A new report offers a perspective on the media war being fought by Sunni insurgents in Iraq…
Bruce Sterling points us towards a new book-length study from RFE/RL, entited Iraqi Insurgent Media: The War Of Images And Ideas. The study offers a fascinating insight into the strengths and weaknessess of insurgent tactical media, including an evident technological and organisational sophistication — handy for production and distribution under extreme conditions:
Biographies of the best-known martyrs are sometimes lavish affairs. Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi, the most famous jihadist to have died in Iraq, was the subject of a downloadable “encyclopedia” that includes not on numerous materials on the Jordanian militant’s life, but also a complete collection of his statements, essays on his beliefs and influence, and statements on the jihad in Iraq by Osama bin Laden. Formatted as a 7.7-megabyte self-contained mini-browser, the “encyclopedia” provides users with a table of contents and a convenient graphics interface.
The impressive array of products Sunni-Iraq insurgents and their supporters create suggests the existence of a veritable multimedia empire. But this impression is misleading. The insurgent media network has no identifiable brick-and-mortar presence, no headquarters, and no bureaucracy. It relies instead on a decentralized, collaborative production model that utilizes the skills of a community of like-minded individuals. (…)
The study authors conclude that:
The popularity of online Iraqi Sunni insurgent media [...] reflects a genuine demand for their message in the Arab world. A response, no matter how lavishly funded and cleverly produced, will not eliminate this demand. [...] efforts to counter insurgent media should not focus on producing better propaganda than the insurgents, or trying to eliminate the demand for the insurgent message, but rather on exploiting the vulnerabilities of the insurgent media network.
The Sun newspaper launches war-zone blogs.
Rupert Murdoch’s Sun tabloid has taken blogging mainstream by running blogs from the Israeli and Lebanese frontlines.
The Sun says,
Sun correspondents will keep you up to date with the latest news and views on the Middle East crisis with blogs from the heart of Israel and Lebanon.
Our Chief Foreign Correspondent Nick Parker will post daily blogs for you from war-torn Beirut.
While our award-winning Chief Feature Writer Oliver Harvey is based in Israel as Islamic militants’ rockets rain down on the Jewish state.
The cartoon characters have appeared in a Belgian TV commercial for Unicef highlighting the plight of children caught up in war.
The campaign is due to be broadcast in Belgium next week. It opens with the Smurfs dancing, hand in hand, around a campfire and singing the Smurf song. Bluebirds flutter past and rabbits gambol around the familiar village of mushroom shaped houses until, without warning, bombs begin to rain down. The smurfs scatter and run in vain from the onslaught. The final scene shows a scorched and tattered Baby Smurf sobbing, surrounded by prone Smurfs. The endline reads, “Don’t let war affect the lives of children.” The ad is part of a fundraising drive to raise £70,000 for the rehabilitation of former child soldiers in Burundi.
Philipppe Henon, a spokesman for Unicef Belgium, said his agency had set out to shock, after concluding that viewers had become immured to traditional warzone images. “It’s controversial,” he said. “We have never done something like this before, but we’re learned over the years that the reaction to the more normal type of campaign is very limited.”
Unicef’s agency, Publicis, decided the best way to convey the impact of war on children was to tap into the earliest, happiest memories of Belgian television viewers. They chose the Smurfs, who first appeared in a Belgian comic in 1958. The animation was approved by the family of the Smurf’s late creator, “Peyo”.
Julie Lamoureux, account director at Publicis for the campaign, said the agency’s original plans were toned down.
We wanted something that was real war – Smurfs losing arms, or Smurfs losing a head – but they said no.
Footage of the ad has already appeared online.
The Observer reports that armed dolphins, trained by the US military to shoot terrorists and find underwater spies, may be missing in the Gulf of Mexico.
Experts claim that some 36 of the mammals could be packing ‘toxic dart’ guns and present a significant risk to divers and surfers in the area. The US navy admits it has been training dolphins for military purposes but has refused to confirm that any are missing. Dolphins have been trained in attack-to-kill missions since the Cold War and these US Atlantic bottlenose dolphins have apparently been taught to shoot terrorists attacking military vessels. Their coastal compound was breached during the hurricane, sweeping them out to sea.
Leo Sheridan, 72, a ‘respected accident investigator’ quoted by the paper, said that he had received intelligence from sources close to the US government’s marine fisheries service confirming that dolphins had escaped.
