Information Warfare: Money, Media and the Moslem World

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February 27, 2006: The war on terror has led to some subtle tactics that are not much noticed. For example, in the Islamic world, media is seen as a tool, not an independent institution dedicated to finding and reporting the truth. Most news media (print and electronic) in the Islamic world cannot survive on advertising revenue. There just isn't enough of it. But there are plenty of "patrons" available to pay for favorable coverage, or a good dig at a rival. In other words, you pay the editors to get your message into circulation. The CIA has been aware of this since World War II, and has played game quietly ever since then. On a slow news day, American media will jump on this and score some points over how un-American it all is. Meanwhile, the media war overseas goes on as it always has.

Since September 11, 2001, American cash has been increasingly deployed to use Islamic media to hurt al Qaeda, and Islamic terrorism in general. But exactly where the money goes, and to precisely what end, has depended a lot on what has been obtained from interrogations of captured terrorists. Their motivations are then compared to attitudes of similar people back home who did not join al Qaeda. That produces a list of items that could be exploited in the media to discourage people from joining or supporting Islamic terrorists.

While the invasion of Iraq provided a media boost for the terrorists (foreign infidels invade a Moslem country), it was an even bigger negative for them. The terrorists were soon setting off their bombs among Moslems, and the images of dead Moslem women and children proved disastrous for al Qaeda recruiting and fund raising.

This illustrates another al Qaeda weakness; money. The blowback from the Iraqi invasion, particularly the terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia, encouraged the Saudi government to come down really hard on the Islamic charities, and deep-pocket Arabs, who had been providing so much money to al Qaeda. This went largely unnoticed in the Western media, but al Qaeda has been going broke over the past few years. With less cash coming out of Saudi Arabia, and the other Gulf States, more Islamic terrorists were seen operating on the cheap. The cash crunch has even shown up in Iraq, where many of Saddam fat-cat henchmen had been funding the terrorism there. Seeing that they were not getting sufficient bang-for-the-buck, and that more police and intelligence agencies were looking for them, and their money, much of this cash was shipped off to safer locations

The paid-for media reports take advantage of things like tight al Qaeda budgets and disappearing donors. To get your money's worth, you seek out journalists who can be subtle. It's not like none of their readers know that Moslem journalists can be bought, but readers do want to be entertained, and fed news that makes them feel good. So if you are going to prattle on about all those Iraqi civilians al Qaeda is blowing up, make sure you insist that the ultimate blame belongs on the Americans. That's nothing new, but all that coverage of Islamic terrorists killing lots of Moslems (and not many Americans), does not help al Qaeda recruiting at all. Moslem journalists would rather not report on all those dead Iraqi children, but with the right financial motivation, they can be encouraged to do the right thing.

The CIA also generates story hooks that will embarrass and humiliate al Qaeda members and supporters. In effect, make it "uncool" to be down with al Qaeda. Raw material for this comes from opinion surveys in the Moslem world, as well as interrogations of a growing number of captured terrorists. Even dead terrorists are useful. Much effort goes into identifying dead terrorists, then more effort, and money, goes into investigating the backgrounds of the late jihadis. This not only yields important information on terrorist contacts, but also on motivations. That, in turn, is fodder for new stories that can discourage likeminded fellows who are tempted to join.

The full story of this media campaign won't be told for many years, just as we did not find out a lot of similar secrets about World War II until the 1970s, 80s and later.

 


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