Little did I expect a story about cats and dogs– however cute they might be – to receive over 16,000 unique page views and garner thousands of negative comments, even venomous death threats against me, from a slew of angry surfers safeguarded by the relative anonymity of the Internet.
On Monday, November 20, in the midst of the ongoing Operation Pillar of Defense, I sought to cover my normal topics of expertise – environment, energy, agriculture, animal issues, water, infrastructure. The day before, I had written a story on all of the southern agriculture jeopardized by the heat of the rockets in southern Israel, and that Monday morning I received an assignment to take a look at the effects on some of the country’s other residents – its domestic animals.
As is typical when quickly seeking on-the-ground responses for a story, I immediately went to Facebook and Twitter to find some of the people – and their animals – most affected. While I received very helpful responses from people on Facebook, through friends of friends, what followed on Twitter was a deluge of people claiming that I cared more about Israeli puppies than massacred Palestinian babies. As I wrote in a comment about the experience, that could not have been farther from the truth.
While you cannot compare children’s deaths or even wartime anxiety to a canine’s jitters, exploring how Israel’s dogs and cats are faring unveils a slice of life on the home front. As a reporter who regularly covers animal issues, looking at their situation during troublesome times seemed fitting, and still does.
The Tweets and Facebook messages that I received following my initial Tweet and some of my follow-ups was unreal. Oddly enough, the same BBC reporter who had posted a photograph of a wounded Syrian child and labeled it a Palestinian casualty was one of the most vehement trash-talkers behind my back. Someone went on to create a fake Twitter account called “IDFSpokesPet” to parody my story, and much more disturbingly, there were many curses and death wishes along the way.
Some highlights, with the cursing a bit censored:
- “How u can post something like this @ twitter? i hope your kids will be disabled,if u have kids,i wish 4 them a painful die and the same for you”
- “You f***in b***h if I get my hands on you I will f***in cut you up into shish kebab meat . If you ever call the children of Gaza animals again I will put a rocket up your f***ing ass.”
- “You f***in snake just wait the time is very near for you all to be get f***ed and Inshallah we will take the revenge of all palestinians.”
- “@sharonudasin #killurself”
- “Jesus Christ! Check out this utterly f***ing useless specimen of a human being.I hope you fucking rot ya f***ing ya c**t!”
- “you ma’am, are a classical example of a horsefaced b***h”
- “you Must be The B***ARD CHILD OF A Swastika and Star of David”
- “you are right to worry about the animal coz you are a sow yourself so natural to worry about other animal, by the way sow is a female hog, in case a barbaric Jewess like yourself didnt know”
And to think, those were just a few samples…
Among the many media outlets to write about the situation and how it unfolded was my former place of employment as a reporter in New York, The Jewish Week. Theirs was a neutral report of what had occurred, and was the only publication that took the time to interview me before posting a story. One thing I told The Jewish Week that I find particularly important is the internal debate I will have when contemplating crowd-sourcing for stories on Twitter in the future:
Going forward, I may be a little bit more cautious on Twitter because you are opening up yourself to an entire world as your audience, including those who may take your comments differently than you intended.
While this subject of cats and dogs was just skimming the surface of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I have learned that anything that even touches on these issues can potentially create a sounding board for people who want their voices heard — even if their comments are irrelevant to the subject at hand, as occurred in this case.
I still don’t have the answer as to what I will do the next time – I guess it depends on the individual case at hand.
In case you are interested, here is a list of all the press generated by the story that I have come across.
The positive ones backing me:
- The Atlantic Wire: http://www.theatlanticwire.com/global/2012/11/pets-time-gaza/59132/#
- The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/douglas-anthony-cooper/israel-gaza-ceasefire_b_2174445.html?utm_hp_ref=tw
The pretty much neutral mentions:
- The Daily Beast: http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2012/11/pets-under-fire.html
- Reddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/worldpolitics/comments/13gzkt/tough_times_in_israel/
- Philebrity: http://www.philebrity.com/2012/11/19/people-love-stories-about-pets-unless-you-want-to-write-them-during-war/
- Al Jazeera’s The Stream (neutral except for the title): http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/dogs-war-0022408
The negative ones:
- Egyptian newspaper Almasry Alyom: https://twitter.com/eldahshan/status/271725155984744448/photo/1
- French publication L’Orient Le Jour: http://www.lorientlejour.com/category/%C0+La+Une/article/788382/Sur+Twitter%2C+une+journaliste+isra.html
- Lebanese site Now Lebanon: http://www.nowlebanon.com/BlogDetails.aspx?TID=2785&FID=6
- Amman-based Pan-Arabian online news site Al Bawaba: http://www.albawaba.com/editorchoice/israel-gaza-pets-451620
- Palestinian news site Maan: http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=539320
- Swedish publication Aftonbladet: http://www.aftonbladet.se/debatt/article15800431.ab
- Norwegian site Nettavisen: http://www.nettavisen.no/nyheter/article3516259.ece
- London Morning Star reporter’s personal blog: http://mediadarlings.net/2012/11/19/an-atlantic-conversation-about-a-jerusalem-post-reporter/#more-753
This has been a long week on my personal social media front, but luckily, now it seems to be dwindling down to a straggling few haters. Let’s hope it stays that way.