anti-defamation league » ADL Blogs
Posts Tagged ‘anti-defamation league’
November 3, 2015 0

Iran’s New Anti-Israel Slogan Recycles Old Hate

“Israel will be destroyed within 25 years” appears to be the new mantra pro­moted by Iran’s pro­pa­ganda machine ahead of Iran’s “National Day to Fight Global Arro­gance” on Novem­ber 4. It marks the anniver­sary of the takeover of the US embassy in Tehran by the Iran­ian stu­dents in 1979.

An image circulated on social media

An image cir­cu­lated on social media

Posters to pro­mote the slo­gan, cir­cu­lated recently by insti­tu­tions affil­i­ated with the Iran­ian gov­ern­ment, demon­strate an effort to pop­u­lar­ize the motto as its new anti-Israel slo­gan. The words echo a state­ment by Iran’s Supreme Leader Aya­tol­lah Ali Khamenei, which proph­e­sized the destruc­tion of Israel within the next 25 years.

In early Sep­tem­ber, Khamenei said, “After [the nuclear] nego­ti­a­tions [ended], in the ‘Zion­ist regime,’ they said they were not con­cerned about Iran for next 25 years. I’d say, firstly, you will not see the next 25 years. God will­ing, there will be noth­ing called the ‘Zion­ist regime’ within the next 25 years.”

The new slo­gan, which recy­cles the same hate­ful mes­sage of the infa­mous “Death to Israel” slo­gan, may indi­cate an attempt by Iran’s elite to invig­o­rate anti-Israel sen­ti­ments among the Iran­ian peo­ple, and specif­i­cally the younger gen­er­a­tion who have grown weary of the old rhetoric. While the “Death to Israel” slo­gan con­tin­ues to be used in Iran, the new slo­gan intro­duces a more tan­gi­ble goal and a timed promise of victory.

Pro-government media out­lets are also using the new slo­gan on social media plat­forms. Sev­eral accounts which appear to be affil­i­ated with gov­ern­ment con­trolled media have shared images pro­mot­ing the new slo­gan and cre­ated a hash­tag in an attempt to make it trend.

The slo­gans of “Death to Amer­ica,” “Death to Israel” and “Israel will be destroyed within 25 years” are part of the Iran­ian regime’s ongo­ing attempt to pro­mote and jus­tify its hos­tile poli­cies to audi­ences inside and out­side Iran.

Below are a few exam­ples that demon­strate the media cam­paign to pro­mote the new slogan.

An image circulated on social media

An image cir­cu­lated on social media












An image circulated by the office of the Supreme Leader

An image cir­cu­lated by the office of the Supreme Leader














A billboard of the slogan outside the University of Tehran

A bill­board of the slo­gan out­side the Uni­ver­sity of Tehran









iran 1

A street sign in Tehran pro­mot­ing the slogan





















Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

November 3, 2015 1

“Telegram” is Latest Platform for Terror Propaganda

ISIS propaganda on the Telegram app

ISIS pro­pa­ganda on the Telegram app

Update — 11/19/2015: Telegram updated its terms of ser­vice to include a means for remov­ing ille­gal pub­lic con­tent on Novem­ber 18, 2015 and has since removed mul­ti­ple ISIS chan­nels from its platform.

As the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other ter­ror groups con­tinue to seek out new plat­forms to broad­cast their pro­pa­ganda and con­nect with sup­port­ers, they have migrated to using Telegram, a chat and group appli­ca­tion avail­able for smart­phones and desk­top, as their pri­mary medium for offi­cial propaganda.

Ter­ror sup­port­ers con­tinue to share and dis­sem­i­nate pro­pa­ganda on Twit­ter, Face­book and other tra­di­tional social media plat­forms. How­ever, the terms of ser­vice on those plat­forms reject users who actively encour­age vio­lent extrem­ism and the plat­forms have been very active in remov­ing con­tent and users flagged for vio­la­tions of those terms of ser­vice. Offi­cial ter­ror­ist accounts have there­fore found them fully inhos­pitable, and even the accounts of ter­ror­ist sup­port­ers are reg­u­larly removed.

