When terrorists take to new media
It is not only the atrocities committed by these terrorists that instill fear in the hearts of the people but sensational reports also play a role in this regard. With the advent of new forms of communication, the situation appears to have become out of control. As far as the traditional media were concerned, there were, at least, some checks and balances in place.
Social media, however, have changed the rules of the game. Due to the uncontrollable nature of social media, it is widely being used by terrorist organizations for propaganda purposes. Photographs distributed online, particularly in regions where there is war or widespread terror, can shape the judgment of the international community in no time. The utility of the social media cannot be denied in sharing truth and creating awareness about the current happenings in a particular area but the problem arises when the reports or photographs doing the rounds online prove to be false or manipulated to harm the interests of a country.
We are also aware that many a time a photograph goes viral online and stirs considerable controversy but later it proves to be either morphed or tweaked and containing false information. Usually, by the time the truth comes out, unscrupulous elements have already achieved the desired result.
This disinformation, abundantly present in Syria and the Iraq war has also manifested itself in Turkey, which has been seeing increasing acts of terror in recent days. A curfew lasting eight days was recently enforced in the district of Cizre, which was under siege by the PKK terror organization. During that time the security forces were engaged in wide-ranging operations.
It was during that time unscrupulous elements used the social media to further their propaganda through tags like “people are being massacred in Cizre” and spread false reports online.
Horrifying photographs that were published quickly caused a brief panic in both the Turkish and international media. It soon emerged that the photograph of the body of a baby stored in a deep-freezer was actually from Palestine, and the widespread reports of slaughter were merely PKK propaganda. However, part of the international media, either unable to reach or unwilling to grasp this fact, are continuing to engage in social engineering as they see fit.
Under the influence of the social media, Turkey can be depicted as an evil state that slaughters its own Kurdish citizens, while members of the PKK are portrayed as “heroic fighters” by most media outlets. Nobody hears the voices of the Kurds persecuted by the PKK in Turkey; because sadly the social media are not under these oppressed people’s monopoly.
Since the terrorists make themselves heard through propaganda, it is very important for disinformation and mendacious propaganda in the social media to be identified quickly and for accurate information to be shared at once in countries where terror is widespread. Disinformation must be prevented quickly so the fear desired by terrorists does not come to dominate society.
The mainstream or traditional media have a particular responsibility in such societies. To give an example from Turkey again, the attacks perpetrated by the PKK and the troops martyred in recent days have been covered with a tragic air by many media organizations. Events have been dramatized with mournful accounts. Presenters have been encouraged to adopt a special tone of voice and to give the impression that “we are all devastated.” The funerals of martyrs are covered with funeral marches and pictures of weeping relatives clinging to the coffins. We all know the effect that the funeral march has on a society, and how terror organizations rejoice in that. That being the case the PKK, a communist, separatist terror organization, has gained a dirty advantage through this propaganda unwittingly provided by a section of the media, rather than through its own actions. Showing the funerals of the martyrs in such a way has further encouraged the PKK to attack our troops and gives the impression that their attacks are being successful.
Yet in Islam martyrdom is a desirable thing. Allah does not want the martyrs to be “regarded as dead,” but says they are living in joy in His presence. A martyr should therefore be laid to rest, not with dirges and funeral march, but with thousands of people calling the name of Allah. Such a community that comes together with a powerful faith will startle groups that spread such corruption, such as the PKK. It will then be largely meaningless for those terrorists to attack soldiers; because their propaganda tools will have been taken from them.
It should not be forgotten that if terrorists can make effective use of the media and the social media to disseminate acts of terror, make their voices heard and gather support, and if they are successful in doing so, that terror can also be brought to an end by correct use of the same media. The media must be sensitive to this and must do away with their obsession with ratings and competition in its coverage of terror. They must abandon suggestions and images that might portray a terrorist organization as strong and influential. On the contrary, they must encourage the idea that such attacks have no effect on society, or even that they further reinforce social unity. They must give the impression that the feelings of fear the terrorists hope for has been spurned by the community. It must always be remembered that terror feeds on fear. If there is no fear in the community, acts of terror have no meaning.
The media must remember that the origin of terror always lies in an ideological philosophy. Terrorists have a hard life, and obviously cannot be won over with money, a comfier life or promises for the future. What brainwashes them are always ideologies. If the media are to wage an effective war on terror, they must do that by striking at the terrorist’s ideology. If a person’s ideology encourages him to kill, that ideology is obviously perverse, and that perverse ideology can easily be destroyed in the scientific arena. The media must use make efforts to correct the terrorists’ false ideologies. The media are an important instrument in our hands. If we really wish mankind to be freed from terror and for terrorism to be eradicated, we must not leave that instrument to the spreaders of corruption.
The writer has authored more than 300 books translated into 73 languages on politics, religion and science. He tweets @harun_yahya.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view