The ideology of the army and extremist groups expressed in social media


The Ideology of the Army and Extremist Groups Expressed in Social Media Matt Bird-Meyer University of Central Missouri

I will always place the mission first. 2010) 2 Then. 2010).S. I will never leave a fallen comrade. and live the Army values. A male narrator begins to speak while images of soldiers. The nearly 11-minute video is a celebratory piece centered on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. On the opposite spectrum. Nov.S. I will never accept defeat.The ideology of the army and extremist groups expressed in social media Introduction The screen starts black. (YouTube. I will never quit. explosions. U. soldiers and coalition forces helped to overthrow two hostile regimes. rescue two nations from oppression and liberate over 50 million people. Nov. Army’s creed slowly comes into focus. and the U. music that is more suited for an action movie snaps the pensive atmosphere in a percussive jolt. the website for The Palestinian Information Center contains an online video that appears to be a propaganda tool to spread negative . There’s also a peripheral celebration for the Medals of Honor awarded posthumously to four soldiers who sacrificed themselves to save the lives of fellow soldiers. This is how the U. Since 2001. Soft music with sustained notes rises. I am an American soldier. This is the story of nearly a decade of war and of four soldiers who exemplify the best attributes in a soldier (YouTube. Army’s video titled “The Strength of the Nation” begins. military vehicles and civilians parade across the screen. I serve the people of the United States. I am a warrior and a member of a team.S.

al. al. p. latched onto extremist messages during his Internet search for answers about religion. 3 The Australian Strategic Policy Institute report (Bergin et. The report (Bergin et.The ideology of the army and extremist groups expressed in social media sentiments about Israel.. Social media is a form of mass media that is at the forefront of communications for the U. such as how Abdul Basheer. especially the Internet” (p. al. a law graduate from Singapore who lectured at a local school. “He believed martyrdom and the promise of paradise would bring moral redemption within his family” (Bergin et. Army in using social media. Overall. 2009. A doctor in the video describes in gruesome detail the aftereffects of an Israeli bombing. which zeroed in on those “who had become attracted to radical and terrorist ideologies through the mass media.S. the report discusses how extremist groups use the Internet to recruit members in the Southeast Asia region.S. military and terrorist organizations. 3). Stuart Hall (as cited in Griffin. 2003) said mass media exist to preserve positions of power while the poor are exploited. Basheer was arrested in 2007 for trying to join the Taliban in Afghanistan. 2009) classified this Palestinian website as an “extremist” site. Thus. The report offered several examples. 3). This axiom of Hall’s cultural studies can be extended to the ideology expressed in social media by governmental and fringe groups. This paper attempts to demonstrate how both . the purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how extremists control an equally powerful ideological message as the U. 2009) noted that Basheer’s arrest was part of an investigation by the Internal Security Department in Singapore.

Foss said an ideology is made of “evaluative beliefs (p. Hall’s cultural studies (as cited in Griffin. 2003) seek to discover who controls the dominant ideology and who is marginalized. which posts videos. al. .S. For example. So. In fact. which are beliefs that could be framed as arguments with alternate viewpoints. How powerful those ideological messages are is subjective. However. this paper relied on the ASPI report (Bergin et. that is a question ripe for a separate study. news and other information.The ideology of the army and extremist groups expressed in social media 4 groups post information online heavily laden with ideology to preserve their positions of power. terrorists believe that the United States should not interfere in the Middle East. the research was extended to how extremist groups also use social media to achieve hegemonic ideology. social and cultural interests that give a group its identity and establish its values. identifying social media run by terrorists was too difficult. Army YouTube video for ideology and uncover who is marginalized in the messages. 239). Foss (2004) describes ideology as the beliefs shared by a group. These are political. 2009) and a website for The Palestinian Information Center. In an attempt to provide balance. The United States believes it is a good idea to spread democracy in the Middle East through the use of force. This paper should demonstrate the pervasiveness of ideology in the Army’s social media. Methodology Ideological criticism and Hall’s cultural studies were used as theoretical lenses to mine a U.

