June 21, 2024
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The Fight of Our Lives: Educating the TikTok Generation

Young adults ripping down hostage posters on college campuses appear to be blindly following a “very cool trend” to show no regard for human (Jewish) lives in jeopardy, while placing every possible focus on Israel as “the aggressor.” It’s almost as though they have been told these Hamas murders and kidnappings aren’t real and it’s their responsibility to remove publicity about them. Hamas and its allies in the United States have entirely and successfully dehumanized the Jews. They are violating the sanctity of human life, ignoring the genocidal lessons of the Holocaust, and insulting all that Jews are and have accomplished since the birth of modern Israel in 1948.

Esther Lopatin, an Israeli political analyst and university professor, put it very succinctly when she told a news magazine this week that reasonable explanations about why Israel had to go to war with Hamas fell on deaf ears. “We failed since not everyone is interested in the truth or the facts.”

Lev Novikov, a Jewish-American engineer and process innovator, said last week, “It’s as if the chattering classes actually need kindergarten lessons such as: ‘Why Capricious Murder is Evil’; ‘Strong Convictions Don’t Imply Correctness’; and ‘Less Power Doesn’t Mean More Moral.’”

He added that some people who saw what Hamas did “have woken up to the reality of the situation on the ground while others seem blithely clueless about the implications for the larger Western world.”

They are both, of course, talking about the TikTok generation and its interest in truth only if it fits with the prevailing narrative and presented in manageable soundbites. These are those who grew up in a world where Google was always a thing, where children regularly ask their parents how they even existed before the internet and, while this is a grave generalization, have almost no historical understanding about what the world was like for ethnic and religious minorities during World War I and World War II.

This “born-with-an-iPhone-in-their-hand” generation operates on buzzwords like “recontextualization” and “lived experience” and blithely allows people with no actual knowledge or insight to “educate them” with brief, scary, grotesque victim narratives presented as facts. In the time it takes to watch a single video, to borrow the prescient words of Winston Churchill, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth gets its pants on.”

Ninety-second screeds lying about who the victim is in various attacks during this war have become not only commonplace but actually in many cases overwhelming. The untruths, the moral equivalency, the quotes from the “Gaza Health Ministry,” are taking the chattering classes by storm and there seems to be an actual ocean full of kids who are consuming this content in enormous amounts. It is therefore no surprise that college campuses are rife with people spewing hate. After all, the Instagram/TikTok/YouTube algorithms only serve more content of the type one watches.

These kids need real content delivered to them, in ways that they understand. They don’t need people to yell or give them dry history lessons. They literally need memes and cutesy game show-type content that explains what Hamas is all about. A group doing this currently is Facts for Peace (@Factsforpeace) and it posts Mr. Beast-style interviews on Instagram and TikTok asking questions to students on college campuses:

“We’re going to play a game called ‘Hamas or ____,’” the announcer states. “Women of all ages legally need a male guardian with them to travel. Is that Hamas or ISIS?”

“Who said, ‘There are Jews everywhere. We must attack every Jew on planet Earth. We must slaughter them and kill them.’ Hamas or ISIS?”

“Hamas or Hitler: ‘Inflict as many losses as possible on the Jews. Kill them one by one and don’t leave even one.’”

“In an honor killing, it is basically legal for men to murder women and girls if they are promiscuous. Is that Hamas or the Taliban?”

“This law makes it nearly impossible for women and kids to submit claims of incest. Is that Hamas or North Korea?”

In every case, the person answering the question chooses the wrong answer, and in every case the announcer tells them the answer is … Hamas. A link, often from Al Jazeera or other Palestinian-friendly news sites, is provided for where the information can be confirmed.

Another great group delivering content in this way is JewBelong. Aside from the meme shared in this article, other memes have stated the following: “Isn’t it crazy how Gaza is running out of everything but rockets?” and “Did you see that peaceful Palestinian protest? Oh wait, there wasn’t one.” We need more of these pithy, sarcastic short sentences that speak to this generation. We need this to be served up, as it is, in attention-getting Barbie-pink and put on screens and billboards everywhere.

These are just a few examples of groups that I think are doing a good job with this specific need. As we saw with the Gaza hospital reports and their immediate/subsequent amplification as “Israel’s attack,” there are real consequences to these incidents, not just with violence in America but also with world leaders canceling meetings that could potentially save lives. This is a war of information and if we don’t do this, we will lose. We should be funding the war of information with as much enthusiasm as we are supporting our soldiers in Israel. Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of Hollywood’s work during World War II knew that there was an office of information specifically dedicated to making films about the war from the American point of view. Messaging about the validity of Israel’s right to defend is no less existential and no less important.

Everyone should really be going online and amplifying these messages as much as possible, with sharing and with funding. If it feels like we’ve packed all the duffel bags, sent all our donations and there’s nothing else we can do for Israel, let’s at least support our brothers and sisters creating content to defend Israel’s existence.


Elizabeth Kratz is the associate publisher/editor of The Jewish Link.

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