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A few weeks ago, I downloaded a job-lot of kiddies’ songs from Amazon to keep my babies amused.  Uncle Larry unearthed rather an incongruous gem among them – Spike JonesDer Fuehrer’s Face.  Despite the initial WTF, and my kids’ indifference to the track, I find myself unable to get this particular – and most brilliantly mocking – verse out of my head:

Is we not the supermen?
Aryan pure supermen?
Ja we is the supermen
Super duper supermen!

It’s a version of the Oliver Wallace song from Disney’s 1943 Donald Duck anti-Nazi (or perhaps anti-Nutzi) short, which I post here for your enjoyment:

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[Originally published here on the WITNESS Hub blog.]

The information war being fought over Gaza is one of the most commented-on aspects of the current crisis – Israeli military footageTwitter updates, Facebook groups, media interviews, blogs, the use of megaphone software like GIYUS.  It’s not a new phenomenon, but the extent to which Israel’s government has made bypassing, controlling and marginalising the media, and using YouTube and other platforms to disseminate core messages a central part of its information strategies is unprecedented.

On the Palestinian side, it seems to be happening in a more decentralised way: emailed photographs of injured or dead children, video documentation and interviews from within Gaza and from solidarity events around the world, but not on the scale or coordinated nature of Israel’s media strategy, as discussed in this Al Jazeera interview with Dan Gillerman, about Israel’s media strategy:

Both sides, of course, are provoking comment over errors and misinformation based on visual material.  But this, and the exceptional level of message control and coordination, serve to saturate new media as well as news media with polarising talking points – and takes us further and further from the daily reality of life on either side.  The work of organisations like B’Tselem to document daily, mundane, individual human rights abuses, and to ensure that these reach the sphere of public debate in Israel and internationally is a crucial part of this – here’s Oren Yakobovich on their Shooting Back project in Hebron.

But as we discovered in our recent UDHR60 project, images that open our eyes to human rights don’t have to be videos or photographs.  For me personally, some of the most striking, intimate and revealing images of the daily routine of human rights abuses faced by Palestinians are not of graphic human rights abuses, or of military successes – they come from a comic by Maltese-American journalist, Joe Sacco (whose latest book, Footnotes on Gaza, is due out imminently).

I felt the American media had really misportrayed the situation [between Israel and the Palestinians] and I was really shocked by that.

I grew up thinking of Palestinians as terrorists, and it took a lot of time, and reading the right things, to understand the power dynamic in the Middle East was not what I had thought it was…
[…]

There are two ways in which Palestinians are portrayed – as terrorist and as victim.  There may be truth in certain situations for both descriptions, but Palestinians are also people going to school, who have families, have lives, invite you into their home, and think about their food.

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[Originally published here as part of WITNESS‘s collaboration with Global Voices Online]

If you’ve seen the guidelines for this site, you’ll know that there are types of footage that we wouldn’t post, and circumstances surrounding the shooting of particular videos that mean we wouldn’t even link to them. Today’s post is about one of those videos.

I was researching a possible post about child-soldiers, when I found a video on a video-sharing site, said to be an interview with a teenage former child-soldier. In the video, the youth makes a number of allegations against the rebel organisation that he claims abducted him, sexually abused him, and sent him out on military operations – allegations broadly consistent with research conducted in his country by respected international human rights organisations.

But unusually for a video carrying this kind of allegation, the youth involved is identified by name, and in the accompanying text, by location. Human rights organisations (and media) would almost always advise protecting the identity of a minor in such a situation (see pages 16 and 17 in this document, for example) – whether by pixellating or obscuring his/her face, by shooting the video so that their face cannot be seen, e.g from behind or in silhouette, or possibly disguising their voice or re-voicing the audio. The photograph below shows how easy it is to pixellate an image to conceal someone’s identity.

Example of how to pixellate an image to protect someone’s identity

In the case of the video I had found, none of these protocols was followed. I wondered for quite a few days whether to post this video, which I felt brought out many important issues within a conflict where the recruitment of child-soldiers is common. It’s horrifying testimony (and by no means rare), and the youth’s story deserves to be heard – but the video raises a huge number of questions. Therefore I’ve decided against showing you the video itself.

The video is quite short, and in it the youth seems to be giving a prepared statement – there’s no one asking questions for clarification, as there was by contrast in the Alive In Baghdad video a couple of weeks ago. The text accompanying the video states that the army found the boy after he escaped from his abductors, so I have assumed that the army shot the video.

Did the army explain to him clearly and adequately what the video was for, and how it would be used? At no point in the video or in the accompanying text is it made clear whether the boy in question has given his consent to the use of this video online. Was he given a choice of whether to take part, or of when, where and how it would be filmed? He mentions his parents in the video – were they asked for their consent? If we assume that his alleged abduction and subsequent sexual abuse caused him trauma, what support and follow-up was offered to him? How informed can his consent be considered?

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