a Yedioth Ahronoth columnist, brought his stardom from the old media to Facebook and won big.

The op-ed was first published on “Israel Hayom

Who’s afraid of 2013?

500 × 494 - Peace Award - Post 1 Give 5. REMEMBER TO AWARD 5 cc: google images

“Lack of imagination is one of the reasons for end-of-the-world prophecies.”

As the end of the year approaches, more and more people speak of the end of the world, but not of the beginning. Where is the hope? How can we create a vision for the rest of our lives? 

For a while, the entire world was preoccupied with the question of whether the world would end this year. Children and adults alike engaged in interpretations of the Mayan prophecy. All predictions about the world ending were proved wrong, so this is the best time to mention that hope is not lost. It will be 2013 soon, and our wonderful planet continues to spin.

A century ago, at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, hope flooded the world, due to many scientific discoveries. People believed that we would create a new and spectacular planet. Books were written predicting science’s ability to end the stasis and stagnation in place since the Middle Ages. Writer Jules Verne, through his science fiction novels, tried to imagine how science could feed the masses and alleviate their distress. Walt Whitman, one of the great American poets of the 19th century, who practically invented modern free verse poetry, viewed the new era as a harbinger of democracy and human freedom. Art reached new heights of creativity, from Italian cubist futurism to surrealism. Everyone discussed mankind’s great promise. Our imaginations went wild and tried to conceive of a new society of mass transport, industry and big cities.

Two world wars reduced that hope. It was let down from the flagpole and later forgotten. As the 21st century was born, we were not envisioning a renewed spirit. On the contrary, the world was buried in visions of its end and fears of mass suicide. Anxiety took hold of our children’s faces.

In our era, what connects the world’s population is the Internet. New technologies continuously appear, becoming more advanced every day. We have the ability to transfer data from one end of the world to another. Powerful connections and the ability to share through social networks have become central to our lives. The universal vision has become practical, but it has not yet been realized as we form an image of the future.

Lack of imagination is one of the reasons for end-of-the-world prophecies. Our imagination is both flawed and limited. It is so difficult for us to imagine a future. How do we create a new fantasy? What are the components necessary for a daring, progressive, forward thinking and avant-garde ideal for us to hold on to into the future? For any person who envisions possibilities for the brain, mind and human consciousness, these are pertinent questions.

One appropriate solution would be to create a broader horizon for our imaginations so we can construct a suitable vision. We need to have something to look forward to in the future, an anchor of sorts. This vision must contain all of our needs and desires in times as crazy as these. If humanity could agree on a vision, perhaps our children wouldn’t be busy learning dubious interpretations of history written long ago. A true vision would help us see the future more clearly.

This new imagination could be the beginning of a world with prophecies about the future, instead of the end of the world. But where are these prophets and prophetesses? And why don’t they occupy a more central place in our lives? Why don’t they have a loud shofar with which to sound their prayers for the future? Why is the new prophecy in the second decade of this millennium unable to excite the masses?

This article was first published on Israel Hayom

Share with me what you think about the coming 2013

 Click this pic and Share with me what you think about the coming 2013

Sandy’s unacknowledged victims

Hurricane Sandy flooding Haiti once again and the need to raise houses up: Disaster Housing Alternatives By Tjebbe van Tijen / Imaginary Museum Projects | cc: flickr

Hurricane Sandy flooding Haiti once again and the need to raise houses up: Disaster Housing Alternatives By Tjebbe van Tijen / Imaginary Museum Projects | cc: flickr

The night that Hurricane Sandy struck the Caribbean coast, CNN described how the storm hit New Jersey. Only a few sharp-eyed people noticed the small line at the bottom of the screen that mentioned fatalities in the Caribbean islands. None of the reporters in the studio spoke of the destruction there.

The hurricane once again revealed what goes on behind the scenes of the media’s coverage. As it turns out, the hurricane did not skip over the Caribbean Islands on its way to the United States.

The number of known fatalities in the islands currently stands at 70, of which 54 occurred in Haiti, 11 in Cuba, and several in Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas. The combined population of the islands is around 40 million people who are exceptionally exposed to natural disasters such as Sandy.

Haiti was devastated by the hurricane. Agricultural crops, those in storage and those under preparation for the winter, as well as the warehouses in which they were stored, were destroyed. In Cuba, more than 200,000 homes were damaged and only a small portion of the country’s renowned coffee beans were saved. In other islands, crops were ruined when the people who harvest them were forced to wait until the storm ended. Throughout the Caribbean there is widespread fear of potential disease from contaminated waters.

In Jamaica, authorities imposed a two-day curfew, which was promptly violated by people who looted shops. More than 70 percent of the people who relied on electricity from the country’s only provider were left without power for days.

