As with many of the topics being covered at the upcoming PennBDS conference, I’ve written previously on the subject of BDS in the context of the Web 2.0 communications revolution. I’ve also written about some of the unintended consequences of the ability of BDS advocates to successfully leverage these new technologies to spread their message.
While you should probably read both stories linked above to get a full sense of the phenomenon, in summary: Web 2.0 communications is one of the few areas where Israel’s foes have a leg up over the Jewish state’s supporters.
This may be a result of age and associated comfort level with sites such as Facebook and Twitter, or it may derive from differing goals and strategies between the two sides (BDSers, for example, do all they can to smear the Jewish state in as many forums as possible, while Israel’s supporters are not waking up every morning trying to figure out new ways and places to sling mud at their adversaries).
Wherever the phenomena originates, it’s safe to say that if a BDS story breaks anywhere, it will quickly travel across the globe and shoot up the Google rankings by the time the rest of us are getting our shoes tied. The unintended consequences mentioned above derive from having a well-developed channel of communications coupled with virtually no real news to push through it.
This leads to things like breathless announcements that some French academic no one ever heard of has decided to not visit Israel for political reasons (even though, in looking at him, I suspect he decided to skip the trip so he can take a nap). I suspect it is also the reason why the boycotters continued to push BDS hoaxes into the pipeline, even knowing that people are out there ready to expose their fraud within hours. For when if you’ve got an audience that has been promised (and is hungry for) any sign of progress and you’ve got a quick and easy way of communicating with them, it becomes almost impossible to resist the urge of typing something into the RSS, WordPress, Twitter or Facebook feed and hitting the Send button, even if it might end generating little more than embarrassment.
All this said, it really is a crime that we in the pro-Israel/anti-BDS camp have been so slow in picking up the techniques needed to get our own (true) stories out into the world at least as fast as our opponents spread their trivialities and lies.
I’ll admit to being one of the worst offenders of not utilizing tools and techniques I know work to get the word out beyond a core audience. For example, it was just in the last month (after more than two years of blogging), that I started Tweeting and commenting on third party sites (hopefully with relevant comments) in order to draw people to arguments collected at this PennBDS-Oy landing page, a page I set up specifically to present arguments appearing on this blog in the same order these subjects will appear on the PennBDS agenda.
Simple techniques, such as posting early and often about a subject, and utilizing key text (such as “PennBDS”) in blog titles has helped with search engine rankings (especially given that the conference is a “small-news” topic, generating little media that is not written by parties involved with the conference itself).
Probably the one question I’m asked more often than any other is where the BDSers are getting the money they use to fund their campaigns. In response, I usually point out that the things they do (at least in the US) don’t require a lot of money, just time, a certain level of Web savvy, and a willingness to commit yourself to (among other things) running around the Web a certain amount of time per day “Liking” and linking things that support your cause.
While it would be nice to have the Netherlands fund a paid staff for Divest This (and I can think of good uses to put the kind of money needed to sail fleets of ships across the Mediterranean), I can attest that you can accomplish quite a bit with nothing more than some simple effort, combined with the most important thing any online content creator can do for their cause: create material worth reading.