It’s war out there – and today, everyone’s a soldier.
Today’s battlefield looks nothing like the ones on which our forebears fought. Trench warfare went out with the advent of military aviation. The digital age brought yet greater power and accuracy to the weapons of war. And now, resulting from the social media revolution, much of the combat has left the battlegrounds entirely and has been dragged into the home of the average person.
Cyberwar itself is not a new phenomenon; in 2010, Iran (happily) was hit by a computer virus named Stuxnet which was widely speculated but never confirmed to be a joint project of the Israeli and American governments. According to numerous experts, a program of that scope and complexity could not have been done without some such kind of large-scale support.
That view may not be true much longer. Earlier this week the hacktivist group Anonymous launched a major attack on Israel (most of which was successfully fended off). Anonymous is an even more slippery group to pin down than terrorist cells in Gaza, made up as it is of a global smattering of hackers who are, well, anonymous – impossible to name, difficult to trace, and unlikely to go away. One logo associated with them – nothing related to Anonymous can be said to be official – is a suit without a head, a representation of the leaderlessness which characterizes the unidentified collective. No doubt many of its self-proclaimed members, rather than sitting in government complexes or terrorist headquarters, are in the house, office, or school next door. The battlefield is getting yet closer to our own neighborhoods, our own homes, our own desktops.
Continuing this trend, social media has gone a long way in decentralizing power and information across the globe. Increasingly, this brings even average users like you and me directly into the fray. Indeed, both the IDF and the Al-Qassam Brigades have been posting, sometimes multiple times an hour, to their English-language twitter accounts, which they are using to sway public opinion – not to mention fling threats at each other – in an effort to affect the political situation beyond their own borders. And recent history has shown us how badly Israel needs public opinion on its side.
Whether we like it or not, we are all participants in this war. What pages you Like and who you Follow may have real consequences for the future of the Jewish state as the power of social media and the viral spread of media continue to grow. The warring parties are vying for our sympathy and allegiance (and it’s no secret that the terrorists are willing to sacrifice everything to get it). How the masses on the social media platforms react could make all the difference.
And this is just the beginning.
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