I have a profile on Orkut, a social networking website run by Google, but I hadn't visited it for ages. Hearing the story at the USA Today on Al-Qaeda using Orkut to recruit English-speaking supporters, I went to Orkut to look up the online communities in question. I was stunned—here were a group of people viciously denouncing the US and reveling in the murder of its people. Clearly, some of the most vicious elements in the world have hijacked this website in order to disseminate their message of jihad against the west.
Instapundit’s Glen Reynolds has a new book called An Army of David’s where he argues that the rise of the Internet culture has given voice and influence to a who new group of people who without their blogs and social reworking websites would be ignored by traditional media. Reynolds is dead on and I myself depend on this medium to communicate with those who share my values. The double-edged sword is that the same technology that allows me to link with my supporters can be also exploited to link up those who seek to re-constitute the caliphate.
Yet to decry Al-Qaeda’s hijacking the web is ridiculous, akin to decrying its hijacking of airliners on 9/11. Anything Al-Qaeda touches is used for corrupt purposes. The vehicles Al-Qaeda uses were not built in the Arab world, nor the satellite telephones, or the video recorders it uses to film its messages, yet Al-Qaeda has used each in furtherance of its cause. This is an enemy whose material assets are only what he is able to take from us.
So the walk away message from this story can’t be that the Internet has become evil, or that we need a regimen of censorship to police the web, because by extension all everyday technology would become suspect. Technology is a tool, and it is as good or as bad the people who use it.
Instead, we ought simply focus on the ideology of our enemies and work to crush that. Let’s face it: we keep pussy-footing around the enemy. Had Iran’s mullahs been silenced and the Syrian regime had been smashed, Al-Qaeda would not exist. Had the US allowed Israel to destroy the Palestinian terror machine and those who support it, Al-Qaeda would not exist. Had the UK broken the backs of the imans who use London mosques to recruit terrorists, Al-Qaeda would not exist. And had the West declared that anyone who harms a westerner or western property over some cartoons and a printing press will suffer a certain, painful fate, Al-Qaeda would not exist.
It is not the Internet that makes Al-Qaeda possible; it’s the West’s unwillingness to ruthlessly seek out and destroy militant Islam that makes this terror group a continued force. How long Al-Qaeda thumbs its nose as us is not up to it; it’s up to us.