Aggressive Language in Media and Social Media and its Effect on the War Against Terrorism
By: Mohammed Ridhas
The war against terrorism is very much different from the other types of war since it uses civilians as a medium, a weapon, and/or a means of propaganda that serves its bloody goals. Therefore, it needs to create its own human resources more than any other war needs. It has to generate its army from the same targeted community, though it needs modern ways to change attitudes and tendencies of the privates who are supposed to be its soldiers. This change in attitudes and tendencies has to find its way through the minds of those future soldiers/weapons, and the best way to do so is by communicating them using a special form of language; the same language we have seen and still see in the speeches of terrorism leaders.
During the last decade we observed a wide range of terrorist plans to gain more and more followers. Most of those plans depended on direct and/or indirect talks. They used a specific language to attract people, specially young people, to join their armies. So, it is not only used when it just happens, but they have even built their own physical and virtual communities through which they have practiced the magic of the word to attract their followers.
This was not the only picture that shows the use of language in this war, because even national and international Media have their own shares of linguistic effects which have their own roles in increasing terrorism. This, of course, might face a wide denial, yet this denial will not outlive against the facts that are available here and there. When we dig deeply in the results of the media reports, speeches, meetings, discussions, and even analyses, we find out dangerous results that serve terrorism so much.
The language of the media has indeed served as a support to terrorism in a way or another, and of course big media companies will not save an effort to avoid this truth. They may easily prove that they have been only practicing their rights and conveying truths. This is what Media always depends on to justify their activities despite the fact that“The relationship between terrorism and the media has long been clear. Terrorists aim to provoke irrational fear among large numbers of people in order to influence policymakers and thus advance their goals. and media-men try to use the actions of the terrorists to flourish their own trade, increase the number of people who care about their work and finally gain more money.
It is obvious that the first part of aggressive language or in other words the language that serves terrorism in social media is being focused on nowadays and is being widely treated legally and such as the case in Twitter and Facebook, but the aggressive language and the language that serves terrorism used by the media agencies is still out of the reach of law.
Definitions of the Idioms
It is well-known that there is no agreed upon definition of terrorism which can be used worldwide, yet we can come to a conclusion about it from some definitions from here and there. Walter Laqueur sees that “Terrorism is the use or the threat of the use of violence, a method of combat, or a strategy to achieve certain targets” , while Alex Schmid and Albert Jongman state out that “Terrorism is an anxiety-inspiring method of repeated violent action, employed by (semi-)clandestine individual, group, or state actors, for idiosyncratic, criminal, or political reasons, whereby—in contrast to assassination—the direct targets of violence are not the main targets.”
The United states of America defines terrorism , for example, in Title 22 Chapter 38 U.S. Code § 2656f as « premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents. », while Ivanauskiene, Violeta and Makstutyte consider“the most appropriate definition of terrorism stresses features of violent behavior which is organized and is defined as open and secret at its targeted individuals or groups of interest.”
2. Aggressive Language
What the researcher means by using “aggressive language” is all the expressions that support or lead to the support of terrorism or make a gap between two persons or groups that terrorism can make use of in its activities.
3. The Media
By Media, the researcher refers to all media agencies, newspapers, TV channels, journalists, radios, well-known news sites and news agencies.
4. The Social Media
“By 1979, Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis from Duke University had created the Usenet, a worldwide discussion system that allowed Internet users to post public messages. Yet, the era of Social Media as we understand it today probably started about 20 years earlier, when Bruce and Susan Abelson founded ‘‘Open Diary,’’ an early social networking site that brought together online diary writers into one community.”
Social media are computer-mediated technologies that facilitate the creation and sharing of information, ideas, career interests and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks. The variety of stand-alone and built-in social media services currently available introduces challenges of definition; however, there are some common features.
