Monday, October 19, 2009

Okay, so the world kind of really is flat

The Taliban have a YouTube channel, called Istiqlal Media (istiqlal means "movement," in the sense of a political movement).

Setting aside the obvious ironies of the Taliban using technology invented in the US--which currently supports all manner of content they oppose--this is interesting. It's interesting in a bajillion ways: how does this dovetail with fundamentalist attitudes? What videos will YouTube take down vs. allow to stay up? How much will it help them?

Also, it's a confirmation of what David Rohde has been reporting about the Taliban's ambitions outside of Afghanistan:

Over those months, I came to a simple realization. After seven years of reporting in the region, I did not fully understand how extreme many of the Taliban had become. Before the kidnapping, I viewed the organization as a form of “Al Qaeda lite,” a religiously motivated movement primarily focused on controlling Afghanistan.

Living side by side with the Haqqanis’ followers, I learned that the goal of the hard-line Taliban was far more ambitious. Contact with foreign militants in the tribal areas appeared to have deeply affected many young Taliban fighters. They wanted to create a fundamentalist Islamic emirate with Al Qaeda that spanned the Muslim world.

It's hard to imagine another motivation for the Taliban's starting a YouTube channel--it's not as though most Afghans have access to broadband.

YouTube so far seems to have taken down most of the videos but left the account up. It'll be interesting to see this ideological cyberbattle (between the YouTube terms of service and, well, the Taliban) play out.

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