Time to move on from #kitatidaktakut and other hashtags?

There was a time when Unspun would have reacted to events like last Thursday’s terrorist attack with, among other things, a hashtag, either to show defiance, sympathy or solidarity. Unspun had felt like he was doing something about the situation, taking action and being part of something larger than himself.

Lately, however, Unspun seems to have suffered a change of heart. From #JesuisCharlie on, Unspun has stopped participating in hashtags for terrorist-related attacks because, to him at least, it seems so futile and so self-deceptive.

The sense of futility is perhaps due to the fact that it is now so easy and commonplace for just about anyone to ride on a hashtag wave. (Note: This is how Unspun feels, others may feel differently about hashtags and that’s cool too).

The self-deception comes in because keyboard warriors can be so much defiant and brave than actual people. It gives rise to lazy thinking, as so eloquently articulated by Bonni Rambatan in his opinion piece in Rolling Stone Indonesia. One of his arguments is that by declaring that we are not afraid through the hashtag #Kitatidaktakut people hide a bravado that prevents them from taking the terrorists seriously, seriously enough to try to understand what drives them and from there increasing the chances to defeat them.

Declaring fearlessness in social media has the same effect as saying that the terrorist acts are senseless. They may be brutal and violent, but terrorist acts are usually anything but senseless.Thy are usually premeditated and well-planned and coordinated acts calculated for maximum publicity impact so that they may drive a spike of fear into the hearts of the people and the authorities. They are aimed to destabilise and to provoke authorities into reacting against them. When the authorities like George Bush and Francois Hollande rant and make threats that are unimplementable against them, they would have won.

High school shootings are senseless. People running amok may be senseless. But terrorist acts are not. The sooner we realise this, the sooner we would have a chance of defeating them.

So what is one to do if one has a Twitter or social media account the next time there is a terrorist attack? Unseen does not really know the answer. People may need to do something to help them cope with stress and humour an defiance are ways to do so. But they are for the edification of ourselves, not a weapon trained on the terrorists.

Perhaps the answer is that we should all try to understand what terrorists want by reading up on the subject (Louise Richardson’s aptly named What Terrorists Want: Understanding the Terrorist Threat is an excellent starter). She succinctly says that what they want are three Rs: Revenge, Reaction and Reknown. If she is right depriving them of these would hurt them most. That would be a good place to start. And something all of us who profess concern can do, so that they next time they attack anywhere in the world, we would be better prepared to deal with them. Who knows, some creative Netizen may even come up with something other than a hashtag to drive a stake into the heart of the terrorists?






Boston and the Three Rs of crisis management and of terrorism

Early in life we are taught the three Rs – Reading, Writing and ‘Rithmetic – as indispensible to getting on in life.

There are at least another two Three R’s out there to help us navigate a tumultour world.

One of them is the Three R’s of Crisis Communications. Crisis Managers are taught that when a crisis occurs, and the incident is too recent to gather all the facts together, it is important to communicate the Three Rs – Regret, Reason and Remedy.

This is what President Obama practiced when he made his statement after the Boston Marathon explosions. Firstly he expressed Regret by conveying the nation’s sympathy for Boston and the victims and their families.

Secondly, he expressed Reason – why it happened. In this instance neither he nor anyone knows  yet the motives of the attack. It looks like a terrorist attack but unless the facts are gathered, verified and analyzed, he could not come to conclusions. In such circumstances it is OK to say that you do not yet know, provided that the information is delivered with the proper authority.

Thirdly, he also expressed Remedy – what he plans to do about it. Here he spoke of his determination to catch and punish the person or people responsible. The BBC article at the end of this posting discussed the merits of such a disciplined approach.

It is useful to bear in mind that in crisis situations, often no matter what you say you will be criticized. Already Obama has been criticized by some for not using the word “terrorism” but he is doing the right thing. If he used the word, and it later turns out that it was perpetrated by a person or persons who are fanatics or crizies rather than ideologues, then he would look very silly indeed. Crisis management is often an exercise in damage limitation so that you do not shoot yourself in the foot and lose control of the situation.

BBC News – Obama’s cautious approach on Boston.

A runner lies on the ground after the Boston blast, 15 April


President Obama’s words – swift, solemn and understated – stressed three main points. The nation’s sympathy for Boston. The fact that the motives for the attack were as yet unknown. His determination to catch and punish the person or people responsible.

But what came over more than anything was a frustration that so much is unknown.

Much will be said in the coming days about terrible crimes like this bringing a nation together but they can also divide, and raise questions about leadership.

The truth is that it is difficult for the president to strike the right tone in the very midst of uncertainty. His words, hours after the attack, will have to bear scrutiny in the days, weeks and years to come. The wrong implication or interpretation could come back to haunt him.

He – apparently very deliberately – did not use the word terrorism even though he has been criticised in the past for not being quick enough to use the label.