Accord­ing to Telegram’s terms of ser­vice, how­ever, “All Telegram chats and group chats are pri­vate ter­ri­tory of their respec­tive par­tic­i­pants and we do not process any requests related to them.” As such, the plat­form does not have effec­tive poli­cies pro­hibit­ing extrem­ist speech.  That envi­ron­ment has enabled offi­cial ter­ror­ist chan­nels to use Telegram as the first point of dis­sem­i­na­tion for offi­cial ISIS pro­pa­ganda and for Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF), an Al Qaeda affil­i­ated media organization.

Users can join groups on Telegram that func­tion sim­i­larly to Twit­ter feeds, releas­ing a steady stream of con­tent orig­i­nated by the group’s owner. Among the groups cur­rently oper­at­ing on Telegram are more than 13 offi­cial ISIS accounts in mul­ti­ple lan­guages includ­ing Ara­bic, Eng­lish, French and Ger­man, an offi­cial English-language account for the GIMF, and sev­eral unof­fi­cial pro-ISIS pro­pa­ganda groups.

The English-language accounts cre­ated on Telegram include Khi­lafah News, a pro-ISIS account that boasts 2023 mem­bers; Nashir Eng­lish, an offi­cial ISIS account, with 1352 mem­bers; and an offi­cial GIMF account with 1129 members.

Among the mate­ri­als that have been released on Telegram are the sec­ond issue of a new English-language Al Qaeda mag­a­zine, Al Risalah, which calls on West­ern­ers to join and fight on behalf of Al Qaeda.

The ISIS English-language Telegram account Nashir Eng­lish also directs read­ers to find and down­load pro­pa­ganda on a site on Word­Press. Like Telegram, WordPress’s terms of ser­vice do not explic­itly pro­hibit extrem­ist pro­pa­ganda, and so ISIS and other ter­ror­ist  groups can exploit the web­site with­out fear of being taken down. The new Word­Press site linked from the Telegram account fea­tures all of ISIS’s most recent pro­pa­ganda releases as well as ‘major releases,’ ‘Top 10 Videos,’ and past issues of ISIS’s English-language mag­a­zine, Dabiq. The Eng­lish site also links to equiv­a­lent Word­Press sites in Ger­man, Bosn­ian and Ara­bic. Addi­tional links from the Eng­lish site to equiv­a­lent sites in other lan­guages on Blogspot, which is hosted by Google, were removed after ADL noti­fied Google of their presence.

The Word­Press site empha­sizes ISIS’s ongo­ing pres­ence on Twit­ter and lists Twit­ter hash­tags that cor­re­spond with offi­cial ISIS pro­pa­ganda material.

In addi­tion to main­tain­ing groups on Telegram, ter­ror orga­ni­za­tions are also able to engage in chats with sup­port­ers and poten­tial recruits. The encour­age­ment of active par­tic­i­pa­tion by sup­port­ers engages the sup­port­ers in dia­logue with hard­ened extrem­ists, fur­ther­ing the sup­port­ers’ rad­i­cal­iza­tion processes.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

October 23, 2015 9

Plumbing the Depths: Were the Umpqua Shootings an Anti-Christian Hate Crime?

On Octo­ber 1, 26-year-old stu­dent Christo­pher Harper-Mercer walked into a class­room at Umpqua Com­mu­nity Col­lege in south­west Ore­gon and opened fire, killing nine peo­ple and wound­ing another nine before killing him­self after law enforce­ment arrived and wounded him.christopher-harper-mercer-hate-crime-shooting

In the weeks since the shoot­ing, Harper-Mercer’s moti­va­tion has remained largely a mys­tery, the sub­ject of spec­u­la­tion and alle­ga­tions, thanks to the lim­ited, often ambigu­ous infor­ma­tion avail­able on the shooter.

The issue most often raised about the shoot­ings is whether they con­sti­tute an anti-Christian or anti-religious hate crime.  Pro­po­nents of this the­ory note that Harper-Mercer asked sev­eral of his vic­tims about their reli­gion before shoot­ing them, and that his lim­ited on-line foot­print sug­gests a dis­dain for orga­nized reli­gion.  On the other hand, it turns out, Harper-Mercer was angry about a great many things, some clearly more so than reli­gion.  He also had a his­tory of men­tal health and behav­ioral issues.

