Israel's Covert Commenters And Nixon's Neocons
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The Israeli broadsheet Haaretz reports:
Prime Minister's Office recruiting students to wage online hasbara battles 
PMO and national student union to create covert units at universities to engage in diplomacy via social media; unit heads to receive full scholarships.

Hasbara is a Hebrew term meaning anything from "explanation" to "advocacy" to "propaganda," depending on your political alignment.

Although this Israeli system has been widely rumored to be operative for years, my first thought was that this didn't sound very cost-effective. After all, plenty of people, some of them quite talented writers, like to comment for free.

On the other hand, this should allow the Netanyahu government to systematically identify and evaluate its verbalist supporters at an early age, and then reward the ones it likes most.

For example, back in 1969, Richard Nixon and his chief domestic advisor, the brilliant Democratic social scientist Daniel Patrick Moynihan, had numerous long talks about how to detach some of Moynihan's New York intellectual friends from leftism. It didn't prove all that hard for Nixon and Moynihan to conjure neoconservatism into being: just flatter some of these poor ink-stained wretches that you care about their ideas, invite them to meet with high officials, arrange for sinecures for some, give others awards and advisory posts, and so forth.

Similarly, the CIA had long subsidized the magazine Encounter to wean European intellectuals away from loyalty to Moscow. Writers aren't all that expensive.

And it's even cheaper to do this kind of thing at the junior varsity level with students. It would thus seem like a clever idea for any political organization with some spare cash.

Another question is whether subsidizing online comments works on people who aren't in on the game. A recent study suggested that thumbs up signaling worked on outsiders, but not thumbs down. Still, I suspect that tossing out accusations of anti-Semitism is an effective method with Americans of implanting the idea: Better not go there.

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