Two recent headlines caught my eye. One from The Times of Israel “50 US professors quit union after it calls Israel a ‘settler-colonial state’ ” and the other from the Forward “I resigned from the CUNY union because of its antisemitism.” While the articles were about professors at the City University of New York (CUNY), I had just done the same thing and resigned from my union at Rutgers University, stating my reasons that it no longer speaks for me and that the union had become an anti-Semitic and racist organization.
My union, or should I say ex-union, is the PTLFC-AAUP-AFT, who on June 12, 2021 issued a statement in Solidarity with the Palestinian People, which came to my attention via a news feed on June 30, 2021. I resigned over the July 4th weekend.
The union’s statement was clearly making unfounded, unsupported claims that were lies, libelous, slanderous, as well as anti-Semitic and racist. What followed was a series of letters between the union (secretary and president) and me, where I proceeded to call them out on each false statement made, with links and references to the facts and original source material. In all of their replies, they never refuted anything and totally ignored all my meticulously detailed supported claims and facts. And yet, they call themselves academics at a research-based university.
As expected, the union’s statement contained some of the usual tropes:
- Illegal acts (war crimes) committed by Israel against defenseless civilians.
- Israel targets the destruction of schools and hospitals.
- Israel is an apartheid regime of legalized racial discrimination.
These lies live and garner so much traction that even when confronted by facts, they are ignored. As evidenced by recent actions of my academic union.
This is the result, and all part, of the Big Lie, which is a gross distortion or misrepresentation of the truth, used especially as a propaganda technique used for political purposes. The German expression (groise luge) was coined by Adolf Hitler, when he dictated his 1925 book Mein Kampf, to describe the use of a lie so “colossal” that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.” (Wikipedia)
How do we combat the Big Lie?
I do not believe that holding conferences/workshops, taking out ads or writing articles is the right way to go to combat the Big Lie. It is okay, but we just end up talking to ourselves and, more importantly, we do not reach a large enough audience, let alone have any impact. Just think about it for a minute.
What is the circulation of the New York Times (to use one traditional media example) vs. the number of social media followers of any celebrity? The answer: The Times reported a total of 7.8 million subscribers across both print and digital platforms, with 6.9 million (88.5%) coming for online news or its Cooking and Games apps. However, according to the Visual Capitalist, in their ranking of the World’s Top 50 Influencers Across Social Media Platforms, the last placed social media influencer had 134 million followers (circulation).
That means, one social media influencer, who placed 50th on a list, has 17 times more followers/readers than the New York Times. And that doesn’t even include what print media people call “pass-along rates,” or in social media would now be called “re-Tweets”.
How do we fight the Big Lie on a battlefield that has no accountability to facts and lacks proportionality (ironic use intended)? And is extremely well-funded.
We need a new plan.
I have always liked to look at Marketing as a multi-dimensional puzzle. There are many pieces from many different disciplines that have to come together. For the purposes of this post, I have distilled my thoughts on how Hasbara must change into three broad areas: Messaging, Resources, Execution.
Messaging: Having written many mission, vision, and objective statements over my long career, this is a good starting point. In stepping back and looking at the bigger picture, the communication problem becomes clearer. We (Jews/Israel) have a long historically based and therefore, complicated story. They (or those who pretend to the represent poor “Palestinians” and their plight at the hands of the big, bad Israelis) have a simple message of misdirected victimhood.
We cannot bring all our truths and facts up against each gross misstatement, whether they be just out of context or blatant lies. It has been proven that classic successful marketing and advertising messaging is single-minded in its focus and message. Don’t confuse the consumer.
By focusing on just one fact, truth, or context, our message immediately becomes much simpler to understand. Importantly, it chips away at our enemies’ credibility by sowing doubt in their blind followers by pointing out that the lie is so “colossal” that perhaps someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.” And this should not be done subtly.
Also, repetition is very important in messaging. In media planning, it is termed “Reach & Frequency”. It is a measurement of how much of my audience do we reach with my message (advertisement) and how often over a period time (i.e.: four weeks).
