The uneventful nature of structural violence renders it unfit for media coverage compared to kinetic violence. But the two are inextricably linked.

by Alexei Sisulu Abrahams, +972 Magazine

The violence unfolding across Palestine-Israel over the past four months has been accompanied by a near-real-time deluge of information on social and news media worldwide. As with other fast-moving, politically charged situations, a portion of that information has been false, and fact checkers have had their hands full. And as on other occasions, platforms such as Meta, Twitter/X, and even Telegram have been criticized for not intervening, or for intervening in a biased way.

Humans, however, do not formulate opinions based on information, but rather with stories spun from information — and the relationship between them is far from linear. Fictitious information can be arranged into a story that conveys profound truths, as great novelists have proven for centuries. Conversely, and as the past several months of coverage have demonstrated, there is no fact that cannot be indentured into the service of a lie. Beyond disinformation (trafficking falsehoods), I worry as a media researcher and longtime scholar of the Palestinian struggle that decontextualization (selectively presenting truths) is the more ubiquitous and elusive threat to our collective understanding.

Palestinian woman with flag protests IDF

Disinformation involves lying by commission, such as by asserting that the 2020 U.S. presidential elections were rigged against Trump, or that ivermectin cures COVID-19. Decontextualization, on the other hand, is all about lying by omission, and psychologists have shown that humans lie by omission with greater facility than by commission. Moreover, omission’s signature characteristic is absence — something humans are notoriously bad at noticing, which means we are liable to amplify decontextualized narratives unwittingly.

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