Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 23, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

LIVE BY THE WEB, DIE BY THE WEB....This is a few weeks old, but Daniel Kimmage, last seen analyzing the media strategy of the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, is back with a report on al-Qaeda's media strategy. He thinks they may need a new CIO:

"Al-Qaeda, which was very, very advanced and very, very impressive in its use of new technology, is, I think, a bit behind the curve," Kimmage says. "They are sort of stuck in Web 1.0. They are producing what they think is the coolest content, the best videos, the most impressive press releases. And they are creating the most sophisticated — the best network — to distribute it to the web. What's missing is interactivity in user-generated content — a world in which users generate a lot of the content and in which people what to interact with others. Al-Qaeda really seems stuck in the old model.

"In 2006, Al-Qaeda released a big position paper and they warned their supporters against creating their own content. They said this was 'media exuberance' and that their supporters should let the official distribution and production groups handle this," Kimmage continues. "Even when Al-Qaeda has tried to be interactive, it is quite old-fashioned. So the question that we end up with is: Al-Qaeda — which had done so well using the Internet to spread its message over the last few years — are they now doomed to fade with this new more interactive and user-generated network? And will they be replaced by a much larger, much more integrated, much freer, much more empowered world in which it is very difficult to control messages and in which no one has a monopoly on information?"

Kimmage concludes that the desire of Al-Qaeda's media-production teams to strictly control the messages being put out on the Internet could ultimately backfire, causing Al-Qaeda to lose support from its sympathizers.

I'll admit it: I've always thought that "Web 2.0" was mostly marketing hooey. But if it turns out to be responsible for the decline of al-Qaeda, then sign me up as a true believer. Who would have guessed that blog commenters would turn out to be the Achilles heel of the international jihadist movement?

Kevin Drum 1:32 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (39)

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Comments

Wouldn't all that "missing" interactivity expose them to all their foes? I don't see how they really can take advantage of web2.0 even if they wanted to.

Posted by: bmaz on April 23, 2008 at 1:46 AM | PERMALINK

I suspect you're right and Daniel Kimmage has his head stuck up his ass 2.0.

Posted by: jerry on April 23, 2008 at 2:07 AM | PERMALINK

al quaeda has long since metastisized.

whether its the current fanatic leadership in charge of the message, or fanatic offshoots more flexible with evolving communications technology -- they all buzz back to the same hive of islamist fascist ideology.

I don't see the danger diminishing until the rest of the muslim world no longer tolerates their crap. There are encourging signs of this in Iraq, and more opaquely in polling of muslim populations globally.

Posted by: neill on April 23, 2008 at 2:38 AM | PERMALINK

Are you sure this isn't an Onion article?

Posted by: w. on April 23, 2008 at 2:43 AM | PERMALINK

So we took down Al Qaeda *and* Dan Rather? Not too shabby for a rag tag bunch of nerds.

Both Republicans and Terrorists are allergic to feedback...come to think of it, I've never seen them in the same room together.

Posted by: Boronx on April 23, 2008 at 2:44 AM | PERMALINK

"Who would have guessed that blog commenters would turn out to be the Achilles heel of the international jihadist movement?"

Are you kidding, have you ever read through LGF, or The Confederate Yanker? Or the endless soldiers fighting the good fights on RedState? There's no shortage of blog commenters who have been telling you they've been in the trenches, serving in the 2nd Information Division, Red Bull Batallion, Cheeto Company since 2002.

That's why they take your hating of America so personally. Its their service you denigrate.

Posted by: Chris on April 23, 2008 at 4:03 AM | PERMALINK

Setting aside Al Qaeda for the moment.

Kevin, you said you think "web 2.0 is mostly marketing hooey". Yet ... you write a blog for a living. One with a live comment system, even.

... I'm just saying.

Posted by: IdahoEv on April 23, 2008 at 5:34 AM | PERMALINK

So, they're basically right wingers?

Posted by: merl on April 23, 2008 at 5:36 AM | PERMALINK

Uh, blogs, and forums and comments are not web 2.0. Definitely around in web 1.0. More like bulletin board 1978, or maybe ditto machine 1954.

Hmm, ditto machine ink.... I love snorting ditto machine ink off a hooker's ass.

Posted by: (800) ditto-ink on April 23, 2008 at 5:59 AM | PERMALINK

Any Religion 2.0 will be resisted, lest if lead to the antithesis of Religion 1.0: the preservation of immutable dogma. The fact that this dogma is often self contradictory and illogical makes this resistance all the more fervent.

