Last night I had a bit of a FB kerfuffle with some folks. At issue was comment I made on a friend’s post. The post was concerning a report that the Army has warned that ISIS is planning to kill US military personnel and their families by finding their home addresses via FB, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
I have several friends who are veterans or current military, whose service I respect and honor. Because of my respect for them, I don’t want them to be fall victim to sensationalized media reports which I believed this report to be. However, if the threat is real I would obviously want them to be aware and take precautions to protect themselves and their families (as we all should). The kerfuffle caused me to do quite a bit of research into these threats and just how imminent they are.
How “It” Began…
My assertion on my friend’s post was that home addresses are not found on social media platforms and that this was likely another trumped up conspiracy theory. This prompted a woman I don’t know to search my name online to prove that I was wrong. She found my business address (which is public info because…well, duh, it’s a business). She believed she’d found my home address and phone number – she was wrong. Hopefully she won’t call or visit that Carol (no e) Billingsley; I’d certainly hate for her to be subjected to any wrath that was intended for me. I jest, of course. This woman meant no harm, she was just trying to educate me on the workings of the internet. Thanks, stranger! I’ve never been on the internet before. Oh wait! My business is dependent on my knowledge of how the internet and social media work.
I was also blasted by a “friend” for having an attitude. She cautioned the stranger (her friend, apparently) that my attitude would increase if the stranger tried to “pursue proving a known fact”. She told me I was biased because I’m “unaccepting (sic) of any opinion differing from [mine]” (hello pot?…kettle calling!). Evidently she’s also keenly aware of my motivations, but she’ll “hold her tongue” on what they are. And she certainly meant no disrespect in any of her 4 insulting comments, the funniest of which was that I’m “PRO Obama” (apparently that’s a horrible insult!). haha
Trust me, I’d love nothing more than to read something posted by the right-wing media and NOT be able to debunk it in a matter of minutes. Please, SHOW ME SOMETHING that comes from them that is honest and doesn’t involve fear- or hate-mongering and I’ll post it up and shout it from the rooftops! For the record, there are articles posted by left-wing media that can also be quickly debunked, but those typically refer to something a politician has said/done as opposed to grandiose, vitriolic conspiracy theories.
Back to the ISIS Issue…
Another of my military friends posted this article which is where my research began (the friend mentioned above didn’t post an article, just a statement): http://bit.ly/1vG3uqE
I read several other articles with similar headlines and they all basically copied and pasted from the above article (some omitting the parts listed below that debunk or, at the very least, deescalate the ominousness of the threat).
Here’s what I found:
(Please note that, ironically, all of the information below was found via Fox News…buried within various articles with salacious headlines and bold/highlighted text or by searching for names, documents, etc mentioned within).
- The threat is based on ONE tweet in June (I’ve been unable to locate a screen shot of this tweet, but it’s referenced in each of the articles linked here)
- Buried in the 7th paragraph of the Infowars article is this: “…there is no intelligence to corroborate this most recent threat.” (http://bit.ly/1vG3uqE)
- The Army said in a written statement that protection levels at installations “have not changed.” (http://fxn.ws/1xMMMcg)
- In September, a DHS spokesman told Fox News that “[T]here is no credible intelligence at this time to suggest that there is an active plot by (ISIS) to carry out an attack in the United States. Public postings by people claiming to be (ISIS) supporters on social media threatening to carry out attacks against the United States and our allies have been made, and we are aware of them,” [Peter] Boogaard said in a statement. “The product referenced is based on such open source social media reports from earlier this summer and is not considered to reference specific, credible evidence of a plot against the homeland.” (http://fxn.ws/Z33KV8)
- I checked the Army Threat Integration Center’s website (referenced as the source of the warning) and see nothing noted about this threat. I found 1 document (on another website) that is purported to be the “official” warning, but I can’t verify its authenticity as the sources listed are all media outlets (no governmental or military organizations) and the site on which it is housed appears to be a civilian-owned site that accepts documents and donations from anyone. Document here: (https://info.publicintelligence.net/ARTIC-HomelandThreatsISIL.pdf)
- State Department recommendations on precautions to take (referenced as a source in document from #5) for ALL US citizens. There’s nothing specific to military personnel: http://1.usa.gov/1vGqPZl
What DO we know?
Does ISIS want to do harm to Americans? Absolutely! Are military personnel (and journalists) prime targets? Yes! They are terrorists, after all, and their goal is to do harm, intimidate, and impose fear into the hearts and minds of Americans, and anyone who opposes them. Should we all be vigilant about what/how much personal information we share on the internet? Most certainly! We should be vigilant regardless of ISIS or any terrorist organization because there are millions of crazy people in the world! Is it in our best interest for American media outlets to capitalize on fear in an effort to gain clicks, viewer shares, or opposition to our current administration? I’d have to say that’s a big fat NO! We have enough to be concerned about without having more fear and xenophobia heaped upon us on an hourly basis for the sake of ratings.
We Must Do Our Due Diligence
Articles such as this are intended to thrust people into a state of panic and fear as they’re led to believe that an attack is imminent (much the same way that terrorist organizations operate). While we ALL must be concerned about our online activities and be aware of our surroundings, we must also be diligent about verifying sources and the accuracy of information we consume. Many media outlets (on both sides) write sensational headlines in order to get clicks and shares and they count on the fact that most people will not read the article in its entirety OR do any further research to verify information contained therein.
At a time when there is limitless information at our fingertips, don’t we owe it to ourselves – and each other – to dig a little deeper into what we see and hear on social media, radio, and TV? Rather than the knee-jerk reaction of sharing something because of the headline, take time to read the article, click the links (you’ll often be surprised where they lead), do some Google searches. Look for source documents. Yes, it takes a little more time, but we’ll all be better informed, and therefore, better off, if we do.
If we all take this approach perhaps we’ll be able to find our way back to the middle, where most of us can agree. At the very least, our eyes will be opened to the ways we’re manipulated by media outlets.
WE can make it stop, but only if we educate ourselves. The more we know, the less we can be manipulated by propaganda.