The body of the video opens with images of the Sept. dancing and cheering on the fallen statute of Saddam. exploding bombs. soldiers surrounded by and chatting with villagers. During Sgt. Sgt. Nov. 5 U. Major Preston’s talk.S. . to destroy those enemy forces and at the same time build relationships with the people where the enemy are hidden (YouTube. and a helicopter firing about a dozen rockets. 2009). Major Kenneth Preston then describes the enemy as tenacious and resilient. 11 attacks on New York City and the Pentagon. He goes on to explain the role of the soldier: It takes a special breed of soldier today to be able to go out there and not only bring peace and stability to those countries where they’re deployed but also to seek out and find those enemy forces.The ideology of the army and extremist groups expressed in social media Also.” (YouTube. Army video. 2010) shows soldiers running and shooting in full battle gear. Marshall McLuhan’s technological determinism guides the research to a conclusion in understanding the importance of controlling media before it controls us.S. and soldiers lining up prisoners with their heads covered in plastic bags immediately followed by a soldier high-fiving an Arab youngster. Nov. a tank pushing over a large political monument. Army social media The collage of images in the opening seconds of the U. The announcer describes how solders were “thrown into extraordinary circumstances” as the video shows soldiers loading onto transport planes. He says our military first struck against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. a rope swinging over the statute of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. the images shown were of men in black hoods carrying rocket launchers. Arabs beating. children cheering. “The Strength of the Nation.

They’ve been allowed to vote. Army. is then filmed saying. The man to put his life on the line? Now that’s a hero” (YouTube.” The narrator then offers a caveat that the Army’s job is far from over. I don’t mean basketball players and I don’t mean football players. . provides a filmed quote: “This country could use a good hero to look up to and I don’t mean baseball players. 2010).” the narrator said. “The American soldiers had a huge impact on both Iraqis and Afghanis. but this came at a price. The narrator introduces the story of Sgt. you could say some were born for it.S.The ideology of the army and extremist groups expressed in social media The first of four stories about soldiers who were awarded the Medal of Honor 6 begins about 2 minutes and 50 seconds into the video. He says soldiers helped set conditions for stability in the Mideast and Southwest Asia. who was helping to build a POW camp when they were overrun. His stepfather. vice chief of staff for the U. The images at this point show soldiers being pushed in wheelchairs along a red carpet. In fact. He took up a vehicle-mounted gun and held off the enemy but died in the firefight. Donald Pvirre. Peter Chiarelli. The scene shifts to a doctor picking through the hair of a disheveled Saddam Hussein after his capture. The narrator says Iraq also approved a constitution in a national vote as waving children line up for a photo taken by a soldier. The narrator then notes that Afghanistan held an election and adopted a democratic constitution as a woman holds up two fingers in the peace or victory sign with her index finger stained purple. “Fortunately. Nov. Gen. solders were up for the challenge. First Class Paul Smith. One soldier near the center of the screen has no legs. They’ve been allowed to have access to schools – over time a bettering of the living conditions in their respective countries.

Mr. “He was a real soldier.” The video then moves to the story of Sgt. the narrator said soldiers were focused on Al Qaeda and its supporters in Afghanistan. “He decided that his life was worth less than four other lives. who led a night patrol when it was attacked. Thomas McGinnis. . Sometimes it requires honor. Mr. Paul Monti. Robert J. “He had a lot of pride in doing his job and doing it well.” said his father. who jumped on a live grenade in Iraq to protect his fellow soldiers.” At the same time. basically. He did what you’re supposed to do. He followed the soldier’s creed to the letter.” said his father. Miller in Afghanistan. “I considered Ross my hero. The images shown during this are of returning soldiers kissing loved ones and shaking hands. Miller moved to draw the fire away from his fellow soldiers and was killed.” Americans trained and equipped enough Iraqi security forces to justify “a responsible draw-down in Iraq. First Class Jared Monti who was leading a mission in Afghanistan when they were attacked by 50 fighters.” The soldier’s mother said. That was a very tough decision to make but it was a right decision and the right decision isn’t always easy. “He joined the military to help those who cannot help themselves. Monti ran out to rescue a fallen soldier but was killed.” The narrator then describes the progress American soldiers have made in nearly a decade of “relentless effort. The video then cuts to the story of Staff Sgt.The ideology of the army and extremist groups expressed in social media 7 The video then moves to the story of Specialist Ross McGinnis.

