Two days ago, Al Qaeda (AQ) released their newest issue of Inspire magazine. The features of this issue bring an insight into their ideology, methodology, strengths, and although not listed but somewhat between the lines, they label some of their weaknesses. Articles from this issue contain the use of rumors/ conspiracy theories, quotes from Western leaders that play into their propaganda, AQ’s media war (particularly within the online world) with the United States, an attempt to make themselves a legitimate military by re-labeling of the 11 September attacks as a “Special Operation,” and a decade of symbolic pictures with quotes from terrorists. Interviews with Anwar Awlakik and Adam Ghadan were also forecasted for future events. However, I am only going to quickly touch on the use of rumors, and AQ’s media strategy for this entry.
Former think tank and Special FBI guy, Steven Baker said in Strategic Influence regarding the use of rumors in low intensity propaganda (LIP),
“It is easy for Westerners unaccustomed to Arab culture to dismiss the content of these rumors (other forms of LIP) as harmless gossip or strange phenomena, but the fact is that rumors and conspiracy theories play a very significant role in Iraqi society and help shape the perceptions and actions of average citizens. Left Alone, these rumors proved to be a very inexpensive but effective motivator and the precursor to violence.”
AQ put the Shia ummah and Iran on blast in their article about their use of conspiracy theories (rumors) which deny al Qaeda the accomplished the job of killing thousands of innocent people on 11 September.
“Iran and the Shi`a in general do not want to give al Qaeda credit for the greatest and biggest operation ever committed against America because this would expose their lip-service jihad against the Great Satan.” – Abu Suhail
AQ is usually written off at this time for pulling the history card. You know, the old”we haven’t done much lately, we will remind you of what we did” trick. Having their leader disappear, trying to prevent the Che effect, I presume, from Pakistan and to find out he is to be decomposed by the fishes only helps that perception; however, they are doing exactly as FBI guy Baker said in his contribution to Strategic Influence. AQ is trying to stop the rumor flow because they know that if the rumors are left alone they will cause more trouble for them obtaining their goals. The desired effects of this propaganda do not stop at AQ from trying to discredit their enemies and relegitimize themselves as “The” go to jihadi group. They will also have an effect on the US populous as the messages disseminate into our information networks.
AQ’s Media War:
AQ made it clear that “half of the jihad” is their media work. AQ sees themselves winning on this level. They give four reasons for their success:
1. Dedicated propagandists
2. America’s failure to respond to AQ propaganda
3. American Counter-productivity
4. America’s failure to build its image
It would be nice to dismiss them as lies, but each given reason does contain a lot of truth. However, the war is not over and we are far from being defeated. Washington appears to be moving in the right direction but not without its usual setbacks.