Digital commemoration: a new way to remember victims of terrorism

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Social media platforms, through the digital traces they create, will lend these passing events greater permanence. The social media archive of images, videos and hashtags is, of course, ephemeral in its own way (posts have limited circulation, a narrow window in which they are viewed and are vulnerable to deletion and loss). But it is important to understand that social media plays more than a documentary role. They enable unique and spontaneous commemorative practices such as people sharing photographs of themselves with tattoos, balloons and other memorials that need to be studied further. They create a shared sense of commemoration between those present at public memorials and those participating online.

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A Very British Response to Terror

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These moments encapsulated something about Britain’s calm, defiant response to the threat of terror. Even as we face an increasing number of attacks, we are learning to cope with grief, loss and violence in our own way…

In the face of this, we’re choosing vigilance, calm and just a little bit of humor. And any fear projected on to us will be met with a very British response: Sarcasm.

…A New York Times headline that said that London was “reeling” from the Manchester attack also became the subject of British Twitter’s wrath. Brits turned #ThingsThatLeaveBritainReeling into a hashtag that started to trend higher than the news of the attack itself.

See also this article on #ThingsThatLeaveBritainReeling.

This Guy Keeps Getting Killed in Terrorist Attacks

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If this face seems familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen it associated with any number of recent terror incidents. This man has apparently died at least three times since January, most recently in the terrorist attack at Atatürk Airport in Istanbul. So what gives?

… All these claims are, obviously, false. Regrettably, these social media shenanigans have been picked up by the media; the man’s photo is currently included in a New York Times video about the victims of the Orlando shooting. Following a BBC article about internet fakes and rumors, an investigative team at France24 decided to dig a little further to find out who this man really is and why this keeps happening to him.

It turns out this mysterious individual may be a bit of a scam artist—or at the very least, a very shitty friend—and this prank is how his victims are enacting their revenge. The social media users who crafted the fake posts all told France24 a similar story, that they knew the man and he had cheated them out of money, ranging from small sums up to $1,000. “Our goal is to ruin his reputation,” said one of the perpetrators, “We want the whole world to recognize his face.”

 

It’s not enough to tweet your grief. When terror strikes, do something useful

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The urge to solidarity is a very powerful one. It’s why humans are such a successful species. But at some point the genuine if emotional gesture can teeter over into something else altogether. It becomes another version of exhibitionism. It stops being motivated by an outward-looking desire to demonstrate collective resistance and slides into the self-absorbed projection of the individual into whatever event of the day is shocking or enthralling.

Since that is largely what Twitter and other social media is for, maybe it’s self-defeating to rue the rise of hashtag engagement. There is something beguiling for those of us fortunate enough to be a safe distance from tragedy or disaster in sending out virtuous signals of sympathy and right-thinkingness from the warmth and comfort of kitchen or office. It’s not so far from the emotion that causes queues to build up on the opposite carriageway to some episode of motorway carnage. It’s a kind of vicarious, cost-free involvement. But that is all it is.

Now that it is so easy to do, public sympathy is becoming a corrupted currency. Politicians, terrified of being behind the social media curve, are always at it. Memorialising individual soldiers killed in conflict as happened throughout the last decade may be justifiable (a Blair innovation in the aftermath of Iraq): they were there at the politicians’ behest. But nowadays any disaster that is reported, regardless of how lacking in any but the most personal consequences – terrible though they must be for the families concerned – is treated as a matter for public expressions of sympathy by government and opposition MPs alike.

How the battle against IS is being fought online

woman holding #notinmyname placard

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The battle against Islamic State (IS) militants has been fought in part on social networks, and has raised the question – how best to counter the message being spread by jihadists?

Analysis by BBC News shows that over the course of Friday evening the hashtag [#notinmyname] reached an audience equivalent to those sitting down to watch the main news bulletins. The hashtag was the brainchild of the Active Change Foundation, an organisation dedicated to fighting extremism.  Hanif Qadir of ACF said he and the young people at the organisation came up with the campaign because the broad mass of ordinary Muslim voices couldn’t be heard. They wanted to take back online space occupied by IS.

“It’s a simple message,” he says. “It’s Muslims [and] non-Muslims saying no way, not in the name of Islam, and not in the name of any faith or humanity, It’s a very very powerful message and very simple.”

“This is the most socially-mediated conflict in history,” he says. “You literally have thousands of foreign fighters from all over the world using social media in order to convey the message about the jihad that they are fighting.

“If I am a 20-year-old kid in Bradford who is thinking about going to Syria, I can go online and talk to another 20-year-old from Birmingham, London or Manchester and find out about their experiences and have a two-way conversation with a peer who has undergone the exact same thought processes that I have gone through and has faced all the challenges that I am about to embark upon.”

 

Twitter Cats to the Rescue in Brussels Lockdown

This is Maartje, a cat from Ghent, Belgium. She will not be intimidated. Photo Credit: Sigrid Dufraimont

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As the hunt for terrorism suspects intensified in Brussels, the authorities requested that Belgians refrain from posting messages on Sunday that might expose or interfere with police operations.

The people of Twitter decided to respond with what will now be known as an internationally recognized symbol of solidarity: cat photos.

…Within the hour, magical Internet memes were deployed to cut the tension.

The cats appeared with machine guns, French fries and beer to comfort the citizens of Brussels, who need it: They were told to stay away from subways, schools and shopping centers as officials maintained the highest possible terror alert level, and no end to the lockdown is in sight.