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Propaganda Made in China
The event produced no human casualties, although there may have been some dead cows. I remember the smoke from Israeli artillery rising over Mount Hebron. It was a hot summer in Southern Lebanon, not too many years ago. Some farms had been shelled; an occurrence exceptional enough to merit the activation of the blue helmet Task Force in charge of the sector, but not quite as severe so as to actually produce a response by anyone.
The attack had been provoked by the incursion of a handful Hezbollah operators in a disputed area, trying to avenge a comrade killed in a previous engagement. This was the IDF explanation, at least, as Hezbollah representatives denied any raid operations that day. Funnily, the Hezbollah statement was that they had plans to avenge the dead mujahid in the short term, but that the attack they were being accused of was not it.
Whatever happened, it was indeed strange: the infiltration was attempted in broad daylight, in an area under heavy drone surveillance. A few days later, the rumor being spread around was that both the infiltration and the response had been staged with the knowledge of all parts involved. Explicitly or not, Hezbollah had warned the IDF of the attack, and the IDF of its riposte. It had been a sort of masquerade, allowing each side to flex their muscles to their opponents, and most importantly, to their adherents. The psychological game was in learning how far was the enemy willing to go in pursuit of this charade, when everybody involved knew it was a lie.
If the news of the few last weeks in the Middle East inflamed in you one way or another, congratulations: you now know what propaganda feels like. There is no knowledge to be gained there, other than that. As with the personal anecdote above, lessons can be extracted from the observation of world events, but they rarely have anything to do with the world itself.
Conflicting narratives sprouting everywhere make waters murky by design. It started with stories of jihadis paragliding straight into a desert rave, which sounded somewhat wacky and unlikely but then appeared to be true. The story quickly descended into a darker account of beheaded babies, kidnapped Holocaust grandmas, exploding hospital parking lots, the civilian/crisis actor divide in Gaza and lone wolves roaming the streets of the EU to star in isolated incidents.
It’s hard to paint a complete picture of what is happening, and everyone’s take often depends a lot on previous assumptions and allegiances. For example, Piers Corbyn (Jeremy Corbyn’s brother) considers the whole Al-Aqsa Flood affair a false flag operation on the part of the IDF. This opinion can be expected from a Westerner with progressive sensibilities, but becomes disconcerting when voiced by Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah. The Jerusalem Post’s take on Nasrallah’s take is that Hezbollah considers Hamas’ operation last month a glorious and legitimate action, but at the same time a perfidious crime committed by those crafty Jews against their own people.
This does not make any sense, obviously. Not that it matters. now that contenders have finally understood that support is mostly dependent on well established, prejudiced friend-enemy distinctions. In such a playing field, all narratives are constructed not as models of reality but as memetic ordnance. When managing a meme war economy, keeping up with production and delivery timelines is as important as quality. The purpose of the arguments you create for your team are not so much to convince the other side, but to flood the information space. Quantity is a quality of its own.
China showed us the way when it’s economic miracle flooded the world with cheap, mass-produced goods. It’s not so much like that anymore, but the Made in China tag used to mean for the Western shopper an endless supply of products that would not last, but that got the job done by being available and easy to replace. What you’re seeing in real time is the same thing, but for propaganda. You need to keep your magazines (heh) full of stories, so that your oponents’ narrative never settles.
As this phenomenon accelerates, the only way to engage in world affairs will be either as a direct participant; as a detached, ironic spectator of the hyperreal; or as a mindless amplifier of somebody else’s low-cost plastic memes