Palestinian Deaths More Newsworthy Than Chechen Deaths

The Ansar al-Jihad English language jihadist forum has a very interesting posting that it pulled over from Kavkaz Center that asks why the world hears so much about Palestinians killed by Israelis and so little about Chechens killed by Russians.  The posting gists a piece by Brett Stephens that the Wall Street Journal ran a year ago.

The forum version lays out Stephens’ argument pretty faithfully.  Stephens concludes that taking into account both the number of deaths in each conflict and the amount of media coverage of each conflict, Palestinian deaths get about 28 times more coverage than Chechen deaths.  In a snarky but probably at least partially true comment, Stephens ends: “As for the Chechens, too bad for their cause that no Jew will ever likely become president of Russia.”  At this point Kavkaz Center comments that “ethnic Russians know well he [Russian President Dmitry Medvedev] is a jew.”

[Aside: that’s a story that Medvedev’s nationalist opposition circulated and that nasty people like those at Stormfront have picked up on.]

The Kavkas Center piece goes on to add that it is true that the Israelis and the “Crusaders” do “occupy” the al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam.  Thus, it’s natural that the Palestinian struggle would receive somewhat disproportionate attention from other Muslims.  Still, they say, it hardly seems fair that Palestinians receive international sympathy and support while Chechens do not.  They blame the facts that Russia is a great power and thereby holds other countries in its thrall and also that Hamas has gone democratic and thus seduced the world.

On the Ansar al-Jihad forum there was then a very thoughtful response (essentially seconded by a subsequent response from another forum reader).  The author of this response argued that there were six main reasons for the disproportion in attention and the al-Aqsa Mosque was not among them.

1) Media Blockade:  The Russians have successfully cut the Caucasus off from the world, they have murdered many Russian or Chechen journalists and simply don’t let foreign journalists or activists into the country….

2.) Language barrier: The material that somehow does make it out of the Caucasus is rarely translated into English or other languages, which greatly reduces its impact….

3.) Economic power: While Israel is a tiny nation which doesn’t export much to the world, Russia supplies enormous amounts of natural gas, oil and other resources to countries in Europe, whose governments keep quiet about the Russian record on human rights in return….

4.) Historical political power: The Soviet Union was the second most powerful nation on earth for at least three decades, it was the patron of nearly every Arab country during the 1960’s and 1970’s, and still is relatively powerful (having the veto power that comes with being on the UN Security Council etc…).  This explains why we see disgraceful scenes such as the leaders of HAMAS rushing to Moscow to pay tribute to the Russians, as they still see them as the only real rival to the United States.

5.) Petty Nationalism/Pan-Arabism: I am talking here mainly about the heads of the apostate Arab regimes, who make long, falsely passionate speeches about the suffering of their Arab brethren, but don’t actually lift a finger to help them.

There are several interesting things about this short thread.

First, the spitting contest between Hamas and al-Qaida’s sympathizers is going strong.  This should be a cause for celebration on our part.

Second, the list of reasons I reproduced about is short on religious bombast and features reasons that might readily occur to any dispassionate Western analyst.  This, along with Marc Lynch’s recent find on the Al Qaida assessment of the group’s informational and political failures in Iraq, suggest that at least some of the bad guys are thinking about these important issues in effective sorts of ways.  If that’s true, I’m pretty sure it’s bad news for us.

Third, the list above is also a further example of how our jihadist adversaries are not so different from us.  That’s actually good news.  Sun Tzu enjoins us to know our enemy.  Doing so needn’t be hard.

Anti-Globalization Graphics: Bad Tactics?

At some point I’ll probably do a posting on the question of tactics within the anti-globalization movement.  Violence vs. non-violence is a big issue there.  (Turns out our good friend Ward Churchill has played an important role in this debate.)  So also is the definition of “violence.”

Today, however, I just want to post a some graphics that I’ve run across on the Web that deal visually with this question.  The first is a flyer that the Black Bloc anarchists circulated during the “A16” protests.  These were the April 16 2000 anti-globalization protests in Washington DC.

Secondly are some protests in the form of vandalism in Winnipeg, Manitoba involving the defacing of posters promoting the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

[Source.]

In case you aren’t able to read it, the slogan on the vandalized poster says “RIOT 2010, We were made for this.”

A couple of interesting things.  First, while the pictures of the defaced posters are easy to find on the web, the original undefaced poster is not.  To that extent, the poster is a minor success for the protesters.  On the other hand, as far as I know there was no rioting at the Olympics which means that the protesters failed in their purpose.  (Whether there ACTUALLY was rioting is, of course, irrelevant.  If there’s no camera, it didn’t happen.)

Second, and this goes for both bits of protest art, I rather suspect that attacking or belittling wildly popular symbols of peace (Gandhi, the Olympics) and juxtaposing them with violence is counterproductive to the activists.  I’m assuming that their goal is to attract people to their cause.  There are other possibilities, of course: I may be wrong; or these efforts may represent a disjuncture between tactics and strategy; or the activists may not be seeking support at all but rather simply be trying to forcibly impose a new reality (an end to globalization, the staging of the Olympics, etc.) upon an unwilling majority.