The Aggressive Role of Social Media in the war Against Terrorism
Terrorists need to be in contact to people for the sake of recruitment. Some of them such as Al-Qaeda, used Mosques and religious gatherings to find suitable people for their missions, but after the spread of social media, their job became much more easy and secure. Social media provides a huge number of people and of course much more security. They have even put a good plan for recruitment. J. M. Berger states out the procedures ISIS follows to recruit its followers as follows:
* Discovery – ISIS discovers a potential recruit, or a potential recruit discovers ISIS
* Create Micro-Community – ISIS supporters flock around potential recruits to surround them with social input
* Isolation – Potential recruits are encouraged to cut ties with mainstream influences, such as their families, friends and local religious communities
* Shift to Private Communications – ISIS supporters encourage targets to take their conversations about ISIS into private or encrypted messaging platforms
* Identify and Encourage Action – ISIS supporters probe to figure out what the target is most likely to do (usually travel to join ISIS, or carry out terrorist attacks at home), then encourage the target to take action
From the above mentioned procedures we can recognize the great role of linguistic communication in this process. “The point at which ISIS users try to create a community around a potential recruit can be detected through social media analysis, for instance by measuring interactions sent by known ISIS recruiters and examining how many ISIS supporters a target follows.”
Recruitment, of course is not the only aim in the use of social media. Terrorists use the social media for spreading their thoughts and activities. It is really a free and secure means of propaganda. New technologies have not only made it possible to produce propaganda with astonishing ease – they have also made it far easier to disseminate these films and images.
Until very recently, YouTube and Facebook carried out a huge number of Al-Qaeda and ISIS offensive visual activities, while Twitter has been carrying the slogans, thoughts, news, and clergymen supportive speeches, before the companies became aware enough to prevent ISIS from that free propaganda.
« The wide-scale spread of jihadist ideology, especially on the Internet, and the tremendous number of young people who frequent the Jihadist Web sites [are] a major achievement for jihad, » bin Laden wrote in a May 2010 letter that was later found by U.S. Special Operations forces inside his Pakistan compound. »We must make every effort to reach out to Muslims both through new media like Facebook and Twitter, » Adam Gadahn, an American-born al-Qaeda propagandist, proclaimed in a 2013 interview.
Despite all the efforts the social media companies paid, there is still a wide range of networking that they can use to achieve their goals. As the more established social-media companies become more aggressive in monitoring and removing terror-related content, groups such as the Islamic State are migrating to lesser-known sites, including Instagram, Tumblr and Soundcloud, according to terror experts. and here came the need to analyses all the available communications conveyed via all known social media using the available artificial intelligence to monitor terrorists activities just like what Google has begun to do.
The terrorist electronic armies
The huge activities of terrorism on the world wide web can not be achieved by private efforts, the need an army, an electronic army, to make them possible is a must, and this is what happens with terrorist organization such as ISIS.
This army(or armies) needs to communicate to coordinate and the world wide web is no longer a save place for them, yet it is the best. The well-known social media monitor their activities, so they have to choose one of the two following ways. The first one is to encode their language and the second is to use unexpected social media such as “gaming communities”
“Clash of Kings » and other mobile games might not be the first to come to mind when you think of a communication channel between terrorists. But this is why they are the preferred way to organize and coordinate plans. According to a recent report, the Gülenist Terror Organization (FETÖ), the prime suspect behind the failed coup attempt, used chat rooms of freemium mobile video games to organize the attempt. And this is not the first time a terrorist group orchestrated an attack using the communication capabilities of video game”
« The context of games like ‘Clash of Kings’ or similar games also makes it impossible to distinguish a heated chat about current game from an actual attack plan of terrorists, » said Talha Aynacı, the content strategist at BigKazan, a Turkish startup specialized on monetizing freemium games. « In the game, there are soldiers, bombers, buildings, targets and every other military keyword you can think of. Players can also exchange their troops, so if a user says: ‘Send the bombers,’ it’s very hard to understand whether it’s a simple game request or code for initiating a real-life terrorist attack. »
How Language Changes allies to enemies!
