Of special interest is this report from the Internet and Democracy project at Harvard’s Berkman Center on the Arabic blogosphere. A key finding is that politics are local and that the US is not a major topic:
Some of the reports findings:
- Arabic blogosphere is organized primarily around countries
- Arabic bloggers are predominately young and male
- Domestic news is more popular than international news among general politics and public life topics, especially within large national clusters writing entirely in Arabic
- The United States is not a dominant political topic in Arabic blogs
- Muslim Brotherhood…has a very active presence in the blogosphere
- When discussing terrorism, Arab bloggers are overwhelmingly critical of violent extremists
- Bloggers link to Web 2.0 sites such as YouTube and Wikipedia (both English and Arabic versions) more than other sources of information and news available on the Internet
- Around the world, in open and repressive nations alike, Internet-based communications provide new channels for citizen voices, minority viewpoints, and political mobilization, and challenge the traditional regimes of public mass communication.
- Our findings lead us to push back against two common threads of speculation about the role of the Internet in the Arab world.
- The first is a view of the Internet as primarily a vehicle for radicalization. We found very little support for terrorism or violent jihad in the Arabic blogosphere and quite a lot of criticism.
- The second thread is the hope that the Internet will empower political movements that can move Arab societies toward democratic values and governance. This study supports some aspects of the view that the Internet can empower political movements in the region, since it provides an infrastructure for expressing minority points of view, breaking gatekeeper monopolies on public voice, lowering barriers to political mobilization (even if symbolic), and building capacity for bottom-up contributions to the public agenda.
The emphasis is mine.
This report supports the argument that we are buying our adversaries’ propaganda that it is “us versus them” and that an unexploited opportunity to undermine terrorism remains at the informational level. The solution is more greater than countering ideological support for terrorism but attacking the utility of terrorism. Arab bloggers are potentially great anti-terrorist that can speak authentically to show the real lack of common cause between terrorist and their intended (and required) support base.
More on terrorism-as-propaganda later, but for now: this report is worth your at least quick skim.