A Look Into Modern Terrorism and the Recruitment that Proceeds it

A Look into Modern Terrorism and the Recruitment that Precedes It

Modern journalism has turned words like Mujahideen, al-Qaeda, Al-Shabaab, and Taliban into common names in the American household. This isn’t by coincidence, nor did it happen without the hard work of several parties. Terrorist organizations have been working constantly under the radar to make their names known to the public, spreading the word of their holy mission and power. The methods used to present themselves vary, from an internet presence to suicide bombing. Both tactics are surprisingly effective, with varying amounts of success gained by the groups who employ them.

Social media in the forms of Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and Reddit are quickly becoming sizable platforms for the online masses to discover major events across the globe. These new web platforms allow for the easy spread of information, including terrorism. Terrorist attacks are now often broadcast across social media platforms almost instantly. Intentions through the online community widely vary: from spreading awareness for fundraising, blood donations, and uniting to keep peace, to other extremes, such as terrorist propaganda, recruitment, and weaponization. Online social media is now used heavily by terrorist organizations to reach new members as well. These peer-to-peer networks allow for easy communication between people affiliated with terrorism and possible recruits. Even more so, encrypted websites allow for safe chat rooms and free communication before commitment to terrorist organizations (Ishengoma). This highlights the fact that modern terrorism is constantly evolving, moving forward at the speed of light, allowing for little delay in action. Terrorist recruitment must be reduced as one of the first steps to stop terrorism in the Middle East. Government administrations must lay aside political differences, and work together to stop a blossoming threat to world security. As these groups spread out across multiple countries, their line of defense becomes thinner. International cooperation is essential in finding their weakest link, and infiltrating it, and that link is their online presence.

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Reflecting back on my first semester at VCU

My first semester of college was nothing that I could have prepared myself for. My classes varied in difficulty but never failed to give me a large work-load all at once, then large lulls in work, giving me enough time to remember what it felt like to slack off. Overall, the semester was incredibly positive and a tough learning experience.

For a while, I’ve been fairly self-reliant. Adapting to living on my own away from home has been an easy transition throughout the semester. Owning my free-time, as well as the right to do what I want has been a huge blessing. I don’t have certain distractions that I have to face back at my Dad’s house, as well as my Mom’s house. This only solidifies my goal to be successful throughout my college career, so I can move on once I have graduated, and not have to regress and move back with either one of my parents. However, I want to use this blog post to reflect on some of the problems I’ve had throughout my first semester at VCU.

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Richmond Book Store

A place that I had never really explored, but always meant to was the Richmond Book Store. The store is hard to miss; sitting right off of West Broad Street, a small blue building, with large windows showing a vast array of teetering books through tall windows. It always looks like a scene out of a movie. For this reason, I decided to venture into the store, armed with a dirty camera lens, and a desperate need for blog post content.

Once inside the store, you get the impression that the store is more of something that came to being after someone spent too long hording books and other random objects. However, I think it adds to the overall aesthetic of the store. The eccentric music playing out of old speakers, combined with the fact that there is not a single new object in the building, makes for a small leap backwards in time. There is no place to sit and enjoy the journey; you have to stand, reading the books as others shove past you in the cramped rows of bookshelves. Overall, none of this really bothered me, due to me being a closet book-worm. I mostly just enjoyed reading the books.

My one complaint about the store would be the pricing. For used books, the prices are way too high. The other objects in the store are also priced above their value, making it far less compelling to buy a book. Most college students don’t have the money to buy overpriced books, even if it supports local business. Just for that, I think I’ll stick to my usual used book store back home. Either way, it’s a good place to check out, if not just to take a look at some books.

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Internet Identity

To me, digital identity is the way you present yourself to the online community as a whole, whether it be for business, or personal use. The assumption can be made that the way you are depicted online, is who you are in person. Digital identity should be constructed in a way that people view you as a positive figure in the online community, as well as in other social communities.

I plan on constructing my digital identity in a way that most people won’t be able to see what I do online, through privacy filters and other methods. I obviously will be visible to most Google searches, however, when I google my name, the first results are a private FaceBook page, a MileSplit account, and my current RamPage that I post to. I hope to keep it this way, and add an online portfolio to my name soon.

