Virtual Afghanistan?
December 16, 2009 1:55 PM   Subscribe

In Thomas Friedman's weak OP-ED entitled, he writes: “Let’s not fool ourselves. Whatever threat the real Afghanistan poses to U.S. national security, the “Virtual Afghanistan” now poses just as big a threat. The Virtual Afghanistan is the network of hundreds of jihadist Web sites that inspire, train, educate and recruit young Muslims to engage in jihad against America and the West.” If this is true, could someone provide examples? I mean, I'm sure they're using the internet to recruit people, but this makes it sound far more sophisticated than I would have assumed.
posted by defenestration to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's absolutely not true. Friedman is notorious for basically just making shit up. I'm sure there are jihadist websites, but to claim that "virtual Afghanistan" is as much of a threat as the actual, physical situation in Afghanistan is beyond stupid.
posted by Damn That Television at 2:11 PM on December 16, 2009 [6 favorites]

Thomas Friedman is not a reliable source of information.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:16 PM on December 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

Well if true what better way to track and police them than through their websites. I mean, presumably smart criminals would not use public forums for their secret operations--for fear of being caught. Duh.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 2:17 PM on December 16, 2009

Response by poster: So, yeah, I'm pretty well versed in the whole Thomas Friedman is full of shit thing. I was just wondering how spectacularly full of shit this OP-ED was. It rang really wrong.
posted by defenestration at 2:25 PM on December 16, 2009

Response by poster: That New York Press piece was worth a read, though. Thanks, Damn That Television.
posted by defenestration at 2:26 PM on December 16, 2009 me of the '90s, when people could write cyber-titled trend books with titles like "Virtual Tibet" and be treated as totally amazing visionaries. I do know that when I used to work for the social networking site, the authorities in Brazil were claiming the service was used to arrange crimes and soccer riots and stuff.

Something similar could be happening on Facebook with anti-U.S. militants, but it does seem like sort of a stupid forum for that. If I were a terrorist I wouldn't be recruiting people on LinkedIn but on some untraceable private network out of a William Gibson novel.
posted by Kirklander at 2:29 PM on December 16, 2009

Some of the recent news reports on arrests of Americans trying to arrange training with Lashkar i Taiba included an interesting tidbit. The suspects attempted to make contact via web pages and Lashkar member's Facebook pages but were refused because they weren't brokered through known existing members.
posted by Babblesort at 2:31 PM on December 16, 2009

Here is a popular account of what Friedman might to be referring to, and a more academic approach. (I haven't read his op-ed on the subject.)

Virtual Jihad: The Internet as the ideal terrorism recruiting tool

Collecting and Analyzing the Presence of Terrorists on the Web: A Case Study of Jihad Websites
posted by andoatnp at 3:18 PM on December 16, 2009

Mod note: few comments removed - this is not a good thread for tangents. Sorry.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:53 PM on December 16, 2009

Here is another response.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:22 PM on December 16, 2009

Best answer: I was under the impression the OP was looking for actual examples of these websites, which news stories are quite happy to cite without actually providing a name or URL.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:46 PM on December 16, 2009

You can find plenty of details about these sites (and links) at the blog , which is currently being run by a bunch of researchers from the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (originally founded by a US academic). They tend to assume quite a lot of background knowledge, though, and personally I have issues with the whole approach. As, it seems, do a number of posters here.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 7:00 PM on December 16, 2009

“Let’s not fool ourselves. Whatever threat the real Afghanistan poses to U.S. national security, the “Virtual Afghanistan” now poses just as big a threat...

Friedman's right. Just not the way he thinks he is.
posted by atrazine at 8:04 PM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

For the record, Kirklander, the book Virtual Tibet by Orville Schell is quite good. It was assigned reading for a class I took on Tibet.
posted by matkline at 9:35 PM on December 16, 2009

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