Inspired: Media amnesia on history of amateurish, dodgy terror pubs

Posted in Extremism, War On Terror at 9:34 am by George Smith

The alleged ‘publication’ of al Qaeda’s English-language Inspire .pdf brought on a media convulsion notable for its collective amnesia.

The publication itself was, outside from the first three pages, a negligible download.

The contents page continues an established tradition of clumsy and/or unintentionally funny bits re the much repeated article (which does not exist in the publication): “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom.”

I’ve spent years looking at various al Qaeda and attributed-to-al Qaeda documents devoted to terror, specifically recipes for making chemical and biological weapons in the home, as well as explosives.

Sophistication and slickness are not in their character. In this, “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom” as a usage, is typical.

Rachel Maddow devoted a few minutes of clowning to Inspire yesterday, drawing out the “bomb” bit out for comic effect.

In this she and her staffers missed the point that for the greater duration of the war on terror, such documents, whether they are silly-looking or not, have been portrayed in the western press as very serious business.

And even when they don’t confer any capability — the bomb-making formulations and poisoning advisories being much less than adequate, they have been written of as if they convey great ability to anyone who downloads them around the world.

And in the United Kingdom, no matter how absurd they appear, they have been used as evidence — materials deemed likely to be useful to terrorists — to send over people who downloaded them onto their hard drives for very long prison terms.

See here in “Art Shown Here Can Get You Jailed.”

Snapshots of various .pdfs from the war on terror show the new al Qaeda publication is not especially out of the ordinary. But it does, in fact, look a bit better than the usual fare.

Here is one bit from an old terror document, actually published by the Washington Post a few years ago, of an infamous poisoner’s handbook, one purporting to give you the ability to make botulism toxin from a few handfuls of garbage and dung. It’s no more or less absurd than a title like “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom.”

And another, the work of a now long-jailed al Qaeda man.

However, al Qaeda men and jihadists have never had much trouble compiling and distributing .pdf files. Which makes the less-than-compelling quality of Inspire — which has apparently purposely been obfuscated past the first three pages, a bit of an embarrassment.

If the purpose is to get the maximum number of readers, the insertion of digital gobble into the .pdf as padding — as this commenter details here — is astonishingly counterproductive.

It essentially creates impressions that the publication is either unfinished, a fake or that its creator greatly overestimated his own cleverness.

“[I] have no idea why it would occur to anyone to try it in the first place,” commented one of DD’s colleagues in e-mail. [Hat tip to SA.]

And the publication’s relatively small number of downloads, in proportion to the news of it, would seem to be proof of fail.

“The language of the magazine, such as ‘Make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom,’ reflects either a poor command of English or a light-hearted sense of self-parody,” writes someone — not very perceptively — at the Atlantic.

“Since I am not completely certain that the clean PDF doesn’t contain a hidden virus, I’ve elected not to post it just yet,” adds Marc Ambinder.

Armbinder’s presumption is silly. The file is harmless.

And it is here.

Nevertheless, even if one makes a joke of Inspire, terrorists have been inspired by similarly feeble work. It often doesn’t take much to motivate a few in the rather small global fan club for these things.

1 Comment

  1. Dick Destiny » Brag about your trivial plan against al Qaeda to US newspapers said,

    June 3, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    […] From this blog, on the first issue of Inspire, last year: If the purpose is to get the maximum number of readers, the insertion of digital gobble into the .pdf as padding — as this commenter details here – is astonishingly counterproductive. […]