I try to keep all posts professional, which is an incredibly vague term for the internet. Obviously, political affiliations, whether implied, or explicitly stated, may harm my chances at getting a job, as well as any religious views posted to social media websites. However, I’m a private person, so most of these I don’t have to worry about. My bigger problem is finding a way to curb my enthusiasm for colorful language when bantering with friends on social media websites, like Twitter. I however, try to not use my full name in the case that if anything where to happen, I’d be covered by some sort of anonymity. This can’t be the case when working on my portfolio, or other more professional internet outposts.

My online portfolio will be specific to my current interests and goals. It will cover various topics, such as a link to my blog, an art portfolio that includes up-to-date pieces, as well as a job resume. This way, I can cover my past achievements, as well as display my talents. It will make it easier to sell my image to a potential employer, as well as consolidate the amount of research said employer may have to do when looking into my past. I want to confine an interested person to as much filtered material as possible. Simply owing to the fact that I don’t want anyone to find something they could ever use against me. This hasn’t happened yet, nor have I put out any of such content, but I would rather take preventive measures in stopping the opportunity before it happens.

Overall, my online presence is incredibly small at this point, but I’m more than willing to expand. I want to make myself visible to those wishing to find me, and allow them only to see what I want them to see. This way I can keep my private life and business matters separate, as well as keep more of my life private. Because, as much as I am for free use of the internet, I value my privacy. It’s what separates me from the online world.

 

Photography and how my interests led to a major

Photography is a hobby I have had for a while, stemming from when I was younger and would carry a disposable camera around to take pictures of anything that piqued my interest. Since then, my interest has grown, leading me to want to major in photojournalism. My interest in the hobby has been undulating, but supportive teachers throughout high school solidified my interest and confidence.

I took my first photography class in my junior year of high school. The course covered a combination of 10mm film photography, as well as digital photography and Adobe Photoshop, leaving me open to explore different methods of capturing a multitude of subjects, scenes, and emotions. I believe that these freedoms allowed me to begin to open up as an artist, and develop my own voice in my artwork.

My senior year of high school, I took the second part of the photography course that I had started my junior year. This course offered even more artistic freedom than my previous course, and allowed me to explore most artistic outfits that I could think of. I began taking long exposure pictures of random objects, painting developer onto random pictures that I had taken on a 10mm film camera, and using a toy camera to produce actual pictures. These weird methods of production helped me see my subjects in a different light, and made me focus more on composition and technicalities that I had blown off as useless the year before. This led me to really enjoy taking pictures, exploring new places for subject matter, and filming my way to these new places as well.

The problem I have continuously run into during my progression through the photography world, is the fact that I can become incredibly lazy with some of the more mundane tasks of the hobby. When I had little interest in class, I had a tendency to overlook simple photo-lab procedures, leading to disastrous outcomes and the loss of too many expensive rolls of film, and time. If it weren’t for my ever patient teacher, I would have never gotten back on track. With a lot of guidance, low grades, and frustration, I finally began to take genuine interest in the art I was creating.

Once I had taken interest in my work, I began to really have fun with my photography. Simple trips into the backyard led to great results with infrared photography, and I began to delve into long exposure.

The moon is now one of my favorite subjects, as well as water. I like to try and capture moving objects in weird ways, sometimes giving the motion that they might not be moving after all. It’s much more difficult when your subject is moving, as you may not have as many chances to get the “perfect” picture. It’s a lot of adjustments while on the fly, changing camera settings, focus, and other environmental factors. I don’t always get the photograph that I want, but to me, it just makes the outcome all that more rewarding when I get what I want.Ethan-Concentration8APBOARD

Code Orange preformance at Strange Matter

This past weekend, I went to see Code Orange (formally Code Orange Kids) at Strange Matter, a small venue located right off of West Grave Street. My group waited in line for an hour for doors to open, then another twenty-five minutes until we were inside the small venue.    For those who haven’t been to Strange Matter, it’s a grungy venue, with writing on the walls, lights placed in weird designs on the wall, old video game stations, cheap drinks, and a constant source of music. Not only that, you also get to witness all different types of people that show up to see up-and-coming bands preform for the rowdy college kids that make up their fan base. All of this combined leads to an atmosphere of pure energy as bands jump onto stage. This energy is harnessed well by the bands, as I witnessed watching Code Orange preform.

