The Null Device

Stross on Abu Ghaith

Caveat lector: The ever-lucid Charlie Stross deconstructs alleged Al-Qaeda spokesman Suleiman Abu Ghaith's ghastly tirade, in which he claims the right to kill 4 million Americans. It appears the Middle East Media Research Institute, which found and translated the piece, is run by people connected with Israeli intelligence, and thus may not be as impartial and nonpartisan as it purports to be; and there's the suggestion that this Abu Ghaith chap may be just some random lunatic chosen for his scariness.
(Imagine a mirror-image Arab news organisation combing the US local newspapers for editorials demanding that we kill them all or forcibly convert them to Christianity. They wouldn't have to look far with the likes of Anne Coulter about, would they?)

There are 11 comments on "Stross on Abu Ghaith":

Posted by: mitch http:// Wed Sep 18 02:34:42 2002

There is no doubt that Mr Abu Gheith is an Al Qaeda spokesman. He appears in some of OBL's early post-9/11 videos.

Posted by: acb Wed Sep 18 08:40:04 2002

Of course, just because he's an Al-Qaeda spokesman doesn't mean his views are representative of Al-Qaeda policies, any more than Cheney/Rumsfeld's New American Century paper is of the Bush administration's international relations strategy, right?

Posted by: acb Wed Sep 18 08:41:10 2002

Btw, here's an article on MEMRI, the "independent, non-partisan, non-profit" translation service:,7792,773258,00.html

Posted by: mitch http:// Wed Sep 18 09:56:52 2002

The PNAC paper *is* probably indicative of Bush admin philosophy. What I deplore about that Sunday Herald article are the over-the-top falsehoods it contains, which I have now seen credulously cited on about ten sites, and that's without even searching for such references.

As for MEMRI, two can play the game of running background checks; here's an ally of MEMRI claiming the Guardian editor who wrote the article himself has a conflict of interest:

Posted by: mitch http:// Wed Sep 18 10:02:56 2002

And here's the Guardian attacking (there's also a similar article at the Independent by Robert Fisk, another of their targets):,4273,4140042,00.html

The merry-go-round of spin and counterspin is quite wearying to follow. You get to know the names and their opinions and affiliations, and it might be a minor public service to map them all out in the fashion of, but I feel like I have better things to do.

Here's one more article on MEMRI, which manages to say that it's slanted and imply that it's not (and I think the latter is the conclusion they want the reader to leave with):

Posted by: acb Wed Sep 18 13:23:28 2002

Interesting... is there a mathematical theory for modelling disinformation and distortion? (I remember hearing something about "disinformation theory" or disinformation equations somewhere, but I can't remember where.)

Posted by: Graham Thu Sep 19 00:50:55 2002

Funnily enough, this reminds me of warbloggers. I did get one somewhat kooky letter a while back insinuating that warbloggers were actually being bankrolled by Neocons to act as agents of influence.

Posted by: mitch http:// Thu Sep 19 06:05:15 2002

There was a 1-page essay called "Disinformation theory" in an ACM publication, but it's a purely qualitative discussion, such as you might find in a poker guide or a seduction manual. A genuine mathematical 'disinformation theory' I think would be a branch of game theory:

Posted by: mitch http:// Fri Sep 20 05:06:45 2002

Footnote to the discussion of MEMRI: You may recall that the founder of was on one of the hijacked planes. "Since Danny's death, his father, a well-known child psychologist, has chosen to devote himself to speaking and fundraising for an organization called MEMRI that provides information on the ideological workings of Islamic fundamentalists."

Posted by: acb Fri Sep 20 13:31:50 2002

In the context of disinformation theory, I was thinking of something more ambitious: perhaps some mathematical method for considering N items of (potentially contradictory) information, each with some sort of reliability score, and determining the degree of distortion, and the probabilities of various of the information being true/false, depending on how they interact with other information.

Posted by: mitch http:// Sat Sep 21 04:18:33 2002

Well, that sounds like a job for plain old Bayesian reasoning.

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