Trolls For FREEDOM
August 13, 2013 10:53 PM   Subscribe

Early this morning (midday in the Middle East), al-Qaeda launched a hashtag on Twitter to solicit advice on "suggestions for the development of jihadi media". JM Berger, writer of the national security/terrorism blog IntelWire, noticed this, and decided that they could use some help. The good word was spread across the national security and terrorism Twitterspace, and they successfully hijacked the hashtag from al-Qaeda.

If you want to join in, the hashtag is still running here.
posted by Punkey (31 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Yay, because nothing helps de-escalate conflict and encourages finding common ground like mockery and arrogance.

Okay, I appreciate that they're the 'enemy' and all that, but if you want to change minds then I don't see this as the way to do it.
posted by YAMWAK at 11:11 PM on August 13, 2013 [4 favorites]

It speaks volumes about al-Queda that anyone in the organization thought using Twitter was a good idea. IF it really was someone within the 'organization' (and with all we've learned over the years, sarcasm quotes certainly apply), that person has probably gotten a severe scolding and beheading.

Still, after this, how can we even continue to think of al-Queda as a THREAT and not a JOKE?
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:21 PM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

al-Qaeda actually operates fairly openly on Twitter. Berger recently posted on Twitter's suggested follows section helpfully advising him on other jihadis to follow.
posted by Punkey at 11:25 PM on August 13, 2013

"launched a hashtag" "hijacked the hashtag" "the hashtag is still running"

what the hell? did i forget to take my brain medicine?
posted by mulligan at 11:25 PM on August 13, 2013 [12 favorites]

Oooh they hijaced their hashtag! I bet those nasty terrorists are squatting in their caves as we speak, pulling their beards and wailing in frustration. Meanwhile, internet twitto-fighters all over the country are already receiving a personal message of thanks from the president, as well a discreet offer to officially join the government ultra-secret elite twitter forces.
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:28 PM on August 13, 2013 [16 favorites]

It speaks volumes about al-Queda that anyone in the organization thought using Twitter was a good idea.

I'm not clear on why it isn't? They actually thrive on confrontation, so the rest of the world insulting them means nothing. Their entire world view is based on the idea that the modern world is sick, diseased and corrrupt. They aren't trying to convince regular people to join their cause, they're trying to connect with the few people that are true believers, who will read all of the scorn and hatred heaped on them and only become more motivated.
posted by empath at 11:30 PM on August 13, 2013 [21 favorites]

al-Qaeda actually operates fairly openly on Twitter

If that's true, maybe it's why the NSA hasn't included Twitter on that A-List for PRISM Data Collection slide. Why bother the company when it's all out there?
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:33 PM on August 13, 2013

oneswellfoop, certainly Twitter is an excellent way to broadcast to the world and reach the 'public' you want to recruit from.

As for 'organization' you may want to substitute the word 'movement' -- it's a lot looser and less hierarchical than generally portrayed. There are two good films, The Baader-Meinhof Complex and Carlos {the Jackal} that are pretty good historical depictions of how terrorist organizations operate. This is a great way to reach the disaffected. It's a hearts-and-minds operation.

I don't think this really qualifies as keyboard warrior culture (where somebody who would never put their own life on the line is urging our leadership to put many others lives on the line) -- it's more on the People of Walmart end of things. If they're out there in public, why shouldn't they be mocked? Somebody's got to pay attention to them.

But really, Dr Dracator, the takeaway here is that al Qaeda is losing the propaganda war pretty badly, and I think we can all agree that doing that without bloodshed is a net good.
posted by dhartung at 11:41 PM on August 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

It's so absolutely adorable when people in the so-called "intelligence community" tell us things and expect us to believe it isn't all lies. What's next, tweets from Santa Claus' official Twitter account announcing that he is hard at work on toys for all the good little Democracy-loving boys and girls?
posted by koeselitz at 11:59 PM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

oneswellfoop: “It speaks volumes about al-Queda that anyone in the organization thought using Twitter was a good idea.”
Sure is a clever way to gather the twitter handles and perhaps locations of your enemies though.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:14 AM on August 14, 2013

Well, the snarky ones anyway.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:15 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

But really, Dr Dracator, the takeaway here is that al Qaeda is losing the propaganda war pretty badly.

