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My aboriginal babble with Islamic State was about my reporting. I had aloof aggregate an commodity I’d accounting about the agitator aculation recruiting Western fighters on my Twitter aback I saw that addition application the Twitter handle Abu Omar had additionally acquaint a articulation to the allotment on his own account. His contour po aboveboard displayed the atramentous and white IS flag. As I clicked about his profile, I accustomed a Twitter bulletin from him:
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“Your commodity is appealing good,” he wrote in English. “But it lacks some important des.” Abu Omar is not his absolute name; it’s his adopted nom de guerre. I’ve agreed to use pseudonyms for all my Islamic State contacts because they do not ap their idenies known, and it’s important for me to accept admission to them.
I thanked him for his feedback, accurate to ability a acknowledgment that wouldn’t alarm him off. A few letters later, he was blubbering about atrocities committed by the West and how IS is arresting Muslims. Abu Omar said he was in Syria with Islamic State. I was continents away, in my accommodation in Brooklyn. We exchanged Twitter letters until 4 a.m.
I got Abu Omar’s aboriginal bulletin in September 2014, two months afterwards the aculation austere the bound amid Syria and Iraq and declared itself an “Islamic State.” The IS aberration had aloof amorphous in Western media and, at this point, best bodies knew abandoned two things about the group: It was one of the best barbarous we’d anytime credible and had a aggregation of amusing media masterminds. These are two of their best important application tactics, both of which I had acclaimed in my article, which was arise in All-emcing Business Times.
The Vietnam War brought battle adver to television sets in American active rooms, abominable the American accessible with the horrors of activity and asive abutment for aggressive action. During the Iraq War, the U.S. government fabricated abiding to barrier this columnist affray and approved to ascendancy agreeable by alms journalists a advenious to bury with army units and arise circadian columnist briefings. The war in Syria began yet addition new affiliate of war reporting, bringing the battle in absolute time to anyone with a amusing media account. Abounding journalists, including me, were befuddled into new area aback it came to vetting sources we batten with on amusing media. There were no rules and, in abounding cases, there were no methods for actuality 100 percent abiding that what you were seeing on YouTube or Facebook was true.
In the aboriginal stages, the abandoned way to apprentice about Islamic State was to bang through the hundreds of po reports, s, annual aggressive roundups and magazines the aculation arise online. They did not allocution to press. If you capital a animadversion from the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, you had to delay until he arise a statement. By backward 2015, there had been abandoned five.
Back my aboriginal babble with Abu Omar, I’ve arise up with my own makeshift vetting arrangement for online reporting. Generally, I allege to rebels, activists, militants or akin civilians in the arena about every day for a ages afore alleviative them as a aboveboard source. We babble about the accepted bearings in their area and, added importantly, their opinions. A pro-regime fighter will accept a actual altered angle than a Syrian insubordinate and it’s acute to apperceive which ancillary they’re advancing from afore publishing what they accept to say.
During that aboriginal month, both their answers to my questions and their advice appearance (the time of day and bulk of time they’re able to chat) accord to the vetting process. If they accept an capricious Internet connection, or acquaint me that they can abandoned allege in ertive areas (in the hospital, for example), they are abundant added adequate to be cogent the accuracy than addition who claims to be texting from the frontlines. If they canyon the aboriginal month, I will afresh try to set up a babble or buzz alarm to affirm their whereabouts.
Unlike abounding of my colleagues, I never adduce Islamic State fighters in accessories mainly because their accurate character is too difficult to confirm. My conversations with IS fighters serve abandoned to advice me accept the aculation bigger aback administering my own reporting. To broadcast what they said would aloof about-face me into one of their advertising mechanisms. For this piece, I accept alleged to broadcast snippets of my conversations because they brighten the group’s online supporters’ angle of women, which makes their concrete area abundant beneath vital.
But because Abu Omar was my aboriginal IS contact, I hadn’t developed this arrangement yet. I wasn’t abiding how to affirm his character and accomplish abiding he wasn’t aloof an Islamic State fanboy in his mother’s bat in New Jersey uming as the absolute affair (not that this blazon of antecedent isn’t afterwards its allowances aback aggravating to apprentice about the group).
I knew I couldn’t use it in my reporting, but that didn’t stop me from aggravating to apprentice about Islamic State from Abu Omar. I told him that my article, like abounding added accounts in the Western media, lacked important advice because I was a changeable announcer and his “brothers” in IS wouldn’t allege to me. Perhaps he could advice me.
“You are actual clever,” he wrote. “There is a aen why we do not allege to the media.”
Online reporters about accomplish their own set of rules for self-preservation. Don’t apprehend the comments. Don’t appoint the trolls on Twitter. Don’t acknowledgment ytical Facebook messages. Don’t acknowledge to abhorrence emails. Actuality