Posted by: on April 23, 2008 at 6:48 AM | PERMALINK

Any Religion 2.0 will be resisted, lest if lead to the antithesis of Religion 1.0: the preservation of immutable dogma. The fact that this dogma is often self contradictory and illogical makes this resistance all the more fervent.

Posted by: jhm on April 23, 2008 at 6:48 AM | PERMALINK

"Message control" -- just another thing AQ has in common with you-know-who.

Posted by: Nancy Irving on April 23, 2008 at 7:18 AM | PERMALINK

"They are sort of stuck in Web 1.0. They are producing what they think is the coolest content, the best videos, the most impressive press releases. And they are creating the most sophisticated — the best network — to distribute it to the web. What's missing is interactivity in user-generated content — a world in which users generate a lot of the content and in which people what to interact with others. Al-Qaeda really seems stuck in the old model.

Of course, you could look at it this way--they're NOT stuck where they are. They are where they are because...not everyone has broadband in the countries where they are recruiting? And not everyone they are trying to recruit is rich, bored and borderline fundamentalist--many of them are lucky if they can scrape up the cash to buy the minutes neccessary to maintain the use of a cell phone.

If you look at the fact that they have to recruit the poor and the desperate, it stands to reason that you would look at the low-level sophisication of the methods those people would view or "interact" with content. All the spiffy whizbang interaction in the world means nothing if your targeted demographic has to use dial-up.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but what the hell good is Web 2.0 without broadband?

Posted by: Pale Rider on April 23, 2008 at 7:43 AM | PERMALINK

Even with broadband, the one thing they don't want is critical thought.

No one who has ever commented in a blog will accept an idea passively again, especially one presented by a government or the MSM. Commenters can quickly get a read of the company of fellow commenters, helping them decide whether the company is for them. Trolls can be identified pretty easily. All in one's head. It is totally beneficial, even for radical Muslims. It is certainly better for them than pressing one's forehead to a rug, waiting for enlightenment that way.

Posted by: Bob M on April 23, 2008 at 7:59 AM | PERMALINK

I think the trial lawyers saved them. If the kids at home made their own masked-militant videos running through barbed-wire obstacle courses while shouting "COBRA!" in Arabic, threatening America with destruction, and cutting off the head of the kid from the next village who was a poseur and not really down with the J-hizzy, some parents would sue their asses off and they'd be in big trouble if there was a successful lawsuit.

So of course they'll put those warning labels on their ideology. They may want a million Johnny Knoxvilles, but they know the long-lasting value of MTV/Viacom lawyers, so they'll never actually admit that they want a million Johnny Knoxvilles.

Or something like that.

Posted by: jon on April 23, 2008 at 8:27 AM | PERMALINK


Reader, if you don't post a comment, the terrorists have won.

Posted by: DBake on April 23, 2008 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

I'm on it, DBake!

Posted by: slanted tom on April 23, 2008 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

The last thing al Qaeda wants is feed back from its adherents.

Kind of like Republicans.

Posted by: MeLoseBrain? on April 23, 2008 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

"old model " of the web?

Their model of the web is 1300 years old.

Posted by: Matt on April 23, 2008 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

See, trolls are the real heroes of the American left-blogosphere. By bothering all the real commenters, they prevent our country from being turned into a giant, San Francisco-style male-on-male kissing-factory social-experiment. Trolls are awesome!

Thanks for giving them the lil morale-boost, Kevin!

Posted by: Swan on April 23, 2008 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

This is my FAVORITE Kevin Drum thread EVER!

(I'm so glad to be in the trenches fighting terrorism today)

"Trolls are awsome!"

"Blogs destroy Al Quaeda!"

Posted by: cracked on April 23, 2008 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

Pretty funny. Oh yea we can control the physical world with our ability to interact.Maybe these people don't care about that. Much like the Viets in our last attempt at imperialism. They didn't care that the US had technological superiority.
I'm all for all the interactiveness I can get but make no mistake it's not the be all and end all of existence.

Posted by: Gandalf on April 23, 2008 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

This is a joke, right?

.

Posted by: agave on April 23, 2008 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

BE INTERACTIVE--IMPEACH--1-202-225-0100

Posted by: Mike Meyer on April 23, 2008 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

"Kimmage concludes that the desire ...to strictly control the messages ..could ultimately backfire, causing Al-Qaeda to lose support from its sympathizers."

This is just silly. Who does Kimmage think the al-Qaeda rank and file are, a bunch of free thinkers who want their voices heard and their dissenting veiws respected?

Posted by: zak822 on April 23, 2008 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

...the the decline of al-Qaeda?