Terrorists usually try to make use of any struggles to depart allies. ISIS as an example uses the hatred toward the US government and the US government opinions towards some issues like the Palestinian-Israeli struggle in order to make excuses for its deed and to depart its enemies. On the other hand we find that politicians themselves support the terrorists’ side by adopting opinions that are not agreed upon.
Politicians’ speeches that contain offensive language is a good fuel for terrorism. Viktor Orban, the Hungarian president as an example described the immigrants the the words “unwanted” and“Poison” , while some other extremist politicians dare to speak about the “Danger” of “Islam” on other countries. This pathetic language of hatred is a fruitful gain for ISIS and other terrorist organizations using Islam as a base to fulfill their own goals.
In addition to all of that, the misuse of the freedom of opinion in many countries widens the gap between peoples and cultures and builds a fertile environment for terrorism to grow in the minds of a wide range of people especially young people. The offensive drawings against the Prophet Muhammad PBUH as an example led to many reflective activities (at least as terrorists pretend they are)
The use of offensive language led us to worst aggressive thinking that reached the highest levels of the governments making it possible for Donald trump to try to ban travel to the united states against peoples who are the victims of ISIS other than the real ISIS supporters. It also made it agreeable to hear Viktor Orban, the Hungarian president describe the people who escaped from ISIS as being “Poison” . And of course those are not an exception nowadays.
The Aggressive Role of the Media in the war Against Terrorism
The Media, as the most effective power on people, plays an enormous role in the terrorism actions. Terrorists usually draws its strength from media reactions on its activities, and the media agencies on the other hand gain great benefits from the activities of terrorists. It is a great chance for them to have a successful story about terrorism.
“The package he dropped into the postbox was addressed to al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based TV network. Merah was confident that al-Jazeera would broadcast the material because, in his words, it constantly showed “massacres and bombs and suchlike”
Terrorist activities make mutual benefits for both media agencies and the terrorist organizations. Each one of them lives on the action made by the other. “It has become widely accepted that there is an almost symbiotic relationship between terrorism and the media as terrorism provides for exciting and violent stories which help sell the news product and the media provides terrorist groups with a means of spreading their message and creating fear among the general public.” And of course this will not come to this end, for the media-men see that it is necessary to add “some salt” to the food. This amount of salt comes from the linguistic styles they use to urge people to read, watch or listen to them and put them in the same time far away from the reach of law and general opinion refusal.
This salty taste of the press and media language is by all means a hidden offensive language that should be taken into consideration. Media amplification of the news and the repetitions each hour or even a quarter of hour serves the terrorism goals so much.
“without the media’s coverage, the act’s impact is arguably wasted, remaining narrowly confined to the immediate victim(s) of the attack, rather than reaching the wider ‘target audience’ at whom the terrorists’ violence is actually aimed.”
Indeed, the goals of terrorists are not solely confined to winning the attention of the masses. In addition to that, through the media, they aim to publicize their political causes, inform both friends and foes about the motives for terrorist deeds, and explain their rationale for resorting to violence . They further aim to be treated like regular, accepted, legitimate world leaders, as the media gives them a similar status.
The international Community and the international legal organization must take all that into consideration and try to reform press and media rights to include such matter in their definition of offensive language.
Media language between non-alignment and support for terrorism
Words like “The Islamic State”, “Shia-Sunny struggle”, “extremist Islamists” and the like are widely used nowadays despite the fact that they imply an offensive language that leads to hatred, because we are sure that “The Islamic State” is not a real representative of Islam and Muslims. It declares that ISIS is Islamic and the Muslims then have to choose either to follow up their “Islamic State? Or change their religion, and this is absolutely misleading because most of the ISIS victims are Muslims and/or belong to Islamic communities.
The use of the term “Shia-Sunny struggle” proves that there is a real Shia-Sunny war, despite the fact that Shia and Sunny Muslims live in harmony in many communities and a lage number of them are victims of terrorism actions that is illustrated by terrorism and the media as a “Shia-Sunny struggle”.
Talking about the support for terrorism her does not refer to direct support by any means, and the media targeted her are supposed to be fighting terrorism, but their language fails to express that or they might have let an amount of action for marketing purposes.
