mX is a shameful waste of good trees
19 July 2011
Since we’re all in the mood to settle accounts with Rupert Murdoch’s Evil Empire, perhaps the time has come for right-thinking folks to demand the O’Farrell government kicks the wretched mX newspaper off CityRail property.
While the Sun King’s other Australian publications are noted for their hysterical campaigns on behalf of carbon polluters and profit-exporting mining giants, mX seems to be written for folk who’d find even Who Weekly challenging – something to engage an airhead’s eyes while they’re listening to Kylie on the iPod.
The thing litters the trains, blows around in the streets and is generally a public nuisance. If they had to pay for it, nobody would buy it.
But mX has also been a nasty little carrier of disinformation and even entrapment. Back in March I picked up a discarded copy at Circular Quay. Flicking idly through the dross, my eyes fell on a story titled “Terror going glossy”. The unsigned piece began “Al-Qaida has launched a women’s magazine that mixes beauty and fashion tips with advice on suicide bombings”. It went on “The slick 31-page Al Shamikha magazine – meaning the majestic woman – has advice for singletons on marrying a mujahideen” and that “More traditional content … includes features on the merits of honey facemasks, etiquette, first aid and why readers should avoid ‘towelling too forcibly’”.
Oh really? An openly-marketed Al-Qaida women’s mag is obviously a load of crap. Where would they print it? Where would you buy it?
Anybody with any serious experience on the mean streets of politics would instantaneously identify this as what’s known in the spy trade as a ‘honey-pot trap’ – a device to entrap naïve and disaffected young people.
And having followed the rise and disappearance of another fake Al-Qaida website – Jihad Unspun – I consulted Professor Google.
The mX story ultimately traces back to a shady mob calling themselves the Middle East Observatory (http://www.meobservatory.com/index.shtml).
They describe themselves like this [all artfully-faked grammatical errors in original]:
The Middle-East Observatory is a geopolitical study and research center based in Montreal, Canada. Given its North American location, the MEO is uniquely positioned to being non-partisan, objective and un-driven by political or ideological bias.
The MEO exclusively dedicates the whole of its activity to covering the Middle East given the ever omnipresent topicality. Two fields of research are the subject of a very detailed concentration and a quasi daily follow-up:
Revivalism, Fundamentalism, and Militancy
Sudden or Cumulative Changes?
To make this landscape more understandable, especially since interest and fascination are rivals for the region’s complexity, the MEO team uses its expertise of enquiry and distinct multi-dimensional research both characterized by their extensive knowledge and close senior contacts from this region. In order to succeed in such an intricate exercise, the MEO never hesitates to invest its academic formations and their professional expertise.
So the MEO sounds like a private enterprise quasi-academic analysis group – a bit like the SITE (Search for International Terrorist Entities) intelligence group. SITE was until recently ubiquitous, was certainly a CIA front, and has now disappeared from the web as if it had never been.
And, under the MEO’s “Documents and publications” I found that I could subscribe, through them, to Al-Shamikha. Contrary to the mX’s article, it wasn’t a glossy print mag, it was an electronic publication.
The MEO site also features downloadable videos from various jihadi organisations. Very handy that … a real public service.
The naive reader’s impression would be this is really Al-Qaeda posing as a legal organization – your safe contact with the Jihad ... and it’s right there, operating openly out of Canada. How exciting is that?
This ploy has been around for yonks. A few short years back (but post 9/11) Al-Qaida supposedly maintained a public shopfront in Canada. It had a very spiffy website called Jihad Unspun. The short, “balanced”, version of the story, which is probably penned by the CIA, is at Wikipedia: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jihadunspun.com).
But back to Middle East Observatory’s website. Under ‘Travel Services’ we read:
The MEO assists its clients in the preparations of their meetings and visits to specific countries. We provide our customers various tools that will help them understand the political situation, cultural differences, terrorist activities, who is who, of their countries of destination. We provide intercultural communication and cross cultural training.
Our consultants can accompany them in their travels and meetings upon request.
“Various tools”, “cross-cultural training” ... ho, ho. Talk to us and we can get you an AK47 and put you in touch with, ah, you know, the real people.
Like Jihad Unspun before it, MEO and Al Shamikha are thinly disguised honey-pot traps for really dumb would-be jihadis – a way for the security people to monitor would-bees and even to recruit them as informers by way of blackmail.
And it was promoted by Rupert’s mX. At best vacuous, lazy, morally-bankrupt journalism, at worst, knowing collusion with a cruel secret police tactic.