Do al-Qaeda Message Boards Have Trolls?
Today's Times opinion section features an op-ed by Ronen Bergman, an Israeli newspaper correspondent who tracks the mood of jihadists by monitoring their internet message boards. This is important intelligence work! Apparently they're all having debates about suicide bombing and should they maybe not be martyring themselves quite so often, because suicide itself is not considered a good thing. All interesting stuff! But reading excerpts from discussions on Ekhlaas and Firdaws, "two main Web platforms for discussing the technical aspects of jihad," just got us thinking: who moderates these forums? And why is their level of discourse so much calmer and smarter than Western blog comments?
"Those overpowering Satan's seduction are few, and we sacrifice those few since they may win us Paradise," read a posting on both sites this summer on the subject of "vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices." It continued: "Yet, keeping them alive is beneficial for us, since every one of them is tantamount to an entire people. So we must find a way to save those lives and harness that zeal." The post led to a vast and heated online discussion among extremists, illustrating the new complexity of the topic. As the jihadists on these sites move from discussing ideology to the practical aspects, it becomes clear that their biggest technological challenge will be moving on from the radio-wave technology that has proved highly successful in remotely setting off homemade bombs against military convoys in Iraq to the more delicate task of getting the explosive to its target and then detonating it without being exposed.
See, Western blog commenters would move from discussing ideology to discussing, like how other commenters are racist Rethuglicans and how much they love Tyra and how Ekhlaas sucks so much compared to Firdaws recently, don't you think? The new guy sucks, bring back Abu Abdullah al-Qurashi! Sure, Al7orya doesn't sound as funny as 4Chan, and they're debating how best to blow people like us up, but why are they all so much more polite about it? Living to Bomb Another Day [NYT]