This Week with David Rovics
This Week with David Rovics
The Hasbara Trolls Switch Platforms

The Hasbara Trolls Switch Platforms

My pet battalion of pro-Israel internet trolls have migrated their operation from Facebook to X, and refined their emphasis as well.

There are various patterns in terms of level of engagement and types of engagement that we get on the various corporate social media platforms.  If you're consistently engaged for years in attempting to use all of the platforms as a means of disseminating your artistic content, as a professional artist, these ever-changing patterns of engagement are very noticeable, in so many ways, probably much more than they are for most people.  Also, the more engagement you get on a certain post or type of post, the more you can see the patterns in terms of who is engaging and how.

All of us artists who are old enough to remember the early years of Facebook miss the way it was at the beginning, when it was a truly useful platform for us to promote new artistic content, news about upcoming gigs, and whatever else.  Once upon a time there were no algorithms, and no money involved with "boosting" posts, that all came later, once everyone had the hooks firmly dug into our collective mouths.

The algorithms Facebook introduced years ago now not only drastically deemphasized content such as news articles -- in some countries eliminating such content entirely -- but also deemphasized any kind of link or pretty much anything other than selfies, and announcements accompanied by a photo related to events like birthdays, births, weddings, funerals, graduations, or big trips.  Thus I have long been aware that even though I'd really like people to listen to my latest album or share my latest music video, the vast majority of my "followers" or "friends" on Facebook will never see posts related to these things.  But if I'm going on a tour and I take a selfie from an airport, or if it's my birthday and I post a selfie about that, I know people will see these posts.

On X/Twitter, to date I have not noticed them implementing algorithms that have caused selfies or other photographic content to get seen much more than other types of posts.  Posts on X are more likely to be widely seen and widely shared if they pique the interest of people who are interested in a certain issue, such as stopping the genocide of the Palestinian people, or freeing Julian Assange from his wrongful imprisonment.  This kind of content can go viral on X, unlike on Facebook, for the simple reason that on Facebook almost no one will see such posts in the first place.  That's been my experience, anyway.

So it has been no big surprise -- though disappointing -- that my efforts to promote my latest album and latest music videos have gotten very limited traction.  Only the real fanatics will tend to publicly share videos or essays or other material related to very controversial issues such as the Palestinian struggle or supporting a much-vilified character such as Julian Assange.  Most people won't even "like" such posts, let alone share them, if they see them at all.

On April 10th I posted a picture of myself wearing a Palestine flag t-shirt with these words:

"I'm 57 years old today, and I feel wiser already.  All I want for my birthday is a permanent ceasefire." 

It was no surprise that this birthday selfie got a lot of engagement -- this is exactly the kind of relatively innocuous, uninformative little semi-narcissistic post Facebook likes to promote.  As a result, it was seen by thousands, "liked" in some form by over 700 people, 288 of whom left comments.  The overwhelming majority of the comments came from people I actually know in real life, wishing me a happy birthday.

This wouldn't necessarily be notable except that my regular readers will be aware that I have been the target of an incessant, organized trolling campaign on Facebook since late February -- specifically since the day Caroline Turner started emailing venues in England trying to get them to cancel my upcoming gigs on the basis that they are hosting someone who is promoting racial hatred against Jews and may as a result face legal consequences if they don't cancel me.

Up until my birthday, posting a selfie with me wearing a Palestine-related t-shirt was enough to get hundreds of Hasbara trolls (paid agents or in some cases volunteers promoting an openly racist, anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, anti-Palestinian, pro-genocide narrative that supports the positions of the Israeli regime) attacking me, and whoever else might have been in the photo with me.  But now, nothing of the sort.

Instead, they have moved on to X.  On X, the same post was seen by over 80,000 people in the first 12 hours or so, with more than 800 reposts and more than a thousand comments.  This never happens when I post selfies on X, but this time it did, due entirely to the engagement of the Hasbara trolls, who were responsible for hundreds of those comments.

In an effort to counter their bile, pro-Palestinian activists, most of them accounts with Arab names, also reposted and commented on the post, wishing this random guy with a Palestine flag t-shirt that appeared in their feeds a happy birthday, as they participated in what I believe are known as the "flame war."

It's very obvious that the whole point for the Hasbara trolls (and other organized trolling campaigns) is to use their flood of bile to influence and/or stifle the discussion.  They want to instill fear, dread, and/or confusion.  Anything to dampen the enthusiasm of pro-Palestinian campaigners, or scare them off from sharing content or speaking out, or confuse them by introducing ideas that may cause them to question their positions.

