The sudden escalation of violence in the Middle East, which began on Oct. 7 with a barbaric terror attack by Hamas, has now evolved into a daily horror show of terror, grief, and death. We see the heartbreaking effects of air strikes, territorial siege, rocket barrages, and feel the horrible uncertainty over the fate of those taken hostage, and those missing beneath bombed buildings. But in addition to the physical war, the Israel-Hamas conflict is an information war, one that is playing out daily in our social media feeds. In this context, we are all involved—both as witnesses and combatants—lobbing links, videos, and text screeds onto the digital battlefield.
Even if we haven’t personally contributed to the discourse, the sheer volume of content exposes us all to misinformation, manipulation, and mistrust. The Israel-Hamas war isn’t the first time these dynamics have come to the fore, but the lifecycle of these events is only speeding up. Now that social platforms have turned everyone into press secretaries, spokespeople, journalists, and pundits, folks are quick to deputize themselves as professors in order to break down the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, starting anywhere from October 2023 back to the time of Abraham. The volley of hot takes is quickly followed by the purge, during which people remove posts, unfollow their heroes, issue apologies, and express occasional humility. (In one public example, CAA’s Maha Dahkil was demoted for referring to Israel’s actions against the Palestinian people as “genocide.”)
As the war on the ground enters new phases and delivers new casualties, the information war also intensifies. In the past, I haven’t just seen this, I’ve participated in the cycle: I’ve live tweeted major events as they happened, stayed up late scrolling through my feeds, hoping one more tap or swipe would finally explain the terrible thing, or make me feel good about my own opinion, or make me feel vindicated about the stupidity of someone else’s. But this time around, I’ve spoken a lot less (I did one video post with comments off), because it’s hard to find words for the layers of horror, and I don’t want to add to anyone’s pain.