Social Media & War: Not Good

Smoke billows after an Israeli airstrike on Gaza City.

The first casualty of war is the truth. The origin of that statement is unclear, but it is apt for the moment.

In literal terms, the first casualties of the current Isreal-Hamas war included hundreds of people at a music festival, which Hamas attacked. As of this writing, 260 people died there, and they definitely were not a military target. Nothing justifies that.

Nothing is simple in the complex mess that is the Middle East. It’s been that way all my life, and for anyone born after 1948. There has been so much death and suffering, on all sides. This is the latest chapter in an awful story and an especially terrible one at that.

This chapter will be distorted over and over again thanks to the worst/best misinformation delivery ever invented: social media. Facebook and TwitterX are designed to make moments like this one even worse.

People right now are angry and are out for blood. I saw it in the weeks after 9/11, when even liberal friends of mine were raging about how we need to turn Afghanistan into a parking lot. Social media makes this worse by giving the worst people in the world a platform to lie.

An example of this is a video of children in cages, which was being shared with claims it was of Israeli children being held by Hamas. It was corrected as being of Palestinian children being held by Israeli authorities, although the reason for doing this was not clear.

I have often wondered how 9/11 would play out in a social media world, and I shudder to think about it. It would play on our worst urges, drive people into rages, and put innocent people at risk.

Attacking civilians never advances any military goal, and targeting them by non-military people is regular old terrorism. It is two wrongs do not make a right on steroids. Misinformation fuels this level of violence and hate. It oversimplifies complex situations and feeds existing biases and hate, which never makes anything better.

It is vital that we do not add to this horror by sharing misinformation and only pay attention to reliable sources. Social media has made so many things worse in our global society and it will no doubt make this horrible war in Israel worse as well.

The last word goes to Vampire Weekend.