To the extent that the Hasbara troll narrative can effectively confuse people who don't have sufficient knowledge of ongoing events or the history behind them, it's worth noting how the focus of their attacks has evolved over the past six weeks or so.

When there were hundreds of them commenting on posts on Facebook last month, they focused on lots of different points.  Generally, categories included the vilification of Muslims, Islam, Arabs, and Palestinians, associating these groups with despicable behaviors of every possible variety, such as beheading babies and raping children; spreading disinformation about Palestinians and Palestinian history, such as the notion that Palestine doesn't really exist as a place with a history, culture, cuisine, traditions, etc., and Palestinians are really Jordanian; spreading disinformation about what life was like in Gaza before October 7th; spreading disinformation about the history of, nature of, and intentions of groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, and Ansar Allah; insinuating that anyone who supports Palestinians today had never heard of them yesterday, and are just people who like to jump on bandwagons and do what's fashionable; pushing the narrative that if someone started the fight, supposedly, then "they," whoever "they" are, must be prepared to suffer the consequences; and justifying the killing of children as the fault of Hamas for daring to fight from a densely-populated urban ghetto landscape.

Now, with the recent shift of the Hasbara trolls assigned to my case moving from Facebook to X, there has clearly been an accompanying shift in which aspects of the Hasbara narrative they see fit to emphasize.  Most of the points they were making last month can be found amid the rest of it, here and there.  But they have almost entirely dropped the notion that Palestine and Palestinians don't exist, apparently deciding that that one wasn't working out for them for some reason.  And they have decidedly put about 90% of their focus into pushing one singular point:  that Hamas is holding hostages, that they should all be immediately freed, and that if Hamas did free the hostages, this would magically end the war and cause Israel to implement a ceasefire.

Given that they and their focus groups seem to have decided that these are the talking points worth emphasizing, to the extent that anyone out there is actually listening to anything I have to say, rather than just having flame wars around my Palestine flag selfies, I'll say some things about the hostage issue myself.

Supporters of the Palestinian people are apt to note that Gaza was being besieged and starved long before last October, and that's all well documented by the UN and others.  Palestinians have long been arbitrarily arrested and held indefinitely without charge in Israeli prisons, including Palestinian children.  This is all also well documented by the UN and others.  

While people living under occupation have the right under international law to resist, including through armed resistance, they're not supposed to take hostages.  These hostages, however, are mostly soldiers, and are thus prisoners of war.  In the past, such prisoners have been successfully exchanged for these aforementioned Palestinians arbitrarily arrested and held indefinitely without charge.

Israel has been unwilling to do a hostage exchange like that, and unwilling to declare a ceasefire in order to facilitate any such exchange.  The idea of releasing hostages while under constant bombardment and surveillance is obviously ridiculous to anyone with two brain cells to rub together.  In fact, when Israeli hostages tried to get rescued, they were killed by other Israeli soldiers, while shouting in Hebrew with no shirts on, raising white flags.  If the occupation soldiers don't kill hostages, they'll kill those accompanying them -- they kill aid workers every day, what would possibly prevent them from killing anyone else?

If it were possible to safely release the Israeli hostages being held in Gaza, the notion that this would somehow lead to a ceasefire or to Israel stopping the war is nothing but a deadly fantasy.  No one has any reason to believe this, and the leaders of the Israeli regime have made it abundantly clear that they're not going to stop killing people and destroying buildings until Hamas no longer exists.  As they know, Hamas has tremendous popular support and is fighting a people's war against occupation, and when they say "end Hamas," this is a thinly-veiled statement, in fact, that the war won't end until the genocide is complete.

I have launched a Home Studio Upgrade crowdfunding campaign, for the purposes of being able to have guests in studio, and to be ale to seamlessly switch from one instrument to another like some kind of professional, and other related endeavors.

PNW: in May I'll be doing gigs in Vancouver, BC, as well as Portland, Oregon, plus house concerts in Edmonds and Olympia, Washington (details soon). If you're in the PNW and you might be inclined to organize something, I'd love to hear from you.

AUSTRALIA: I’ve got my tickets — I arrive in Brisbane on June 21st and depart from there a month later!

CALIFORNIA: I’m coming in August, and I’d love to hear from you, too!

SCANDINAVIA: same goes for you for November!

This Week with David Rovics
This Week with David Rovics
If I do an interview, whether as the interviewer or interviewee, or a livestream event, new song, audio essay or various other things, it’ll often go out as a podcast here.