The capture of Osama bin Laden revealed more than just the unmitigated badassery of Navy Seals. It also exposed how little we knew about the jihad lifestyle. For years we thought bin Laden was camping out in a cave, living off of canned Beanee Weenees and scurrying from stalactite to stalagmite with all of his belongings in a bandanna on a stick.
While Osama was living it up in the lap of adequacy in Abbottabad, his little jihad club had gone corporate -- and we mean that in the very lamest sense of the word. Here are six weirdly business-y (and mundane) tactics that terrorists are using in their war on the war on terror.
Maybe bin Laden wasn't caught in the act of building suicide bombs in a cave or buying plutonium from wild-eyed inventors, but he was still a terrorist -- someone who, by definition, exists to scare people. So as the head guy of al-Qaeda, you'd expect him to give about as many shits about what people thought of him as your average raving homeless man. What you don't expect is a guy so worried about the company's image that he was one memo away from changing al-Qaeda's name in a last-ditch effort to rebrand the organization.
"Nobody leaves this room until we hash this out!"
The Corporate Gesture:
In the same way that Kentucky Fried Chicken insists that we pretend the company's name is "KFC" to obscure the fact that their chicken is fried, Osama bin Laden speculated that changing al-Qaeda's name would get more sympathy from Muslims around the world. As if the whole "murdering innocent civilians for attention" thing had nothing to do with their declining numbers.
When bin Laden's compound was raided, the Navy Seals found an undated internal memo speculating that al-Qaeda's membership was dwindling because Muslims didn't quite "get" them. And the reason everyone was missing the jihad boat was a simple matter of the name. Technically, al-Qaeda is named "al-Qaeda al-Jihad" or "The Base of Holy War." According to bin Laden, it was the West that shortened the name to "al-Qaeda," and by doing so, we rechristened the terrorist group "The Base," which is utterly meaningless.
Just ask Prince about shortened names.
The solution? A name change. Bin Laden played around with " Taifat al-Tawhed Wal-Jihad" ("Monotheism and Jihad Group") and "Jama'at I'Adat al-Khilafat al-Rashida" ("Restoration of the Caliphate Group"). So you can add "coming up with catchy organization names" to the list of things that bin Laden was terrible at.
Still, had he lived, bin Laden just might have P. Diddied al-Qaeda.
Imagine you're part of a cause-oriented organization, like PETA. Now, imagine that in addition to recruiting new PETA-ers from farmer's markets and yoga studios, where you might find like-minded souls, you are explicitly instructed to find new members at the Beef: It's What's For Dinner recipe forum. You'd either have to be the greatest salesman in the world, in which case you wouldn't be working for PETA, or you'd have to tap into some deep, underlying meat-hate from people who are specifically looking for meat recipes. Either way, it's a tough sell.
A meat-hating woman berates some pork before beating it senseless.
Speaking of meat ...
The Corporate Gesture:
al-Qaeda is doing something like the above hypothetical, but with porn.
The leadership of al-Qaeda in Morocco realized they needed a lot of young men who dealt with their repressed sexuality by hulking out. Where did they look? The Internet, of course! After a lengthy debate, al-Qaeda's media committee said "Fuck it" and started posting recruiting ads on a porn site.
Even though porn-browsing is as forbidden among militant Muslims as bacon-browsing is among militant PETA activists, the leadership figured this was one case where the end justified the means. Strategically speaking, it's a very smart, if cynical, move. After all, if an organization is full of people willing to die so they can get laid in the afterlife, it's a good bet they aren't having a lot of sex in the now-life. If those same people are banning women from buying cucumbers and killing goats that weren't wearing underwear, it's safe to say they may have issues with sexual repression.
Goat orgy! RUN!
And if you can't find the sexually repressed on a porn site, you're just not looking hard enough.
Terrorists may be rotten-ass evildoers, but they still have friends and families and ex-girlfriends who broke their homecoming date in order to go out with your cousin Mike, just like everyone else. So it's not surprising that terrorists have been using Facebook for a while now, and for the same reasons you do. al-Qaeda members post videos, host discussions and presumably annoy former acquaintances with feel-good Maya Angelou quotes.
Al Qassam English Forum
Boy howdy, of course we want to read about martyrs and multimedia!
But while it's one thing to picture 24 villains posting "Words With Friends" scores in between making bombs and planning their glorious martyrdoms, it's quite another for al-Qaeda officials to strongly encourage members to bone up on their social media skills in order to woo new recruits as a matter of policy.
The Corporate Gesture:
According to one jihadi author, it's high time for al-Qaeda to get its online media act together, like stat. The faithful are not only encouraged to get Facebooking and Twittering for the cause, but also asked to figure out how to get their video quality up to snuff in order to stop embarrassing themselves like it's amateur night at the Islamabad Apollo. And just like middle management bosses trying to update their skill set for all the wrong reasons, Abu Sa'd al-'Amili isn't having the least amount of fun with all this new technology:
"The enemy can no longer stand alone in the field with its misleading media tools, because the Mujahideen and their supporters have through these blessed pulpits entered the battlefield from a number of gates that they (the enemies) can not completely shut."
"You know, I was thinking the same exact thing!"
"The enemy" meaning us, "misleading media tools" meaning social networks and "gates" meaning, uh, the same social networks? We're not sure. In any case, this guy's not seeing a disconnect between linking demon Western capitalist websites and his anti-capitalist holy war at all. Although he is interested in making a jihad shadow YouTube, probably because he's got some killer footage of his terrorist cats that he wants to share with his friends.