According to Jetter, one additional New York Times article about an attack in a particular country increased the number of ensuing attacks in the same country by between 11% and 15%. On average, he calculates that an additional NYT article appears to result in between one and two casualties from another terrorist attack within the next week.
Despite all what has been said before, we must admit the positive role of many media-men and journalists in facing terrorism. “It should be noted there are brilliant, courageous members of the media who daily put their lives at risk covering conflicts around the world. At least 1197 journalists have been killed in the last 25 years, with seventy-three killed in 2015 alone.”
The Positive Role of Social Media Companies in the war Against Terrorism
Speech about the effect of Media and Social media should not be limited to negative effects because there is some light in the end of the tunnel. Social Media users and activists have played an enormous role in the fight against terrorism. In addition to those, there is the act of the social media companies themselves that worked (and are still working) to ban all the terrorist activities.
Of course we cannot consider the action of social media companies a complete one because of the huge amount of the remaining terrorism supporters on those social media and the types of offensive language and actions that are considered offensive. In addition to all that, the mechanism of observation and monitoring depends mainly on the reports of the users and the offensive expressions programmed in the databases of that social media.
Governments should pay more attention to monitoring the social media from their own side and must pressure on the social media companies in order to make them find new ways to discover offensive actions and terrorists as well.
It is obvious that the most important social media that participated in the spread of terrorism are Facebook and Twitter.
Facebook has been the most aggressive when it comes to taking down terror related content. The company has adopted a zero tolerance policy and proactively removing posts related to terrorist organizations. Facebook also relies on its users to alert the company to posts that promote or celebrate terrorism and hires screeners to review content that might violate its standards.
Zero Tolerance Policy has its own effect on the spread of terrorism, but it is still inadiquite because of the degree of offensively it is sensitive to. This is of course related also to the terms of the freedom of opinion adopted and its relation to the extent those social media should interfere.
« We don’t allow praise or support of terror groups or terror acts, anything that’s done by these groups and their members, » said Monika Bickert, a former federal prosecutor who heads global policy management for Facebook.
Steven Stalinsky, executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute, said: « The jihadi groups decided what could be posted and released. Twitter became the way around the forums. It became the wild west of jihad. »
Even when this is true (to an extent), but we cannot deny the development in Twitter policy that banned tens of thousands of terrorist accounts lately. Twitter has turned from number one terrorism site into a brave fighter against terrorism. It is admitted that it is still below expectations and it is not enough to reach this point, but this is still comfortable to an extent especially after the growing fight against terrorism from the part of Twitter users and activists.
Legal act against Aggressive and terrorism-supportive Media Language
Media agencies are accused to be supporting terrorism only when they show direct support and this does not happen all over the world of course. This is not enough to stop media support to terrorism because support differs in its density. It varies between being the official speaker or representative of terrorism to using some sorts of linguistic expressions that may lead to terrorist actions or it least terrorist support.
The international community and the legal organizations as well should try more limiting procedures and surround terrorism and isolate it.
After all, the balance between freedom and terrorist action banning is a matter debate and needs more research in order to come into an end.
The researcher has come to a set of conclusions that are to be stated below:
1. There is a wide range of aggressive language that should be taken into consideration when dealing with the war against terrorism. This language starts from direct support of terrorism to the misuse of some linguistic expressions that may lead in a way or another to terrorism.
2. Some Linguistic expressions may lead to some kinds of phobia which may lead to another type of terrorism that targets other groups of people. As an example the illtreatement of immigrants by some groups powered by Islamophobia.
3. In the fight against terrorism, social media companies have benefited from artificial intelligence to analyses the language used by their users and this seems to be good to an extent. Terrorists on the other hand migrated to other social media such as gaming social media in order to benefit from the similarity between their own linguistic expressions and the linguistic expressions used in war-games.
4. Media monitoring is restricted to direct support to terrorism and neglects the linguistic expressions that are used widely and affect the war against terrorism in a way or another.