I'm pretty sure that all the extremist muslims who are living in dictatorial regimes backed by the US government and under constant threat of us drone strikes will finally see the error of their ways after they see the sick burn that XoXlilmisssunshineXoX posted on twitter.
posted by empath at 12:34 AM on August 14, 2013 [8 favorites]

Yeah, uh the way I understand it 'Al-Qaeda' is composed of many different groups. If it was one consistent group with changing heads, it'd be the headline for months that we've been funding them (along with UK and France) in Syria and elsewhere (re-read many different groups).

So no, don't think we can call them a joke, and it seems like some of them are working for us.
posted by whorl at 12:36 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Their entire world view is based on the idea that the modern world is sick, diseased and corrrupt.

Whom do you mean by "their"? That pronoun would seem to fit us as much as them.
posted by three blind mice at 12:36 AM on August 14, 2013

Just wait till they learn about IRC!
posted by jeffburdges at 12:37 AM on August 14, 2013

Still, after this, how can we even continue to think of al-Queda as a THREAT and not a JOKE?
BAGHDAD/MOSUL, Iraq -- Hundreds of convicts, including senior members of al Qaeda, broke out of Iraq's Abu Ghraib jail as comrades launched a military-style assault to free them, authorities said on Monday.

The deadly raid on the high-security jail happened as Sunni Muslim militants are re-gaining momentum in their insurgency against the Shiite-led government that came to power after the U.S. invasion to oust Saddam Hussein.

Suicide bombers drove cars packed with explosives to the gates of the prison on the outskirts of Baghdad on Sunday night and blasted their way into the compound, while gunmen attacked guards with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.
Other militants took up positions near the main road, fighting off security reinforcements sent from Baghdad as several militants wearing suicide vests entered the prison on foot to help free the inmates.
"The number of escaped inmates has reached 500, most of them were convicted senior members of al Qaeda and had received death sentences," Hakim Al-Zamili, a senior member of the security and defense committee in parliament, told Reuters.
That was less than a month ago. This next article is from April 18th, 2011:
The files show that up to $6.3 million US was funnelled to the Movement for Justice and Development, a London-based dissident organization that operates the Barada TV satellite channel, which broadcasts anti-government news into Syria. Another $6 million went to support a variety of initiatives, including training for journalists and activists, between 2006 and 2010.

Asked point-blank by reporters whether the United States is funding Syrian opposition groups, State Department spokesman Mark Toner told a news conference Monday, "We are — we're working with a variety of civil society actors in Syria with the goal here of strengthening freedom of expression."

Then pressed to specify whether the U.S. provides satellite bandwidth for Barada TV's broadcasts, Toner said: "I'd have to get details of what exactly technical assistance we're providing them."

Toner insisted the financing is not aimed at overthrowing Assad's rule. "We are not working to undermine that government."

However, an April 2009 diplomatic cable from the U.S. mission in Damascus recognizes the risky optics of the funding.

"Some programs may be perceived, were they made public, as an attempt to undermine the Assad regime.… The Syrian Arab Republic government would undoubtedly view any U.S. funds going to illegal political groups as tantamount to supporting regime change."
In short, there are a bunch of idiots (surprise!) in the US State Department who think that "winning" a proxy war with Iran by arming guerrilla groups to destabilize Syria -- in the fashion of our death squads in Central America -- is the best way to win the proxy war with Iran, which is important because, well, you'd have to ask some idiot at the State Department. Ironically, it may be because the secular counterbalance to their political influence was Saddam Hussein's Iraq, which was reviled by al Qaeda for -- and I'm not kidding -- having secular western values, like education for women and providing some basic rights for non-Muslims in near the Holy Land.

The Iraq War, which stands out as the world's most inept foreign policy catastrophe since Napoleon attempted to follow the Russians into their homeland, continues to take its toll. Not only has it added 5 trillion in debt to our national balance sheet -- a score bin Laden could barely have dreamed of -- but it has thrown off the balance of power in the region, and America's response has amazingly become even more inept as time marches on. Our current policy in Syria -- and again, I'm not kidding -- is to use the CIA, MI6, and their Turkish counterparts to arm the "rebels" in Syria, who are unfortunately the same guys who have been training in real combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan by killing American soldiers and their unwilling trainees. (Iraq for the first time, and I imagine some senior al Qaeda military members are chuckling after receiving a second round of training from the CIA if they were around Afghanistan back in the 80s.) Then, at some point after all of the assassinations, beheadings, and other unspeakable acts of depravity not being covered by US media committed by the Free Syrian Army -- or terrorists as we call them when they are on the Iraqi side of the border -- the United States will figure out a way to use its supple and nuanced understanding of middle eastern politics to solve that problem with another wave of violence.

