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Video Footage Holds Sway Over Public Opinion in Israel-Flotilla Crisis

video still from israeli flotilla controversyDuring 2009's Iranian protests, viral technology suddenly found itself center stage of the global political theater, thanks to both Twitter, and, perhaps more importantly, some powerful video footage that resonated with international audiences. Now, nearly a year after the world was exposed to the gruesome clip of Neda Agha-Soltan's brutal murder in Iran, the moving image is at the forefront of yet another international crisis. But, as the New York Times reports, it may be that the circumstances determining its influence are starkly different.

Days after Israeli commandos stormed a flotilla carrying aid to the Gaza Strip, questions still abound as to whether the Israeli Navy was acting out of aggression or self-defense. Passengers on both vessels, however, were equipped with video cameras, and the scenes they captured may go a long way toward sculpting public opinion on the incident. One video, from the Israel Defense Forces, has already garnered 600,000 views on YouTube, and footage shot from both sides has been in wide circulation on TVs around the world.

Not surprisingly, though, many videos making their way to the Web are heavily edited in favor of one story or another. The activists aboard the flotilla were streaming the event on Livestream as it happened, and many have pointed to the scene in which Israeli soldiers are shown hoisting their guns in preparation for the attack as a clear indictment of Israel's aggression. Hours later, though, the Israeli military posted its own account of the story, highlighting with yellow circles incidents in which the activists appear to be attacking the commandos with metal chairs -- a justification, Israel argues, for the soldiers' so-called 'self-defense.'

It's this governmental influence that distinguishes this event from the Iranian crisis a year ago. As Foreign Affairs editor Jim Hoge says, "First it was people in crowds with mobile phones. Now, as is so often the case, governments catch up and begin to use the tools for their own purposes." Video footage may still hold significant influence over public opinion, and, as in the case of Iranian protesters, may very well give a global voice to disenfranchised or oppressed populations. But, in a standoff between two tech-savvy political factions, the impact a viral video has may not hinge so much on objective truth, but on the political weight of the party behind the camera. [From: New York Times, via: MediaDecoder]

Tags: flotilla, Iran, iran protests, IranProtests, Israel, military, NedaAghaSoltan, onlinevideo, Palestine, PalestinianConflict, palestinians, politics, propaganda, top, youtube