Indeed he has already been criticised for not using it now, but apparently feels caution and certainty are more important than the barbs of critics – particularly when, to many Americans, the word terrorism is misunderstood to only mean action by foreigners.

Nevertheless, a White House official was quick to stress after the statement that this was being treated as an act of terrorism.

Indeed it does seem fairly obvious that it was an attack deliberately planned to cause death and injury. In most people’s book that is terrorism. But what if the motive wasn’t political, but some other grievance by an individual? This president can be careful with words, and likes to be certain of his facts before making judgements. Some find that irritating. Others just want to make political capital out of any situation.

There will be other questions – about whether intelligence services missed anything, whether security should be higher around the nation, and many more questions that may not yet be obvious.

President Obama will have to balance the firmness and resolution the country expects with his clear desire not to be pushed into snap solutions ahead of clear answers.

Then there is the Three Rs of Terrorism, coined by Louise Richardson in her excellent book  that tried to answer the question: What Terrorists Want.

The Three Rs of Terrorism, according to her, are Revenge, Reknown and Reaction.

Terrorists are often people who feel that they have been slighted in life, either by a country, a system or an organization, or society at large. They also usually have a strong sense of right and wrong. Terrorist acts are ways by which such persons seek to wreck revenge on the offending party.

Terrorists also seek Reknown. Not necessarily for themselves but for their organizations. The way to get Reknown is to inflict damage on famous landmarks, people or events, in this case the Boston Marathon.

Then there is Reaction. All acts of terrorism are carried out to provoke a reaction. If the terrorists are lucky they provoke the targeted party to overreact with force or oppressive policies, thereby weakening their enemies and strengthening their causes. When Osama bombed the Twin Towers in 2001 he scored a huge victory when it provoked then US President George W Bush to formulate policies that further alienated the US from the Muslim world, and reinforced the image of the US as being an oppressive and aggressive global dictator. Guantanamo became the icon of all that was wrong about the US’s reaction to the bombing.

Now we have another act of terrorism that is horrific to witness, and while many in the world have understandably condemned the act in the strongest terms, it may be instructive to keep the Three Rs of Terrorism in mind when formulating policies to respond to this act.










Indonesia Confiscates Explosives at Sea – The Jakarta Globe

Now that Nordin Top is out of the way, who could possibly be behind this shipment?

Indonesia Confiscates Explosives at Sea

Officials say they have confiscated 75 tons of an explosive material being shipped from Malaysia to Indonesia and are investigating possible links to terrorism.

Customs official Nasar Salim says the ammonium nitrate was found on a ship captured in the South China Sea. Ammonium nitrate can also be used as fertilizer, but Salim says 95 percent of the material imported into Indonesia is used in explosive devices.

He says possible links to terrorists are being investigated.

Salim said Friday that 17 crewmen are being questioned while police search for the shipment's owner.

Indonesia has been ravaged by terrorist attacks in recent years that killed more than 250 people. Bombings at two Jakarta hotels in July killed seven people and wounded more than 50.


via Indonesia Confiscates Explosives at Sea – The Jakarta Globe.

I thaw 10,000 fathes in a thea of red and white

A few days ago Unspun, and Anita Mackay in our respective blogs, asked what next after #indonesiaunite, at that stage a Twitter movement comprising of Indonesian Twitterers changing their avatars to red and white themes and using the hashtag #indonesiaunite.

Today, a group calling themselves The Twibbon Team responded with a website with this visual below as centerpiece that works well with Silverlight.

The idea apparently came from Stormideas that is based in Edinburgh (Unspun doesn’t know what the connection is here) and it’s very visually arresting. Whether this will inspire other ideas with even more tangible effects remain to be seen but initiatives like this, the initial spurt of #indonesiaunite on Twitter resulting it it at one time being the top trending topic and the Prita Mulyasari case leads Unspun to be more convinced than ever that 2009 is a watershed year for social media in Indonesia.

What we see is a flourishing of creativity and a sense of empowerment as the younger generation in Indonesia find a common voice through the tools of the New Media. Where it will lead, what all this will change, will be something fascinating to watch.

10,000 Supporters for IndonesiaUnite cause – A Twibbon Twibute

On Friday 17th July 2009, terrorists, presumed by authorities to be suicide bombers, launched co-ordinated attacks on two up-market hotels in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital. Nine fatalities were confirmed, whilst at least fifty more people were reported injured in the atrocity.

As a worldwide audience gradually learned of these events over the subsequent hours, many began to form part of an extraordinary online movement, which has grown exponentially since in a moving and powerful display of solidarity. By Sunday 19th July, just two days later, the IndonesiaUnite Twibbon cause has already brought together 10,000 supporters on Twitter from across the globe. Tweeple used the Twibbon service to overlay a small icon depicting the Indonesian flag on the corner of profile avatars. #IndonesiaUnite supporters have ensured that their cause has remained the number one Twitter trend, eclipsing other popular online topics such as Michael Jackson and the Iran Election.