Nov. have been uploaded since the channel’s inception. offers comments toward the end of the video: We should feel very proud as a country that we have yet another generation of Americans who believe so strongly in the values and ideals that this country stands for that they’re willing to put their lives on the line to secure them. 2010). 22. the channel had 7. more than 3.010 subscribers. U. Army chief of staff. I think America can be very proud of the men and women of its Armed Forces (YouTube. The “About Me” section appears to provide a sense of credibility for the videos by saying the videos “are a genuine representation of the Army’s efforts worldwide” (YouTube. George Casey Jr. “The Strength of the Nation.The ideology of the army and extremist groups expressed in social media “When I heard that he had sacrificed his life for others.” (YouTube. 2009). 2010.3 million. Nov. 20.” but these are the same people who continue to live . The music crescendos and images are shown of soldiers marching. A large volume of videos.” Ideological criticism of the video The Army’s YouTube site was started on Feb. Army video. As of Nov.S. 2007 (YouTube. Maureen Miller. that did help us a lot in 8 dealing with the grief that we knew his death was not in vain. 2010). Gen. They fight for their country. So. However. the U..” said his mother. 2010) quickly reveals the one-sided nature of its message. The narrator suggests some 50 million people were “liberated. The camera zooms in on one saluting soldier as the narrator speaks.S. They are the strength of the nation. “The American soldiers stand as our nation’s most visible and enduring symbol of commitment in an era of persistent conflict.

implying that these are some of the liberated people.S. they can attend school and their quality of life is improving with time. the conditions of the schools or the quality of the infrastructure in these countries. Fadel (2010) quoted an Iraqi legislator as the final combat troops left the country in August. soldier placed an . There’s no context provided regarding how many people were there. Again. 2003) theorized that those who have power limit the number of alternatives or make the limited choices appear as if there are no alternatives. the army spoke for the citizens of these countries by saying how they are now able to vote. the citizen wasn’t consulted for the video. as models of the American soldier. when a U. how they felt about the war or whether or not they felt “liberated” or “occupied. Army validates its involvement in the Middle East through this 9 YouTube video by framing the message positively and using the bravery of four soldiers. Hall (as cited in Griffin. and the soldiers were leaving without solving the country’s problems. Instead. The legislator said America failed Iraq. The U. as reported by Cohen (2003).S. This was evident throughout the army video as no citizens from Iraq or Afghanistan were interviewed. The video utilizes images with strong emotional appeal to coincide with the narrative. Nowhere is there a mention of the conditions under which these people vote. The images of a few Arabs cheering and dancing on the fallen statue of Saddam appears as the announcer proclaims that the military helped liberate 50 million people. who sacrificed themselves for the mission.The ideology of the army and extremist groups expressed in social media among constant conflict and insecurity.” Omitted from the video was the fact that the cheering crowd quickly became quiet.

War is the antithesis of peace and stability. A great deception occurred when the video implied that America’s involvement in both Afghanistan and Iraq started with the 9/11 attacks. Sgt. The video fails to provide a clear definition of peace and stability. There was no description of why and how America became involved in Iraq – just that “the army once again answered the nation’s call. the video only describes why America attacked Afghanistan – to strike against Al Qaeda and its Taliban supporters.” What was the nation’s call? What were most citizens feeling at the time? What were other countries saying at the time? How were anti-war protesters treated in the media at the time? These questions do not exist in the frame of the army’s video.The ideology of the army and extremist groups expressed in social media 10 American flag over the statue just before the statue was pulled over. The benevolent soldier who builds relationships while destroying the . The flag was quickly removed. a third of the video is used to parade pro-American ideology before the narrator introduces the first story of the soldier who earned the Medal of Honor. Ironically. What does exist in the video above all is the stature of the soldier as the model American. In fact. Some Iraqis felt this act was symbolic of an occupation (Cohen. powerful images were timed to coincide with his words. There was no mention of Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction. This “special breed of soldier” is also seeking and destroying the enemy while building “relationships with the people where the enemy are hidden. Major Kenneth Preston provided an ideological description of the American soldier as someone who can “bring peace and stability” to places like Iraq and Afghanistan. 2003).” This sounds like a paradox. The allusion to a hidden enemy coincided with images of men with black hoods carrying rocket launchers. While Mr. Preston spoke.

