The fourth question of 10Q*: Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?
My answer: The Gaza conflict, the situation in Hungary, Putin’s activities in Russia and the Tea Party in the US. I see a common worrisome tendency in these three: the “truth” is defined (and defiled) by how media savvy the media spin doctors and their masses are. I am concerned that if the basic facts are covered up and distorted than there isn’t even a chance for shared reality and to have a civil political discussion. Let’s see one by one.
Yes, there were lots of civilian Palestinian casualties in the Gaza conflict and that’s terrible and the images are heart-wrenching. But due to the successful (social) media campaign of Gazan most of the world doesn’t even think about why, what and how the Israeli army attacked. Why: because Hamas made great strides to their declared goal of destroying Israel with the building of the tunnel system. What: localized, military targets, that were often hiding amidst civilians on purpose, so they could use the images of casualties in their propaganda war. How: The Israelis called ahead the targets and let them know about the coming attack to minimize losses in human lives. It saddens me that millions of people are incapable of seeing the whole picture and take only one side.
The same (lack of) logic the government owns the tax-supported public media and dictates what appear there. As a result people who only get their news from there live in an alternative reality, that, in my opinion, has little resemblance to the real political landscape. They, the prim-minster and his lackeys are in the constant process of redefining not just such words as “nation” but also basic economical and political terms, like liberalism, expenses, debt, honor… Again, the result is that people on the two side of the divide are incapable of communicating with each other, because the part of their mental reality that can be shared is shrinking.
Same in Russia. Majorities of Russian believe that the Ukrainians were the aggressors, while it was Russian soldiers in disguise who invaded the Eastern part of the country and forced its questionable independence. The truth that we on the west know is the polar opposite of what the Russian populace knows.
The US is not an exception from this kind of distortion either. Riding on Benghazi, coffee-cup salute and other non-issues fuels the hatred of the far-right with a steady support of lies by Faux News. We , who don’t swallow in whole what that channel spews no longer share the same space or even country with its followers.
So how/why does this affect me? I care for the people of all of these nations I mentioned for different reasons. I am a Hungarian Jew living in the US, who’s been to Ukraine a long time ago. I don’t mind ideological differences. I think it is natural that people have different values system. I enjoy intelligent conversation and analysis that comes out of confronting them. But when they don’t know/believe the foundational facts the chance for such progress is limited. It scares me for the future as I don’t know how to bring the lines closer to each other.
* “10Q” is a series of 10 question to be answered between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur