Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Sunday's New York Times contained a correction of sorts to previous coverage about the Internet-based rhetoric of Musab al-Zarqawi. The earlier article presented analysis without context from "experts" from counterterrorism organizations that "monitor" jihadist sites on the World Wide Web. The core assumption seemed to be that activities like translation and selection were politically neutral. Yet there is a long theoretical history that looks at the ideology of translation, and criticism about the process of selecting particular electronic artifacts, in the context of digital media as a form of discourse, is a growing field thanks to the influence of scholars like Lev Manovich. (See "View Finder" for more commentary on the original story.)

As an update, "Mideast Analysis, Fast and Furious" attempts to be fair and balanced by including criticism of slanted translations and snippets from anti-occupation academic blogger Juan Cole. Unfortunately, the article is still numerically dominated by the perspective of the neoconservative web monitoring services who called the shots in the first piece. In addition to the SITE Institute and Global Terror Alert, which were profiled in the earlier NYT story, the writer links to Cold Warriors from The Jamestown Project, explicitly pro-Israel sites like e-Prism, and a red, white, and blue Terrorism Research Center (formatted like an online auction site) on the handy chart above.

Of course, there are monitoring services without nationalist agendas. Check out this report from the International Crisis Group for an example. Notice that it is the only monitoring organization to provide Arabic translations of their analysis of primary documents.

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