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Shock and gore

On the 21st of April, last year, twelve miles to the west of Baghdad the city of Baghdad, a helicopter was shot out Ogrish of the sky by an unknown militant group claiming to be”the Islamic Army of Iraq. The helicopter was carrying 11 security guards and aircrew that worked with the US government, defending diplomatic personnel from the growing Iraqi insurgency. I was able to view an account of the incident the following morning via BBC News Online, which stated that all 11 of them were killed.

The report also included a brief video showing the smoldering remnants of the burning helicopter and, while I was watching the video, I noticed something that was odd in the video: it was filmed by the rebels themselves. If you paid attention you’ll hear a faint roar of Iraqi voices, and a man, probably the person who held the camera, was panting with excitement as he captured the wrath of the enemy. In the aftermath, BBC recognized the film’s bizarre authenticity by displaying the logo that of the Islamic Army of Iraq on the video, as if it was from any other news agency.

It’s not surprise that the insurgents beat the world’s largest news agencies to the site of the crash, as they had smashed down the helicopter. The thing that was unique was the fact that they hired their own cameraman to film the event. However, there was something concerning this BBC report that caught my attention. The report informed people that this Islamist video had been published online.

In order for the BBC to locate it this quick, it has to be posted within a couple of hours after the shooting and widely circulated. From my office in the tiny attic space at high up in my London apartment, I went to Google and searched for “Islamic Army of Iraq” and came across Ogrish.com which is a “shock website” which specializes in video and photos of burned or shot, stabbed or disfigured corpses. In less than 24 hours later, after the helicopter crashed I found a meticulously producedfive-minute video of the event. The viewer is first shown the footage of the plane being struck by a rocket-propelled grenade before crashing towards the ground. Then, the burnt wreckage comes to life as do the horrific close-ups of the charred and dismembered bodies of security guards. Then something more horrific transpires.

As the cameraman as well as his companions wander around, recording the debris, they discover the wounded victim of the crash lying in grass. In nearly perfect English the cameraman calls the man to get up. In a split second the wounded man is convinced that the rebels are friendly. He raises his eyes and says at the camera, indicating that his arm is injured and that he requires assistance. When he is at his feet the cameraman is directing him to be in an exact spot like he’s a participant in a wedding video. Then, he’s killed with a series of shots fired by other gunmen. The video ends with his executioners firing shots into his body, while shouting Allahu Akbar.

God can be great. I could have completely lost track of Ogrish if not for the numerous conversations with people about the location shortly thereafter. One week after watching the helicopter footage I had a conversation with an British foreign correspondent who was working within Baghdad as a result of the abductions of Ken Bigley and Margaret Hassan. He claimed that he got used to visiting Ogrish each five minute interval to check whether the kidnappers posted any information there. In the end, both prisoners were killed and Bigley’s beheading was recorded. Ogrish was among the first websites worldwide to publish the entire footage. One month later at a wedding of a friend in Cyprus I ran into an experienced Israeli military journalist who, without prompting immediately, admitted within five minutes after my meeting that he was addicted the grisly content on Ogrish and was watching a lot in order to be for benefit. In the meantime I wanted to know what was the motivation behind Ogrish and how it was an unofficial success.

It turned out to be more challenging than I anticipated. The site’s five-year-old reputation for gore means it’s not a favorite among the media elite. There’s not a single gory website on the planet there are a number of others, like Gorezone however, it’s the most well-known and the one that is most blood-sucking. Certain European web service companies have attempted stop access the site however one German company succeeded in blocking access after a youth-focused group expressed concern about the content.

Numerous organizations (including Financial Times Financial Times) prevent employees from accessing Ogrish or similar websites. The result of Ogrish’s scathing reputation is that the individuals who run the site are incredibly difficult to locate. My efforts eventually led me to a phone number located in New York, answered by an unidentified Russian man who claimed that he was the press official. He suggested that I contact him Vasily. When I spoke with Vasily, it was a few days since that July 7 London suicide bombings. He was eager to share his condolences. Ogrish had already released its own exclusive footage of the events of the day, taken from inside tube trains and sent to an individual contributor who was freelance. In addition, news outlets from the mainstream employed Ogrish footage and credit the website. What I asked Vasily was to get interviews with the person who is the head of Ogrish the site, who is a Dutchman known as Dan Klinker. However, my request was rejected: Klinker, who I think lives in Amsterdam and isn’t able to give interviews, as stated by Vasily.

He doesn’t even divulge his appearance. After a few months of emailing Vasily I suggested that the guy talk to me personally. Surprised, Vasily was willing to talk. He now resided in Europe according to him, and he was able to be in touch with me at Brussels to have a cup of coffee and an exchange of ideas. When I finally reached the city at the scheduled date and time for our meeting at 11am at the main entrance to Brussels train station Brussels train station the train station Vasily was not to be seen. I waited for hours with a copy of the FT in order to prove my identity but he didn’t show. He also did not provide an explanation of his absence. I was irritated at the waste of time I tracked down Dan Klinker on Ogrish. Ogrish website. Klinker was not willing to talk to me in person, however he was willing to respond to a few of my questions via email.

