LSE DEPT. OF MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS
Research Dialogues 2009-10
THURSDAY 12:30 – 2:00
Room H202, Connaught House
Culture, Politics and Arab Media
Mina Al-Lami, Visiting Fellow, Department of Media and Communication, LSE
Shawn Powers, Visiting Fellow, Department of Media and Communication, LSE
Dr. Ben O'Loughlin, Reader in International Relations and Co-Director of the New Political Communication Unit, Royal Holloway, University of London
Virtual Spaces of Contestation and the futility of closing Jihadist websites
On 10 September 2008 the three top Jihadist sites sponsored by Al-Fajr Media Centre, an Al-Qaeda media wing, were closed simultaneously. It wasn’t long before the remaining major Jihadist sites were similarly mysteriously closed, forcing Jihadists to look for alternative platforms. The persistent closure of the three Al-Fajr sites, still down today, and “attack” on others prompted rigorous discussions and debates amongst Jihadist forum administrators and members on how to counter this “media attack”. While the closing of the Al-Fajr sites shortly disturbed Jihadists in terms of finding new trustworthy and credible platforms, it did nothing to obstruct the flow and accessibility of Jihadist media nor regrouping of Jihadists. If anything, the closing of the sites - seen as yet another “crusade” by the West - further radicalized Jihadists. It drove them to increase their “media Jihad” efforts and come up with innovative means to survive in a hostile virtual environment.
This paper will try to argue that closing and/or curtailing of Jihadist sites as a means of countering online extremism in general and Al-Qaeda propaganda in particular is technically ineffective in the presence of web 2.0 and morally counterproductive. The paper suggests that allowing Jihadists a platform is more effective in exposing their violence and undermining their narratives. The case of the leading Arabic forum Al-Jazeeratalk, which does allow Jihadists a voice, is used to illustrate such a potentially successful counter-extremism measure.
The Politics of Exclusion: An Examination of American Efforts to Silence Arab Satellite News
Manuel Castells (2009) argues that an important area of inquiry in today’s Network Society is that of the politics of inclusion and exclusion into critical networks of power. The three principle types of networks—media, political and financial—provide the backbone for modern society, and those people, groups, organizations and states that are excluded from these networks can thus be shut out of the increasingly essential circuitry of today’s world. Whereas in previous generations exclusion was often identified and examined in more tangible, physical processes, today exclusion to and from critical networks of power—all tied together via the global media—must also be examined as it has profound consequences on how power relations are negotiated and shaped.
This paper examines contemporary American efforts at excluding Arab-based news networks from reaching their target audiences. Two case studies will be examined: Al Jazeera English’s (AJE) attempts to access audiences in North America, and the US government’s recent attempt to sanction satellite providers carrying television networks classified as “terrorist entities” by the American Congress. Each case study will be analyzed in an effort to better understand how corporate and government policymaking influence the flows of international communication, though not always in the ways intended.