The section of the video that describes how American soldiers paid a price to help establish conditions for stability in the Mideast and Southwest Asia demonstrates how the U. the comments provided by their families sounded scripted to coincide with army ideology.” That is a frightening prospect that some of us . However.The ideology of the army and extremist groups expressed in social media enemy coincided with the soldier high-fiving an Arab youngster. Their sacrifices and bravery earned them the military’s highest honor. Soldiers during this segment were shown being pushed in wheelchairs with the soldier in the middle missing both of his legs. Instead. The price of the war on civilian lives was missing. soldiers were up for the challenge. This lack of emotion provides false stoicism. Knickerbocker (2010) reported that 60 percent of the deaths in Iraq. military devalues the life of civilians in a war zone. or 66. between 2004 and 2009 were civilians. The only one who described any emotion about losing their child was Maureen Miller. “Fortunately. This advances the 11 ideology of the American soldier as the good-guy protector and the enemy as a faceless threat. you could say some were born for it. Also missing were the number of journalists who were killed in the two conflicts. In fact. their comments propped up the image of the selfless soldier who puts country and mission first in life. especially when considering none of the parents spoke about their sons’ personalities. how much they are missed or what the soldiers left behind at home.081 people.S. The stories of the four soldiers who died while protecting their fellow soldiers were straightforward. Then the narrator proclaims. The parents of these fallen soldiers spoke without emotion and without tears. who said knowing that her son sacrificed himself to save others helped her deal with the grief.

Gen. Who is born to be a soldier? Are the poor and uneducated destined to be soldiers? Are the homeless and jobless destined to be soldiers? What about the soldier with no legs? How does he feel? These questions do not exist in the video. is alleged to be on a secret U. these questions do not exist. Our country’s foreign policy certainly was not discussed. 18). Awlaki reached out to young Muslims in the West through the Internet to “spread a militant version of Islam” (p. .” What was achieved? The only answer provided by the narrator was that America trained and equipped enough Iraqi security forces so our troops could leave. The only frame of reference was the 9/11 attacks. Casey said that we should be proud that “we have yet another generation of Americans who believe so strongly in the values and ideals that this country stands for…” What generation? The four soldiers who sacrificed themselves in battle? What values and ideals? Nowhere in the video are America’s values and ideals outlined outside of the show of force. In the end. “American soldiers have achieved a great deal during nearly a decade of relentless effort. Thus. kill list for his ties to Al Qaeda (Richey. The narrator calls this “a responsible draw-down in Iraq. patriotic images and heroic tales fully supported by the parents of fallen soldiers.The ideology of the army and extremist groups expressed in social media 12 are born to be soldiers. Extremist social media Anwar al-Awlaki. More questions are conjured when the narrator says. who has U. It suggests there is a lack of choice among us.S. 2010).” What about the quality of life for the people there? What about the quality of the government we’re leaving behind? Again.S. we are to view nearly a decade of war in the context of revenge. and Yemeni citizenship.

but he also understands how to tailor his message to impressionable minds in America. The video appears to have been posted in 2009. The site had recently updated news and links to photos and videos. Ahmed Almi at Al-Nasser Hospital. The doctor said four died.The ideology of the army and extremist groups expressed in social media “…Mr. The doctor who spoke was identified as Dr. 18) 13 Similarly. government. Awlaki not only speaks perfect English. To the U. p. Overall. The study listed the addresses for several “extremist websites. Some of the news was outdated and one link to a YouTube video” Many were in another language. . al.S. the site appeared dedicated to negative news about Israel and the Israeli oppression of Palestinians. 2009) found that the Internet and social media are becoming the dominant persuasive tools in Southeast Asia in spreading extremist ideology. The phosphorus bomb causes extreme burns. 2010). that makes him a very dangerous man” (Richey. “Al Nakba – The Catastrophe of Palestine: 1948” was taken down as the subscriber’s account was terminated. It is doubtful the video was sponsored by the Guardian as there were no Guardian representatives to say as much. including a 14-year-old boy. (PIC. guardian. 2009). 2010. He spends the nearly 6 minutes of the video moving from patient to patient describing the injuries of the 50 patients they saw following the attack. the ASPI report (Bergin et. One that had an English translation was for The Palestinian Information Center (PIC. The opening seconds of the video include the website address for the Guardian in England. The patients who were filmed were almost entirely covered in bloodied bandages. there was a link to a video from a hospital that was apparently filmed following an alleged phosphorus bomb attack by Israelis in Gaza.

