Breeding a New Culture

The 2014 war between Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip was perhaps the first war in which social media was successfully employed as a radical levelling force by the weaker party. In previous wars between Israel and the Palestinians, the Israeli government’s ability to manage access to the battlefield allowed it to help shape the narrative of the war, portraying it the way that it preferred — as a fight against terrorism. But with the proliferation of smartphones and social media accounts in Gaza over the past several years, this conflict wound up being viewed very different by by a variety of observers…Despite their advantage in brute strength, the lopsided death toll, and destruction of only one party’s territory, it’s not clear that the Israelis won the conflict. In the battle over the narrative of the war — vitally important in a conflict whose power dynamics are strongly impacted by outside actors — the Palestinians managed to win significant traction for their cause.

At my core, when I don’t censor myself, I am something of a technological utopian. Blame it on too many Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes as a kid, but I have always seen the steady advance of technology as a democratizing force.

When I first encountered the Internet as a teenager, it felt like the biggest game-changer of my life. Here was a place where anyone could attach a computer to the network and say literally whatever they wanted without any form of censorship. No one and nothing — not even the dictates of what “the market” was willing to pay for — could stop or even alter the transmission of your thoughts. When I saw the Internet, I immediately felt in my bones that this made everyone a journalist with no editor between their ideas and their audience.

When I started this site, the tagline — “Breeding a new culture” — came to me immediately, and it speaks to the high-minded ideals motivating me. If material conditions truly alter the course of history, then the Internet should have wide-ranging effects not unlike the invention of the printing press. I definitely didn’t account for the inherent conservatism of corporations and politicians, but I still see them as a only a temporary speedbump. When you post a picture of your lunch on Instagram or you post your old university papers as articles on your blog, you are part of something larger. You are saying to a potential audience of billions, “I felt like this little piece of my life was important, and I wanted to share it with someone.” With every post, whether it’s your intention or not, you are breeding a new culture and robbing the old information gatekeepers of their authority.

The New Information Warfare by Murtaza Hussain