My concern is that they have learnt to shoot at divers in wetsuits who have simulated terrorists in exercises. If divers or windsurfers are mistaken for a spy or suicide bomber and if equipped with special harnesses carrying toxic darts, they could fire. The darts are designed to put the target to sleep so they can be interrogated later, but what happens if the victim is not found for hours?
The full story is published on The Observer site. A Simpsons episode predicting that dolphins would turn on mankind and take over the world was first transmitted in November 2000. We’re also reminded of Grant Morrison’s recent graphic novel We3. Pitched as ‘The Fantastic Journey meets Terminator‘, We3 features an unlikely trio of weaponised lab animals attempting to find their way home when the research project they’re part of gets closed down.
The Onion, however, got the final word back in 2000 with this headline: “Dolphins Evolve Opposable Thumbs: ‘Oh, Shit,’ Says Humanity”
Yahoo! employs a veteran war reporter to blog global conflicts.
Yahoo! has enlisted Kevin Sites, a former producer and correspondent for NBC and CNN, to produce a website that will report on war around the world. Sites is probably most famous for the footage he shot for NBC of a US marine shooting and killing an apparently unarmed Iraqi prisoner in Falluja last year.
The site will be called “Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone” and represents Yahoo!’s first major foray into original online video programming. The dispatches will begin on September 26th. Yahoo! is also building a large beachhead in Santa Monica to build relationships with Hollywood, both to buy content and to produce its own. It intends to tap into the rapidly growing demand for video advertising on the Internet and believes that war reporting is likely to be a huge growth area for attracting eyeballs.
The show will basically catalogue modern war fare. Sites intends to visit every place on earth that is defined by international organisations as a war or conflict zones. The list currently stands at around 36 countries. Sites will write a 600-800 word dispatch every day and produce a slide show of 5 to 10 digital photographs. He will also narrate audio travelogues and host regular online chats with Yahoo! users.
According to Sites, this format consisting of edited and unedited material will help to counter growing public distrust of network news. “We are a journalistic entity trying to do things in a responsible way you don’t always see on the Internet.”
The New York Times has the full story. Via Gawker.
Apparently soldiers respond much better to branded rations — including Yorkie bars marked ‘Not for Civvies’.
The BBC has got hold of standard issue army rations which are being flown to victims of Hurricane Katrina. The high calorie packs are standard issue for British troops on operations and, it’s claimed, contain enough food to last one person 24 hours. The includes typical British dishes such as corned beef hash, Lancashire hotpot and vegetable tikka masala. The airlift represents the first large non-military distribution of the packs — some half a million are being flown to the US.
Army rations recently underwent their first major rethink since the 1960s. In devising the packs, research found that branded items familiar at home were a significant morale boost to troops. Hence the Yorkie bars marked ‘not for civvies’ in a tactical version of the controversial ‘not for girls’ campaign for the brand.
The strange story of this WW2 fort situated 7 miles off the coast of Kent has already been picked up by the Times and the BBC. Expect to see a lot more of these sinister structures.
HM Redsands was built in 1943 to counter German warplanes. It was abandoned in the 1950s but a decade later became home to a number of pirate radio stations. Today is stands derelict and unloved apart from a group of enthusiasts who have vowed to save the structures for posterity.
The fort, designed by Guy Maunsell, is made up of seven towers. Each of these has a two-storey house (36 ft by 36 ft) on top of four 65 ft concrete legs. in 1943, the towers, complete with crew, were towed out at spring high tide and hand-winched on to the seabed. They were then linked by steel walkways.
The fort was home to 265 men on six week tours at a time. Not surprisingly, the solitude led to a spate of suicides after which knitting was instituted as a hobby to keep the men busy. In total, the army forts in the Thames shot down 22 planes and 30 flying bombs but amazingly were never hit.
Both The Times and BBC Breakfast have picked up on the story in recent weeks. Meanwhile, artist Stephen Turner is planning to spend six weeks on one of the towers. He will be keeping a diary in order to produce a book about the experience, funded by a $42,000 Arts Council grant. He says on his website, “The Seafort Project is an artistic exploration of isolation, investigating how one’s experience of time changes in isolation, and what creative contemplation means in a twenty first century context.”
We shall see.
Los Angeles-based Forkscrew Graphics appropriate the iPod ad campaign to produce a series of posters entitled ‘iRaq’. These replace the silhouettes of youths dancing with the also familiar/iconic silhouettes of Iraqi prisoners being tortured.
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