Information Warfare: The Internet Mob Versus the Mass Media

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February18, 2007: One thing about the Internet is that the increase in speed by which information is spread across the globe. This can cut both ways. Not only can the American debates be spread across the globe, where certain statements can give al Qaeda and its allies encouragement. News of events, as well as al Qaeda's statements, can make its way around the world as well. This means that it is far more possible to get a wider picture of what is going on by yourself, rather relying on what the than the mainstream media provides in thirty-minute newscasts or on the front page of a newspaper.

The media has increasingly become a battlefield in the war on terror. In the past two months, the Iraqi hostiles have increased their efforts to shoot down helicopters. Such attacks, which can kill as many as a dozen Americans in a single attack, are intended to make a big media splash. The enemy has sought to generate media coverage in order to weaken the will of the American people. This is what happened with the crashed helicopters in Somalia after the 1993 firefight. The media coverage of two shot-down Blackhawk helicopters, and dead American troops being dragged through Somalian streets, was what forced the pullout. In reality, the American troops had won a tactical victory in the 18-hour firefight.

One recent example of what has led to this frustration with the media coverage from Iraq is the latest tape from Ayman al Zawahiri, the number two man in al Qaeda. Zawahiri's tape not only carried personal shots at President Bush, it also had comments directed towards the Democrats, reminding them of their opposition to American efforts in Iraq. The fact that Zawahiri is calling out the Democrats does indicate a sense of nervousness about the American " surge" (21,000 additional troops in Iraq) and changes in the rules of engagement. At the same time, the media seems to be glossing over this fact.

The tape by Zawahiri leads to another question: Are the changes in the rules of engagement and the deployment of additional troops working? Again, reports ignored by the mainstream media can answer the question. Moqtada al Sadr. and senior elements of his Mahdi militia, have apparently fled to Iran to avoid capture or being killed. Also largely ignored is the fact that many people in Baghdad have welcomed the surge. One would think that much of this would be relevant to the recent debate over the non-binding resolution in Congress. But it doesn't appear, and is ignored, as many other signs of progress have been over the nearly four years since the start of the war.

The other event filtering through the blogosphere are reports of insurgents using Iranian provided weapons, including SA-14 missiles. The briefing by military personnel in Iraq covering some of this Iranian equipment was ignored by many media outlets, as was the capture of Iranian Quds Force personnel aiding Iraqi terrorists against the United States. Recently, Austrian sniper rifles, that Iranian police acquired to combat drug trafficking, have been recovered from terrorists in Iraq. Again, the media seems to be either brushing this off, or actually siding with the Iranians (one New York Times editorial claimed Iran was being bullied).

Much of this has led to frustration building among the blogosphere. Already, one military blogger is attempting to put together a "body count" of dead insurgents and terrorists. This would try to give people a sense of making progress in Iraq. At the same time, as the Internet is spreading news about the debate and efforts in Congress to micromanage the war. - Harold C. Hutchison (haroldc.hutchison@gmail.com)

 


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