What moti­vated the shooter?  It seems pos­si­ble that a clear-cut answer will never emerge.  But an analy­sis of what is known so far about Harper-Mercer and the shoot­ings may offer a slightly clearer pic­ture of what hap­pened that day—and why.

Acquain­tances of Harper-Mercer inter­viewed since the shoot­ing have not revealed much about his atti­tudes towards reli­gion.  But on an on-line dat­ing pro­file, Harper-Mercer chose the options “not reli­gious” and “not reli­gious but spir­i­tual” to describe him­self.  As a prospec­tive match, he sought some­one pagan, Wic­can, or “not reli­gious, but spir­i­tual.”  On the same site, he joined groups called “doesn’t like orga­nized reli­gion,” “mag­ick and occult,” and the “left-hand path,” another occult ref­er­ence.  How­ever, to date no on-line anti-Christian or anti-religious rhetoric by Harper-Mercer has been discovered.

Accord­ing to the accounts of wit­nesses, on the day of the shoot­ing itself, Harper-Mercer walked late into his writ­ing class and fired a gun, appar­ently to get people’s atten­tion.  He fatally shot the instruc­tor, Lawrence Levine, after telling him, accord­ing to the account of one wit­ness, “I’ve been wait­ing to do this for a really long time.”

Harper-Mercer than ordered the 15 or so stu­dents onto the floor.  Accord­ing to one sur­vivor, Mathew Down­ing, he “fired a cou­ple of shots into the crowd of stu­dents in the cen­ter.”  He sub­se­quently ordered sev­eral stu­dents to stand, one at a time, and asked about their reli­gion, then shot them.  For exam­ple, the mother of one vic­tim told reporters that Harper-Mercer asked her daugh­ter, Cheyeanne Fitzger­ald, about her reli­gion, shoot­ing her in the back when she didn’t answer.

The sis­ter of one Umpqua stu­dent told NBC News shortly after the attack that Harper-Mercer asked his poten­tial vic­tims if they were Chris­t­ian.  If they said yes, he would shoot them in the head.  How­ever, if they said some­thing else, or noth­ing, “they were shot else­where in the body, usu­ally the leg.”  This state­ment was widely repeated on the Inter­net.  How­ever, the stu­dent, J. J. Vic­ari, was not actu­ally in the shooter’s class­room at the time, but in another class­room in that build­ing.  When NBC sub­se­quently inter­viewed Vic­ari him­self, he said that he never heard Harper-Mercer ask about religion—or even heard his voice at all.

The most frequently-repeated account came from the father of vic­tim Anas­ta­sia Boy­lan.  Her father told the media that Harper-Mercer asked peo­ple if they were Chris­t­ian, then said “Good, because you’re a Chris­t­ian, you’re going to see God in just about one sec­ond,” killing peo­ple who had iden­ti­fied them­selves as Christians.

How­ever, when Anas­ta­sia Boy­lan her­self was sub­se­quently inter­viewed by Good Morn­ing Amer­ica, her account was dif­fer­ent:  “He had us get up, one by one, and asked us what our reli­gions were.  The shooter said [vic­tims] would only feel pain for a cou­ple of sec­onds, and that [they] would be with God soon.  And then he shot them.”  Boylan’s descrip­tion makes it seem as if Harper-Mercer was actu­ally engag­ing in some sort of bizarre attempt to calm or give solace to the peo­ple he was about to mur­der.  He also told the stu­dents he would be join­ing them in death in just a lit­tle while.

Other sur­viv­ing wit­nesses also ques­tioned whether Harper-Mercer was “tar­get­ing Chris­tians.” Rand McGowan said, “He didn’t, really, honestly…Obviously, he was ask­ing what reli­gion, but he wasn’t really just tar­get­ing.  He was kind of just say­ing, ‘Oh, since you have a God, you’ll be join­ing him in a lit­tle bit.’  It wasn’t really like, ‘I’m tar­get­ing you and I’m going to kill you.’”

