Images and perception are now widely considered as an important aspect of contemporary conflict, and some scholars even go as far as regarding images as weapons of war. Regardless of if they are weapons or not, images are being used in strategic ways on social media by both the Israel Defence Force and Palestinians in the context of the ongoing conflict in Gaza.
The IDF, have been circulating images across social media sites like twitter and instagram. These images range from photographs of IDF troops and weapons, to infographics which talk about the number of rockets fired by Hamas. The destruction of Gaza is sanitised through its invisibility.
On the Palestinian side the images tell a different story. These images are harrowing, they depict horrors that are very real; flattened neighbourhoods, grieving families, injured and dead children.
— Dr.Bassel Abuwarda (@DrBasselAbuward) August 6, 2014
One development in this conflict that has caught my attention has been the use of images that have not simply been edited, but have been completely faked by the use of digital editing software.
For example the IDF has instagrammed these two images;
Whereas these images have been circulated by Palestinians;
— Dr.Bassel Abuwarda (@DrBasselAbuward) August 7, 2014
These images are interesting for several reasons. Their content is completely faked; missiles and explosions have been digitally added to photographs. The similarities of these sets of images are quite revealing, both sets of images are aimed at invoking a sense of empathy in audiences.
They use similar locations; New York is used by both parties, Paris is used by one and London is used by the other. Thus attempting to address the ‘west’ by drawing upon (somewhat crassly) previous terror attacks such as 9/11 and 7/7. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the IDF haven’t tried to address audiences in Cairo or Dubai, but they have in Ireland…
What does this addressing of different audiences reveal about the strategies and intentions of the actors involved in the conflict? How are audiences responding to these clearly faked images? And what is the impact of this?
There’s potentially an interesting research project on this case here, and I think we need to consider how we account for fake content in our understandings of images and their political significance. War has never been so photoshopped.