Major Rumor’s Truth Army
A forged foreign passport, a thrill-seeking firstborn son, an international crime organization, bank account in a tax haven territory and Panama Papers, these are the ingredients that make up the spicy online grapevine regarding the police investigation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In fact, the grapevine has branched out as far as the Knesset’s plenary, where MK Erel Margalit quipped a new slogan from the podium (which rhymes better in Hebrew): the Capital-Passport-Underworld trinity. As poet Alexander Penn wrote at the time, “Has it indeed happened? Was it innocence or hope?”
When the social network, the step sister of institutionalized journalism, was born, everything seemed promising: the legitimate daughter published only the information it is allowed to under the law whereas the other daughter finds its own devious ways to publish information which was not cleared for publication, knowing very well nothing can be done to punish it.
The most prominent example was the Anat Kam affair. Remember? In December 2009, then journalist Anat Kam was held in house arrest after she was suspected of stealing documents from the military and giving them to Haaretz journalist Uri Blau. Until April 2010, the story was kept secret under a gag order, but the rumors started spreading through the web a few months from Kam’s arrest. It started at Richard Silverstein’s “Tikun Olam” blog, continued into Facebook, which was gaining momentum in Israel, to other blogs and from there to the world press. By April, the State had no choice but to lift the gag order and employ more democratic ways.
Six years later we can declare with strong certainty that the monster we created is complete. The blogosphere is gradually merging with Facebook, while Facebook, with the help of its shorthand typist, Twitter, have become the fiction-generating machine or Major Rumor’s Truth Army as we like to call it. No, we are not referring to the Alzheimer Disease Ehud Barak never had, to Moshe Katzav’s weekly suicidal attempt, or to the fabricated car accident of Gilad Shalit that forced his family to issue a statement he is alive and kicking. We are referring to the minute details allegedly leaked from allegedly held investigations of allegedly suspected individuals. Tales from a Thousand and One Nights whose affiliation with reality is highly coincidentally and even if it exists, it conceals a plaintiff with no interest of placing charges. If you’re not sure what we’re hinting at, log into Facebook.
But we insist on seeing the full half of the glass and even more importantly, on sifting the wheat from the chaff for you because the incessant hum around the reviews and investigations held (or not) by the police spur the journalists (and the independent investigators, who deserve a dedicated column) to dig and get to the truth. Maybe it also spurs the police to hurry up and publish its findings, or part thereof. What used to be buried in the secrets exchanged in the editors meeting, triggers reviews and scrutiny from all sides today. If you want our opinion on that, we believe it’s better to have to deny rumors than conceal dubious affairs. Indeed, the gentle flap of a butterfly wings on Facebook triggers a process in the Knesset plenary and may end with an earthquake in the Police’s investigation department.