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The same mainstream media outlet that faced backlash for lamenting the death of “austere religious scholar” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is now facing backlash for drawing attention to the Taliban’s “sophisticated” use of social media.
In a news report published Wednesday, The Washington Post claimed via “analysts” that the Taliban remains online and active on social media networks because they haven’t broken any of the rules.
The piece might have possibly been able to evade backlash had the Post stuck to just reporting on the Taliban’s social media strategies.
Instead, the Post chose to add a political twist by contrasting the Taliban’s online behavior with that of former President Donald Trump.
“U.S. conservatives have been demanding to know why former president Donald Trump has been banned from Twitter while various Taliban figures have not,” the Post reported.
“The answer, analysts said, may simply be that Trump’s posts for years challenged platform rules against hate speech and inciting violence. Today’s Taliban, by and large, does not,” the Post added.
This suggestion from “analysts” provoked massive backlash, because while it may be true that the Taliban isn’t breaking rules on social media, its real-world moral depravity and rule-breaking are so severe that it came off as wrong to “defend” them.
The way that the Post’s technology editor, Mark Seibel, chose to share the story on Twitter didn’t help: “Why Trump’s banned and the Taliban aren’t: they play by the rules,” he tweeted.
Why Trump’s banned and the Taliban aren’t: they play by the rules. https://t.co/5y5no9ZnmN
— mark seibel (@markseibel) August 18, 2021
Here’s some of the backlash (*Graphic language):
— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) August 18, 2021
Corporate journalists are jihadis without the testosterone.
— Michael Malice (@michaelmalice) August 18, 2021
I didn’t know murdering your enemies, raping women, and torturing those who do not comply was following the rules. This is one of the dumbest takes.
— Jacob Airey (@realJacobAirey) August 18, 2021
— Nick Searcy, INSURRECTIONAL FILM & TELEVISION STAR (@yesnicksearcy) August 18, 2021
“Sure they ran a national armed insurrection, assumed full non-democratic control of the country, hate and punish gays & women, and they are slaughtering innocents, but hey… unlike bad orange man, the Taliban ARE following @Twitter’s Terms of Service.” 🤡 pic.twitter.com/xuL8xPbPPA
— Douglas Karr (@douglaskarr) August 18, 2021
Note that Seibel wasn’t one of the piece’s authors.
The piece went on to seemingly argue that the Taliban’s online behavior “challenges” its “dominant image” as a terrorist group.
“In accounts swelling across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — and in group chats on apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram — the messaging from Taliban supporters typically challenges the West’s dominant image of the group as intolerant, vicious and bent on revenge, while staying within the evolving boundaries of taste and content that tech companies use to police user behavior,” the Post reported.
But the group’s intolerance, viciousness, and outright evil isn’t just an “image” — it’s an established fact demonstrated both by the group’s history and by its present actions.
It’s true, as the media keep reporting, that the Taliban have promised to be good this time around — versus during their original rule in the late 90s — but the evidence shows this is just another lie.
“When the Taliban first sacked Kabul 25 years ago, the group declared that it was not out for revenge, instead offering amnesty to anyone who had worked for the former government. ‘Taliban will not take revenge,’ a Taliban commander said then. ‘We have no personal rancor,'” The Atlantic noted.
“At the time of that promise, the ousted president, Mohammad Najibullah, was unavailable for comment. The Taliban had castrated him and, according to some reports, stuffed his severed genitals in his mouth, and soon after, he was strung up from a lamppost,” The Atlantic added.
Meanwhile, in the present, nonstop reports have been emerging of U.S. Afghan allies and their families being executed.
1. I just got off the phone with someone who recently returned from his third tour in Afghanistan. He emphasized we had a responsibility not just to translators and others with SIVs, but to Afghan troops–pilots and special forces in particular–who’d fought bravely by our side.
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) August 15, 2021
2. He’s now forwarded me a text message from an Afghan friend. He asked that I tweet it.
“Terrorists are going door to door and killing pilots and SOFs, raping their families, and taking their houses. Two of my friends were shot dead. In Kabul.”
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) August 15, 2021
The only reporting in the Post’s piece that appeared to be fully accurate was its suggestion that the Taliban have a PR firm working for them.
“The tactics overall show such a high degree of skill that analysts believe at least one public relations firm is advising the Taliban on how to push key themes, amplify messages across platforms and create potentially viral images and video snippets — much like corporate and political campaigns do across the world,” the Post reported.
This does seem likely.
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