5. There is a struggle between sound monitoring of terrorism on the social media and the principles of human rights and privacy.
6. Civil society organizations and civil activists play a good role in the fight against terrorism, but they still have to pay much more efforts to fight any terrorist phenomena on the social media.
The researcher recommends the following as related to the war against terrorism:
1. The media language should be monitored more strictly in order to prevent terrorist organizations and groups benefit from the media.
2. Linguistic expressions such as “The Islamic State”, “The Shia-Sunny fight”, “extreme Islamism” must be replaced with more suitable expressions which are more comfortable and represent the reality.
3. Gaming social media and communities should be monitored in a better way and the language used there should be studied widely in order to come into better solution to the use of war-games in sending terrorist messages.
4. It is recommended that more legal act is practiced on the media to avoid their benefiting from terrorism in a way that respects human rights and press and media freedom.
5. The researcher recommends that civil society organizations and civil activists should work together in monitoring (Human monitoring) of the social media in a more organized way.
|Alexander Spencer , lessons learnt: Terrorism and the Media. The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). March 2012. p6.
|ARDA BILGEN, Terrorism and the Media: A Dangerous Symbiosis. E-International Relations Students. JUL 22 2012. http://www.e-ir.info/2012/07/22/terrorism-and-the-media-a-dangerous-symbiosis
|ERHAN KAHRAMAN, How terrorist groups use online games to plot coups, attacks. August 8, 2016. https://www.dailysabah.com/life/2016/08/08/how-terrorist-groups-use-online-games-to-plot-coups-attacks
|Hungarian prime minister says migrants are ‘poison’ and ‘not needed’, The Guardian, Wednesday 27 July 2016 01.14 BST. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/26/hungarian-prime-minister-viktor-orban-praises-donald-trump
|Ivanauskiene, Violeta and Makstutyte. Terrorism: implications for international social work. Vytautas Magnus University. ISSN 1392-3137. TILTAI, 2012.
|J.M. Berger. How terrorists recruit online (and how to stop it). Brookings. Monday, November 9, 2015. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/markaz/2015/11/09/how-terrorists-recruit-online-and-how-to-stop-it
|Jamie Doward, Media coverage of terrorism ‘leads to further violence’. The Guardian. Saturday 1 August 2015 20.30 BST. https://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/aug/01/media-coverage-terrorism-further-violence
|Jason Burke, How the changing media is changing terrorism, The Guardians, Thursday 25 February 2016 06.00 GMT. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/25/how-changing-media-changing-terrorism
|Kaplan Andreas M., Haenlein Michael (2010). « Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of social media »
|Laqueur, Walter (1999). Terrorism and History . Oxford: Oxford University Press; Roth, Cecil (1959). The Zealots in the War of 66–73. Journal of Semitic Studies.
|Marty Rudoy, The Media Must Stop Encouraging Terrorists. Huffpost. 07/17/2016 02:52 pm ET Updated Jul 18, 2017. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/marty-rudoy/the-media-must-stop-encou_b_11043326.html
|Obar, Jonathan A.; Wildman, Steve (2015). « Social media definition and the governance challenge: An introduction to the special issue ». Telecommunications policy. 39 (9): 745–750. SSRN 2647377
|Schmid, Alex, & Jongman, Albert (1988). Political Terrorism: A New Guide to Actors, Authors, Concepts, Data Bases, Theories, and Literature. Amsterdam: North Holland, Transaction Books.
|Scott Higham, Ellen Nakashima, Social media centre stage in war on terror. The Sunday Morning Herald. JULY 21 2015. http://www.smh.com.au/comment/social-media-centre-stage-in-war-on-terror-20150721-gigw2z.html
1. Jason Burke, How the changing media is changing terrorism, The Guardians, Thursday 25 February 2016 06.00 GMT. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/25/how-changing-media-changing-terrorism
2. Laqueur , Walter (1999). Terrorism and History . Oxford: Oxford University Press; Roth, Cecil (1959). The Zealots in the War of 66–73. Journal of Semitic Studies.
