Newest U.S. Counterterrorism Strategy: “Trolling”… Say, Doesn’t Someone Already Have The Corner On This Market?
Trolling VS. Jihad
Well, once again I hear a story about CT efforts that I just have to facepalm and say WTF? The story was evidently posted while I was on vacation and not looking to enrage myself with the stupid (thus meaning I was reading Hunter and other classics whilst sitting on a beach) So, someone tipped me off the other day that this little gem was out there. The premise of the story/program is that the Dept. Of State has given the go ahead to this 20-something to put together a coalition of people across the globe to subtly (maybe) troll the jihobbyists and jihadi’s out there online to break them up as groups.
Really? Sooo, you are going to go on to say Shamikh and start to troll the players there in hopes that you will shame them into dropping the notions of radical jihad? Why am I surprised that a hair brained scheme like this would come out of State? My initial reaction was tempered when I read the piece again and the tempering was that this was going to be aborted before it got anywhere in the first place as the article describes scope creep already and a certain sense of other agenda’s on the parts of the players. In the end, I suspect there will be a failure to launch, but, what if they were to pull their act together? Would this in fact have any net effect on the jihadi’s and the forums they frequent?
I certainly think so… But… Not in the way that the creator of the idea has in mind….
The Psychology of Jihad and Trolling Them:
In reading the article the use of the word “Trolling” is somewhat a misnomer really I think. I would use “cajole” more than troll because the goal here is to subtly shame them and make them not only uncomfortable with wit and sarcasm, but also to lead them to drop jihad. Now, will this actually work? I suppose a dialog with certain folks as peers might actually work if you don’t alienate them with your “wit and sarcasm” but really, take a look at the mind set and the social norms of the people being targeted here. You are going to troll people who, though maybe misguided by doctrine or imam, or their personal histories, are rather devout about their beliefs, to the point that some actually take on jihad literally and go fight.
… And you seriously think mocking them will make them say; “oh, wow, I was being silly”
Good luck with that. Its my feeling that given the nature of the people I have seen/dealt with on the boards, that this will just not work. In fact, in certain spaces (and those spaces are now consolidating rapidly online creating a clearer channel) you will get yourselves banned rather quickly from the board. This too will also cause them to close ranks further and to become very selective about who they let in and who gets to talk, not to mention maybe force their hand to go to other places like the darknet to host their content. So, overall, I just don’t think that this line of action will be productive in any way.
Now, if you are going to go after more “moderate” sources of dialog like muslim.net or some of the other sites out there, you may have more luck and might be the right territory to hunt in and dissuade people from acting on jihad. It’s all a matter of how hard core these people are and how new they are to the whole thing. Sure, AQ/AQAP/Global Jihad is seeking new recruits all the time online but, they are also not really gaining a huge amount of traction there either. I do appreciate the idea of trying to debate these nascent jihadi’s with smart dialog, but, in the end, “trolling” will likely only make them angry, ban you, and then make vague and useless threats. Remember, these are giant crazy echo chambers and it’s not that easy to default them to sanity just by saying they are being stupid.
I would also say that using the moniker of “Troll” for this article on Wired was disingenuous if not just wrong for the circumstances. In the article, further down in graph 2 or three, the creator of the program clarifies that it’s not really trolling per se by the netspeak definition of it. Usually today’s troll is someone who is just maladjusted and looking for an outlet for odious behavior while usually enabled by anonymity. If one were to go troll (trollhard… haha..just had an image of another Bruce Willis movie there) hard at the jihadi’s it would be quite counterproductive. Unfortunately, this kind of thing already has been happening a little bit. It seems that some people have been not only inserting themselves into boards, hacking them, ddos’ing them etc. This has served only to cause them to be much more suspicious and clamp down on security.
This is not what we need.
YOU TROLL ME! I KILL YOU!
In the end, I just see this program having the net effect of creating a bunch of Ahmed the Dead Terrorist skits online…
… And that may be hilarious to some… It just won’t help us in the GWOT.