“Anonymous from around the world have decided to declare war against you, terrorists,” an affiliated member of the underground hacktivist movement threatened in a new video posted on YouTube as a response to the Paris attack on the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly. Anonymous warned Jihadists, “We will track all your online activity; we will close your accounts on every social network.”
A manifesto by Anonymous was also posted to Pastebin under #OpCharlieHebdo, stating, “We will fight always and everywhere the enemies of freedom of speech…Freedom of speech and opinion is a non-negotiable thing, to tackle it is to attack democracy. Expect a massive frontal reaction from us because the struggle for the defense of those freedoms is the foundation of our movement.”
The bloodiness of the Paris terrorist attack was an effort to gain dominant visibility on social media. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) published a hit list in its on-line magazine on January 8 of those who had insulted Muhammed, including Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier. The next day, brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi executed their attack on Charlie Hebdo’s offices.
The foreign-trained brothers, Said and Cherif Kouachi, understood that they were being filmed by security cameras and tried to be as theatrical as possible. They demonstrated sophisticated military tradecraft in taking out the police protective shell around the Charlie Hebdo offices and employees before murdering 12 people. They loudly chanted “Allahu Akbar!” and took time to execute a wounded police officer gruesome on the ground by shooting him in the head. They took a hostage and then then successfully made their escape from the scene of the crime in their getaway car as the cameras recorded everything.
Although the attacks on Wednesday and the subsequent manhunt unleashed an international outpouring of sympathy for the victims, social media exploded around the world with Islamic extremists and their supporters praising the killings under Twitter hashtags like #we_avenged_the_prophet and #lone_wolves.
Jihadists deemed the attack was a justified blow against a state perceived as an enemy of Islam, according to the New York Times. “Two lions terrified all of Paris and made #paris_burn,” boasted a post on one jihadi Twitter feed, above a photo of the two gunmen close to the time of the attack. International news reports were remixed to add sound effects and jihadist anthems to praise the attackers as martyrs and heroes, including a jihadist poem written in French.
Anonymous declared a “full-scale cyber-war” against ISIS last year and there have been articles indicating the group planned denial-of-service attacks on countries offering aid and comfort to the Jihadist terror groups. But there are no reports so far of concentrated attacks by Anonymous on the state sponsors of terrorism.
Social media do a wonderful job of spreading giving visibility to terrorists and spreading fear in Western nations. Freed from the 24-hour newspaper cycle, terrorists can murder and maim their victims to amplify their threats in real time.
The Charlie Hebdo attack should be seen as a Pearl Harbor attack on European personal liberty and freedom of expression. If Anonymous has declared the equivalent of cyber-nuclear on al-Qaeda and ISIS, the Paris terrorists may have “awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve.”