Speaking of the Olympics, congratulations to my Canadian friends for winning the gold in men’s hockey tonight in a great game.

Published in: on March 1, 2010 at 2:37 AM  Comments (1)  
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Blog Recommendation: iRevolution

I thought I should highlight the blog iRevolution which is run by a PhD student named Patrick Meier who is at the Fletcher School.  Mr. Meier seems largely to use the blog as a place to post his dissertation-related notes and musings.  The dissertation is called “The Role of New Media and Technology in Popular Resistance against Repressive Rule.”

In a brilliant and funny move, he has two descriptions of his dissertation topic.  The first is the “Media Version,” which I quote below.  The second is the “Academic Version” which is quite a bit longer.  (Isn’t that always the way?)

Media Version: Does access to new media and technology change the balance of power between  repressive regimes and civil resistance movements? We all saw what happened in Iran (one of my case studies, in addition to Burma, Zimbabwe and Tunisia). New technologies played a major role in the events leading up to and following the elections and are likely to continue having a tremendous impact in Iran and beyond. Social networking tools such as Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and blogging have clearly changed the way individuals in non-permissive environments communicate with each other and the outside world. From SMS and cell phone cameras to Flip cams and flash drives, new media and digital technology is also changing the nature of popular resistance throughout the world.  At the same time, repressive regimes are increasingly censoring and monitoring information flows and shutting down popular communication tools in times of threat, thus imposing information blockades.

The question I ask is simple: who is winning this cyber-game of cat-and-mouse? Why? And is this likely to change in the near future?

For media inquiries, please email me at…

One of the continuing themes in the blog is what he takes to be the indiscriminate use of anecdotes to produce quick and easy (and perhaps wrong) answers to the question he is seeking to answer with rigor.  For instance, he takes Evgeny Morozov to task (in a friendly way) for too quickly concluding that the new communications technologies favor dictators.  (It may not be a coincidence that Morozov is from that bastion of Lockean liberal democracy known as Belarus.)  At the same time, Meier is quick to take issue also with those who purvey “the digital ‘Internet = Democracy‘ hype that pervades the mainstream media and much of digital activism.”

He is already starting to have preliminary answers.  The quantitative portion of his research seems to say that the answer to the question of “who is winning this cyber-game of cat-and-mouse” is “it depends.”  Interestingly, it seems that the extent of cellphone usage is, under certain cirumstances, an important variable in some circumstances.  That is to say that cellphones appear to empower civil resistance movements.  However, the extent of Internet penetration into a country seems not to predict much of anything .  Perhaps Morozov is onto something when he says that people newly acquiring access to the Web aren’t going to download reports from Human Rights Watch, rather they’re going to watch porn, Sex in the City, and funny cat videos.

I could go on and on about the interesting thing in this blog.  I’ll just point out a few more features.

  • There is a guide Meier has develop to help activists understand how to communicate securely.  (It would be interesting to know what some of the experts at, say NSA or the FBI would have to say about the efficacy of these, but that ain’t likely to happen.)
  • The blog unabashedly talks in terms that people in the fields of strategic studies or military history should be comfortable with such as “strategy,” “tactics,” and “surveillance.”  At one point he draws specific lessons from Clausewitz’s On War. This is not surprising because he is drawing on and contributing to a field known as strategic nonviolent conflict.  I may blog about this at some point, but  suffice it here to say that this is quite different from the principled nonviolent ideas of a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King.  Strategic nonviolent conflict is a form of struggle that uses nonviolence because/when it seems the most effective way to win.

Anyway, check it out.

Check Out the Consortium for Strategic Communication

I have no great original thoughts of my own today, so I thought I’d draw your attention to a couple of things worth checking out, depending on your particular interests (part 1)…

The Consortium for Strategic Communication (CSC) describes itself as follows: “an initiative of the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University. It is composed of an interdisciplinary group of scholars at ASU and partner institutions who are interested in applying knowledge of human communication to issues of countering ideological support for terrorism (CIST), diplomacy and public diplomacy.”

Dr. Steven Corman heads up the CSC.  I’ve heard him speak several times and I have always found the things that come out of the CSC to be thought-provoking.  This is real strategically useful stuff.  For instance, I learned from the CSC that the dominant model under which the U.S. Government communicates with foreign audiences is based on state-of-the-art academic theory…of several decades ago.

I’m adding CSC’s COMOPS Journal, “Analysis, Commentary and News from the World of Strategic Communication,” to my blogroll today.  Those of you interested in the “war of ideas,” the “war on terrorism,” and other related topics should check it out.  COMOPS Journal tends to be responsive to current developments.  I also recommend Corman, et al, Weapons of Mass Persuasion: Strategic Communication to Combat Violent Extremism for some more stand-back type of pieces.

Published in: on January 15, 2010 at 12:34 AM  Leave a Comment  
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