He informed me that he was involved with the website for the past three years and that he runs the site on a daily basis. The company employs five full-time workers who are located across the globe. It accepts freelance submissions via email or directly submissions via an Ogrish website address. The contributors, according to Klinker typically are people who regularly have access to the site’s horror-themed content including police officers and medical professionals for instance. According Klinker Klinker, “numerous people working all day long to obtain content (in the south of America, India, Pakistan and so on). They’re the journalists for Ogrish in those regions. Additionally, we have writers who are freelance for Ogrish magazine. There are also staff members who are often for no cost on forums and in different areas”. If the footage was shot privately, Ogrish may pay for the submissions as a condition of the copyright. In these cases as per Klinker those who submit footage are required to sign a declaration form that they have received all permissions required. In the beginning, Ogrish showed pictures from domestic disasters , such as car accidents and murders. But as the war raged in Iraq the site also was a repository for bloody images of conflict zones that other media outlets considered unacceptable.

On a typical day, the site claims to receive between 125,000 to 200 000 page views for its web site. If it’s a news-related day, the number could increase to 750,000. (In contrast an official from BBC News told me that its news site gets the equivalent of 25 million pages viewed every day.) A video from last year’s shocking beheading execution of Nick Berg, an American contractor working in Iraq was taken down by Ogrish. Ogrish page more than 15 million times. Other favorites include the execution in 2002 of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and the beheading of an unidentified Russian soldier from Chechnya that was published in April. One of the mottos on the site, “Can you handle life?” seems a little absurd given that there’s virtually nothing but death in its gruesome archives, but rather an overwhelming storehouse of dismemberment and death. There is some truth to the statement. The gory pictures appear to be a challenge to the viewer to determine what one can eat as well as to be witness to the moment in the point when life ceases to exist. The images will be offending to many:

Ogrish does not contact the relatives and friends of the deceased prior to publishing the execution or rebel videos. How did it obtain the videos first? According to Klinker the site employs sophisticated internet applications (or “scripts”) that constantly monitor extremist Jihadi sites to find new photos. “As soon when the scripts discover something that is similar to certain keywords , in conjunction with video or image attachments” the man told me “it will send us two an email notification.” Ogrish also boasts contacts with “terrorist-hunter” website in the US that monitor the content of posts on Islamic extremists to expose their methods of operation. Its network as well as its technical expertise makes it possible for Ogrish is able to quickly publish material that is sometimes found on radical Islamist websites. However, Klinker admitted that he doesn’t like looking at the creepy images that are posted on his website.

He also admitted that some users are disgusted and have a bizarre interest. “Of of course, we have mentally ill people who take involved in ‘gore’,” he said. “But the vast majority of people are simply ordinary civilised humans. We have proof the fact that there’s more who are interested in this kind of information than many people think. Surprisingly, 30 % of our viewers are women.” Why does this guy do this? “We think we provide an opportunity to the world by showing something that regular news doesn’t,” he said. “Ogrish is not an unfiltered version that of this world. We believe that people are frequently unaware of what happens within us. The information you read on Ogrish.com is real, it’s an aspect of our lives regardless of whether we like it or not.” The primary motive for publishing this content according to him, is “to allow everyone to observe the world as it is to allow them to make their own decisions instead of accepting the untrue versions of the world’s events given by main media”. The truth is that many are searching for alternatives to news sources. The decline in confidence in the institutions of western society has led to an increase in skepticism about how mainstream media present the news.

In the same way that people are more and more ignoring the medical advice of their doctor and relying on the internet for medical advice and treatment, they are also looking to the internet for different perspectives on current events. Western media tend to provide a clean and sanitized view of wars like the one that is taking place in Iraq. Most news channels are reluctant to show deceased American as well as British troops, as an instance and sometimes, however, display dead Iraqis. (Whatever its political views, Ogrish has no qualms in showing us fallen soldiers.) Then there are the operational limitations to what western journalists are able to reliably report. When the Iraq war , many journalists were advised to “embed” themselves in American or British soldiers, as it was difficult to write independently. When the insurgency increased following the conflict, it became dangerous for journalists from the west to travel outside of Baghdad to report on the conflict. The result is that a brand digital war is being waged privately in our homes and rooms. It also is now clear that militant Islamists have included cameramen in their battalions as well.

It’s easy to claim that Ogrish is being a propaganda tool for violent thugs that kill innocent people in film however that wouldn’t be completely correct. Ogrish doesn’t pretend that it is neutral in its fight against terror. When it presents videos of the dead of Islamic rebels and celebrates them, it informs viewers that they were “taken away”. Klinker is also aware that his work could also be seen as propaganda in support of terrorists. “We are aware that people could be thinking of that these videos are propaganda tools to aid terrorists. We strive to limit the propagandistic impact of these videos, eliminating, for example, speeches that criticize the coalition and so on. (Yes we do have to block some content). To gain complete picture of the extremist nature of these militants It is crucial to know in detail the capabilities they’re in the position of…this is the kind of mindset that we’re confronting.” Ogrish seems to be primarily run by Europeans and, while it frequently features propaganda by Islamic extremists the site is located in the US which is protected by the American Constitution’s protection of free speech.

