Friday, June 02, 2006

Al-Qaeda Goes Mainstream

Writing in the new issue of Terrorism Focus , Jamestown analyst Chris Heffelfinger notes in connection with Osama bin Laden's latest audio/video tape, presented by the so-called "al-Sahab Foundation for Media Production":
In many aspects [...] the presentation and production value of the audio statement are of greater importance than its content (the full audio/video statement can be downloaded at the following link: http://www.jamestown.org/docs/OBL-24May06.rmvb). As one can see, the audio file is accompanied by a photo of the al-Qaeda leader with English translations in subtitles throughout the brief talk. It also bears the statement's title (Shahadat al-Haqq, a Testimony to the Truth) in English, and includes a logo for al-Sahab. The style of the audio file is immediately reminiscent of clips from the most popular Arab media channels. It is clear that this is a step toward legitimizing the appearance of bin Laden (and second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri, whose statements have also been produced by al-Sahab) by presenting their communications in the style of other mainstream media outlets.

Considering the production capabilities and increased control of the public communications process by using al-Sahab media, bin Laden seems to be at an advantage both in terms of public relations and his ability to operate his al-Qaeda network.
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