Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Controlling the message

Controlling the message -- a critical element when controversy or uncertainty swirls. And the Israeli government is working hard to project its version of what happened aboard that flotilla early Monday.

That message essentially can be boiled down to a few sentences, and I think this report from the Financial Times captures it well:

The description of the raid that emerges from the Israeli side is straightforward. According to commandos who took part, they were set upon by protesters armed with sticks and knives. Footage released by the Israeli army confirms that the commandos did come under attack, with one apparently thrown down on to a lower deck. Some were reportedly stripped of their handguns, which the army says were later turned on them.

What is clear is that the commandos were expecting light resistance at worst. The assessment has already been identified by military analysts as a crucial, or even incomprehensible, failing.

Israeli officials, in any case, insist that the commandos fired only after they came under attack. Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, asserted that the commandos had merely acted to “defend their lives”.

You should access reports from the Jerusalem Post, such as this one, to understand how determined the Israelis are to win the public relations war that has festered since Monday.

Is it succeeding? Probably not. But don't expect Israel to apologize, despite the continuing international condemnation. (Specific world leaders speak out.)

In an attempt to own the message reaching the public, the Israelis detained the people on board the ships for about 24 hours. The first set of detainees were released earlier today, and the rest are expected to be let go soon. Of course, once they are released, they are able to spin their message, and some are beginning to do that.

As you evaluate your media sources assisting you in understanding this story, please be sure to think critically. Are your media sources biased? Are they unfairly emphasizing one element of the story? What people/sources are being used to assist the media in telling the story?

And are you being spun, or receiving relevant information? Do you know the difference?

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