Welsh journalist and author Jon Ronson has begun a documentary project called “Esc & Ctrl” on The Guardian’s Comment is Free blog about efforts to control people and influence opinion online. In the introduction to the series, he explains his vision and methods for the series:
Escape and Control: Stories About People Trying To Control The Internet
It can sometimes feel like we’re creating a new kind of democracy online, where we control and regulate each other instead of being told how to behave by those in authority. But there are people out there who don’t like this idea at all. So they want to come up with ways to control it.
Sometimes maybe even secret ways…
The first part of the series was released yesterday and investigates the marc3pax anti-flotilla video hoax that The Electronic Intifada exposed in June. This unsourced video was released at the end of June while the Gaza Freedom Flotilla was trying to leave Greece to sail for Gaza, and the video was an attempt to smear the flotilla organizers as dangerously and even violently homophobic.
Ronson acknowledges EI’s investigation of the hoax video and shows one piece of evidence we found in our own investigation. A promotional video for XL Energy Drink (now removed from YouTube) briefly features the actor playing Marc: Omer Gershon. EI used this video to confirm Omer Gershon’s name and appearance, but Ronson shows this video to his interview subjects.
Ronson speaks to Alex Harrison of the Free Gaza Movement in an attempt to confirm any of the purported facts in the marc3pax propaganda video. When she saw the brief scene of the beating, she skipped back so she could watch it again, and she found it remarkable and troubling. During his interview with Orit Arfa, a former reporter for the Jerusalem Post, she finds the same scene unremarkable and insignificant. She insists that the marc3pax video is actually part of a trend among young Israelis to make internet video satires, and she shares other racist and anti-Palestinian videos, which she describes as “clever” and “thought-provoking.”
Ronson interviewed Omer Gershon recently, but we have to wait a few weeks before it will be published.