Who’s to Say?

So it happens again. The situation in Israel-Palestine dominates my thoughts, just as it dominates news media and political arguments online. That last one shouldn’t be a surprise – the internet is an ideological battleground, and all kinds of people realise it. Fascinating how quickly a tool for massive dissemination of information has become equally a tool for dissemination of propaganda. So much so that I feel a strange relativism come over me. Massacre, defence; Zionism, Islamism; callous slaughter, morally upright surgical operation; another naqba for the Palestinian Arabs, another shoah for the Israeli Jews. Right, wrong. Who’s to say?

The arguments are tiring. The same stock standard rebuttals of the same points, until a new one is made and one memeplex or the other evolves an appropriate new rebuttal, which propagates throughout the memescape. The new strain spreads so quickly that, seemingly overnight, those same words are on every supporter or critic of Israel’s lips. Back and forth, the competing memeplexes evolve.

. . .

Israel’s using DIME weapons.

The IDF has denied it.

Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert treated
children there and says they’re using DIME.

He’s a Maoist who approved of the WTC attacks.

. . .

It keeps going, and every time the memeplex evolves to counter some new threat, the central meme is further reinforced – mostly either “Israel good” or “Israel bad”. And as the meme is reinforced, its host is rewarded, the ego buzz of being right.

It’s not a question of moral relativism for the most part, because both “sides” overwhelmingly agree on their value systems. If they didn’t, there wouldn’t be so much argument about what the facts are. DIME munitions are awful to both – so the argument is whether or not they’re being used. Civilian deaths are awful to both – so the argument is whether they’re Hamas’ fault or Israel’s.

But the sheer volume of the arguments makes appealing a kind of agnosticism about the situation – there are so many arguments back and forth that one would have to be a full-time student of the situation to have a properly informed opinion, and even then, those who do claim to study the situation full-time are found in all camps. The complexity renders the question of right and wrong in Operation Cast Lead academic – in both senses of the word – and the matter is mentally shelved alongside Nietzsche’s madness and quantum computing: no doubt I would have an opinion if I knew enough about it, but who has the time?

And no one (besides very petty academics who are to be pitied) gets angry about academic matters. No one is passionate about them. Passion requires certainty, and faced with a choice between passion and uncertainty, between certainty and reason, it’s passion and certainty that have the appeal. See above, re: ego buzz.

A depressing line of thought, so I’ll finish with this. I’ve found that you don’t have to be a full-time student of these matters in order to understand enough to take a position. With some clarity of thought and stepping outside of the assumptions that frame the established debate, the patent insanity of one or both “sides” of any disagreement seems clear, and that clarity cuts deep into the memeplices.

Okay. Fine. Memeplexes. I was just trying to be clever.