Instagram is political.

It’s absolutely fascinating how volatile political issues are via social media. If you don’t believe that social media doesn’t have clout, that it doesn’t hold any kind of sway or influence or individuals, groups, nations, you need to take a closer look.

The most recent is a controversial image that popped up on Instagram just recently. An Israeli soldier posted an image of the back of a Palestinian boy’s head through the scope of a rifle (presumably his). The soldier claims that it was not a photograph taken by him, but rather an image that he had found and posted.

This photo may or may not be real. But what context does it show?

This isn’t the first time soldiers (Israeli, US, or others) have been in hot water for using their social media accounts inappropriately. There have been many instances of soldiers being disciplined, imprisoned, even discharged for the contents of their social media pages. Why does the military take it so seriously?

Realize that military service members are direct representatives of the government that deploys them. If soldiers are taking pictures of themselves tea-bagging prisoners of war, people believe the government condones that behavior. It doesn’t matter if the picture was taken by an 18 year-old kid fresh out of high school. And you better believe that other governments are looking for this kind of lewd behavior to use in propaganda against foreign occupancy (or other agendas).

What makes Instagram so powerful is that a picture is really worth a thousand words. Probably more. Capturing that moment in time, whatever the context may be, goes much farther than words ever can. War photographers are adept at seizing those critical moments, and programs like Instagram make any world event that much more visible. For better or worse, it shows how these events are perceived from those who are experiencing it, often underscoring how they themselves feel about it.

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