Front Row Seat To A Massacre: How Social Media Is Shaping The Gaza Conflict

Does the current conflict signal an end to traditional news reporting?
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Does the current conflict signal an end to traditional news reporting?

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Last week twitter user @Jehadsaftawi left his camera on overnight. What was different about this was that he left his camera on overlooking the city from his balcony, and he lives in the western part of Gaza. The 29th of July saw the heaviest night of shelling from Israel since the beginning of the three week bombardment. 250,000 people watched online, through u stream, the flares raining down on the city, the endless humming of drones being the only soundtrack.

It was 3am local time at this point. The entire city looked like it was dawn from the light thrown out from the flares.
Behind the drones you could hear a man talking into the camera. “We are under attack, please share this, no one else will, we are under attack”.

The shelling continued into the morning, the people stood on the balcony saying that they could hear the metal casings of the rockets hit the floor.

The 250,000 people watching this weren’t informed of this by a major news outlet, none of them saw it on TV, yet all of them watched it live. I found it difficult to not watch, but how could I put myself to bed whilst this was happening? As westerners we rarely get this uncut access to the war overseas. Through tweets and through pictures online we can usually piece together an idea of what's happening, but watching this feed, listening to the people, hits you very harshly with how real this is.

In the age of social media when everyone in the world a voice, it’s difficult to filter through the opinion, the bias and the satire. However following the #GazaUnderAttack hashtag, was a shining example of how the major media outlets are dying. The reports were by real people, with real fear for their lives, in the moment. A situation so sensitive that no one wants to say the wrong thing, a situation where the now regular shots of dying children are brushed off as soon as the channel has been changed, is thrown into your face, and it takes a heartless person to not care. Living in a western society it is easy to change the channel, to shrug it off as not your problem, but when a man puts a camera on his balcony, and all you can hear is fear, all you see is violence, it shows that the world needs a different view on the news. The world needs the truth.

Another twitter user @Farah_Gazan, live tweeted the attack. She is a 16 year old girl from Gaza, and her tweets echoed around the world. A first hand account of war, from someone who should have the usual worries that western children have, but instead fearing for her life. This is something glossed over by western media, as reporters stand there with bodyguards, armored vests and CGI backgrounds, the real people are suffering, and now they can tell their story.

This sense of everyman journalism is timeless, from the poetry of the trenches in the first world war, to the now accessible medium in front of us.

After this night the power plant in Gaza was attacked, many homes lost their electricity and access to communication, an attack seen by many as an attempt to silence those giving eye witness reports from within the small state. Another twitter user @jncatron, has been tweeting from Gaza non stop since the attacks began, as an american, he displays a more journalistic way to sharing the information, retweeting anything anyone might find interesting or shocking, linking to nearly every article he can. Another way of getting the same information across, from inside the war zone, yet giving a western perspective without an allocated time slot.

Chanel 4’s Jon snow did this piece about the children of Gaza, with a sincere and humbling report very unlike most of the media we see today.

It is easy to ignore the violence overseas, the 2 minute stint of current affairs followed by “And now the sport” doesn’t really give the viewer what they need to know, and how this is affecting others. The UK, Europe and America do not recognise the state of palestine, hence the bias towards the Israeli cause, but when information is now so freely shared, and that our only source of what is happening in the world isn’t from a TV or a newspaper, written by somebody fitting a quota, it’s time to listen and time to find the news yourself.

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When you have the internet in your pocket, and can point your phone at the story everyone is talking about, why wouldn’t you share it? Benjamin Netanyahu has warned of a long conflict ahead. It’s difficult to choose sides when Hamas are hideous and the Israelis aren’t much better, but slaughter is slaughter, and now the people on the ground can tell the world what is happening, instead of a regurgitated account from a reporter.

The media today gets most of it’s information from social networks, fascinating about celebrities or athletes, and whilst life is easier to pretend this doesn’t involve us, thousands of people are screaming into their phones for help, using something we take for granted as a lifeline. Hopefully soon, and especially after the arab springs use of social media to spread the word of a cause, the brutal reality of this war can be taken more seriously than a bid for ratings. Photographers jostling each other to take a picture of a dying child to sell to a news outlet, reporters stood in their safe zones, whilst important do not show what is truly happening, the information is several clicks away now, and not so easy to ignore.

The following are links to charities working to help the Palestinian people.

#Gaza

(@UNRWA)

(@Muslim_Aid)

(@SavetheChildren)