To celebrate this awesome demonstration of the power of social networking communities to unify in protest on a matter of such international significance, Twibbon have created a massive DeepZoom mosaic twibute to those individuals who have affiliated themselves visually with this important and inspiring cause.

The movement is still flourishing, and you can help spread awareness across the world. Join at http://twibbon.com/join/IndonesiaUnite and follow @Twibbon at http://twitter.com/twibbon.

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What comes after Indonesia Unite?

Unspun can understand and empathize with the seeming act of solidarity and defiance in the face of the Jakarta bombings with the Indonesia Unite movement, where Twitterers and Facebookers daub their avatars in red and white, the colors of the Indonesian flag. At the same time Unspun thinks that Anita has raised an important question in her blog, Finally Woken.

“But here I must ask one question. Is that it?

I think most Indonesians are deeply traumatic by the media coverage on the previous attacks that sent the country into a despair for a long time. We all suffered from the damage in the economy, travel warning, the crash of national tourism industry, lack of foreign investments and many other impacts on the bomb blasts since 2002. It has taken years to build the confidence and positive sentiment about Indonesia. No one wants to suffer like that again, to lose face so badly like that, hence the strong message sent that we do not agree with the attack.

Not that I disagree with the movement. I do appreciate the initiation, but I don’t see the long term benefits we would make by putting red-and-white flag in our avatars. And it seems that The Jakarta Globe agrees with me: But some Web users were skeptical that the swelling of online patriotism would have any lasting impact. “This incident has had much bigger impact on patriotism among the young than 30 years of propaganda,” technology journalist Aulia Masna wrote on Twitter. “But yesterday’s call for unity needs to be followed up by offline activities.”

I think the most important thing we should do from this so-called Indonesia Unite pressure group is to push the government, our government, to find who did this. We are too scared that the impact of the attack would be like the bombs in 2002-2004, we have forgotten to keep pestering Indonesian government to be committed 100% to find the terrorist and would not rest until we do. We’re having too much fun pointing our fingers to A or B as the mastermind of the attacks, forgetting our duty as citizens is to make sure our government does the job right. No, I haven’t seen any single message in twitter – or I might have missed it? – that urges the government to keep reporting their findings, and what the progress they have made since the attack. Wouldn’t it be more important for us to unite to monitor what they have been doing – rather than making visits to the victims and giving emotional and moving speech to the nation? Have they formed special task forces to handle the victims, the search, and more importantly, the security in the country’s capital city? – and to make sure those behind the attack will be punished? And it is not just that, we also need to be consistent on our pressure and make sure they don’t waste their energy accusing who did this and that without actually doing anything to find the evidence.

We all have to do something, something real, to minimize the future attack possibility, starting from daily activities. For example, the government must improve the registration system so people wouldn’t be able to create fake IDs easily, but we – Jakartans especially – also must stop being ignorant to our surroundings and alert the authorities if we see something suspicious.

On the same day as the bomb blasts in JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton Jakarta on Friday July 17th, BBC broadcast a pretty interesting news about 20-year-old middle-class, British-born man, educated at some top independent schools, who converted to Islam in 2006 and was ready to commit the suicide attack in Bristol, England. It has emerged it was Muslims who alerted police in Bristol and counter-terrorism officers from Scotland Yard to Ibrahim’s activities. The BBC understands that his arrest was the first major one following a community tip-off.

Why can’t we do that?

Really, having our national flag attached to our avatar is nice, but it takes more than that to create peace in Indonesia, don’t you agree?”

Expressions of solidarity and defiance are a great way to cope with the shock of the bombings. But unless they are transformed into something more enduring and constructive, they may not mean much in the long run. In addition to Anita’s suggestions Unspun thinks that one of the ways Twitterers can contribute is to become the de-facto guardians of security. How may times have we all experienced the inane and utterly motions that “seurity guards” go through in check in our bags and vehicles. How many of us thought it totally ridiculous that security guards can poke a metal detector into the car, which is made mostly of metal, and register nothing? Or the perfunctory walk through metal detectors that are not switched on, of if they are switched on and buzz, they are too lazy or intimidated by a well dressed person to frisk them? Or the stupidity of guards going through hand carry bags but waiving through roll-on lugguage?

Wouldn’t it make sense to harness the power of Indonesian Twiterers to be the watchdogs that these guys are doing their job properly? If, for instance, someone found that the security procedures at a hotel or public place is wanting, they would tweet about it and hashtag it, say, #laxsecurity. Newspapers and other news organizations can then check for these and shame the offender into putting their security measures right, or the Polce could get off their ask and sanction them for having lax security.

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