who had no prior involvement with terror groups. at the end of the video another doctor sits next to one patient and attempts to open the man’s eyes as if to prove he is comatose. Almi closes with an emotional appeal for an end to the conflict. other than to “prove” this was a legitimate patient. 2009). and used web forums and e-mail to create an online terrorist cell. I wish it would never happen again. For example. I wish this war to be ended” (PIC. al. al. very sad day here. and he was on his way from the mosque to his house and he took this small shrapnel to his head and he died here in the operating room (PIC. al. the patients could have been staged. They could have been injured anywhere. Why any doctor would feel compelled to do that defies logic. She told us he was coming back from the mosque. 2). 2009) was not conclusive in finding exactly what inspires people turn to extremist groups. very. . These two men were eventually arrested in England. 2009). A key finding in the study was that government agencies may be able to track down bomb manuals. Clearly this was a piece to incite hatred for the Israelis. p. only that a mix of different social and psychological issues generally contribute to the radicalization process. The video preys on emotion with the goal of having the viewer sympathize with Palestinian ideology. In fact. The ASPI report (Bergin et. according to the report (Bergin et. 2009). As if anticipating this sense of incredulity. He did the prayer at the 14 mosque. “but miss the process of radicalization that produces bombers” (Bergin et. 2009. “Yesterday was a very.The ideology of the army and extremist groups expressed in social media I saw his mother. Younis Tsouli and Ifran Rafa. There is no discussion about the details of the alleged attack and no context regarding the injuries the patients sustained. Dr. downloaded many hours of video.

7). “The Bahasa Indonesia and Malay language websites typically justify their radical and extremist ideologies and various acts of terror by propagating carefully selected Quranic verses.S. p. the report concluded that extremist websites are used to promote rallies and seminars. This lack of context and the broad interpretation of the enemy reveal the American military’s endorsement of a permanent war to support democracy in the Mideast. The West is constantly depicted as hostile to Islam. as well as academic articles and news reports” (Bergin et. ban the hosting of extremist sites and prosecute the site administrators. 2009) found no instances when direct terrorist plans have been shared through online forums. 2009. However. invitations for different training 15 exercises. 6). such as for martial arts. 12). 2009. Second. disrupt terror plots and make arrests. Third. monitor the sites. al. al.The ideology of the army and extremist groups expressed in social media The report (Bergin et. The researchers drafted three policy approaches a government could take to fight online extremism (Bergin et. 2009. . p. In this case. On these websites. support Islamic law and justify terrorist ideologies. Army’s video depicted an enemy hidden among civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. allow moderate Muslims to drown out the radicals through websites that promote tolerance. investigate suspicious activities. the U. al. Mostly. Conclusion Ideological criticism sets out to identify the enemies or opponents of a certain group. were shared publicly. p. America’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan is “used as evidence of the aggressive encroachment of the West” (Bergin et. First. al.

