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Saturday, October 22, 2011

It's the media, stupid!

Why did the terrorists for Gilad campaign succeed - and succeed so overwhelmingly - where other public relations campaigns in Israel have either failed or have formed much less of a consensus? Why did 75% of Israelis favor the terrorists for Gilad swap despite the fact that nearly two thirds of the country (!) believes that it will endanger our national security? Caroline Glick explains.
In Schalit's case, the reason that the PR campaign worked so well is because the media and the national security community - the two national institutions that are supposed to be the watchdogs of Israel's national interests against the advertising executives - opted to behave like lapdogs.

Speaking to Globes, the PR executives were unanimous in their judgment that the success of the campaign was due to the media's total mobilization on behalf of the cause. As Gil Samsonov put it, "The first target audience was the media, which were mobilized, and everyone did their jobs while minimizing the opposition."

Yair Geller added that Schalit is "lucky that the abduction happened at a time when the media are the strongest power.... The media left the government no option not to act."

The executives are correct that the media are the strongest force in Israeli society. Their power owes to the fact that the major media organs are ideologically uniform and therefore act consistently as a pack.

It was the media's overwhelming support for the Oslo process, for the withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza, and for previous hostages-for- terrorist swaps that forced the hand of the government time after time. It was similarly the media's opposition to the PR campaign against the withdrawal from Gaza that doomed it to failure.

By choosing sides, the media ensure there is no substantive public debate about the controversial campaigns they support. Rather than debate the substance of an issue, the media, together with PR firms, personalize disputes.


What distinguished the Schalit campaign from those that preceded it was not the media mobilization but the complicity of the IDF, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and Mossad. In all the other campaigns, the security services either opposed the campaigns or stood on the sidelines.

In an interview with Haaretz this past Sunday, Col. Ronen Cohen, who recently retired from IDF Military Intelligence, said the IDF never tried to put together an operation to rescue Schalit. In his words, Schalit's prolonged captivity "was a resounding failure of the IDF.... The IDF never took responsibility for the soldier and did not even set up a team to deal with bringing him back."

As a consequence, the IDF gave the government no choice other than to pay a ransom for Schalit.

According to PR executive Geller, the IDF's abdication of its responsibility to rescue Schalit was influenced by the media's full mobilization on behalf of the PR campaign. "That [Schalit] was not hurt in a rescue operation is due, among other things, to the high value that the media placed on him." The IDF was too afraid of media criticism to risk a rescue raid.

Even in the face of the IDF's abdication of responsibility to save Schalit, the previous heads of the IDF, Shin Bet and Mossad all opposed the swap as dangerous, and so Israel rejected it.

But, in the end, the media won out. Defense Minister Ehud Barak replaced the security bosses with successors who agreed to subordinate their professional judgment to the media's demands. They all adopted the demonstrably false position that releasing 1,027 terrorists would not endanger Israel. This is what enabled the public consensus to form.
Read the whole thing.

I have one small nit to pick in Caroline's analysis - it might not even be relevant but it ought to be raised. Benny Gantz was not Barak's first choice for IDF chief of staff. Yoav Galant was. I'm not plugged in enough to the IDF to answer my own question. Perhaps someone else is.

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At 11:04 PM, Blogger Yaacov David Shulman said...

I would suggest that Gilad Shalit has been of interest to the Left and the media only because they think that they will be able to use him further to remove Bibi Netanyahu. Therefore, I would not be surprised to find that he and the people around him intensify anti-Likud and anti-Netanyahu rhetoric and behavior.

At 11:54 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Israel's judicial dictator, the Supreme Court, blocked Galant's appointment. It also approved the Shalit deal.

You have unelected judges in Israel running the country. The executive branch is purely decorative.


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