Tom Coates in On Massively Multiplayer Propaganda… über ein Tool, das alerts people to new articles and polls around the web that question Israel’s policies in the Middle East or ask for public opinion about them. The people concerned are then supposed to visit the site directly and respond to the poll or story or write an e-mail or whatever.
Now I want to make it very clear here very early on that I’m not going to be making an anti-Israeli tract. It’s pretty much irrelevant to me who is using this particular tool – just that the tool exists. Or more specifically – since there’s no way to put the genie back in the bottle – that tools like this exist and will continue to exist from now on as ways to attempt to deform the social discourse – whether that be for Democrats, Republicans, Israelis, Iraqis, Americans, Conservatives. This should be troubling to all of us, although I’m not sure that there’s very much we can do about it.
The short term consequence will be that all large scale public discussions and polls on the internet will become highly suspect – none of these groups are set up to deal with this kind of political spam yet. And that has to heavily affect the ability of organisations that deal with feedback from their audiences to do so fairly or to respond to a real constituency rather than just innumerable interest groups. This is, in effect, a way of harnessing hundreds of thousands of people to massage the public debate – the massively distributed conversation of the internet now has a form of PR – a form of propoganda – to match.
… Because a tool that alerts people to points of debate around Israel isn’t only useful to Israelis, any more than a tool that alerts the Green lobby to big issues is of use only to environmental activists. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see the same tools exposing the same data being co-opted by the direct opponents of the various groups that set them up. Each poll or news article may become nothing more than flashpoint fights between radicals of every persuasion in which the quieter, more average voices get completely drowned out. So there you have it – flashpoints of argument, massively multiplayer campaigning and propoganda techniques, the loss of the common voice and a scouring of the commons. So much for a democratising medium…