Posts Tagged free speech
So Iran’s nuclear program has a few more years, giving Israel a little breathing room, and the Palestinians aren’t attacking, for now at least. Apparently, Israeli Arabs are even more scared by terror attacks than Israeli Jews, meaning that Israel doesn’t need to worry so much about internal terror – for now at least.
There’s even a brief respite in the North – Hizballah has just decided to pull out of the ruling coalition in Lebanon and so collapse the Lebanese government:
Lebanon’s year-old unity government collapsed Wednesday after Hizbullah ministers and their allies resigned over tensions stemming from a UN-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.
The walkout ushers in the country’s worst political crisis since 2008 in one of the most volatile corners of the Middle East.
The tribunal was widely expected to name members of Hizbullah in upcoming indictments, which many fear could re-ignite sectarian tensions that have plagued the tiny country for decades.
This is terrible for Lebanon, which is looking more and more likely to go into a civil war. As Hizballah is the most powerful military force in Lebanon, the only way that it would not win the civil war would be for other countries to intervene, turning the civil war into a regional war, which would not be fun for anyone.
That said, until that happens, Hizballah is probably too pre-occupied with Lebanon to start attacking Israel (unless they decide to attack Israel as a distraction, as explained here).
So point is, no one is really shooting at Israelis right now. So what’s the problem? Well Israel Beitenu has just decided to set-up a Knesset committee to investigate a few left-wing NGOs because apparently they are trying to “stop the IDF from doing their job”. This is bad, whichever way you look at it – singling out NGOs who disagree with their specific agenda makes a mockery of everything people like me have been saying about free speech in Israel. In fact, in response to some members of ruling right-wing party Likkud voting against the idea, Beitenu head Avigdor Lieberman said:
”When I saw people from the right vote together with [Arab MPs] Ahmed Tibi and Haneen Zoabi, it was a strange spectacle.”
This is 100% true, but not for the reason Lieberman thinks. It says a lot more about the proposal than Likkud – it’s not even that it’s right wing, it’s just a really bad idea. It also reflects really badly on Israel, it’s crazy that a man who would push this kind of thing through so blindly is actually supposed to be Foreign Minister – representing Israel to the world. In fact, he’s doing a really bad job of it. Just as Israel was mending relationships with Turkey, a key ally, Lieberman ran his mouth and ruined it all; he also undermines everything the rest of Israel is saying about trying to reach peace by saying that it is not possible.
Netanyahu responds to all this by saying that Liberman is “entitled to his own opinion” and rightly pointing-out that despite his title, Lieberman’s ideas are his own and are not Israeli policy. The problem is, Netanyahu feels that he can’t drop Lieberman from the coalition and take the centrist Kadima instead, since then Likkud would be seen as moving left and Beitenu would become the party of the right.
And I mentioned the Israeli Arabs before. Problem is, there are a bunch of rabbis who are trying to stop them from being able to buy land from Jews. This is understandably causing a very bad reaction amongst them. It also again makes Israel look awful and undermines the idea of Israel being an equal society with human rights. The Haredi (ultra-orthodox) community just lives in a different world – they don’t serve in the IDF, they have extremely high rates of unemployment and poverty and they have a warped world view. Of course, this is the view of a minority and is not Israeli policy, but try explaining that to someone who is prejudiced against Israel already. Also, if current demographic trends continue, Israeli Arabs and Haredi Jews will make up the majority of Israel’s population later this century; if current social trends continue, Israel may look a lot like Lebanon at that point.
It’s really difficult to see a way out of the current situation, but one thing is clear – in this period of relative calm, the biggest threat to Israel is probably from within. I have no idea how these problems could be solved.
As observed quite well HERE, the internet’s number one appeal these days is that it makes people feel important. Like talkback radio on steroids, the web lets any idiot with a keyboard and an opinion get airtime that they could never have even dreamed of before. Morons can connect with each other from across the globe and pat each other on the back for making stupid pictures of penguins with subtitles. Want an example? The “Bed Intruder Song” was the most highly viewed youtube video of last year and the number one comment is:
“THIS VIDEO HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH JUSTIN BIEBER, JUSTIN BIEBER IS GAY SO QUIT TALKING ABOUT HIM THIS IS NOT HIS VIDEO, THUMBS UP FOR ANTOINE DODSON CAUSE HES THE BEST”
That turd has been read by millions of people – something like that would never have happened even 5 years ago. Hell, the whole blogosphere was built by people who think they have something to say (besides me, my opinion really does matter, obviously). As that Paul Ford post said:
To read a book people will turn to their phones. But the web is where they will go to complain.
In The Man Who Spilled the Secrets, Vanity Fair’s Sarah Ellison details the relationship between Wikileaks’ Julian Assange and the mainstream media, particularly the Guardian. This really illuminates the difference between the internet’s “free-for-all, everything counts” philosophy and the more traditional media’s quality-controlled approach.
The Guardian, like other media outlets, would come to see Assange as someone to be handled with kid gloves, or perhaps latex ones—too alluring to ignore, too tainted to unequivocally embrace. Assange would come to see the mainstream media as a tool to be used and discarded, and at all times treated with suspicion…
The biggest gulf between WikiLeaks and the traditional news outlets lay in their approaches to editing. Put simply, WikiLeaks didn’t have one, or believe in one. “Neither us nor Der Spiegel nor The New York Times was ever going to print names of people who were going to get reprisals, anymore than we would do on any other occasion,” says David Leigh. “We were starting from: ‘Here’s a document. How much of it shall we print?’ Whereas Julian’s ideology was: ‘I shall dump everything out and then you have to try and persuade me to cross a few things out.’ We were coming at it from opposite poles.”
As the article says, the Guardian is probably considered more of a rogue (i.e. lower reporting standards) than most large newspapers, and yet there was still a huge gulf between their mentality and Assange’s. Assange’s has also been changing over time – he is becoming more and more aware that it actually is important to filter what is published and that there are repercussions to putting certain things out there.
This is exactly the problem with the internet being the way it is – with no quality control anywhere, very dangerous opinions can be spread fairly easily. For example, a whole series of terror attacks have been linked to American/Yemeni clerid Anwar al-Awlaki – most recently, the attempted stabbing of a British MP by Roshana Choudry. The terrorists’ whole ideology came from online material, as did their contact with Awlaki, who eventually convinced them to attack.
Not that I’m comparing Awlaki to Assange at all, but doing something as significant Wikileaks does requires some level of responsibility. Either way, it seems to be catching up with him – as the article notes:
Through December, WikiLeaks still wasn’t collecting new documents from potential whistle-blowers. The site is crowded with pleas for donations. “He is short of money and short of secrets,” someone who has worked extensively with Assange told me. “The whole thing has collapsed.”
The final take-home point is the Guardian‘s motto, which I have never read before but now love. Opinions are always going to be up for debate, but it’s the facts in the end that will win the day. That is why these stupid conspiracy theories about Israel are so crazy and why Wikileaks in the end probably wasn’t the worst thing to ever happen. Through all the stuff that probably shouldn’t have gotten out, we did find out that, despite a little dirty laundry, in general the US, Australia, the UK, Israel and other such nations pretty much make their views and agendas public, whereas other countries completely do not (Saudi Arabia, I’m looking at you). I’d love to see what the Iranian diplomatic cables would look like…
Scott outlined the paper’s principles in a centenary editorial on May 5, 1921, in which he put forth what has become the paper’s motto: “Comment is free, but the facts are sacred.”