In the words of Klinker, “Everything you see on Ogrish.com is about freedom of expression.” I personally support Klinker when he utilizes the freedom of expression principle in order to protect himself. However, nobody is interested in the image of a deceased infant or the aftermath of suicide attempt because of their fervent dedication to the freedom of speech. It is difficult to view such images without thinking about what impact they could have on certain viewers. A study commissioned by the Canadian government in 2001 revealed that 45 percent of Canadians between nine and 17 have often or at times, accessed gory and violent sites. Sociologists who have studied these sites have said that the content can desensitize and confuse teens visiting them just as pornography has been thought to be able to. There are clear connections between pornography and Ogrish. The primary source of income comes from ads for porn on the internet, meaning that graphic images of destruction and death are paired with sexy porn site ads, which is a state things that Klinker finds more than bit shocking. “Hopefully one day we will eliminate the non-Ogrish-related adult ads and find other sources to cover the cost,” he told me.

But it’s the relation with Ogrish and Islamic militants that’s more interesting. The utilization of film and photography is a staple of modern-day propaganda, but what makes this particular version that is a part of Islamic extremism is that its spectacles appear to be planned and choreographed solely to be captured and broadcast on the internet. Although it’s easy to claim that Ogrish and Jihadis are collaborating with each other, both are swift and agile players in the underground world of the internet and are adept in satisfying the needs of its hungry consumers. In the same way that Ogrish isn’t an traditional news outlet, al-Qaeda is not a traditional anti-colonialist organization that is trying to free territories from oppression by imperialism. If an internationally coherent group known as al-Qaeda could be said to exist the members of it do not share a geography or any national history.

They are scattered across the globe and constitute less of an organization than a loosely-connected network and an organization whose existence seems to be maintained primarily by the media. The book Landscapes of the Jihad, released in the year 2000, NY-based scholar Faisal Devji claims that “whether or whether the actions of the jihad are influenced by media-related stereotypes, they will always are a result of events that have been packaged in a sense, to be distributed via media”. In the midst of the last Gulf conflict, French philosopher Jean Baudrillard declared that we were disengaged by the conflict that it appeared like it didn’t occur at all, but was merely the result of media-generated fantasies, similar to an online game. But the Gulf conflict is starting to appear more like an imagined nightmare that has been created digitally. When I inquired of Klinker the reason he named his website Ogrish, he said it came by “ogre”. He then referred me to the dictionary definition of the word “ogre which stated that it is a monster from fairy tales that eats humans or is a person who is thought to be brutal or cruel. This was, he believed an appropriate symbol for the murderers and terrorists who continue to try to end our lives. One way to look at the situation could be that Ogrish and other sites similar to it are a way to feed our worst fears regarding our own Islamic world. Devji claims that, similar to Freddy in the movie A Nightmare on Elm Street, “the jihad appears simply to bring to life the media’s nightmares…It seems like the jihadists are here to satisfy the desires of the mass media to create real terror.” There’s a further horrifying irony in the content about Ogrish. A decade ago there was a panic of morals in the west over what was referred to as Snuff movies, in which individuals were said to have been killed in front of cameras to entice of the viewers. There was no evidence to support the existence of snuff-related movies However, now, politics may possibly have turned the horror of snuff films into self-fulfilling prophecy. The execution films, which are the most extreme footage accessible on Ogrish It could be claimed that they possess exactly the same characteristics that are attributed to snuff-films including the shock value as well as the voyeurism and fake way in which lives are wiped out. A few of the prisoners were forced to look at the camera as they were being executed. However, watching Ogrish presents some difficult moral issues. Over the last few years, governments in the west have taken a hard line against child pornography that is available on the internet. Viewing child-sexy images at the ease of a personal computer may be morally offensive but it’s different from sexually abusing children. The reason for the punishment of people who are watching such images is that their narcissistic cravings fuel the production of those images and in turn, the child abuse. If this is the case the argument is valid, then it’s the possibility that we’re equally responsible as we watch our lives taken away from us on sites like Ogrish. The point here isn’t to ban Ogrish however, it is that we haven’t yet identified the kind of beast that the web can be or the obligations of the people who use it. There has been rumors of a new strategy in the ranks of militant Islamists. Since the beginning of October, American intelligence agencies intercepted an email written in the name of Osama bin Laden’s friend Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is the self-appointed leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The letter urged al-Zarqawi not behead people in camera, as even their followers began to find the videos unpleasant. The idea of shooting them with bullets could be equally effective as al-Zawahiri suggested, and much more palatable to media. “We are engaged in a war,” al-Zawahiri advised, “and the majority of it takes place on the battlefield in the media.” Whatever innovative home videos are coming by the militants of Islam but one thing is for sure – websites like Ogrish will be broadcasting the videos, and many people will view them them in silence stunned in horror.

James Anderson
James Anderson
I am content writer. I write content about tech gadgets, tech news, tech invention, computer software and hardware sollution as well as smartphones problem I have a youtube channel also and work as video editor.
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