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Age Of Misinformation: Orwell's 1984 & the War on Gaza


Written by Nabeelah Khan (she/her) | @nabeelahkhann | Contributing Writer

Illustrated by Mikaela Stroud (they/them) | | Contributing Artist

1984 has served as a cautionary tale, a grimly prophetic insight into what our world is becoming. The dystopian novel written by George Orwell in 1949 reflects on the themes of totalitarianism, suppression, and falsehoods illustrated. It's difficult not to see parallels with the ongoing war in Gaza. 

Examples of fake news have been around for centuries, from the Greeks to the Catholic church. But the term has been used incessantly in recent years with the rise of social media, the surge of AI and the increased prevalence of conspiracy theories. Its overuse has diluted its once potent meaning, rendering it almost meaningless.

In 1984, protagonist Winston Smith's job at the Ministry of Truth was to create fake news. He altered historical documents to align with The Party's revisionist narrative of events. They manipulated history for propaganda to control citizens' thoughts.

Fake news applies to the Israeli government, from restricting journalists from entering Gaza to spreading misinformation. They claimed that Palestinian hospitals were being used as Hamas command centres and that Hamas were beheading babies. Like The Party, the Israeli government manipulate facts to align with their agenda.

Powerful world leaders feed into these lies, with President Joe Biden publicly asserting that Hamas were beheading babies: "I never really thought that I would see and have confirmed pictures of terrorists beheading children."

He delivered this shocking claim to a group of Jewish community leaders, which shortly after was proven to be false. The fake news was first spread by Israeli journalist Nicole Zedeck on i24 News. After a thorough inquiry into the accuracy of the statement, the Israeli government was forced to admit that there was no evidence to back up the allegation. When public authoritarian systems and figures use their platform to spread misinformation, democracy is eroded.

The Israeli government distorted events and created misinformation during the civilian convoy evacuating Gaza. The evacuation route was designated as safe by Israel. Still, it came under attack from an Israeli airstrike, resulting in the deaths of 70 individuals and injuring at least 200 others, according to NBC News... 

Palestinian health officials reported over 100 deaths from the incident, with most attributed to Israeli troops' gunfire. Israel's military spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, contested the claim and stated that the majority were trampled as crowds hurried towards aid trucks. 

Despite the Israeli military's denial of responsibility for the attack, the United Nations has called for an inquiry into the attack alongside Amnesty International's digital evidence lab confirming that Israeli forces targeted the fleeing civilian convoy. 

The downplay and denial of allegations, alongside the spread of misinformation from the Israeli government, highlights Orwell's theme of language being used as mind control. The power of language as a tool for manipulation is evident in media coverage. In 1984, "The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. […] Power is not a means, it is an end." This quote speaks to the Western media's reporting of the war's events favouring Israel.

Biases in the media include using terms like "killed" instead of "murdered," and victims are often only recognised on one side of the conflict, drawing a similarity of the dehumanisation present in the citizens of 1984. The word 'victims' is seldom used to explain Palestinians when there is reporting about the Israelis. Instead of emphasising the human tragedy in Gaza, numerous Western media outlets often reduce the Palestinians who have lost their lives to mere statistics.  This loss of individual identity and dehumanisation bears resemblance to the society depicted in George Orwell's 1984, where individuals are stripped of their personal histories and reduced to objects.

Israel's 'right to defend' itself is an excuse supported by the Western media as colonial powers have historically asserted their 'right to self-defence' in response to the populations they have colonised.

According to an analysis by The Intercept, major media outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times have displayed a consistent bias against Palestinians in their coverage of Israel's war on Gaza. Over 1500 journalists representing numerous US news outlets have collectively penned an open letter condemning the portrayal of Israel's actions against Palestinians. The letter speaks to the "imperative" need for comprehensive on-the-ground reporting and urges for "free and unfettered access to Gaza for all foreign media". The letter also calls out the "double standard in how civilians are seen" within the media.

A group of eight BBC journalists have authored an open letter addressed to Al Jazeera, alleging their own network's failure to provide accurate coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The letter accuses the broadcaster of displaying bias by dedicating more attention to humanising Israeli victims while neglecting to include crucial historical context in its reporting. While Western correspondents cover the anguish and experiences of Israel, what remains scarcely covered in comparison is the experience of innocent civilians suffering in Palestine. 

The media's misrepresentation of the conflict has caused a public outcry, leading to the arrests of countless individuals around the world who have protested against the war and shown their solidarity with Palestine. In 1984, thoughtcrime are beliefs that contradict The Party's teachings and beliefs. Citizens are punishable by imprisonment on suspicion of having rebellious thoughts.

Thoughtcrime has transcended digitally, since the onset of the Israel-Gaza war, Meta has been censoring pro-Palestinian content. Over a thousand reported cases of Meta suspending content and permanently banning accounts were reviewed by Human Rights Watch. Instances of censorship include Instagram and Facebook removing the Palestinian flag emoji, as well as deleting comments like "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" and "ceasefire now" under the guise of community guidelines.

In a landscape of misinformation from the Israeli government and the Western media, it is imperative more than ever that the public should actively seek legitimate information instead of succumbing to close-mindedness that recognises no perspective other than its own. 

Orwell's words ring painfully true today: "If all others accepted the lie which the party imposed - if all records told the same tale - then the lie passed into history and became the truth." 


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