Tracy Heu, another sur­vivor, recalled that Harper-Mercer told vic­tims, “I’m going to send you to God.  You’re going to see God.”  How­ever, she did not think that Chris­tian­ity or reli­gion were a motive, not­ing that he shot peo­ple regard­less of how they responded to his ques­tion about religion.

It is not clear how many stu­dents Harper-Mercer asked about their reli­gion.  How­ever, it is clear from Downing’s detailed writ­ten account that a num­ber of stu­dents were shot or shot at with­out hav­ing been asked any­thing about their religion.

Harper-Mercer killed or wounded most of the stu­dents in the class­room (shoot­ing one vic­tim at least five times), regard­less of faith.  How­ever, one stu­dent he spared, giv­ing him an enve­lope for police that allegedly included a flash drive and doc­u­ments, includ­ing what has been described as a “manifesto.”

Weeks after the shoot­ings, author­i­ties still have not yet released any of the con­tents of this enve­lope.  How­ever, offi­cers or oth­ers with appar­ent access have leaked descrip­tions and excerpts of its con­tents to the media.  The doc­u­ment allegedly con­tains racist lan­guage, though race does not seem to have been a motive for the attack (and Harper-Mercer was from a multi-racial fam­ily).  It also allegedly con­tains lan­guage about his sex­ual frustrations—which echoes com­ments Harper-Mercer made on-line prior to the shoot­ings.  One anony­mous source told Peo­ple Mag­a­zine that the shooter wrote, “I am going to die friend­less, girl­friend­less, and a vir­gin.”  The source also said that the man­i­festo had “666” writ­ten on it and that Harper-Mercer wanted “to serve darkness”—characterizing the attack as “strictly for Satanic purposes.”

How­ever, in a sub­se­quent Peo­ple arti­cle, an appar­ently dif­fer­ent anony­mous source allegedly read parts of the man­i­festo to reporters, telling the mag­a­zine that the man­i­festo chron­i­cled Harper-Mercer’s life and his frus­tra­tions:  “no job, no life, no suc­cess.”  Accord­ing to this source, Harper-Mercer allegedly wrote, “I was hated ever since I arrived in the world.  I was always under attack.  I’ve always been the most hated per­son in the world.”

Harper-Mercer allegedly wrote in the man­i­festo about pre­vi­ous mass killers (as he did on-line, prior to the attack), claim­ing that they too had been denied every­thing they deserved and wanted.  This source quotes Harper-Mercer mak­ing ref­er­ences about demons and Hell, though the ref­er­ences sound as though they may have been more metaphor­i­cal than actu­ally Satanic.  How­ever, with­out being able to see the actual lan­guage in its true con­text, it is hard to know for sure.

So was Harper-Mercer’s deadly attack a hate crime?  Cer­tainly, Harper-Mercer was capa­ble of hatred.  The evi­dence sug­gests that he was a supremely dis­turbed and alien­ated young man, frus­trated by vir­tu­ally all aspects of his life, from being kicked out of the mil­i­tary, to being placed on aca­d­e­mic pro­ba­tion, to being unable to form con­nec­tions with other peo­ple, espe­cially women.

Hate and resent­ment, Harper-Mercer thus had in full mea­sure. But anger alone does not define a hate crime.  Was his attack directed against Chris­tians or against peo­ple with reli­gious beliefs?  The evi­dence that has so far emerged to sup­port such a propo­si­tion is not very strong.  Harper-Mercer appears to have stored up anger against soci­ety in general—and when he unleashed his deadly fury, he spared nei­ther Chris­t­ian nor non-Christian, nei­ther the reli­gious nor the agnostic.

It may well have been the act of shoot­ing and killing peo­ple, rather than shoot­ing any­one in par­tic­u­lar, that was most impor­tant to Harper-Mercer.  And while new infor­ma­tion could prompt a re-examination of the entire event, it seems quite pos­si­ble that pro­found alien­ation and resent­ment, rather than ani­mus directed specif­i­cally at Chris­tians or the reli­gious, was the most impor­tant moti­va­tion in Harper-Mercer’s mur­der­ous rampage.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,