Citation

Manufacturing Democracy: Israeli Pinkwashing in the United States and the Propaganda of Public Relations

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Abstract:

In 2009 a billboard appeared in San Francisco that read: "Visit Israel: Different from the Israel in the News." Shortly thereafter, a series of advertisements in the same style appeared in the city's notoriously gay-friendly neighborhoods of the Castro and the Mission. The ads read: "Out in Israel: LGBT Cultural Festival." These campaigns are examples of what progressive queer activists refer to as pinkwashing, or the use of gay subjects to whitewash the state's illegal occupation of Palestine and deadly use of force against Palestinian civilians and international human rights activists. Through Jasbir Puar's conception of homonationalism, this paper examines how such public relations campaigns delineate Israel as a "queer-friendly" democracy while simultaneously justifying the state's violence as for the protection of said democracy.

This paper uses contemporary pro-Israel public relations campaigns to illustrate the 20th century shift in rhetoric that transformed classical methods of propaganda and the persuasion of public opinion into the concept of public relations. As the US government began to distance American techniques of political persuasion form those of Soviet Russia through the language of consumer capitalism, the term "public relations" came to signify a "kinder, gentler" form of political influence. This benevolent view of public relations was based on the idea that neoliberal capitalism affords the possibility of choice through competitive messaging, as opposed to a singular, state sponsored message under communism or fascism. This shift in language served to reinforce the postwar ideological relationship between neoliberal capitalism and democracy, and public relations has thus been viewed as both a marker and an enabler of liberal democracy based on this ideological and linguistic conflation.

In the aftermath of Israel's public relations mishandlings of the 2009 Gaza War and the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, Israel has come under increased international criticism for its military's excessive and deadly use of force against civilians. As the above named incidents unfolded in the US media alongside the domestic debate over gay marriage, pro-Israel public relations campaigns capitalized on the turning point in the US culture war over gay rights. In San Francisco in particular, a pro-Israel public relations firm known as BlueStarPR began to produce public relations campaigns that target Israel's "toughest critics – young liberals in North America," as stated on their website. The firm not only specializes in producing "liberal" public relations materials, but it also acted as co-sponsor for the 2010 Out in Israel film festival which showcased gay-themed Israeli films and a panel discussion titled "Queer Perspectives on Zionism." Using BlueStarPR as an example, this paper analyzes how the state of Israel and private special interest groups use gay subjects to mask questionable political practices, bolster Israel's credibility as a (neo)liberal democracy, and sway US public opinion in favor of Israel. What are the political consequences when the language of neoliberalism is used to conflate the practice of public relations with the concept of democracy? What is at stake when public relations practices are used to prove a state's democracy and simultaneously cover up undemocratic practices?
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Name: American Studies Association Annual Meeting
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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p509259_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Cable, Umayyah. "Manufacturing Democracy: Israeli Pinkwashing in the United States and the Propaganda of Public Relations" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hilton Baltimore, Baltimore, MD, <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p509259_index.html>

APA Citation:

Cable, U. "Manufacturing Democracy: Israeli Pinkwashing in the United States and the Propaganda of Public Relations" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hilton Baltimore, Baltimore, MD <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p509259_index.html

Publication Type: Internal Paper
Abstract: In 2009 a billboard appeared in San Francisco that read: "Visit Israel: Different from the Israel in the News." Shortly thereafter, a series of advertisements in the same style appeared in the city's notoriously gay-friendly neighborhoods of the Castro and the Mission. The ads read: "Out in Israel: LGBT Cultural Festival." These campaigns are examples of what progressive queer activists refer to as pinkwashing, or the use of gay subjects to whitewash the state's illegal occupation of Palestine and deadly use of force against Palestinian civilians and international human rights activists. Through Jasbir Puar's conception of homonationalism, this paper examines how such public relations campaigns delineate Israel as a "queer-friendly" democracy while simultaneously justifying the state's violence as for the protection of said democracy.

This paper uses contemporary pro-Israel public relations campaigns to illustrate the 20th century shift in rhetoric that transformed classical methods of propaganda and the persuasion of public opinion into the concept of public relations. As the US government began to distance American techniques of political persuasion form those of Soviet Russia through the language of consumer capitalism, the term "public relations" came to signify a "kinder, gentler" form of political influence. This benevolent view of public relations was based on the idea that neoliberal capitalism affords the possibility of choice through competitive messaging, as opposed to a singular, state sponsored message under communism or fascism. This shift in language served to reinforce the postwar ideological relationship between neoliberal capitalism and democracy, and public relations has thus been viewed as both a marker and an enabler of liberal democracy based on this ideological and linguistic conflation.

In the aftermath of Israel's public relations mishandlings of the 2009 Gaza War and the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, Israel has come under increased international criticism for its military's excessive and deadly use of force against civilians. As the above named incidents unfolded in the US media alongside the domestic debate over gay marriage, pro-Israel public relations campaigns capitalized on the turning point in the US culture war over gay rights. In San Francisco in particular, a pro-Israel public relations firm known as BlueStarPR began to produce public relations campaigns that target Israel's "toughest critics – young liberals in North America," as stated on their website. The firm not only specializes in producing "liberal" public relations materials, but it also acted as co-sponsor for the 2010 Out in Israel film festival which showcased gay-themed Israeli films and a panel discussion titled "Queer Perspectives on Zionism." Using BlueStarPR as an example, this paper analyzes how the state of Israel and private special interest groups use gay subjects to mask questionable political practices, bolster Israel's credibility as a (neo)liberal democracy, and sway US public opinion in favor of Israel. What are the political consequences when the language of neoliberalism is used to conflate the practice of public relations with the concept of democracy? What is at stake when public relations practices are used to prove a state's democracy and simultaneously cover up undemocratic practices?


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