A friend of mine is a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Academy members are preeminent filmmakers, actors, directors, musicians and visual effects artists. In 2013, the academy extended an invitation to 276 individuals to join their ranks, which now number more than 6,000. My friend is a multi-talent who is currently working on his next project but, as a member of the academy, he assumes a yearly duty. A package is delivered to his door. It contains the films, musical scores and screenplays that are being considered for an Oscar. He sets to work and he casts his vote.
Umar Media received an award too, given by an unknown entity. But there is little doubt. They received the ‘Sandal Award’. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) launched their official website. A day before the launch, the web master sent out press releases. One landed in the e-mail box for the Long War Journal. Naturally, the anti-jihad flies were on top of that pile of excrement rather quickly. The site was taken down almost immediately. From the look of the initial offering, it is merely more of the same: war porn videos, propaganda blather, the usual nastiness. It has the same formatting as the Voice of Jihad site used by the Afghan Taliban. Almost all jihad portals have the same weary look.
Years ago, when I began to monitor jihad portals, I watched a private file-sharing site grow from a few videos to approximately 100 unimaginative choices. I tracked themes, characters, messages and recruitment techniques. The discipline of viewing such things creates a distinct sense of malaise. I would rather spend a day surrounded by a dozen three-year-old boys than to watch two jihad recruitment videos in a row. But, in the end, I sent the file upstream to Steven Emerson and asked that the site be scrubbed. Watching a man being beheaded with a dull knife was a bit too much for my tender conscience.
However, the jihad industry has evolved over recent months. On the one hand, so many of the sites now appear to be under new ownership. They exist as domains that have been acquired by intelligence agencies and run as fishing holes for gullible guppies of jihad. The real players, the sharks, have fled underground or are cellmates. These sites are now run like clearinghouses for cell phone video footage and contain very little real news of importance. They function as graphic image archives with a hook.
The real action is happening on Facebook. Individuals are creating accounts and using them as a new means of informal file-sharing. So the location of one account can allow for leap-frogging activities through multiple Facebook accounts, many of which contain the same videos, images and message blurbs from active participants. In looking at the Facebook ‘likes’ for a credible media organisation in Pakistan, I was startled to see an image of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev staring out at me. Going to the site, which was in Urdu, opened the door to other like-minded sites. I contacted the editor. The site was run by a group of armed Sunnis who are intent on establishing the Caliphate in Pakistan. The editor hastily rid himself of the Facebook owner. Good for him. Credible journalism should not allow discredited ‘journalists’ to shadow their success.
Beyond Facebook there is a distinct increase in Twitter activity. I would liken the monitoring of jihadi tweets to be similar to what was first described by Hippolytus de Marsiliis. Having to monitor this type of Tweet all day long would be worse than being restrained and having water slowly dripped onto the forehead. But yes, a steady rain of jihadi Tweets received by a teenage boy in New York City might indeed produce insanity.
It is happy news that Umar Media received the Sandal Award. Too frequent consumption of the scraps from these garbage pails can turn viewers into dogs. I maintain the posture that all sites should be scrubbed. However, due to fleeting curiosity, I took a few minutes to portal jump a bit through Russian language jihad sites. Omitting a ‘viewers choice’ of Kavkaz Centre (now so boring that anti-jihad sites have to put spin on the news), I chose to trot over to a different site maintained for Chechens and worked my way from Chechnya to Uzbekistan. Theory-based practice was the morsel of the day with regard to mounting acts of distress against Russian citizens. The promotion of ‘single jihad’ is what I have always termed as ‘single mission’ jihad. Because, in the truest sense, it is training for one mission only. Very little training is really needed. Strap on a vest, walk into a crowd, activate the blast, let others locate your severed head. But the author opines that if one-tenth of one percent of Muslims in Russia clatter about and engage single jihad, the Russia of tomorrow will look much different. He omits to mention that the landscape will resemble lunar craters.
Over in Uzbekistan there is also rumination about percentages of Muslims required to bring violent political change. I think these sites are run by individuals with a touch of Asperger Syndrome. Not only do I note a fascination with numbers and patterns, but the linguistic and cognitive skills remain intact, whilst there are distinct deficits in understanding how social interactions work. There is also long-winded fascination with topics, which most of us conceptualise in two sentences. Wanna kill someone? Do not do it!
Apparently, there is a huge obstacle to the aspirations of Muslims in Uzbekistan. It seems that the individual who is really causing terror in the land is a nearby Jewish rabbi who tends to his little flock of Jews. The problem seems to be: “first remove the old Jew”. Ethnicity is not the plague of humanity. Stupidity is our primary folly. So ends my dipping into the garbage pail. My own sandalis offered up in disgust.
The writer is a freelance journalist and author of the novel Arsenal. She can be reached at email@example.com