How you become a famous “Terrorist Expert” on social media.


Whether you are a bored, retired civil servant, a journalist, a blogger, or just a young enthusiastic ambitious person looking for fame, all you have to do is to present yourself as a Terrorist Expert. If you are smart enough to learn a few words of Arabic and train yourself to pronounce them well, you can become an ATE, an “Arabic Terrorist Expert”. In fact, your orphan Arabic words sound better if pronounced with a western accent. This will impress, show a lot of intelligence, and certainly demonstrate a huge amount of knowledge! This is why “experts” use Arabic words to an audience who hardly know where Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen are on the map.

The next step is to go on social media and follow accounts of Al-Qaeda franchises and the “Islamic State” group of “keyboard jihadists” for you to reproduce and post their stuff. When you see a comment, you just copy it, translate it into your own mother tongue language and post it on Twitter or Facebook. Once spotted, you are guaranteed to receive dozens of calls, weekly, from newspapers, radios and television around the globe, looking for the added value of comments from a “terrorist expert” in their programme or article.

You can enjoy tweeting:”I am going to be on the ABCD at 1400 PM to discuss ISIS (ISIL/Daesh/IS)”. You can start chatting with those Mujahedeen who follow you to sharpen some timely information and tweet it, confirming more of your expertise. You can even talk to rebels in Syria, meeting them over endless coffee in 5 star hotels in the Middle East and then write a book about them, reflecting their version, pretending to be someone who spends his life walking down the street in Syria.

You could also envisage visiting Lebanon, spending few days talking to taxi drivers, or taking it further by going to the suburbs of Beirut, sitting in a restaurant and speaking to people around. Then when you can, come back and write about your “credible sources” within Hezbollah. It will look very sexy on paper: You become a Hezbollah expert, you can repeat “Lab’baiki Ya Zaynab” at every opportunity and say “Hezbollah originated in the south of Lebanon”! Not really difficult mainly if your speciality is to count Shia tombs and identify militia flags…

Once you are a famous analyst, you keep an eye on any mantra that is starting to pick up in the social media. You just need to be fast enough to follow it and so be among the first. Usually it starts with a group of analysts, all-sitting in a tank pretending to think. In fact, as they are all mostly working for the same group around the world, they promote each other. They are looking at the word through binoculars, dictating to western governments what they should or should not do and getting angry when these governments do not listening to their “unique advice” – advice that is equivalent, in their perception, to “the only Coca-Cola in the desert”. Once the idea is dropped onto social media, everybody else runs to pick it up and chew it, each one from a different angle.

Don’t worry if it is wrong. Everybody is saying the same thing and everybody will just turn the page when it is wrong and start looking for another idea. Who cares, anyway, whether it is right or wrong?

So it turns out that terrorism is the most popular field of study in western society today. The number of scholars and theorists specialising in terrorism has boomed since 9/11. Leonard Weinberg said:” The Library at the university where I work contains almost five thousand books on Terrorism. When I log on to Google and search under the heading “terrorism”, the result is approximately fifty million entries”.

The U.S.A intelligence budget invested in fighting terrorism and paying think-tank organisation to do the thinking job for them has reached around $70bn per year. This amount is still relatively low in comparison to the cost of the war in Iraq.

We need to look no further for the reason why “people hate us”. Just listen to what the President of the United States is saying: “According to the latest figures compiled by Iraq Body Count, to date more than 200,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed, although other sources say the casualties are twice as high. More than 4,000 US soldiers have been killed in Iraq, and tens of thousands more have been injured and maimed. The war has cost US taxpayers more than $800 billion”.

In an interview with VICE founder Shane Smith, Obama has stated, “ The rise of the Islamic State was a direct result of the disastrous invasion. ISIL is a direct outgrowth of al Qaeda in Iraq that grew out of our invasion, which is an example of unintended consequences. Which is why we should generally aim before we shoot.”[1]

Yet, these newly born “analysts” and “terrorist experts” truly believe they know much better than Obama about the root cause of terrorism and who is behind ISIS’ growth. Of course they do. They spend all day looking at the news on Twitter following hundreds and thousands of activists on social media who take them on the merry-go-round. They can even count bombs while watching youtube videos provided by activists and add another title to themselves: “twitter war zone journalists”. While the poor Obama has only access  to what 16 most informed  intelligence agencies can produce.

The best intelligence reports and analysis are worthless if decision makers are not convinced and reject it. I believe that Terrorism Studies, offered by real scholars and academia, can provide unique perspectives that analysts and journalists could advantageously have access to. In fact, scholars and theorists can excel when they can join, in teamwork, with people who covered the events on the ground, offering high quality insights. This is how timely analysis can find acceptance by decision makers.



[1] Leopold Jason, The CIA Just Declassified the Document that Supposedly Justified the Iraq Invasion, VICENEWS, 19 March 2015.


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