Even as the surge fails!

Jeebus, mark me up as a non-believer in this bit "marketing hooey", or shouldn't we call it Rush Limbaugh straw grasping type of desperation. Personally, I believe that the Mideast is computer poor and tribal rich. Things are not improving in the Mideast, even as a moronic, loyalist McBushie, the II says so, even as someone points to web content in Mideast and says, "hey look, no upgrades?" Jeebus, must be a slow news day!

It's almost as if the Bushie "word-out" is to pretend the surge thing was going to work EVEN as we ALL KNEW it would NOT. It's was far too little, far too late and intended ONLY as a political gimmick, as we all knew it was.

The only option in Iraq is to invoke the military draft, which I'm sure a McCain win would imply to these neo-cons who hope to stay in Iraq forever, and there is no doubt in my mind that Americans absolutely would NOT even consider such involvement in a war that we're looking to get out of, Diebold win for McCain or no. Iraq is not an anti-terrorist movement, it's a oil control movement. It's absolutely time to find ways around the grossly expensive dependency on fossil fuel.

Posted by: me-again on April 23, 2008 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

Hint: non-interactive, top-down organizations don't generally wither away unless they're supplanted by more interactive, peer-to-peer dynamic ones. I don't think this is what we want.

Posted by: paul on April 23, 2008 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

Web 1.0 -- Blogs with Comments
Web 2.0 -- Blogs with Comments and Cat Videos

Now that's progress! Inkblot and Domino will defeat terrorism.

Posted by: thersites on April 23, 2008 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

It all goes to the fact that the internet was created to show pictures of our kitties:
http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/2008/03/08/the-cute-cat-theory-talk-at-etech/
All other content flows from that.

Posted by: doug r on April 23, 2008 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

I'll take this opportunity to agree with the statement that "Web 2.0 is marketing hooey".

It's meaningless, and reminds me of Republican attempts at arguing that we are now in World War III, IV, or even V now.

Posted by: Joe on April 23, 2008 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

So, al Qaeda = Red State? This statement fails to elicit shock.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on April 23, 2008 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Hint: non-interactive, top-down organizations don't generally wither away unless they're supplanted by more interactive, peer-to-peer dynamic ones. I don't think this is what we want. -- Paul at 11:10

In this morning’s newspaper there was a report of a wave of 36 gang shootings in Chicago this past weekend, resulting in 9 dead. One reason given for the rash of violence is that the older leaders, who used to control the younger members, have all been locked up. Now, there is chaos as the leaderless gangs shoot everyone in sight.

Posted by: emmarose on April 23, 2008 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

Like all political organizations, from the most democratically themed to the most authoritarian, al Qeada's leadership prefers to control its organization's message. Al Qeada's complaint of internet inputs from supporters is no different than Sen. Clinton's complaints of MoveOn.

Posted by: Brojo on April 23, 2008 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

I think I've discovered America's Secret Weapon Against Al-Qaida.

Posted by: Jim D on April 23, 2008 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

Blog Commenters: putting the Al in Al Qaida!

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on April 23, 2008 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

a full-throated online claim of victory:

"Al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri criticised Muslims for failing to support Islamist insurgencies in Iraq and elsewhere in a new audiotape posted Tuesday on the Internet."


not.

Posted by: neill on April 23, 2008 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

Kimmage might have the beginnings of a thought if al Qaeda was a bunch of American marketers trying to sell Cheetos (Doritos?) to American kids. But he's talking garbage if he doesn't start with how communication is done in the world these people live in.

Or is everybody in the world really an internets-surfing, skateboarding, rugged individualist type at heart like all of us individualist mass-consuming Merkins?

Must be me, but somehow I missed all those videos of Middle Eastern kids with their baseball caps on backwards. Kimmage ought to post the ones he has.

Posted by: Altoid on April 23, 2008 at 10:25 PM | PERMALINK

This struck me.. And I am only drawing a parallel (not an analogy or comparison, mind you). I see these deficiencies in the al Qaeda messaging infrastructure as oddly similar to: ..get this.. right wing blogging. So much of the right wing does not accept, or if they do they heavily censor it, and feedback or public commetary. This mindset creates by definition a bubble where differing viewpoints sre not heard and thus there can be no change ("modification") of the blog's views. We have seen how this affects righty blogs here. Now we are beginning to realize that it is affecting al Qaeda in a like manner.

Is this really so surprising?

Posted by: jeffperado on April 23, 2008 at 11:27 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: sdrisouo on May 4, 2008 at 7:31 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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