Code Orange is a hardcore transitioning sludge metal band hailing from Pennsylvania, currently touring with 4 members, led by Reba Meyers, the band’s guitarist and vocalist. Currently touring with Twitching Tongues, the band is looking to promote their new album, I Am King. Strange Matter reported that the band did in fact sell out the show I attended, confirming the success of the new album, and the band’s new sound.

The set list was a mix of old and new. The band played songs from an older EP, Cycles, as well as their first album, Love is Love/Return to Dust, before progressing into newer material. The band was incredibly enthusiastic for a droning sludge metal band; they showed an incredible stage presence, playing guitar while preforming strange and violent acts of hair whipping and head-banging. Joe Goldman, the band’s bassist, looked incredibly scary throughout the show, and will have no need for a Halloween costume if he wants to scare children this coming Halloween. However, he did combine nicely with the methodical beats and harrowing vocals provided by Jami Morgan, the band’s drummer and screamer.

Each band member seemed to feel perfectly at home in the cloud of music surrounding them on stage. Their music sounded incredibly similar to the recorded music that my roommate and I have blasted for so long, and the audience agreed. The crowd inside the cramped venue was whipped into a frenzy throughout the 40 minute set. The mosh-pit became a place only those wishing to seek a painful death would enter, and people flew on and off the stage, back into the churning crowd of smelly teenage rebellion, pitching and yawing across the floor, until the last chord was played.

The band members seemed to be incredibly human after the show, and were willing to stand outside the venue, talking up fans, show officials, and others that had vacated the venue after seeing the main attraction of the night. For a very metal band, the members are incredibly cool. I would highly recommend seeing the band, if only for a taste of the sludge metal scene that is rising up in the music world.

 

 

Pictures were taken with my iPhone 4, and color corrected to a slight degree in Photoshop CS6.IMG_4416 IMG_4409

Terrorist Recruitment

Jenkins, Brian. “Building an Army of Believers.” 5 April 2007. Testimony.

 

 

Recruiting for a terrorist mission, is in essence, a campaign to spread the word of God. These campaigns are meant to show off, attract an audience, and strike fear into those who oppose the jihad. This results in the attention of the Muslim community; inviting recruits and volunteers for terrorist missions.

Al Qaeda no longer uses recruiters to spread its fingers over the Arab peninsula, instead using a loosely connected group of extremists who believe in jihad. This makes recruiting much less formal, and harder to track.

Al-Qaeda mostly relies on informal radicalization of recruits. Those who wish to volunteer for the jihad already appear radicalized before training. Terrorist organizations then use intense camps for team building, training, and military experience. These camps allow for a shared belief between recruits, as well as specific al-Qaeda planning.

However, there is a distinct difference between radicalizations and recruitment. This must be understood to realize the depth of the training undergone by recruits to organizations. Radicalization is the installment of an ideology; providing an incentive to an individual to embrace the violent jihadist nature. Recruitment is specifically training a human to become a weapon for jihadist purposes. It goes as far as introducing organization members to each other and allowing them to bond over a shared mindset. This in turn, prepares a unit for terrorist operation.

Recruitment tactics vary from country to country; in some Middle Eastern and Asian countries, recruited members are already pushed toward an ideal terrorist mindset, or follow Islam as an extremist. However, in western countries, recruitment becomes even more varied. European recruits are less assimilated into society, more easily recruited into jihadists organizations than American recruits. The United States integrates most immigrants within society, making it more difficult to find potential recruits. Those that have the potential to join a jihadist organization tend to be defunct; excommunicated from religious groups, and detached from families and communities. Those who are most susceptible to jihadist organizations tend to be searching for a justification through religion, approval, and other means.

Commitment to these groups varies, dependent on the time it takes to commit to jihadist ways, as well as the persuasiveness of the terrorist organization. Individuals may feel too pressured or uncomfortable during jihadist initiation, in turn ending their time as a jihadist, and returning to their previous life, as guaranteed by al-Qaeda or another organization. Terrorist ideologies are not for every recruit; showing the volunteers a fantasy they may have dreamed of as a bottom line.

All encompassing, Jenkins shows a true overview of the recruiting mind of a jihadist organization. Al-Qaeda, the obvious go-to for any such research provides a shining example of terrorist recruitment, as it is becoming more transparent as it further unravels under the scrutiny of western countries. Jenkins covers most aspects of recruitment, and a general scope, or lack thereof, of an individual likely to join the jihadist organization. My only argument, as in most cases I have found, is the lack of depth into online recruitment. Lacking only this one component, Jenkins solidifies my growing suspicion that terrorist organizations are made of incredibly brilliant officers who share a like-minded eye for brainwashing and control of power.

