The war of words — and visuals

The weaponisation of media, is an immediate menace to be wary of.

Zarlasht Kamran November 24, 2023
The writer is a MPhil Development Studies student. She can be contacted on


Do you trust major news outlets? Do you trust social media? Do you trust one more than the other, or neither? Ask yourself how different sources of information make you feel about, say, the Palestinian genocide.

We simply cannot ignore the role of media and information in shaping our views and, by extension, our world. It seems the double-edged sword is becoming more and more paradoxical, with its stark binary of benefits and threats. Rest assured, the weaponisation of media, especially in its latest form of ‘disinformation’ — also ‘misinformation’ — is an immediate menace to be wary of. Particularly with regards to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Palestinian genocide, the war of words — even more so, the war of images and videos — has become a key factor in both public opinion and policy actions.

Perhaps the biggest example is the chaos, confusion, anger, vengefulness, skepticism and controversy around the beheading of the 40 babies by Hamas (note the sheer amount of emotions one can observe that were invoked by a single media-induced chaos). For one side, it was a direct call to annihilate Hamas. As always, Gaza was taken as “collateral damage”, and its complete destruction portrayed as “necessary evil”. For the other side, it was a classic case of fake news — to use as justification to begin the genocide. Therefore, people openly demanded evidence. This demand was especially strong in the face of the mountains of evidence, coming out of Gaza, showing the massive atrocities being committed against the Palestinians. Later, CNN reporter, Sara Sidner, who had made the claim, issued an apology in the following tweet: “Yesterday the Israeli Prime Minister’s office said that it had confirmed Hamas beheaded babies & children while we were live on the air. The Israeli government now says today it CANNOT confirm babies were beheaded. I needed to be more careful with my words and I am sorry.” (Oct 12, 2023)

Social media played the biggest role in this, as most people were looking at around-the-clock evidence of the genocide through citizen journalism — particularly on visually-focused apps like Instagram. It is worth mentioning the role of various Instagram content creators in trying to counter the merciless onslaught of fake news and propaganda pumped out by Western media outlets, major corporations and Hollywood. They created an online community of people that stand firmly with the Palestinian people and oppose their ethnic cleansing and colonisation. On top of that, the war is literally unfolding in front of our eyes on Instagram. The proximity to it through citizen journalism is something the world has not experienced to this huge extent before.

The onslaught of Western media has been relentless. It has either justified the completely disproportionate response to the Hamas attack or it has brushed aside the genocide as an effort to eliminate Hamas. This has been combined with the smokescreen of ‘human shields’ and some holier-than-thou war on terror.

It is unfortunate that the war of words and visuals can be deconstructed, exposed and researched to great lengths, but no amount of intellectual labour will save the Palestinian people — the world has turned a blind eye to them. Perhaps one can give an honourary mention to Ireland’s support for Palestine, as it shines as a singular beacon of light in the darkness that is the Western world’s indifference and hostility.

Words are everything. From writing that children ‘died’ in Gaza as opposed to ‘killed’, each linguistic tool reminds us of how narratives can be shaped and distorted. Freedom fighters can become terrorists, victims can become collateral damage or accidents, and oppressors can become defenders of their sovereignty (even if it was snatched). It is not about Hamas anymore if every major news media outlet, interviewing Palestinians who are trying to talk about the nightmare their people are going through, starts off with “Do you condemn Hamas?” The bias is deafeningly loud and the war is completely skewed, as one side is overwhelmingly powerful.

Gaza is burning. We remember it in the haze of chaos, confusion, polarisation and lies.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 24th, 2023.

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