Thursday, September 9, 2010

The digital insurgency

I've mentioned a few of the benefits of the web and the digital world in this blog, but here's a flip-side. On September 11, a pastor in Florida has decided to burn copies of the Quran - at this point, most people reading the news will have probably heard about it, and it's prompted direct discussions between Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, and General David Petraeus, the US and NATO commander in Afghanistan. Their concerns are covered in an Al Jazeera article here, but they are worried that the Taliban will use images of the burning to incite opposition to the NATO mission in Afghanistan and fuel the insurgency there.

It's obvious how all of this is possible. The use of digital media and the web have allowed a small minority to promote their message, which will potentially have grave consequences far beyond Florida. From the initial publicity surrounding the event, the constitutional uproar in the US and finally the Taliban printing off the pictures for the Afghan public, it raises the question of whether 'digital' counter-insurgency might be a viable project. The potential for real cultural awareness and development via digital means seems to be there, but this necessarily raises some big questions regarding access (the 'digital divide') and education. For their part, extremist groups the world over have long been well established on the web.

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