A Look Into Terrorism Recruitment #3

 

Anufrienko, Svetlana V. “Mass Media as a Vital Element of Modern Terrorism.” Middle-East Journal of Scientific Research 18 2 (2013): 206-09. Print.

 

The label, “terrorist” describes a group of the most unstable and deadly people of the current generation. The threat of terrorism is growing exponentially, as terrorist ideologies spread like a wildfire through the online community, morphing into dramatic action.

Mass media provides a crutch for terrorism recruitment to lean on; allowing for a large audience with minimal effort provided from terrorist organizations. Organizations use online mass media as free propaganda, promoting their accomplishments through open discussion, and intense scrutiny. He bond that mass media culture and terrorism have, parallels that of oxygen and a fire. The thoughts and actions of those who react to violent displays of cruelty only serve to feed the flame.

Observations show that the mass media craze that follows terrorism may have more effect on the global scale than the event itself. Information spreads much faster, more emotionally, and anonymously, allowing for a faster feedback. The Israeli hostage situation of the 1972 is incredibly well known. This is was, in large part, due to mass television promotion of the event, broadcasting the situation across the globe in a matter of minutes, only adding to the intensity of the event, rendering it beyond anything terrorist propaganda was deemed capable of before.

Online mass media culture only furthers the reach of terrorist organizations. The popularity of social media has far surpassed the popularity of television and newspaper, opening a new window of communication for tech-savvy terrorist groups. The internet provides the perfect outlet for terrorist recruitment and ideology. Easily accessible, as well as anonymous, online media grants the capability of terrorist communication for misinformation, as well as communication with public figures. This all allows for a stream of interest from curious audiences.

The capabilities that mass media provides has shown rise to new forms of terrorism. Acts of cruelty are evolving to become more dramatic, symbolic in nature. This forces an emotional connection in audiences, allowing for different outcomes of the event varying on region. These acts cumulate into civilian involvement, leading to causalities sending a strong message. The accumulation of these messages broadcasts a strong message of dangerous involvement, terrifying consequences, and a terrible misunderstanding of a religion turned into fruitless killing.

These fruitless killings terrify me. The unknown strength of terrorist organizations allows for such an online presence that is equally as hard to estimate, though it appears rather large in appearance. This has been the case in many media forms since the provided example of the 1972 Olympic hostage situation thrust mass coverage of terrorist threats into a hysterical spotlight. These events truly are free propaganda for terrorist groups; lending media coverage to groups is an unneeded catalyst that sparks the wrong type of attention.

This instills a sense of pride within these groups, only further encouraging acts of cruelty that surpass previous attempts. This cycle will not stop until mass media coverage of such events is tamed, allowing for less of a public reaction from intended audiences. I however fear this will not happen, due to the fear of censorship that clings to many Americans, further encouraging a growing ego in the Middle East.

A Look Into Terrorism Recruitment #2

Schweitzer, Yoram, and Aviv Oreg. Al-Qaeda’s Odyssey to the Global Jihad.

Institution for National Security Studies. Web. 9 Oct. 2014.

9/11 sparked a storm through the world, igniting fires within many youth’s hearts. Al-Qaeda used this youth movement to grow exponentially; grouping Muslim youths together to fight its holy cause. The sudden burst of activity by al-Qaeda over the years can be attributed to the sudden surge of youth volunteers, stemming from a dislike of western influence in conservative culture. Before his death, Osama Bin Laden consistently used dramatic flares of activity to stir notice within the ranks of other terrorist organizations, grouping them under the now blanket term of al-Qaeda. This sudden spread of affiliation has only led to more difficulties for Western powers to slow the spread of terrorism within the Middle East.

Like its western opposition, al-Qaeda maintains a special operation team, dedicated to the task of enlisting, financing, and managing large scale attacks, as well as recruitment. These teams spread the organization’s specialty of attack: suicide operations. These operations do not however, slow recruitment as expected. Al-Qaeda’s body count slowly has risen, totaling about 3,000 deaths by the September 11 attack on the United States. This use of offense has been adopted by many of al-Qaeda’s affiliating groups. The number of self-sacrificial attacks has continued to rise within the surrounding regions; spreading to areas very loosely affiliated with al-Qaeda ideology. This very specific method of offense becoming so closely affiliated with al-Qaeda has acted as a catalyst for recruitment through headline attacks, online social media, and reputation.

