US unleashes six bloggers in assault on Islamist propaganda
And if that doesn't work, Second Life may also be enlisted
The US government is turning to blogs and possibly to the virtual wasteland known as Second Life to step up its faltering information war against Islamist extremists. But critics remain unimpressed, saying the measures aren't enough to counter a massive internet campaign that spreads pro-terrorist messages to people in Islamic countries.
On Thursday, Duncan MacInnes, of the State Department's bureau of international information programs, told a congressional subcommittee that government spinmeisters are on the case. In the last year, they've launched a digital outreach team, which employs Arabic speakers to challenge anti-American misrepresentations on influential Arabic-language blogs and other places in cyberspace.
"We are currently in the process of expanding the original team of two Arabic bloggers to six, while also adding one Urdu and two Farsi (Persian) linguists," MacInnes said in prepared remarks (PDF here) submitted to the House Armed Services Committee's panel of terrorism. "We are also exploring how we can use the applicability of our mission of new cyber-technologies such as Second Life and cell phone games to further advance our mission."
He said an Arabic website used to counter violent extremism attracts more than 200,000 visitors per month from countries including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco. A separate Persian site, he said, "has been highly successful," averaging 42,000 users per week.
Critics include US Representative and chair of the terrorism subcommittee Adam Smith, who is less than impressed with the State Department's tepid response to the extremist propaganda.
"My sense after the hearing remains that we are not adequately resourcing our online activities, both in terms of funding and in terms of giving the people on the front lines authority to act outside of a lengthy bureaucratic review process," he wrote in this comment on Wired News. "We're also not doing enough to reach out to online communities and bloggers based here in the US to get the benefit of their expertise."
Smith was largely echoing the sentiments of Wired News writer Noah Shachtman, who previewed the hearing.
"Ummmm.... Two bloggers, and 200,000 visitors - that's kind of small potatoes, right?" Shachtman wrote. Grass roots efforts to seed pro-US sentiments would be more successful if the 180,000 American troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan were encouraged to blog about their experiences, he argued.
Alas, US army regulations require all soldiers to get a supervisor's approval before posting information in a public forum. ®
Being an Iraqi, I applaud your comment. Very true. When my country's past, present and future are destroyed for ever, how would a blogger or 100 of them help me?. What good they could tell me of America the Beast, when I am in its belly?
Six? or sixteen? or more
"A ferocious beast with teeth six...sorry, sixTEEN inches long!"
(paraphrasing a "Heavy Metal" movie quote)
"It's over Six THOOOUUUSSAAANNNNNND!"
(b@stardized Dragonball quote)
10 REM insert coat/hat thingy here
Terrorist sympathizers, "guerilla" advertisers, and Chinese info warriors have been doing this for a couple of years now. Just hire one of those companies out of San Francisco, New York, etc. that one of the "Penny Arcade" authors interviewed for, or that ran the Sony PSP "street artist" advertising campaign (or the fake terrorist hoax created with ATHF characters in Boston). It's about time supporters of Western ideals got on the ball and played to level the field.
You try to tell me that an individual who can afford almost $1BN US for a private "Flying Palace" Airbus can't and won't spring a few million to buy the most effective propaganda and psychologically advanced "advertising" to promote his pet religious control scheme? You believe the Chinese wouldn't spent ten mil here and there to undermine media and online venues if it can be more effective than the two or three missiles the money would buy traditionally?
Or are some of you so deluded you believe everyone else would be so morally advanced as to *not* resort to this sort of subversion?
Makes me wonder how many slashdot/El Reg posters are already part of this "hearts and minds" assault? Using your artificially amplified numbers to establish groupthink and essentially enforce thought and opinion control...