Damage to private homes and public infrastructure in the Bahamas was assessed at around $300 million.

Why didn’t the media cover the tremendous tragedy that befell the Caribbean? Was it too hard for people to fathom the damages? Of course not. Are the Caribbean Islanders unimportant? They too are people, but apparently reality proves otherwise.

The destruction in the Caribbean caused by Sandy was a double-edged sword. Not only was there damage to both people and property, but the destitute survivors who reside on the islands now face starvation (supply routes were damaged), endemic diseases (Haitians fear an outbreak of cholera) and rising costs of food products.

The media, which is supposed to take a balanced approach to reporting events around the world, focused on the U.S. and relegated the Caribbean tragedy to a mere footnote, and in so doing possibly denied the islands much-needed world aid.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who went from the storm straight into the elections, symbolizes the upward mobility of the downtrodden. But like other politicians, he too gives precedence to Americans suffering from the results of the hurricane, despite his promises of aid to the weaker elements in society. Take, for example, the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, which is still in operation despite Obama’s promise to shut it down during his previous election campaign. Although electricity was also reportedly down in the prison due to the storm, no media outlet cared to cover the conditions of the prisoners there.

What will happen now in the Caribbean? Who will hear their voices? At the moment, there are no clear answers to those questions. There will be no aid for people living in countries that are not reported as suffering. When the world media and politicians consider problems in the Third World a low priority, helpless people have nowhere to turn.

This article was first published on Israel Hayom

Nature proves who’s boss, again

All at once, everything flipped. From the look of things, Hurricane Sandy turned parts of the U.S. into a Third World country. The hurricane was not considerate of any technological, political or social parameters. It proved that even America’s superiority in many arenas was no match for Mother Nature.

A week after reading the Torah portion about Noah and the flood, a flood hit America. This storm managed to paralyze the entire East Coast and raised questions regarding its impact on the upcoming presidential elections, to be held next Tuesday.

Mother Nature’s violent outburst gave us a glimpse of what lies beyond a nation’s confidence. When a hurricane, earthquake or tsunami hits a populated area, it exposes the bitter truth: No one can ever fully prepare for the next natural disaster, but still we are hopeful that human wisdom, somehow, will come up with a way to keep us safe.

It seems that even the U.S. government and America’s technological breakthroughs have yet to come up with a method to withstand and resist natural disasters. You can’t make them go away. At most, you can try to face them with dignity. Sandy was the largest Atlantic superstorm on record. Thousands of flights were canceled; New York and Long Island are disaster areas; dams collapsed; millions were without power; hundreds of thousands were evacuated from their homes; the subway system flooded in New York City and many local residents are waiting on their rooftops for evacuation. Atlantic City was completely flooded and water covered many urban centers not prepared for such an event.

Usually such disasters happen in the Third World, far from the West. At most, the West watches them on television and sends disaster relief. Israel, too, does all it can to help (like after the devastating Haiti earthquake). The world enlists in different ways to help out, and sends teams to remote locations. We all remember the massive tsunami waves, the earthquakes and disasters that destroyed entire regions and killed millions of helpless individuals around the world. But in Third World countries, the damage was always twofold: The disaster would hit unprotected cities, and the victims would be poor, helpless populations.

When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, it miraculously didn’t span the entire coast. In 2006, The New York Times enlisted 300 engineers and storm experts who studied the hurricane and the area’s disaster protection systems. Their investigation concluded that New Orleans’ defenses weren’t up to the challenge, but it looks like even now, seven years later, the U.S. has yet to develop a satisfactory system of protective measures that can prevent the enormous damage caused by storms.

Hurricane Sandy was merciless, honing in on human weaknesses in the heart of the West. An emergency situation can result from terrorism, but the forces of nature will always be there, lurking. It will be interesting to see how the carnage left by Hurricane Sandy impacts the American psyche. What will happen to the iPhone, iPad, satellite nation, with all its gadgets, once it realizes, again, that they can’t really stop a hurricane? The Americans have always viewed themselves as being above nature. In every Hollywood disaster movie, a superhero comes along with an antidote. But this time, there is no superhero. Only great sadness.

This opinion was first published on Israel Hayom

Salt in the wound

The iconic illustration of a woman sprinkling a pinch of salt was recently removed from Salit’s salt packaging. The company claimed the drawing was removed so as to specifically mark the products for Passover. But do we even really need a picture of a woman on a product like house salt? Why has this question not been asked during the public debate that followed the illustration’s removal? Why does a salt company need a depiction of a housewife sprinkling a pinch of salt?

