July 9, 2013

Egyptian Military vs Muslim Brotherhood: At the Battle of YouTube

7 8 13 Cairo pro Brotherhood screen grab

7 8 13 Cairo pro Military screen grab

Do you remember this pair of photos, of dueling Israeli and Palestinian Twitter pics of children injured by the other’s missile strikes? The point of our post last November was the blurring of physical and virtual war based on raw and “unfiltered” imagery being hurled via social media.

It’s not only (perversely) interesting how social media is evolving as an extension of the battleground (as either digital Tahrirs or Zucottis, or at least ideological Nielson families?) but how everyday web metrics become a defacto measurement of who’s ahead or behind in the contest for hearts and minds. It’s curious, for example, to see the NYT Lede Blog routinely cite number of YouTube views to suggest who came out better or worse in the Brotherhood – Military battle outside the officer’s club of the Republican Guard in Cairo yesterday. And the tally? In two vids that seemed to rise above the rest — one capturing military snipers firing on Islamic protesters, the other a military video propagated on state TV pinpointing shooters firing on the military among the Brotherhood protesters — we have two propaganda argument put forth as to who was the real aggressor. To the extent eyeballs do equate to sympathies and daily battles are fought just as much now in virtual space, the supposition about who did the instigating yesterday can be seen as the military losing the battle of YouTube by nearly 7-1.

Update: Thanks to @RobertMackey and my bad for any confusion. I realize that particular videos are posted over and over on YouTube garnering often dramatically different numbers of views. The post and the point above, however, is based on the curation of these videos by traditional media — in this case, the very established NYT Lede Blog — but how The Lede blog chose to actually use number of views in their post. The two paragraphs specifically read:

One widely shared clip of the clashes, viewed more than 260,000 times on Monday, appeared to show one masked man moving through a group of stone-throwing Islamists to fire a gun.


Among the most viewed clips, watched 500,000 times on Monday, was close-up footage of a man in uniform firing down from a rooftop, as a cameraman stood behind him filming.

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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