You may recall the claim from the leadership in Afghanistan in our proxy war with Russia: the Afghani government was trying to defend itself from a bunch of fanatical religious militants who were bent on destroying them as punishment for their secular ways, and somehow these militants were getting a hold of very good intelligence, weapons, and training.

Anyway, al Qaeda is on the brink of practically running Iraq, which is probably a step up from operating under the Taliban, which hasn't yet retaken Kabul. The reason there is now serious talk of a settlement on the Palestine issue, in my opinion at least, is that our barbarous enemies of our enemies are still losing to Hezbollah, which is off of a fresh victory over Israeli invasion in 2006. The only way we could possibly topple Assad at this point is to push for a full scale invasion, but no one is going to take that bait after Iraq, regardless of how embarrassing it is and how desperately the US pleas for it. Israel has again tried to poison the process by approving settlements the day they release Palestinian prisoners, but that's probably not a surprise to anyone.

Just keep in mind whenever any agent of the State Department utters the phrase "regime change" that no person or organization is too evil to be used for our purposes, and everyone in our government will be shocked -- just shocked -- to find out they were committing unspeakable acts of depravity using American-arranged weapons and intelligence.

At this point, the only credibility the US Government has on the international scene is the ability of our checks to cash and our military apparatus to function. As soon as those two facets of our empire weaken enough, a full scale war may erupt between Shia and Sunni from Lebanon to Iran to Egypt to Saudi Arabia, and no one knows what the consequences of that will be.

But I am comforted by the words of our illustrious former President: "Removing Saddam Hussein was the right decision early in my presidency, it is the right decision now, and it will be the right decision ever." I hope those words are engraved over the entrance to the library full of things he and his administration didn't know how to read, where they can remain unread by new inductees to the State Department.

I would honestly love to know just what the State Department and Pentagon do to come up with these policies. I would ask the constitutional scholar sitting in the White House, but I believe he's too busy ordering assassinations without trial in between lecturing Iran and Syria about how to run a democracy founded upon the rule of law and justice.
posted by deanklear at 12:39 AM on August 14, 2013 [34 favorites]

Whom do you mean by "their"? That pronoun would seem to fit us as much as them.

It's pretty consistent in Al Queada's writing and speeches, as well as the whole intellectual history of radical islam since Qutb.
posted by empath at 12:44 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

How on earth do you "hijack" a hashtag when anyone on Twitter can use it freely?
posted by armage at 1:13 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

You can't. They probably just made it 'trend' if anything.
posted by panaceanot at 2:20 AM on August 14, 2013

How on earth do you "hijack" a hashtag when anyone on Twitter can use it freely?

Especially given how easy it is for your brain to filter out anything in English / not written in arabic script.
posted by Meatbomb at 2:41 AM on August 14, 2013

Sorry, the entire point of that rant is that al Qaeda is no joke, but that's largely due to our collective policy response to terrorism, and not the capability of the organization itself. I had some hope that a change in administrations would help things improve, but now that we are training al Qaeda in Syria while watching them absorb power in Iraq to fight Iran, my hope for any sensible version of American foreign policy has gone from "maybe" to "not a chance in hell."

I am also very serious about wanting to know what the logic of the Pentagon and State Department is. Right now there's a good chance that a government that is very friendly to al Qaeda will be established in Iraq. While having a state backed by Gulf-allied religious lunatics may be comfortable for the theocracies in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, etc., I don't think the American people want to see the same individuals who funded and participated in 9/11 and other forms of terrorism shaking hands with diplomats at the UN under an Iraqi flag. In fact, it seems like the exact opposite of the supposed goal in the first place...

