Saturday, August 13, 2022 -
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On Twitter, often facts don’t matter

When it comes to politics, social media gets a bad rap. Its algorithms have been proven to sow controversy, which inevitably leads to bitter discourse. The smuggest retort is the name of the game.

But there’s also the fun side to social media. As someone who loves history and geography, I gravitate to “This day in history” type of posts and unusual videos or photos from the past.

Some recent gems included a young Teddy Roosevelt pictured in 1877 looking a lot like the X-Men’s Wolverine character as played by Hugh Jackman. Another was a video of a father-and-son chimney sweep during the Great Depression. The kicker: the son was only three years old!

So I was enrapt when I came across a thread documenting spectacular urban growth over short periods of time. For example, Dubai, which in under 20 years transformed from a one-lane desert town to a stunning metropolis. Naturally this brought to mind another radically transformed Middle Eastern city, this one a sand dune a little over a century ago and today an international tech hub and major cultural destination. I’m talking of course about Tel Aviv, and in a reply to the original thread I posted “before” (1908) and “after” (2022) pictures of the Israeli city.

Silly me, I forgot that it’s impossible to post anything about Israel without it immediately becoming a controversy. Moments after posting, I was inundated with the unpleasant “political” side of Twitter, being accused of “Zio” propaganda and “erasing” Palestinian history.

The latter truly stymied me, as it is an incontrovertible fact that Tel Aviv did not exist prior to 1908 and, being a proud Zionist project, was the opposite of an Arab city. What was I erasing?

The evidence for this person’s argument was a picture of Jaffa, “a bustling port city in 1908.” Amazing. Did this user not realize that Tel Aviv and Jaffa were two distinct cities, whose municipalities only merged in 1950? Possibly. But the more likely explanation — based on the continued rantings about “erasure” — is that for this user no success of Zionism can ever be celebrated or even acknowledged. Better to post something factually inaccurate — that Tel Aviv usurped Jaffa — and gin lots of people up against Israel.

Needless to say, I was reminded why I prefer Twitter when I stick to sports, books and trivia.

Shana Goldberg may be reached at shana@ijn.com

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