In their eagerness to quickly claim a narrative win, these two examples show how powerful a tool propaganda is.

By Rolene Marks

May I please have your permission to indulge me for a few minutes? As someone who works in the media (and has a fair interest in pop culture) I have been closely following the trajectory of two major stories, from divergent worlds, but have the ugly fingerprints of propaganda hit pieces scrawled all over them. Yes, I am going to venture THERE and talk about the two most discussed and probably ridiculed people on the planet at the moment – as well as a story that created a social media storm for Israel. 

I am going to spare (see what I did there?) commenting about THAT book and focus instead on the intentions of the Netflix documentary and how it plays into organized propaganda. I will be sparing you the details of a frostbitten Little Harry and dalliances of dog bowls and stallions and focusing elsewhere – the six-part Netflix shlockumentary.

If you were in need of serious lucre but had very little to offer in terms of talent, what would you sell that would be guaranteed to see you rolling in the type of dough the family you left has in order to venture out on your own?  You need to keep yourselves in the lifestyle to which you have become accustomed to – after all, the private jets are not going to hire themselves! The answer is obvious – slag off your family as much as possible for filthy lucre, oh, and control the narrative. That part of the plan is most important. Control the narrative they have – in TV interviews, in articles and now in a six-part docudrama on Netflix. Did I mention the paycheck was an estimated $100million?

In six hours of hagiography, where there is not a single acknowledgement of their own behaviour; but rather a trilling of the virtues of the two protagonists, punch after punch is aimed at the British media and the Royal Family. The documentary is long on accusation but short on proof; and a lot of what has been fed to viewers through pretty visuals and droning muzak has routinely been debunked; but facts are not important here. A canny agenda, oozing with wokeisms is. 

Descent into Despair.  Making big bucks by thrashing their family.

We all remember Harry walking behind his mother’s coffin and it would take a heart of stone not to feel for the Prince who is so clearly distraught and still suffering over her death.

Blaming the media, Harry sees himself as a messiah on a one-man crusade to change the way it operates. In other words, curb free speech by cracking down on criticism of himself and his wife. This same man called the US first amendment that protects free speech “bonkers”; but still uses the media as a tool to carefully control his narrative.

On scrutiny, the accusations do not hold up and the documentary is a definitively one-sided view. That is the point. You have to accept THEIR truth and not THE truth – failure to do so will result in people called racists and other nasty names.

One area that come is for particular opprobrium is the issue of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is a voluntary group of 54 countries, working together for the common good. Not all are part of the Realms of nations and not all are former colonies. In 2022, Togo and Gabon joined. It is no secret that Britannia once ruled across the world. What was once the Empire has evolved into the Commonwealth – a body so esteemed that one of Nelson Mandela’s first agenda items when he became President, was to rejoin South Africa which had previously been expelled because of the racist Apartheid regime. Calling for it to be called Empire 2.0 is not only profoundly insulting to Her Majesty’s legacy, but also disingenuous and a downright lie. The damage has been done. Many with little knowledge will resort to the common woke tactics and resort to language like “colonisers” and “racists”.

No Escape from Royal Revelations. Meghan and Harry are in every living room.

Perhaps Harry and Meghan – once President and Vice-President of the Commonwealth Trust – need to have a look at The Commonwealth Charter.

Result – the world has an image of two people, hunted by the media their privacy invaded while expose every private moment of their lives including their children and text messages as they conveniently come in from siblings and celebrities while the cameras are there with perfect lighting. You can’t make this up!

Missing was any modicum of contrition or accountability from their side. But victimhood sells in today’s times. Reeks of solipsism.  The end result? The image of the British media and United Kingdom damaged and a NY Times op-ed calling for Monarchy to be dismantled.

On the opposite end of the scale but no less reeking of careful media narrative capture, is the tragic killing of Al Jazeera journalist, Shirin abu Akleh. Now in this example, we are dealing with the high priests of narrative twisting who know how to use the media better than anyone – the Palestinians. The same people who brought you the Pallywood productions of Mohammed al Dura, dead man on stretcher who suddenly springs to life; and countless others, we now have the case of the war correspondent who the Palestinians say, “was targeted by the IDF for assassination”. Israel is a democracy and as such respects a free press. There never has been a case of journalists deliberately targeted and killed and to say so is a blatant lie. Victimhood sells.

Shirin Abu Akleh’s death was a tragedy. A woman lost her life. Shirin Abu Akleh was also a war correspondent who understood the risks she took covering conflict.

Caught in the Crossfire. Targeted by propaganda, Israel was accused of “targeted assignation” of Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh who was dangerously covering a gun battle between Israeli soldiers pursuing suspected Arab terrorists.

At the outset, this incident was politicised – before proper forensic investigations were conducted. The facts were dismissed in favour of a well-coordinated media campaign. CNN trotted out their “expert”, Chris Cobb-Smith, a known anti-Israel agitator who based his implicit ballistics findings based on bullet striations on a tree. He never examined the fatal bullet. Successive examinations by the Palestinian coroner, the US forensic team and the IDF are still inconclusive exactly WHO fired the fatal shot. The damage in the media against the IDF was successful.

The Palestinians have their own crusade. To weaponise the media; and in turn galvanise public opinion into turning Israel into a pariah state. At no stage in their attempt to control the narrative around this, did Palestinians acknowledge their own role in provoking a heavy response. No mention is made of incitement and terror attacks carried out against Israeli civilians, which resulted in counter-terror units having to respond with an incursion into hot spot Jenin.

What was the end goal here? To find out who fired the fatal bullet – or to shore up enough outrage to warrant a sham lawsuit at the International Criminal Court and engage in political lawfare? To paint Israel as a country that deliberately targets and kills journalists as claimed by Al Jazeera, the Palestinians and the anti-Israel establishment are part of a much, much bigger agenda to isolate and end the Jewish state. Propaganda is the key weapon in the arsenal.

These are two completely different examples of how careful narrative control influences people and how important it is for us, as media consumers, to question and demand FACTUAL coverage regardless of how it is packaged – or even sold to Netflix.

In an age where people take news at face value, the lessons here are important. Nothing sells quite like a narrative about victimhood. It is the hot commodity of the moment. The danger is that in haste to dominate headlines, facts are sacrificed first in the battle of the narrative.  The consequences extremely dangerous because they create more divisions and more suspicions. We deserve better than this.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

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