Throughout history, women were considered home-makers, while men dominated the public sphere. Women were meant for the kitchen, and men were meant to use their strength to run all other matters. Let’s assume, as has been reported, that it was the ultra-Orthodox who pressured the company to remove the female logo from the product. Also, let’s assume Salit became much more conservative and decided to remove the logo itself. Is it really necessary to fight against exclusion of women? Well, the answer is no, because we don’t want the picture of a woman on the product in the first place. Women should be equal to men and not objects for advertising.

The majority shareholder of Salit salt is wealthy Israeli businesswoman Shari Arison. Why didn’t Arison ever wonder, as a thinking woman, why the company she owned relegated the woman to the kitchen? Arison in her position could have changed the modus operandi of the companies she owned, and this step could have been a stepping stone in changing gender perceptions in Israel (changing the image in foods, culture and overall). So why didn’t Salit remove the female logo from its products earlier? It seems there are some parts of the male outlook that are hard to part with, because of tradition, and also as a result of women entering the male-run world of business.

The media immediately responded with banter, outrage, and slandering of the ultra-Orthodox lobby that allegedly caused the image to be removed. But a quick verification proved that there was no threat of boycott by any haredi companies of any kind. On the contrary, it was Salit that called for the change in labeling specifically to differentiate the product for Passover. The banter in the media was based on the assumption that the ultra-Orthodox caused the logo to be removed itself revealed the media’s conservative outlook. It is very easy to jump to conclusions during a time when women are removed from billboards in haredi areas, ordered not to sing at army ceremonies, and told to sit in the back of the bus.

We could have found ourselves in agreement with feminists wishing to disrupt the gender association of women in the kitchen, and with conservatives who want to preserve gender exclusion in the public.

But it was the secular leftists who pushed for the image to remain on the label, the historic icon that symbolized the exclusion of women, while the haredi community did not weigh in on the issue. We need to stop shunning those who are different from us. It is easy to rally a public into hating the other, in this case the haredim, but taking a deeper look shows us that when it comes to the housewife on salt products, we need to be more like the ultra-Orthodox.

This opinion was first published on Israel Hayom newspaper.

As long as they’re here, let them work

Police attempting to contain a mob on an anti-African spree after a protest against African refugees and asylum seekers in Tel Aviv’s Hatikva neighborhood on May 23, 2012. Photo by: Activestills.org

Police attempting to contain a mob on an anti-African spree after a protest against African refugees and asylum seekers in Tel Aviv’s Hatikva neighborhood on May 23, 2012. Photo by: Activestills.org

It is extremely unfortunate that certain far-right elements are trying to fan the frustrations felt by residents of the country’s peripheral areas against foreign workers. Last week’s rally in south Tel Aviv’s Hatikva neighborhood was a low point that should serve as a warning sign.

When I arrived at the rally last Wednesday, I looked at the asylum seekers and felt sorry for them. I asked myself whether they were aware that that night would be a menacingly difficult one. A man stood at the podium and asked the crowd, in a shaky voice, to refrain from violence. The very request raised concern. The demonstrators appeared visibly frustrated. Some of them held signs criticizing the government, not just the refugees.

The fear was mainly of the Sudanese infiltrators, and it boiled down to the fact that they hail from an Islamic country. One of the speakers at the rally warned that they would build mosques everywhere and that we would lose the Jewish state. Another speaker said he had no problem with the Chinese workers or the illegal Palestinian workers, but that the Sudanese and Eritreans were inspiring fear, buying and renting apartments everywhere. His remarks made me very sad. Another speaker took the stage and demanded that her daughters be protected from rapists. The crowd’s calls reflected their desire to take the law into their own hands.

MK Danny Danon (Likud), who condemned the violence, demanded that they be “expelled immediately” in addition to building the border fence between Egypt and Israel and completing detention centers. The demonstrators chanted: The people demand deportation of the Sudanese!

Many Knesset members have made extremist remarks lately, but when MK Michael Ben Ari (National Union) blamed Israel-hating leftists for the situation, I could no longer bear it. You can’t have it both ways. The politicians on the Right need to decide whether they want to incite violence or to offer a real, serious solution. The elimination of thousands of refugees will not suddenly create jobs or a sense of security for Israelis. The problem is not the refugees, but rather the absence of a welfare state.

The situation requires a complex solution. The asylum seekers must be removed from the cycle of poverty by giving them work permits, because only in this way will they be able to earn an honest living while they are in Israel. Such a measure would also lead to their dispersal throughout the country, thus relieving the burden on the weakest socio-economic areas. Either way, as long as there are those who prefer to denigrate and incite, the issue will remain in the headlines rather than being seriously treated.

And regardless of one opinion or another: Whoever incites to violence against foreigners should be punished in accordance with the law, so that the issue can be discussed reasonably in a public atmosphere that is rational rather than hysterical.

This article was first published on Israel Hayom


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