So, if anyone has read policy documents explaining this curious behavior, please pass it along. The current situation is so stupefyingly idiotic that I cannot conceive of a motive beyond breaking the crescent of Shia state power from Iran to Lebanon. Who knows, maybe there's a little Kissinger clone running around, talking up a domino theory of independent Shia governments.
posted by deanklear at 2:50 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

And an 'arab spring' style thing occurring in Pakistan? Not good.
posted by panaceanot at 3:35 AM on August 14, 2013

>national security/terrorism

Which side are they on?
posted by scruss at 4:46 AM on August 14, 2013

How about potluck Fridays where everybody brings in their own improvised explosives and a fruit drink or dessert #makejihadfun
posted by Renoroc at 5:03 AM on August 14, 2013

How on earth do you "hijack" a hashtag when anyone on Twitter can use it freely?

It's about signal-to-noise ratio. The point of a hashtag is to create a searchable "channel" of conversation. If that channel is suddenly filled with movie recommendations and recipes from The Chew, then it's useless. Your bits of relevant conversation might as well be scattered across the whole of Twitter.

What's amusing to me is that Berger understands this, yet still he's one of those people whose Twitter feed is complete hash (no pun intended).
posted by cribcage at 6:05 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wait, you mean I can help fight the War on Terror from the comfort of my couch, simply by tweeting? Sign me up!
posted by Nelson at 7:58 AM on August 14, 2013

Punkey: "they successfully hijacked the hashtag from al-Qaeda."

Did they subsequently crash it into some caves in Afghanistan?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:58 AM on August 14, 2013

My previous comment:

...I cannot conceive of a motive beyond breaking the crescent of Shia state power from Iran to Lebanon...

I re-read the Guardian article and it contains this quote:
The conflict pitted Sunni rebels against government forces and Alawites, backed by Iran, also patrons of Iraq's Shia leadership. Weapons flowed to the rebels from the Iraqi tribes – sold for a comfortable profit – while the Iraqi Shia prime minister toed the Iranian line and lent his support to the Syrian regime. With both sides using the same sectarian rhetoric, it was easy to join the dots between the two conflicts.

Abu Saleh found himself fighting his old war in a new field. He lent a hand to the novice Syrian rebels and joined the fight, commanding a unit of his own operating in the city of Aleppo and the countryside north of it.

"We taught them how to cook phosphate and make IEDs. Our struggle here is the same is in Syria. If Syria falls, we are liberated; if we are liberated, Syria will be liberated. We have the same battle with Iran – by defeating them we break the Shia crescent of Iran, Syria and Lebanon."
The Gulf figures asked for more time and a second meeting was held in Amman, this time attended by a higher-ranking group of officials from the both sides. The answer was yes: the "charities" would offer support as long as the Iraqi Sunnis were united and used their weapons only after Iraqi government units used force against them. Another Sunni leader confirmed to the Guardian that the Amman meetings had taken place.

"There is a new plan, a grand plan not like the last time when we worked individually," another commander told me. "This time we are organised. We have co-ordinated with countries like Qatar and Saudi and Jordan. We are organising, training and equipping ourselves but we will start peacefully until the right moment arrives. We won't be making the same mistakes. Baghdad will be destroyed this time."
Not only is the CIA handing over weapons to al Qaeda in Syria, but we appear to be turning a blind eye while our Gulf Allies equip and train a massive al Qaeda jihadi army to fight Iraq and Iran.

I almost can't believe it. Almost.
posted by deanklear at 11:15 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

YAMWAK: "encourages finding common ground"

Finding common ground with Al-Qaeda? Who would want to do that?
posted by gertzedek at 11:17 AM on August 14, 2013


Re: Why?
I've been looking for the answer here. Most reasoned and decently resourced article I could find so far is here, which states:

Although Anglo-American imperialism, by no means, began on September 11, 2001, overt acts of aggression, destabilization, and invasion have increased both in frequency and intensity since that time. Ever since 9/11, however, the people of the Western world and the American public in particular have been provided with “reasons” for these military adventures and, thanks to the alternative media and a small minority of courageous researchers, activists, etc., they have also been provided with the “real” reasons.

Taking several of the targets into consideration, these reasons include vast oil reserves, oil pipelines,[1] opium fields, strategic positioning, no-bid contracts for the defense industry and military-industrial complex, and mineral deposits.

In the proper context of the specific nations being discussed, each and every one of the above-listed justifications are both valid and accurate.

Still, in the context of Syria, it is important to understand the impetus of invasion specific to the imperialist quest against the Middle Eastern nation.

After this the article continues in depth on one more reason: currency control and the Central Bank of Syria.
posted by whorl at 1:09 PM on August 14, 2013

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