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Is Israel winning the YouTube war?

Since Monday's clash between Israeli military forces and pro-Palestinian activists, both sides have issued video recordings to support their version of events (and, maybe more importantly, to unload blame onto their adversaries). So far, there's no clear consensus about which clips to trust, but according to a report by Haaretz, there seems to be general agreement about which ones to like: of the four most viewed YouTube clips in recent days, all of which provide on-the-ground footage of the raid, the top three are videos issued by the Israeli Defense Forces. In fourth place with a measly 610,000 hits (in comparison to the 3 million total received by the IDF posts), is a clip from Al Jazeera.

The top spot goes to this snippet, which shows Israelis boarding the Mavi Marmara boat and calls attention (via handy yellow text) to activists wielding metal rods. At one point, according to subtitles, a voice in the background remarks, "Whoa, they just threw a soldier overboard...they tossed him."

By contrast, the Al Jazeera clip emphasizes that the flotilla was raided while in international waters and that shots continued to be fired even after the activists had raised a white flag in surrender.

YouTube surely isn't the best barometer of success when it comes to international crises, but this data is nonetheless worth taking note of -- not least because it seems fairly counter-intuitive. As spectators across the world mobilize to condemn Israeli actions, I'm surprised their views aren't more clearly represented by these numbers.

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China cautiously remembers Tiananmen

In 1990, to commemorate the Tiananmen Square massacre that had taken place on June 4 one year prior, only one lone Chinese man stood in the plaza where the blood was shed, seizing a momentary opportunity to hold up a white wreath inscribed "Heroes who died for democracy and freedom" before being arrested. On the five-year anniversary in 1994, political dissidents and their families were detained and harassed, and concerts, interviews, and visas were cancelled across Beijing. And last year, for the twentieth anniversary landmark, police officers blanketed the square and threatened any reporters who approached the area.

Could today's 21st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown be any different?

In most ways, no. The Chinese government continues to deny the Tiananmen Square massacre, framing the thousands of student protesters beaten and killed in the crackdown as "counterrevolutionary" propagandists. In Beijing and the rest of the nation (save Hong Kong), the media is still banned from mentioning the event, and left-wing activists have been monitored and put on house arrest. The government blocked Twitter yet again, preventing opponents from communicating and organizing. 

Perhaps the only publicly visible, successful instance of commemorating the anniversary in mainland China was the cartoon invoking famous Tiananmen imagery, published in the Southern Metropolis Daily -- one of the nation's most provocative newspapers -- earlier this week.  Though authorities promptly removed it from the website, the inflammatory cartoon is reportedly still available in a PDF version of the article, and has already united a massive online community in discussing and honoring the events of June 4, 1989.

In Hong Kong, where demonstrations and limited democracy are tolerated and the press is far less censored, the anniversary was more openly observed.  Today, 150,000 Chinese residents attended candlelight vigils, where they sang, protested, and brandished signs espousing a democratic China.  Student activists at the Chinese University of Hong Kong defied administrators in a thwarted attempt to erect a "Goddess of Democracy" statue near their campus. 

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