Sunday, July 15, 2007

Economist article on radical use of the Internet


The British and international periodical The Economist, in the issue of July 14 – July 20, 2007, has an excellent three-page discussion starting on page 28 (no author given): "Briefing: Internet Jihad: A world wide web of terror: Al-Qaeda’s most famous web propagandist is jailed but the Internet remains its best friend.”

The article does leave us with a concern about the double Janus-face of the pervasiveness of the World Wide Web. While making constructive journalists of ordinary citizens (which some critics see as dangerous amateurism) it also makes an effective stage for propaganda in the old fashioned sense, the kind we learned about in high school social studies, for indoctrinating masses with any totalitarian ideology like fascism or communism (which radical Islam certainly compares to). Accompanying this is the ease for publishing detailed instructions as to all kinds of destructive behaviors and devices. (We don’t need to get into the details here.) There is, with online publication, a tendency to “preach to the choir” and attract persons already predisposed to similar sentiments. So it is with radical Islam, which often seems preoccupied with historic group grievances rather than individual morality (something that Peter Bergen often points out). An example is the work of Taymiyya, who advocated allegiance away from Mongol leaders who had converted to Islam, and that make provide an apt comparison to today’s moderate Muslims. The United States Military Academy at West Point launched a project to map the ideology of jihadist online documents and found a surprising interest in old leaders and grievances.

The article also discusses the research of Avid, the Dutch domestic intelligence service, and Stephen Ulph, of the Jamestown Foundation; they find that the radicals use the Internet as a “turbocharger” to get the “choir” focused on certain grievances rather than on social and political issues and justice in a western sense. The article mentions an online book “Questions and Uncertainties Concerning the Mujahideen and their Operations” which seems to reinforce sweet lemons rationalizations for destructive behaviors. The ebook does not appear on Amazon.

Over all, the effectiveness of Internet propaganda by radical Islam (both in Arabic and European languages) reinforces a trend that many people, especially younger people, do not really follow the news very well (the way history teachers made us follow it in high school) and are not as able to think for themselves as they should.

A related story appeared in The Washington Post on July 5, 2007 by Brian Krebs, about radical groups and phishing scams, link here.

Stopbadware has been informing visitors of this article, here.

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