Blinken Blames Social Media for Israel Losing PR War; Romney Agrees, Confirms TikTok Ban is to Help Israel

Chris Menahan
May. 05, 2024

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has blamed social media and TikTok for Israel losing the PR war in Gaza.

While speaking before the McCain Institute on Friday, Blinken lamented that social media is allowing the world to see "the inescapable reality of people who have and continue to suffer grievously in Gaza," whereas in the past the "information environment" was controlled by a few newspapers and TV outlets who could shape the narrative.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), who was interviewing Blinken, concurred and added that the US banning TikTok is being done to help Israel in their PR war.

Transcript via American Rhetoric:
SENATOR ROMNEY: Why has the PR been so awful? I know that's not your area of expertise, but you have to have some thoughts on that, which is, I mean, as you've said, why has Hamas disappeared in terms of public perception? An offer is on the table to have a ceasefire, and yet the world is screaming about Israel. It's like, why are they not screaming about Hamas? Accept the ceasefire and bring home the hostages. Instead, it's all the other way around. I mean, typically the Israelis are good at PR. What's happened here? How have they -- how have they/ and we/ been so ineffective at communicating the realities there and our point of view?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Look, I mean, there are two things. One is that, look, there is an inescapable reality, and that is the inescapable reality of people who have and continue to suffer grievously in Gaza. And that's real and we have to -- have to -- be focused on that and attentive to that.

At the same time, how this narrative has evolved, yeah, it's a great question. I don't have a good answer to that. One can speculate about what some of the causes might be. I don't know. I can tell you this -- and we were talking about this a little bit over dinner with Cindy. I think in my time in Washington, which is a little bit over 30 years, the single biggest change has been in the information environment. And when I started out in the early 1990s, everyone did the same thing. You woke up in the morning, you opened the door of your apartment or your house, you picked up a hard copy of The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal. And then if you had a television in your office, you turned it on at 6:30 or 7 o'clock and watched the national network news.

Now, of course, we are on an intravenous feed of information with new impulses, inputs every millisecond. And of course, the way this has played out on social media has dominated the narrative. And you have a social media ecosystem environment in which context, history, facts get lost, and the emotion, the impact of images dominates. And we can't -- we can't discount that, but I think it also has a very, very, very challenging effect on the narrative.

SENATOR ROMNEY: A small parenthetical point, which is some wonder why there was such overwhelming support for us to shut down potentially TikTok or other entities of that nature. If you look at the postings on TikTok and the number of mentions of Palestinians relative to other social media sites, it's overwhelmingly so among TikTok broadcasts. So I'd note that's of real interest, and the President will get the chance to make action in that regard.
As Romney noted, the TikTok ban -- which was stuffed into the $95 billion giveaway for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan -- was done for Israel.

Ben Shapiro, who championed the TikTok ban, told his followers in March that it was an "anti-Semitic conspiracy theory" that the ban was done for Israel.

Multiple congressmen at the time had already stated explicitly that the TikTok ban was to help Israel because they were losing the PR war.

The Intercept reported on Saturday that Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY), who co-sponsored the TikTok ban (and the Antisemitism Awareness Act) said in a closed-door meeting with the Israel-First "No Labels" party that Congress moved to ban TikTok because "you're seeing how these kids are being manipulated" to oppose Israel on the platform.

DURING A CALL hosted by the centrist political group No Labels, Reps. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., and Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., spoke with close to 300 attendees, including trustees from several universities, about how Congress could help crack down further on student protesters — and how the FBI could get more involved.

[...] Gottheimer said that he had been in touch with officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation about campus protests. "Based on my conversations with the FBI — there's activity I can't get into, you know, given my committee responsibilities, I can't get into more specifics — but I can just say that I think people are well aware this is an issue," said Gottheimer, who is on the House Intelligence Committee.

"I can't speak for the local FBI field offices, but it's got to be all hands on deck," he added. "I believe following the money is the key. Gotta follow the money. A lot of these universities are not transparent at all, remotely, about where the money comes from, you know, they just, they want it — and that has to be a big part of this."

[...] Lawler, who co-sponsored a recent bill to ban TikTok, repeated Berkley's claims about external organizers and said that was the type of thing that inspired Congress's efforts to ban the app. "I don't think there's any question that there has been a coordinated effort off these college campuses, and that you have outside paid agitators and activists," Lawler said. "It also highlights exactly why we included the TikTok bill in the foreign supplemental aid package because you're seeing how these kids are being manipulated by certain groups or entities or countries to foment hate on their behalf and really create a hostile environment here in the U.S."

Lawler added that he would look into domestic groups funding protests. Gottheimer, for his part, said demonstrations at Columbia were "potentially" led by outsiders and repeated his frequent claim that the protesters support Hamas.

Andrew Bursky, the board chair of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, said America's tradition of campus protests was "a positive thing," but that there's a "clear dark line" between allowing free speech and condoning antisemitism. "And I think you guys in Congress have darkened that line today with this piece of legislation," he added. Bursky did not specify what legislation he was referring to, but earlier that day, the House of Representatives passed a Republican-led bill that expanded the definition of antisemitism.
Ben Shapiro wants to cancel people and label them "anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists" for pointing these facts out and Congress is moving to make it a crime.

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