Terrorist organizations’ use of online media to target prospective recruits shows a strong attempt to keep stride with a growing social culture of youths. Propaganda and stories of success are shared instantly throughout online social media where the messages make their way to headlining news articles, only furthering the reach of the widespread pandemonium these groups wish to inflict upon their opposition. These messages only help highlight a growing anti-western sentiment within the ranks of terrorist organizations, and those who wish to join.

I would criticize that this article does not delve deeply into the online aspect of recruitment. However, the staggering statistics provided highlight the issue of dramatic attacks, going into greater detail regarding the use of humans as weapons, as the well as modernization of terrorist tactics. These statistics also show a correlation between al-Qaeda affiliates and other terrorist organizations adopting similar self-sacrificial methods to make a larger impact on the global scale. Though thoroughly convincing, I would again criticize the lack of detail regarding online social media and its use in responding to these events, as well as celebrating these moments as accomplishments in some cases.

Al-Qaeda has a well-known Twitter account, as does the organization known as Al-Shabaab. Neither of these media outlets (the organizations use them regularly) are mentioned. This is an enormous object to glance over. The twitter handles are constantly updated with messages, propaganda, as well as demeaning messages directed at the countries that oppose a misguided will of Allah. These men have no real control over rational followers of Islam, and never will. However, this does not stop them from infecting the youth of Muslim culture through other various sources.

A Look Into Terrorism Recruitment Through Social Media

Ishengoma, Fredrick. “Online Social Networks and Terrorism 2.0 in Developing Countries” International Journal of Computer Science & Network Solutions

1.4 (2013) Print.

 

 

Social Media in the forms of Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and Reddit are quickly becoming sizable references for the online masses to discover major events across the globe. These new web platforms allow for the easy spread of information; including terrorism.

Terrorist attacks are now broadcasted across social media platforms almost instantly. Intentions through the online community widely vary: from spreading awareness for fundraising, blood donations, and uniting to keep peace, to other extremes, such as terrorist propaganda, recruitment and weaponization. Online social media is now used heavily by terrorist organizations to reach new members. These peer-to-peer networks allow for easy communication between people affiliated with terrorism and possible recruits. Encrypted websites allow for safe chat rooms and free communication before commitment to terrorist organizations.

Twitter has become an easy route of mass communication between terrorist groups and their fanatics. The twitter page for the terrorist group al-Qaeda has over 14,000 followers, communicating through video, text, and forum. Groups use Twitter to continuously churn out ideological campaigns, fund-raising forums, as well as video of action taken against opposing forces. These methods are free, easily accessible, and far reaching. Perfect for touching a new generation of social media users.

Terrorism is evolving almost as rapidly as technology is moving. This break-neck speed hardly gives any time for response. Social media outlets are a promising way to make a large impact on thousands of people, and that is exactly what groups such as Al-Shabaab use these online resources for. Very few laws apply to the internet, making it an easy ground to evade law enforcement. The few laws that do apply to social media and the internet are easily avoided, through the afore mentioned encryptions, as well as internet proxies, and deep web search engines. All of which bypass most government restrictions.

I would however criticize that this article fails to mention the fact that these bypasses often do not sustain the form of social media. Deeper forms of communication are easily accessible through social websites such as Silk Road; a trading place for drugs, weapons, and humans. Though this study is focused on social media, such a heavy platform of online communication should not be excluded. Though harder to reach, these forms of communication are much less encrypted, due to total anonymity and can be accessed easily by those who wish to find it.

Ishengoma does present new statistics. None of which caught my interest as breakthrough in terrorist research. The statistics however, will be useful in further argument towards the spread of online terrorist culture. The article mentions several intelligent ideas, revolving around the Twittersphere; providing an explanation for those unaccustomed to the Twitter interface, as well as a glance at how it would be used under such circumstances. Ishengoma also mentions several twitter handles of terrorist organizations: al-Qaeda (@Andalus_Media), Al-Shabab (@HSMPress), allowing readers to reference the mentioned groups, and base their decisions from the facts provided, coupled with their own personal bias. Overall, the Ishengoma presents an encompassing argument, not void of facts.