3. Schmid, Alex, & Jongman, Albert (1988). Political Terrorism: A New Guide to Actors, Authors, Concepts, Data Bases, Theories, and Literature. Amsterdam: North Holland, Transaction Books.
4. Ivanauskiene, Violeta and Makstutyte. Terrorism: implications for international social work. Vytautas Magnus University. ISSN 1392-3137. TILTAI, 2012.
5. Kaplan Andreas M., Haenlein Michael (2010). « Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of social media »
6. Obar, Jonathan A.; Wildman, Steve (2015). « Social media definition and the governance challenge: An introduction to the special issue ». Telecommunications policy. 39 (9): 745–750. SSRN 2647377
7. J.M. Berger. How terrorists recruit online (and how to stop it). Brookings. Monday, November 9, 2015. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/markaz/2015/11/09/how-terrorists-recruit-online-and-how-to-stop-it/
9. Jason Burke, How the changing media is changing terrorism, The Guardians, Thursday 25 February 2016 06.00 GMT. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/25/how-changing-media-changing-terrorism
10. Scott Higham, Ellen Nakashima, Social media centre stage in war on terror. The Sunday Morning Herald. JULY 21 2015. http://www.smh.com.au/comment/social-media-centre-stage-in-war-on-terror-20150721-gigw2z.html
12. ERHAN KAHRAMAN, How terrorist groups use online games to plot coups, attacks. August 8, 2016. https://www.dailysabah.com/life/2016/08/08/how-terrorist-groups-use-online-games-to-plot-coups-attacks
13. ERHAN KAHRAMAN, How terrorist groups use online games to plot coups, attacks. August 8, 2016. https://www.dailysabah.com/life/2016/08/08/how-terrorist-groups-use-online-games-to-plot-coups-attacks
14. Hungarian prime minister says migrants are ‘poison’ and ‘not needed’, The Guardian, Wednesday 27 July 2016 01.14 BST. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/26/hungarian-prime-minister-viktor-orban-praises-donald-trump
15. Hungarian prime minister says migrants are ‘poison’ and ‘not needed’, The Guardian, Wednesday 27 July 2016 01.14 BST. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/26/hungarian-prime-minister-viktor-orban-praises-donald-trump
16. Jason Burke, How the changing media is changing terrorism, The Guardians, Thursday 25 February 2016 06.00 GMT. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/25/how-changing-media-changing-terrorism
17. Alexander Spencer , lessons learnt: Terrorism and the Media. The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). March 2012. p6.
18. ARDA BILGEN, Terrorism and the Media: A Dangerous Symbiosis. E-International Relations Students. JUL 22 2012. http://www.e-ir.info/2012/07/22/terrorism-and-the-media-a-dangerous-symbiosis/
20. Jamie Doward, Media coverage of terrorism ‘leads to further violence’. The Guardian. Saturday 1 August 2015 20.30 BST. https://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/aug/01/media-coverage-terrorism-further-violence
21. Marty Rudoy, The Media Must Stop Encouraging Terrorists. Huffpost. 07/17/2016 02:52 pm ET Updated Jul 18, 2017. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/marty-rudoy/the-media-must-stop-encou_b_11043326.html
22. Scott Higham, Ellen Nakashima, Social media centre stage in war on terror. The Sunday Morning Herald. JULY 21 2015. http://www.smh.com.au/comment/social-media-centre-stage-in-war-on-terror-20150721-gigw2z.html
23. Scott Higham, Ellen Nakashima, Social media centre stage in war on terror. The Sunday Morning Herald. JULY 21 2015. http://www.smh.com.au/comment/social-media-centre-stage-in-war-on-terror-20150721-gigw2z.html
24. Scott Higham, Ellen Nakashima, Social media centre stage in war on terror. The Sunday Morning Herald. JULY 21 2015. http://www.smh.com.au/comment/social-media-centre-stage-in-war-on-terror-20150721-gigw2z.html