Taleban Don’t Twitter

THE TWALEBAN ARE COMING?

"Oh no! Not the Twaleban!"

“The Taliban in recent months has developed increasingly sophisticated and nimble propaganda tactics that have alarmed U.S. officials struggling to curb the militant group’s growing influence across Afghanistan. U.S. officials and Afghan analysts say the Taliban has become adept at portraying the West as being on the brink of defeat, at exploiting rifts between Washington and Kabul and at disparaging the administration of President Hamid Karzai as a ‘puppet’ state with little reach outside the capital….

“As the radical Islamist movement steps up conventional grass-roots propaganda efforts and polishes its online presence – going so as far as to provide Facebook and Twitter icons online that allow readers to disseminate press releases – the U.S.-led coalition finds itself on the defensive in the media war…. ‘It’s been getting better,’ a U.S. intelligence official in Kabul said of the Taliban’s media strategy. ‘It’s become increasingly complex. It’s definitively something we worry about’.

“‘They are not fighting a war that involves military victories…Everything they do is to create a perception that the government can’t win’.”

The U.S. military, and its media mouthpieces in the U.S. such as the Washington Post (see this very funny piece from which the quotes above came: “U.S. struggles to counter Taliban propaganda”) have become increasingly post-modern: there is no real reality outside one’s mind, and victory or loss is purely a function of labeling and spin, there are no objective and concrete developments on the ground to which we can all refer. NATO and the U.S. are winning, if you have the correct mindset—and they are losing if you are a victim of Taleban spin.

Indeed, the Taleban’s spin machine is so complex now that they have Twitter and Facebook buttons! And how do we know it’s propaganda? Simple: it repeats the exact same things said about the Karzai administration that have been said by Washington, that it is corrupt and lacks popular support—because the reality is that Karzai’s regime is pristine, and wildly popular across all of…oh wait.

In the meantime, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan website, which is more often than not the target of jamming that prevents it loading, gets virtually no mention in Twitter, ever. Indeed, few seem to know the Taleban have a website (if it’s up), or may doubt that it is really their site. Their YouTube channel is virtually dead. As for their Twitter and Facebook buttons…I am not seeing any.

Clearly, the U.S. and NATO would have had this war in the bag by now, were it not for all those Twitter and Facebook buttons getting in the way. Is there anything to cheer NATO up? Yes, as the story indicates…the U.S. successfully mounted the Aisha hoax that won over…Americans, the target constituency of the Taleban? If it doesn’t make any sense, not to worry: it’s not supposed to.

Where do we find the effects of the Taleban’s slick media campaign? The assumptions, and implications, are to say the least damning. Major General Jim Molan, Australia’s highest ranking officer deployed to Iraq had this to say about “Taleban propaganda” a truly remarkable statement of fantasy motivated by an obvious attempt to smear and diminish:

“I think they’ve been remarkably successful in the western world because they have a very slick propaganda and media operations network and they’re very good at that. So the picture that we see through the media and through commentators is a lot different to what’s actually happening on the ground in Afghanistan.”

In other words, Molan is suggesting that Western media are in the back pocket of the Taleban, their sway being so immense, ubiquitous, and irresistible. Of course, it also suggests that by reporting any of the “bad” news, that Western media are doing the enemy’s propaganda work…just one inch away from calling the Western media the enemy.

As for Twitter, according to this article from the Annenberg School of Communication, “The Unused Weapon In Afghanistan? Twitter” (which with rapid ease labels the Taleban “terrorists”) it doesn’t seem like having a Twitter campaign would do anything for the Taleban. Besides, they are too busy kicking real ass in meatspace to think about polishing up their MySpace profile or creating Facebook groups. Indeed, contrary to the propaganda above, the Annenberg propaganda concludes: “The terrorists don’t seem to [sic] up-to-date on the newest social media technology.” No really? Taleb don’t Twitter?

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About Maximilian C. Forte

I am a professor of anthropology at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. My areas of research and teaching interest are centered in Political Anthropology, with a focus on imperialism, neoliberalism and globalization, nationalism, democracy, and the international political economy of knowledge production.
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One Response to Taleban Don’t Twitter

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Taleban Don’t Twitter | Political Activism and the Web -- Topsy.com

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