Everyone has the right to be foolish and even promote his or her imprudence and irrationality in public. The internet has given voice to millions who think they have the answer to any question they wish to address, me included. Sitting at a computer with Google access gives everyone whatever information they wish to acquire and, without objective confirmation, claim special knowledge, in effect, be judgmental, create a perspective, even lie. I could be referring to the thoughtlessness of a blogger who set Buzz Feed and JTA and several other sites all-atwitter with a justification for genocide should the IDF so choose in Gaza. His blog-post appeared both in this paper and in his father’s where he also serves as sales manager. Fortunately, in this situation, the author of this particular article retracted and apologized, a sign of maturity and insight. His contrition, though, is not quite normative.
I am not suggesting that the internet is at fault for this phenomenon. Trolling by radicals has existed since time immemorial, as but one historically recent example shows. A case can be made that Hitler was a media troll in pre World War II Germany when he published his plan – Mein Kampf. He was trolling for attention, radical attention. How many people took Hitler’s manifesto seriously? How many responded to him? Only those who felt some allegiance to his extremist views did along with those who dismissed him; both positions reinforced his extremism and gave him the traction he needed to create the Final Solution.
Individuals who are poorly educated and have a limited world-view, individuals raised with cultural blinders, people with narcissistic and anti-social intents troll the media, in our day it is predominantly the internet, and have much to say; too bad, what they say is often not sensible, not safe or a flat out lie. Unfortunately, the more radical the positions these naive but aggressive people advocate the more attention they garner. This responsiveness is just so reinforcing for them that the reward of attention, positive or negative, translates into justification for a further radicalization of their views, after all, the greater the reaction the more justification for increasing the heat and the madness. If you give radicals an excuse for talking about their beliefs and reinforce them, no matter how inadvertently, you have given them an excuse to shoulder a weapon and use it, in effect, you have created a platform for further radicalization and mendacity.
It is important to remember that the abduction and murder of three Israeli students and the killing of a Palestinian teen supposedly triggered this latest round of war between Israel and Hamas. Just a point about that perspective – Israeli authorities investigated and arrested those responsible for the killing of the Palestinian boy. The Palestinian Authority did nothing to help find the perpetrators of the murder of the three Israelis. This simple point goes to the heart of trustworthiness and having a partner to work with.
As the war progresses more reporters, Italian, Finnish and even CNN America, are willing to come forward and state that they have seen rockets fired from schools and mosques. They are also indicating that they could not report with total honesty out of fear for their own lives – Hamas fighters threaten them. Khaled Mashal, the leader of Hamas insists that his organization did nothing wrong, it is all “not our fault.” When confronted by a CNN reporter with incontrovertible details of Hamas behavior his response was evasive and other directed.
It is horrific that so many people are being killed. It is also horrific that so many have died and continue to do so in Iraq and Syria. It is also an abomination that ISIS has evicted Christians from their homes of thousands of years, tortured some killed others, destroyed many of their cherished Churches and landmarks, and is continuing to march forward with no clear end in sight. Nevertheless, this radicalization follows closely in lock step behind those who lie. It is an inevitable outgrowth. So is the increasing radicalization that espouses the widespread anti-Semitism we are seeing across Europe, even in parts of Canada and the US. Can anyone doubt that we are seeing more hatred than ever directed at innocents?
There is an inevitability to this cycle of hatred, blame, and falsehood caused by angry, lying people whose only goal is to increase their own exposure and damn those who they harm. The Palestinian people would do well to rise up against the hatred and lies fed them by Hamas once and for all. Israelis are tired of war, not so tired as to give in for that would be suicide, but tired enough to desire a partner they can trust a partner not aiming rockets at them and digging terror tunnels below, to begin a process that will lead to peace. If you do not believe that then you have been captured by the lies of the media trolls.