the video lacked sufficient detail to establish credibility. the video endorses the ideology that force works in establishing democracies abroad. Again. There were too many holes and too many glaring omissions. Twitter and Flickr accounts. .” the Palestinian Information Center. the Iraqis and Afghanis. 2003) believed that democratic pluralism is a myth. Similarly. The army missed an opportunity to be inclusive. Hall (as cited in Griffin. the “extremist website. the army video ignored this fact and missed another opportunity to improve American credibility. More importantly. the army could help boost its credibility in the context of the video. the United States does not hide the fact that its military fully embraces social media. Army has YouTube. Overall. that equal opportunity and individual rights are pretenses for the belief that democracy works. By including the voices of the liberated.S.The ideology of the army and extremist groups expressed in social media 16 The inherent ideology in the army’s YouTube video makes the value assumption that war is good – or that a strong military equals a strong democracy. Facebook. Civilian casualties are not conducive to feel-good videos. In framing its message negatively against Israel. This is validated in the army’s YouTube video. The images of purple-stained fingers and the description that Iraqi and Afghani voters approved democratic constitutions presume that the process works. What the video needed most was balance. missed an opportunity to send an effective message. The U. The army could have seized the celebratory moment to say how it conducted an exhaustive search to find those weapons and then switched its focus to supporting democracy in Iraq. but when is war ever a feel-good activity? It is common knowledge that America was drawn into the war in Iraq because the regime allegedly had weapons of mass destruction.

p. McLuhan (1969) said his central purpose was to convey the message that understanding media leads to more control over our media. “We shape our tools and they in turn shape us” (p. “If we persist. The fact that the military is quickly incorporating social media into its arsenal of weaponry makes McLuhan’s theories that much more salient. “the medium is the message. 344). Maybe the people who find extremist sites and social media are looking to reinforce existing ideologies – primarily that the West is hostile to Islam.The ideology of the army and extremist groups expressed in social media American dominance through superior firepower and bravery is the clear ideology expressed in much of the content. in our conventional rearview-mirror approach to these cataclysmic developments. McLuhan’s catchphrase. 1969. Social media has made McLuhan’s (1967) global village a reality beyond simple connections between computers. 61). Many have been shut down or were abandoned. Griffin (2003) captured the essence of this thought in another McLuhan catchphrase. 74). you’ll see your environment differently. Extremist sites are difficult to find. .” (Norden. personal communication. All is not lost in this battle of ideological attrition. We might make the tools. p. where both the West and extremist groups push their one-sided messages. personal communication. all of Western culture will be destroyed and swept into the dustbin of history” (Norden. His 17 writings point to a central theme – when you understand that the medium is the thing that affects us more than the message. but the tools take on a life of their own and affect every aspect of our lives. means the mode of communication is more important than the message itself. however.

R. A10. L. New York: McGraw-Hill. Fadel. References Bergin. Retrieved from Australian Strategic Policy Institute website: http://www. p. VA). (2010. USA TODAY (Arlington. Ideological criticism.The ideology of the army and extremist groups expressed in social media 18 That’s a rather fatalistic perspective. Illinois: Waveland Press. (2009). S. Retrieved November 24. from NewsBank on-line database (Access World News). S. August 22). Inc. Foss. but one worth considering. and it is important to identify who is being marginalized through its use. Rhetorical criticism: Exploration & practice (pp. . 2010. (Issue 22). 366-377). The Washington Post.aspx?ContentID=202 Cohen. A. This knowledge is vital to positively advance our global village.. In Iraq. In G. Countering internet radicalization in southeast Asia. A first look at communication theory (pp. country faces instability and political impasse. (2003. troops depart. a precarious time plagued by ‘what ifs’: As U. Bte Osman. Ungerer..M. (2003). Cultural studies of Stuart Hall. Iraq: Now military might takes back seat to diplomatic skills. McClish (special consultant). Social media is a powerful tool.. N.aspi. April 16). (2004). C.S . 239-297. & Yasin.

S. (1969). (2010. 2010). WikiLeaks defends its release of classified 19 documents on Iraq . October 23). Fiore. 16(3).palestine-info. Retrieved November 30. (2010. Retrieved from: http://www. Lethal M. PIC (2009). W. MA). YouTube (2010): http://www.php?viewkey=7c1be92f64550478c56e PIC (2010). 53-74 and 158. (1967). Retrieved from: http://www. E. Richey.The ideology of the army and extremist groups expressed in social media Knickerbocker. The medium is the massage: An inventory of effects. Retrieved from: http://www. Strength of the nation. San Francisco: Hardwired. 18. tactic challenged in court. YouTube (Nov. November 22). Q. from NewsBank on-line database (Access World News) McLuhan. The Christian Science Monitor. The Playboy interview: Marshall McLuhan. The Christian Science Monitor (Boston. Playboy Magazine.

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