While we are not working in the “traditional media” arena, we still can apply some of these principals. Specifically, the concepts of messaging and repetition. Additionally, tag lines which often convey the mission or vision, are a good way to deliver repetition and hammer home the crux of the message.
Our unifying tag line could be “Who ya gonna believe: them or yourself? Verify it!” (See more under Resources to explain where this might appear.)
Resources: We have a wide range of organizations, spokespeople, independent websites/bloggers/etc., and even a few celebrities, all posting pro-Israel rebuttals. This is all good but we need to try and be more synergistic in our messaging.
We need a portal to, and database of, source material and uniformly produced videos.
Imagine short videos of less than five minutes long, made by a range of non-Jewish individuals (mostly young) who can start off by saying something like “Hi. My name is (blank). I am a poly-sci, international law, (or whatever some of the new relevant majors are these days), student (grad student, professor, etc.) at (blank) university.” The speaker can then knowledgeably refute whatever the single topic is by talking about personal experience in school, research they’ve done, etc. because it is their area of study or profession. The conversation should sound peer-to-peer. Simple graphics can be incorporated as well. (See more under Execution)
Execution: Understanding, and trying to apply logic to, the media habits of consumers where news is obtained not from objective professional journalists but from anyone with an internet connection, along with a biased news-media, is difficult if not impossible.
This huge social media battlefield that is rife with the Big Lie and needs to be fought by turning the weapons they use against them and challenge the blind uneducated consumer by sowing a little doubt in their minds to dig (okay, maybe just scratch) below the surface and take a second look at what is being said to them. By giving people raw and unbiased information that clearly lays bare the lies, it should result in chipping away at their credibility.
For format, think Tik Tok, Instagram, and Danny Ayalon’s great whiteboard animation videos. The videos should all have links to original sourced information that the speaker references. Speakers can even record longer videos (up to about 15 minutes, like TED Talks) and suggest to the viewer, if they want to learn more click on links for the longer video and to see the original sourced material so they can decide for themselves. After all: “Who ya gonna believe: them or yourself? Verify it!”
It is very important that the speakers and the source material not be Jewish or Israeli. Therefore, there can be no claim of bias.
The portal to these source material links and uniformly produced videos would be helpful tools for all the bloggers to link to on their social media platforms and accounts.
The actionable results of my plan:
- Instead of just “yelling” at Bella Hadid, Roger Waters, AOC, and everybody else on their Instagram, Facebook or Twitter feeds, followers can simply post “Who ya gonna believe: them or yourself? Verify it!” and include a link.
- Instead of being shouted down by the avalanche of hateful rhetoric spewed at the mere posting of a positive or pro-Israel/Jewish message, just auto reply “Who ya gonna believe: them or yourself? Verify it!” and include a link.
- Instead of knowing you want to respond to some unfounded, untrue, and libelous claims being made but can’t write it or find the material you need to refute it, just search the portal and say “Who ya gonna believe: them or yourself? Verify it!” and include a link.
How will this plan be accomplished?
Perhaps there should be a council of an umbrella Jewish and Israeli organizations (non-profits and as well professional for-profit marketing/advertising/Public Relations firms) with academic (history, political, international law) advisors.
They would study and prioritize the false claims and then research, recruit, script, film, and post on the portal per the parameters I’ve outline above. Users would subscribe and be notified of new material for them to use.
Though simple in concept it is an admittedly, long-term effort that would pay off greatly in our Hasbra efforts that have been sadly ineffective to date.
Individually, in the meantime:
I do believe strongly in countering the Big Lie at every opportunity in any manner and media at your disposal. Content is king. Be (A) focused and single-minded in your responses, (B) use of links to original non-Jewish/Israeli sources, and (C) keep chipping away at the credibility the message and the messenger by challenging the reader to verify it for themselves.
The Jewish/Israeli story is too big, too long, and too complex for most people today to grasp and put into proper context. We should instead focus on the enemy, the terrorist dictators (like Hamas), nation-states (like Iran) who suppress their own people for power’s sake and the innocently named anti-Israel organizations (like Students for a Just Palestine), all who wish to destroy our way of life in western-style democracies around the world in their goal for world domination.
Good luck and keep up the good fight.