Wednesday, August 09, 2006

On Grains of Salt and White Space

Just a quick post about a sensitive subject - the amount and reliability of the information you are reading on the web.

No, I am not talking about faked photographs. I am talking about the endless streams of military analysis being published in article form. I am talking about the detailed plans and timetables that the IDF talking heads are giving out.

In a word (or in this case, a phrase) take everything you read with a grain of salt. What is more important really is what they are NOT telling you - what I call the white space - between the lines. And the bottom line is that you won't know what they are not telling you until it is safe for everyone to know. And you should have patience and the maturity to wait for this information.

Why am I writing this? Because I have seen the very understandable curiosity and concern by blog readers tempt people to write things that they really shouldn't. Those of us who know people fighting in Lebanon get bits and pieces of information. Sometimes this information is accurate - but sometimes the broken telephone syndrome does its job and the information is distorted or just plain wrong. And sometimes passing this information along does a lot of damage.

I'll give you an example. The first time there was fighting in Bent Jebail, a friend of mine told me that he heard from his brother (supposedly a higher up with access to information) that 12 soldiers had been killed. Later that night, when the accurate information was published, it turns out that 8 had died. I had people from America call me to ask if I knew anything (I think Reuters had published a high number of dead). I told them what I always say - that when the IDF has finished notifying all of the family members, they will publicize the accurate information. Until then I will not pass along rumors. It just causes unnecessary anxiety.

Talking, or writing, about rumors you have heard about the numbers of troops, the timing of operations, and where people are fighting not only causes anxiety, but it also gives information to the enemy. Don't think for a minute that both the IDF (waving hi ) and Hizballah (you get just one finger) are not reading the blogs (yes, even my stupid little one) and that information you write is not being passed along. "Loose lips sink ships" may be vintage World War II, but it still stands today.

I have already started making notes about stupid and dangerous things people and professional reporters have published on the websites and blogs. I intend to write about them - but NOT NOW.

NOW is the time to use what we have between our ears.

12 Comments:

Blogger Emanuel Ben-Zion said...

couldn't be better written, love the last phrase.

1:02 AM, August 10, 2006  
Blogger Andy said...

You are correct. this is a GREAT post - I feel as though even here in the US, I have been guilty of "questioning" Olmert and the politicians.

Your post is sobering.

And, true.
THanks

2:01 AM, August 10, 2006  
Blogger Shanah said...

Todah Rabbah for the post. Let's do whatever we can to prevent any Geraldos from appearing on the blogosphere.

(FYI for any non-Fox News watchers: Geraldo was infamous for going on Fox News and pointing out various locations of soldiers, etc. on a map of Iraq, as if the whole war were some sort of sports match. BLARGH.)

3:42 AM, August 10, 2006  
Blogger bec said...

you are so right.
a friend of mine worked in civilian capacity for the navy during the 9/11 attacks and when we'd ask if she knew anything, she'd tell us the same thing that you said:
"Talking, or writing, about rumors you have heard about the numbers of troops, the timing of operations, and where people are fighting not only causes anxiety, but it also gives information to the enemy."

4:27 AM, August 10, 2006  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

WBM: In the first week of the war in Lebanon in 1983 (or was it 1982?) there were hundreds of IDF soldiers killed and no one knew about it. It wasn't published information...and it kept the country's moral very high.

But that was 20 years ago...and things have chnaged in the age of the internet. Where do you draw the line between reporting the news, and not reporting anything?

Maybe we should not say anything about what's going on up north...? (All the attacks, and battles going on)

Just a thought...I'm not disagreeing with you (or 100% agreeing with you) just thinking out loud. However, more often than not, education reduces panic...

10:44 AM, August 10, 2006  
Blogger westbankmama said...

emanuel, andy, shana, bec - thank you.

Jameel - I think that what you have been writing on your blog is just right. You don't write rumors about soldier's dying - you wait until it is official. You report about rocket landings - but in a general way and not giving specific locations. I am sure you are hearing things from friends up north that you aren't writing. We should report the news - but not the rumors.

The tone is very important also. We have to be very adult in how we write - and not give in to panic and depression. When the army came on Shabbat last week to take some guys up north I really started to feel stressed - I broke out in a rash that took a long time to go away. On motzei Shabbat I was very tempted to write about my feelings, but I didn't. Since some people are still reading me for updates on what is happening, I felt that I have crossed over from being a personal blog where I can vent all of my feelings to one where I have to be a bit more responsible (except for my ranting against certain feminists where I let myself go...). I just wish that other bloggers, who are much more popular than me, would show the same type of responsibility. (I am obviously not talking about you here).

11:56 AM, August 10, 2006  
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